As our featured spring seed plant varieties arrive at the airport, some local relatives are here to welcome them to Las Vegas.
- BASIL (above) and CHIA (below) are both in the MINT family.
- COMMON BEANS (above) and MESQUITE (below) are both in the LEGUME family.
- GREEN ONIONS (above) and BLUE DICKS (below) are both in the ASPARAGALES order.
- ORACH (above) and FOURWING SALTBUSH (below) are both in the AMARANTH family.
Did you know that all of these native Southwestern plants (in the bottom image) have edible parts?
CHIA (Salvia columbariae) and BASIL are mint family members with similar flowers– often purple-ish in color– and square stems. While basil is generally valued for its leaves, chia provides desert dwellers with edible seeds.
MESQUITE (Prosopis spp.), like its legume-family relative the COMMON BEAN, harbors nitrogen-fixing bacteria in its rootzone. This means it can derive its own plant food even when rooted in poor desert soils– an almost miraculous feat! Mesquite trees and the bean pods they produce are very valuable in both a dryland garden and a dryland kitchen.
BLUE DICKS (Dichelostemma capitatum), like its distant relative the GREEN ONION, has edible bulbs, stems, and flowers. The bulb is “sweet and refreshing.” (1)
FOURWING SALTBUSH (Atriplex canescens) can be seen in vacant lots and wild areas around our valley. As its name indicates, this plant often grows in saline soil. Thus, the edible leaves it produces have a salty flavor. Fourwing saltbush, ORACH, spinach, and grain-producing amaranth are all in the same plant family (the Amaranth family.) It should be noted that saltbush leaves are generally safe to eat, but “if grown with artificial fertilizers, they may concentrate harmful amounts of nitrates in their leaves.” (2)
(1) Slattery, John. Southwest Foraging. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2016.
(2) Plants for a Future, pfaf.org