Yesterday our neighbor called and told us the wolf berries were ripe. As new denizens of the desert, my husband and I were both clueless about this announcement. I was thinking that a wolf berry was an exotic cousin to the much hyped and sought after goji berry or a cousin to a mangosteen of Noni juice fame or perhaps it was the exotic wonder that my brother bought at Whole Paycheck err Food. Regardless I was sure it was something I too should be excited about.
Immediately I got on line and discovered that indeed this was a wonder plant from the nightshade family resembling tiny tomatoes. It was rumored to cure almost anything, very expensive to purchase and most people ordered it from some place far away like China or Sedona.
Even after looking at the leaves and the berry/fruit/globule pictures on the internet, I wasnt sure if it grew on the ground or high in the tree. Hoping it would be hanging aloft since it is rattlesnake season I opted for the wolfberry quest on horseback.
I gathered up empty plastic cartons to laden with berries, bottles of water as I was sure it would take awhile for me to find this holy grail of flora and a camera so I could take a picture of Smoke my horse and I proudly retrieving nature's bounty. I quickly saddled Smoke up with extra cantle pack and saddle bags to hold all the goodies and we took off despite the darkening sky.
When I heard thunder I didnt even consider turning around -our all knowing neighbor Raven said if I didnt get them soon- the birds would have them. I thought about how much the dried berries sold for on the internet and urged Smoke to keep going.
It started to rain. I hadn't included a jacket in this excursion-this is the Sonoran desert and early June. My head gear was enough to keep the rain off me. Of course my first hint of doom was when my large brimmed hat had blown off as I cantered down the drive. I had been to lazy to pick it up, convincing myself I really didnt need it and could use some tan on my face.
As the drops trickled down my face, I started searching the vegetation with blurry vision. All I could find were striped lizards scurrying among the rocks from the hoof beats or the rain. I saw nothing red.
When we had traveled three miles from home, I started to wonder just what I would do with these berries. Would they really give me more energy? Could you eat them on ice cream? Could I can them and present them as gifts at Christmas. Perhaps I could dry them and use it as tea? This would be a wonderful story to tell my Midwestern family and friends. However,
I was beginning to wonder if I was looking on the right trail?
I called Raven and asked again where he had seen the elusive plant. He repeated where they were and I repeated back to him that is where I had been. There was no sign of any wolf or berry along the deserted roadside-no birds feasting on anything and the only foliage was mesquite and a few pricklypears that werent yet bearing fruit.
Perhaps I had missed them in the rain. I turned around, Smoke quickened his pace. The rain came down faster. But still I kept looking . I must admit i was losing my fascination with the wolfberry. I had plenty of vitamins. My Christmas shopping were done. I already had plenty of stories about Gila monsters and rattlesnakes to entertain family and friends from afar. I just wanted to get home. I would be altruistic-the birds, deer and javelina needed this desert delight far more than I did.
However this afternoon adventure was not without treasure. I didn't find the wolfberry, but the sun came thru the rain and the gleaming rainbow appeared with the tail disappearing behind the hill where my house and husband were waiting. I took out my camera; the rain dissipated, I took the shot, and I went home with empty cartons , but a great picture and memories of a rainy day in a dry desert. But I am beginning to think Raven was just crying WOLF "berries".