Herbal Traditions of Mexico: Pitaya Harvest

Pitaya Harvest

Coastal Thornscrub region at the Sea of Cortéz

led by herbalist, John Slattery

July 15 – July 18, 2015

Workshop fee – $425

A tremendously unique opportunity to forage for the highly treasured Pitaya cactus fruit (ool imám) with the People of the Land & Sea, the Comcáac, or Seri tribe of northwest Sonora, Mexico. This journey into the hot summer desert should prove rewarding for the ripe, sweet Pitaya fruits which await us. At a traditional summer Pitaya harvesting encampment we will forage for and prepare Pitaya fruit along with Mesquite pods to prepare unique traditional delicacies. You will learn the traditional methods for acquiring this fruit, traditional methods of processing and preparation into various foods. We will be making a preparation called mermelada, or jam, at our encampment.

The Pitaya cactus has a longer fruiting season than other local columnar cacti species and provides a tremendous amount of food for both animals and humans. Given our exceptionally dry winter it bodes well for an excellent Pitaya fruit harvest this year. For several centuries (if not millennia) the Comcáac have been utilizing and celebrating this native food of the Sonoran desert. The Comcáac mark the beginning of their calendar year by the fruiting of this cactus. Numerous parts of the cactus have been integrated into their daily lives for various purposes over many hundreds of years.

The fruit of Pitaya is said to be the tastiest cactus fruit in all the Americas. Although this fruit is

Sahueso (Pachycereus pringlei) fruit

Sahueso (Pachycereus pringlei) fruit

nearly impossible to find in the US this unique journey will bring you into the heartland of the Seri people for a traditional pitaya (Stenocereus thurberi) harvesting camp. Join us for a celebration of the Seri new year as the pitaya fruit ripen across the desert. Come listen to the songs of the desert as the Seri people have learned them, living in union with this beautiful desert at the sea for millennia. In addition, we’ll have the opportunity to taste saguaro, sahueso, and senita fruits straight from the cactus. These fruits have nourished many peoples across the deserts of Mexico over millennia. 


Our 3 nights stay at indoor accommodations (with a/c) in nearby Kino Nuevo, Sonora at the Prescott College Center is immediately adjacent to the gorgeous white sand beach. Step out our front door for a swim in the beautiful, refreshing bath water of the late afternoon. Accommodations offer shared rooms with individual beds or cots. Showers, wifi, telephone service, secure parking, full kitchen, and laundry facilities are all available.


The trip includes 6 meals provided by our endearing hosts including a stopover at Doña Olga’s home in Imuris, Sonora upon arrival and on our return. Remaining meals will be eaten in local restaurants or made at our group kitchen. Please indicate any dietary needs upon registration. Vegetarian, and gluten and dairy-free options will be available.

Because it is nearly mesquite season as well, we may be processing local Western honey mesquite pods for flour. Last year we prepared pitaya empanadas with hand-ground mesquite which we roasted on the grill over hot coals.

Hortensia hand grinding toasted mesquite pods

Hortensia hand grinding toasted mesquite pods

Travel in Mexico

Transportation is each participants responsibility. No special permits or visas are necessary to drive to our destination. Only vehicle insurance and a valid passport are necessary. Driving to our harvest camp includes off-road driving on poorly maintained roads. Although low clearance vehicles can easily pass, beware that obstacles exist and minor damage to one’s vehicle is possible. Travel throughout this region of Mexico is perfectly safe. John has been running these trips with groups since 2007 and has received nothing but a warm welcome from the people of Sonora. This route is commonly travelled by tourists of both Mexico and the USA.

Translation provided by John Slattery, the head tour guide and trip facilitator, as well as other native Spanish speakers within the group.

A full list of What to Bring and an Outline of the trip’s Itinerary will be sent out upon registration.

For more information email: mexicotrips@SonoranHerbalist.com

Space is Limited


Trip Deposit $200

John Slattery, Sonoran Herbalist   © 2015

Tucson, AZ

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