Traveling the Wild Food Road will lead you to places you never thought you would go. On my journey from Arizona back to my home in Topanga Canyon, CA I decided to take a detour into farm country. About half way between Phoenix and Los Angeles, sitting on the Lower Colorado River border between the two states, sits Blythe. I have always known this as the town where I need to be sure all my citrus that I’ve picked from Grandma’s backyard trees in Phoenix are well covered so they don’t get confiscated.
I couldn’t find any organic farmers in the area, but was able to find a small family farmer who is still hanging on amid the big guys in the area. Joe Van Dyke has been farming in Blythe since 1970. He is not organic, instead he is of the school that responsible use of chemicals leads to better land management. Although I personally prefer organic, I would rather support local small-scale farmers who use small amounts of chemicals when needed, to the large scale organic farmers who are still out of touch with the land.
Joe very happily let me pick his weeds. I found it interesting that he actually drives a refrigerated truck down to Phoenix once a week to buy wild salad mixes for Quizno’s. This sandwich shop actually markets wild greens as ‘spring greens’ in their stores. Hmmmmm, makes you think. Although mallow (Malva neglecta) was by far the most common wild green I saw growing in the desert, I mainly harvested the sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) and lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) from his farm.
The photo below shows the difference between the common lambsquarters/goosefoot (Chenopodium album) leaf on the left and the nettle leaf goosefoot/lambsquarters (Chenopodium murale) on the right. You should NOT eat the nettle leaf goosefoot raw, as advised by the Mexican worker at Joe Van Dyke’s farm, as well as in Linda Runyon’s book (see previous post), so be sure to know the difference before harvesting this plant.
Click here to visit the Crooked Sky Farm website in Phoenix, AZ. They are also ‘friendlies’ to those wanting to harvest wild food plants on their property. The Indio/Coachella area near Palm Springs has many many organic farms, which I will save for a future visit. Consider finding a small farm near you to harvest wild food plants.