Jacqueline Soule here today to share a savory way to use the flowers of palo verde.
In case you wondered, palo verde flowers are slightly sweet and taste mildly like young garden peas.
In a handout I got back in the 1970’s, I learned that the O’odham name for this April-ish month is Uam Masad which roughly translates to “the yellow month.” On the slopes of the the Tucson Mountains yellow is certainly the case – with palo verde, brittle bush, paperflower, and desert marigold all combining to cover the slopes in a cloak of glowing yellow. On a still day, the sound of the various species of native bees working their way through this bounty is a many toned symphony of delight to my ears.
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 New World species of palo verde have edible flowers. The palatability of the flowers varies though – depending on species and on growing conditions. Sample before harvest. Some are tough and stringy, some are large and flavorful. The flowers on the trees in the leach field were especially large and palatable. After the initial sample thou, I left them for the busy digger bees (Centris species) moving among the blooms.
Since palo verde flowers are relatively small, compared to other edible flowers like pansy and chrysanthemums, I wanted to find dishes where I could harvest many flowers in a single swipe along the branch then use them en mass. With a big basket full of flowers, I started experimenting.
The results – palo verde flowers are fine in salads. They are good in a pancake-like fritters. Lightly sauté the flowers with chard and I’itoi onions then pour eggs over them for scrambled breakfast – good. The floral vinegar will have to wait about a month for my report. But meanwhile there is my new favorite – bean flower soup. Bean flower soup is especially good late in the season as flowers are intermixed with young developing palo verde beans.
Many Americans are not used to the concept of soup before a meal, but it makes sense for three main reasons – even in summer. Such home-made soups are high in trace minerals, helping replace the electrolytes lost to perspiration during the day (especially in our climate). 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. Soup first means that your hormones have more of a chance to tell you that you’ve had enough without overeating.
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 to not 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 and remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes to meld flavors together and finish cooking the soup. Serve. Enjoy!
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.
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 latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).
© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos © Jacqueline A. Soule and they may not be used.