Back to wild food in Mexico

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Back to wild food in Mexico

Natalia Torres Garzon writes from the Mexican desert. There knowledge of ancient desert foods is helping with the economic shock of Covid-19.


Socorro Aguilar works with a cactus in Real de Catorce, Mexico. She cooks it with onions, tomato, and chillies or drinks it in smoothies. Photo: Antonio Cascio

Covid-19 has caused a global economic crisis. But it has also opened the door to a more sustainable way of living in Real de Catorce, Mexico. This semi-desert town is in the mountains of central Mexico. It lost its tourism suddenly in March 2020.

The town’s people returned to the wild cacti, flowers, and fruits of the desert. 77-year-old Socorro Aguilar was one of the people going back to the old ways. She has the old knowledge of how to collect wild foods and make agave syrup. The Aztecs called it ‘god’s drink’.

Over the years, people have eaten fewer and fewer wild plants in this area and they have forgotten traditional knowledge as foods come in from other places. Aguilar worries about poor health in the younger generation in Mexico. Over 30 per cent of adults are now obese. ‘They only want food from packets,’ she says. ‘They don’t want the great value of cacti, flowers, and medicinal plants.’

Covid-19 and climate change is showing the value of wild foods. National policy usually does not include them. The Opuntia cactus produces prickly pears everywhere from Brazil to Madagascar. The Food and Agriculture Organization wants to change the Opuntia cactus from a food that people go to when there is nothing else to an important part of agriculture.

The cactus grows well in difficult environments and has fixed problems with water. It is an important way of fighting food shortages and drought. When added to cultivated crops, a wide range of local foods like this may be the answer to feeding people in future crises.


(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)