The Sonoran Desert occupies a substantial area of Arizona. Despite its appearance of barrenness, the desert teems with life. For centuries, the Sonoran has been the larder of Native Americans and later on the colonists and settlers who moved into the land. However, modern conveniences and mass production blinded people to the astounding number of delicious ingredients thriving amid the dunes and rocks of the Sonoran.
But recent trends and a focus on locally sourced food products have made people pay attention once more to the culinary potential of desert flora. Below are a few ingredients that are taking Arizona’s restaurant scene by storm.
Amaranth is a grain that has been cultivated by many cultures for over 8,000 years. This pseudocereal was featured in the diets of civilizations from Central America, like the Incans and the Aztecs. Amaranth has been making a comeback to modern menus thanks to its host of amazing nutritional properties. It’s free from gluten and features high quantities of fiber, proteins, as well as plenty of antioxidants.
You can find plenty of recipes featuring amaranth, whether it’s from a popular lifestyle site backed by international networks or small restaurants featured by a local food blogger. Amaranth is a viable substitute to flour, if you’re going gluten-free, and can be used to make coating for fish sticks, pancakes, and porridge.
Corn is endemic to North America, and for centuries the Native American nations and cultures lived on their kernels and cornflour. Arizona is home to one of the most nutritious native corn species, the blue corn. This species has a special place in the religious practices and culture of the Hopi people. The blue tinge of the corn is linked with rainfall, a significant event in an arid environment.
Today blue corn is available to Arizona citizens, and it has a unique flavor. The corn combines smokiness with an earthy taste as well as a hint of sweetness. You can use it as a substitute for regular cornflour in many recipes, most notably delicious corn mush.
Nopal cactus grows naturally in Mexico but can also grow in the Sonoran. Otherwise known as prickly pear cactus, this desert plant features flat pads that are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals. The cactus contains a lot of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, as well as flavonoids, which are known for their antioxidant properties. Nopal juice has also been claimed to lower cholesterol as well as reduce the levels of blood sugar.
You can incorporate nopal cactus in a variety of recipes akin to avocado. Served raw, you can mix it with chopped onions and diced tomatoes as a side dish. You could also dice the cactus and mix them with scrambled eggs. The cactus is so versatile that you can preserve it into a jam or puree it as juice, which is a favorite product of health-conscious individuals in Mexico.
With the right skills and mindset, the desert can be your larder. Incorporating these ingredients in your recipes and everyday cooking infuses your food with the unique personality of Arizona. So the next time you want to reconnect with your home, try a little desert culinary ingenuity.