“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
Traveling affects the spirit in unimaginable ways. But it takes that first step into the unknown to expand the mind and to expand the perception of our world in a way that changes us forever.
This year, I co-lead a week-long foraging and botany adventure into the mountains of southern Baja. With the focus of finding and tasting local wild plants and mushrooms, we explored the different micro-climates of the semi-tropical Cacti and Legume Forests of the cape region and Sierra de Laguna mountains. Plants ranged from familiar variations of species I have found in Southern California (US) and the Sonoran Deserts of Arizona to completely unusual and rare species.
Baja Plant List:
Anise Marigold Tagetes micrantha
Baja Black Sapote Diospyros californica
Baja Bouillon Bush Cordia curassavica
Cardon Barbon Pachycereus pectin-aboriginum
Cliffbrake “Peyote Fern” Pellaea ternifolia
Copal Bursera empanada & hindsiana
Coral Vine San Miguelito Antigonon leptopus
Damiana Turnera diffusa
Desert Honey Persimmon Diospyros intricata
Desert Passionfruit Passiflora arida
Encino Negro Quercus brandegeei
Giant Desert Lavender Hyptis Alba
Huerivo Populus brandegeei
Melon de CoyoteIbervillea sonorae
Mexican Oregano Lippia graveolens
Palo de Arco Tecoma stans
Palo Blanco Lysiloma candida
Pitaya Agria Stenocereus gummosus
Pitaya Dulce Lemaireocereus thurberi
Purple Pitcher Sage Lepichina hastata
Resurrection Plant Doradilla Selaginella lepidophylla
Water hyssop Bacopa monnieri
Water leaf Talinum fruiticosum
Wild Fig Ficus brandegeei & palmeri
Wild Grape Vitus peninsularis
Wild Plum Cyrtocarpa edulis
On the group’s first day together, we arrived at Sol de Mayo, our base camp for the trip where they had beautiful rustic cabins and a very basic kitchen. Because of the rural location, we didn’t have some of our ususal urban comforts—electricity, paved roads, hot water, and for some of the trip, cell service. We got to enjoy our dinners by candelight every evening. It was a great introduction to the countryside and helped everyone disconnect and unplug (literally). Our first dinner was huilatcoche (corn fungus) and squash blossom tacos from the local market.
From our cabins, we could hear the waterfall. For our first adventure, we hiked into the wilderness, exploring and identifying the plants we encountered and learned their edible and medicinal uses. After our trek up the river trail, we headed back down for a swim at the waterfall and its refreshing crystal clear water. Our dinner was battered squash blossoms and tacos with wild water leaf, puffball mushroom and purslane.
After collecting damiana and bouillon bush herbs, we visited a nearby Eco-Community located on a permaculture mango farm. We learned about permaculture, eco-friendly building and sustainable community with the founder Ryshek. He offered us a generous tasting of the abundance of fruits grown on the land. We found a tarantula and several other wild creatures along the way.
Explored San Dionisio Canyon with guides who took us to some amazing waterfalls and swimming holes with natural slides. Afterwards we went on a hunt for the Baja Black Sapote, also known as the Chocolate Pudding Fruit. After climbing the one tree we found with only a few ripe fruits, we got to enjoy its unique taste. We collected acorns as well and shelled them under candelight to prep for other meals.
A tropical storm started to settle in, but we headed to the Santa Rita hot springs to warm up and relax. For some of us, it was our first time soaking in a hot spring! Then, we rock-hopped through the canyon, at some points crossing the river waist deep with our packs precariously hovering over the water. We made it to a natural pool that seemed as if it was artistically carved in the rock with a shallow and deep ends, diving, slides and even rock benches to sit in the water. Afterwards, we headed back to base camp to relax. Dennis made a mushroom and seaweed soup using the bouillon bush herb (it smells like Top Ramen!) and the Agaricus mushrooms we found. I made savory acorn cakes, socca style, with lots of toppings.
The tropical storm settled in and rained all day, causing flooding and washed out roads. Not a problem, we had our robust “El Burro” van to take us out to the Sierra Cacachillias to search for rare desert honey persimmons. We didn’t find many ripe ones, but just enough to bring back to make a syrup for the next day’s acorn pancakes. It was a wild ride through the wet sandy roads that were more like rivers on our trek back to the mountains, dodging the heirloom cattle that liked to sleep in the roads at night.
With the intense rains, many of the roads were washed out and witnessed several cars stuck in the mud. But, again, “El Burro” got us out to the coast to Cabo Pulmo. Our original destination at the coral reef for snorkeling was closed unfortunately, but we still found a great spot to swim in the warm water of the Sea of Cortez and collect coral on the beach. Afterwards, we headed to the Buena Fortuna gardens for a Mexican-style “thanksgiving” dinner. Most of the foods were gathered from the 11 acre gardens and ended with an epic “pumpkin pie”. We then took a tour through the garden led by Dennis exploring unusual and exotic plants. After the tour, a few of our group partook in hapé.
Departure back to the united states.
This trip has opened my eyes to a larger and more complex abundant world. Traveling enlivens the soul and challenges our routines and comfort zones. I hope to share many more exciting adventures with you all in the future.
Foraging Baja 2020
If you would like more information when it is available, please send me an email with “Foraging Baja 2020” in the subject line. firstname.lastname@example.org