What's for Dinner?
To gather food from these dangerous-looking plants, Indians
had to bypass the thorns of the agarita bush, the woody thorns of the mesquite
trees, the spikey tips of the lechuguilla plant, and the prickly pads of
A Thorny Subject
A sharpened wooden stake was used to cut the long tap
root and dig out plants such as the spiky agave. (Click to enlarge.)
Underneath the gigantic spikes of this domesticated agave
plant there is a fleshy, white, edible stalk that, after being cooked, provides
food for several days. (Click to enlarge.)
Yikes! How do you get close to this prickly monster?
There's a lot of useful food and fiber in this sotol plant. (Click to enlarge.)
Prehistoric Indians knew that getting food
from some plants took lots of skill. Some of the best foods were from spiky,
prickly, or thorny plants. For instance, mesquite pods have to be picked from
trees with wicked thorns. Blackberries grow on long thorny vines. And prickly
pear cactuswell, it's very prickly! But the pads and fruits, called
tunas, can be delicious.
Both the prickly leaf pads and fruits of the prickly
pear cactus are edible. (Click to enlarge.)
Some of the most unexpected food sources
are fibrous plants with big bulbs or roots such as sotol, lechuguilla, yucca,
and agave. Tackling these plants meant dodging knife-like leaves with sharp
pointed tips, a sometimes painful chore. Spanish explorers traveling across
the Texas Plains tangled with these menacing plants. It's no wonder that one
variety of these plants is now called Spanish Dagger!