The O’odham name for this April-ish lunar month is Uam Masad which roughly translates to “yellow month.” On the slopes of the the Tucson Mountains this is certainly the case – with palo verde, brittle bush, paperflower, creosote, desert marigold, and more flourishing their yellow blooms. These various flowers cloak the slopes in a glowing golden yellow mantle, rippling in the spring breezes. On a still day, the sound of the various species of native bees working their way through this bounty is a symphony of delight to my ears.
One edible yellow flower that’s tasty and easy to use are the abundant palo verde flowers. The flowers are slightly sweet and have a delicate taste of snow peas.
Not All Palo Verde Are the Same
The common name “palo verde” can refer to a number of species, including
Mexican paloverde (Parkinsonia aculeata)
blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida)
foothill palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla)
palo brea (Parkinsonia praecox)
Texas palo verde (Parkinsonia texana)
and the Desert Museum hybrid paloverde (Parkinsonia X ‘Desert Museum’)
I told you that – so I could tell you this. All of these species have edible flowers. BUT! The palatability or tastiness of the flowers varies though – depending on species and on growing conditions. Sample before you harvest. Some are tough and stringy, some are large and flavorful.
Since palo verde flowers are relatively small, compared to other edible flowers like pansy and nasturtium, I created a dish where I could harvest many flowers in a single swipe along the branch then use them en mass – Palo Verde Flower Soup. This soup is also good late in the season when hands-full of flowers are intermixed with developing palo verde beans. (NEVER eat mature palo verde beans.)
Palo Verde Flower Soup
1 cup fresh palo verde flowers 1 quart liquid of choice (water, vegetable stock, chicken stock) 1 tablespoon oil of choice (helps better develop the flavor) herbs to taste (use mild herbs so not to overpower the delicate flower flavor) sea salt to taste
If it is late in the season, and you harvest beans with petioles, remove the tough and bitter petioles.
Give everything a good dicing to help release the flavor and make any potentially fibrous bits small and edible.
Optionally, sauté the herbs in the oil first to develop the flavor but avoid over-heating the flowers, they can become bitter.
Add one quart liquid.
Bring to a boil and turn off as soon as it boils.
Remove from heat.
Let sit for 10 minutes to meld flavors together and finish cooking the soup.
Three Reasons Why Soup is Good – Even in Summer
Many Americans are not used to the concept of soup before a meal, but it makes sense for three main reasons.
First, home-made soups are high in trace minerals, helping replace the electrolytes lost to perspiration during the day (especially in our climate).
Second. The American Institute of Health estimates that 1 out of 5 Americans is clinically dehydrated. In other words, dehydrated enough to interfere with our body’s ability to function properly.
Lastly, for folks trying to lose weight, the hormones signaling hunger take about 20 minutes to become canceled out by eating. Starting a meal with soup means that your hunger hormones have more of a chance to tell you that you’ve had enough to eat without overeating.
Disclaimer: The authors of this blog have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your doctor.
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If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press). Note – this is a link to Amazon and if you buy the book there the non-profit Tierra del Sol might get a few pennies (have some thresholds to meet).
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