"Cooking the Wild Southwest" by Carolyn Niethammer is a new book that includes tips on incorporating multiple naturally growing species including prickly pears, mesquite and tepary beans.

Many people think of the desert as a dry, barren landscape with few suitable plants for human consumption, but Carolyn Niethammer disagrees.

Niethammer, a Tucson resident who is a master cook and author, recently wrote "Cooking the Wild Southwest", in which she describes cooking using desert plants.

The book specifically describes using 23 plants that can be incorporated into meals for free, because they are naturally occurring species that can be found in many parts of the the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

Some of the most popular ingredients are mesquite pods, prickly pears, acorns and tepary beans. These and others are gaining more recognition and favor due to a growing desire for locally available food sources that are part of national and international organic or sustainable movements.

And besides being seasonably abundant and free, Niethammer says many of these plants are full of nutrition and other benefits such as fiber.