Tag Archives: Sonora

Cerro de Aconchi

Sonoran River Valley Ethnobotany

October 27-29     *2 nights camping

Trip Fee: $350

*Use Promotion Code DAMIANA to register for $300 by Winter Solstice December 22, 2015

Instructor: John Slattery

This field study trip follows our Sonoran Coastal Thornscrub & Wild Food and Medicine of the Seri (Mexico) up through the picturesque Sonoran River valley. The Río Sonora is believed to have once been inhabited by the Ópata people. Here, their mestizo descendants continue the traditions of farming and gathering wild plant foods such as bellotas, chiltepines, and agave, or mescál, for the distillation of bacanora. The beauty and tranquility of the Sonoran river valley touches the heart of many who pass through it. 

Our home for these 2 nights will be an encampment at the aguas termales, or hot springs, beneath El Cerro de Aconchi, a Sky Island ringed by organ pipe cactus, tree ocotillo, and riparian mesquite forests. We will have access to numerous bathing tubs, outhouses, tables, and the nearest town, Aconchi, is a 20 minute drive.  

Our days will be spent hiking and exploring the valley and talking with local people about their relationship with wild plants, whenever possible. We will visit and discuss the medicine of damiana, tree ocotillo, elephant tree, organ pipe cactus, pochote, cacahuiste, chicura, and many other curious plants of the Sonoran river valley. There will be a guided tincture making class in the field or at our campsite. And for a very special treat we will clamor up into the hills in search of the ripened wild chiltepines (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum). Following, we’ll have a go at creating a variety of traditional chiltepín preparations with what we’ve gathered – pickled unripe fruits, chiltepín-quince salsa, chiltepín-garlic salsa, and more!

DSC_0788For those not present on the Sonoran Coastal Thornscrub field study (10/19-23), we will be meeting on highway 15 just north of Hermosillo before caravanning as a complete group up highway 14 along the Río Sonora. Complete directions will be given upon registration.

Trip Participation Requirements:

  • Complete Registration
  • Valid Passport
  • Reliable transportation -or- Rideshare within our group
  • Basic Camping Equipment

More specific trip details will be sent upon registration.


Price: $350.00

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

Herbal Traditions of Mexico: Jan. 29 – Feb. 1, 2014

A Sonoran Botanical Adventure: from the Pinacate Volcanic Fields, to the Seri homelands at the Sea of Cortéz, and the home of Olga Ruíz, legendary Sonoran Herbalist. *SEE BELOW FOR REGISTRATION Seri game This one-of-a-kind trip offers four days and three nights of guided travel and exploration through the Sonoran desert. This will be the first of our series of adventures into Sonora, Mexico for 2014. Considered the hinterland of Mexico, Sonora contains tremendous botanical diversity and a rich tradition of herbalism and wild food knowledge. We will have the great fortune of being hosted by indigenous healers and herbalists who are very open to sharing their knowledge and life experiences. Olga's house This trip is particularly unique in that we will travel to the Pinacate Lava Fields for our first night of camping. This landscape appears lunar in its starkness, yet explodes with floral brilliance in response to ample winter rains. El Pinacate   After traveling south along the new coastal highway to Santa Rosa estuary near the village of Punta Chueca, we will spend the night with our Seri hosts at their desert encampment. The following day will include a rich exchange in their cultural heritage including wild foods, plant walk (from desert coastal scrub to seashore to mangroves), medicine making demonstration, and more.

Hortensia making Salve

Hortensia making Salve

During our time together we will be botanizing in the field, discussing herbal energetics and traditional uses, identifying wild foods, and discovering unknown treasures. This trip includes one pint of tincture for each participant (there’s an option to purchase cane alcohol at our border crossing), made in the field by your own hands. We will collectively decide on a plant to harvest for medicine and prepare tincture together as a group. Organpipe Tincture After spending our last night in a clean hotel in Kino Bay (Kino Nuevo) we will head back north through Hermosillo to the small town of Imuris, Sonora. Here we will visit the legendary Sonoran Herbalist, Doña Olga Ruíz Cañez. At her home we will be treated to a tremendous feast of seasonal comida sonorense (“Sonoran cuisine”), and a full discourse on her approach to healing with herbs. Doña Olga’s yard is a repository of several important native medicinals of the region – not to mention a couple dozen fruit trees!

Doña Olga with Baiburilla

Doña Olga with Baiburilla

This unique botanical and cultural experience is facilitated by Sonoran Herbalist John Slattery. John has been leading these adventures into Sonora, Mexico since 2008. He seeks to create a bridge between the holders of traditional knowledge and those who are open to receive it; a bridge between those who live with plants, and those who seek to learn; a bridge between two cultures connected by a landscape yet divided by political boundaries. Ultimately, we wish to support their way of life in a way that honors them and provides sustenance so that they may continue on for generations to come. Total Cost for the Trip:  $395 per person *Trip fee includes:

  • 2 nights camping, 1 night hotel
  • 6 delicious home-cooked meals (gluten, corn, & dairy-free options available)
  • Several Handouts: Columnar Cacti of Sonora (Slattery), Medicinal Herbs of Doña Olga Ruíz (Slattery), A Seri Herbal, by Maria Luisa
  • Field Lesson: Herbal Tincture Making (Includes harvesting of fresh plant material and processing herb for alcohol extraction)
  • Translation for non-Spanish speaking participants
  • An integrated journey through cultures and traditional plant knowledge
  • Several mini-plant walks, including field botany, ethnobotany, and discussion of plant energetics and clinical applications

*With continued support our Seri hosts have hopes of building an herb shop within their community. Any additional donations towards this goal would be greatly appreciated. Transportation: *IMPORTANT*  Transportation is the responsibility of each participant. Upon registration please indicate if you intend to drive or need a ride. We will help facilitate a rideshare upon registration. Note: Many of the roads we will be traveling on are BRAND NEW. Although they are more narrow they are certainly of good quality at this time. All of our traveling experiences have been safe and enjoyable on these trips. A vehicle permit is NOT necessary for where we will be going on this trip. Vehicle insurance is up to the discretion of each participant, but is not required by Mexican law. We use Sanborn’s Mexican Insurance, locally. Money: You will be able to extract Mexican pesos from an ATM whenever available (each day, at some point). Cash will be needed to purchase herbs, jewelry, or museum quality baskets and crafts from our hosts. Also, there will be at least 3 restaurant meals (1 in the U.S., 2 in Sonora). Gas stations will not accept U.S. bank cards, but you can pay in US dollars. Limited space is available!   Reserve your space today by placing a $200 deposit per person:

Price: $200.00
*Deposits are refundable (minus a 5% fee) through January 8, 2014. Requests to refund deposits after January 8 through January 22 will incur a 25% fee. Deposits will not be refunded after January 22 (exception: 50% of deposit can be put towards another trip within 1 calendar year).   Reserve your space and pay for the trip in full: 
Price: $200.00
  Any questions regarding the trip email: info@sonoranherbalist.com