Tuesday, April 25, 2017


It’s a quaint looking plant covered with fuzzy hairs and in the springtime the stems are dotted with dainty white flowers.  It grows from a foot high to four feet high, dark green, each plant isolated from the next.  Oh yes, one more thing: This evil woman, as it’s called in Spanish, will put you down.  It will turn your skin into a burning landscape.  If you get a big enough dose you may have to seek medical attention.  One fellow who lives not far from here walked through the brush wearing shorts (a bad idea) and he accidently brushed against a mala mujer.  He was taken to a hospital emergency room for observation and treatment.  But as amazing as this may sound, there are parts of the plant that are edible.  I just wonder who, centuries ago, was brave enough to pick the seed clusters off the plant, strip them of their stinging hairs and then taste them.  Perhaps he was out on the Sand Sheet, dying of hunger, and so he was left no choice but to give it a try.  Perhaps he took a bite and decided they’d be better roasted.  Or maybe he took a sack-full of seeds back to camp and his wife said, “Let’s roast them and see if that improves the taste.”  Regardless, the Native Americans who roamed this land and whose progeny makes up the majority of those living on it today did not let any edible plant go unnoticed.  In fact, they even dug out the tap root (no easy task with stick tools) and extracted the swollen tuber and ate it.  Now having just witnessed someone dig out a mala mujer’s tuber and then attempt to roast it over an open fire, I can attest to the fact that it’s not an easy task nor is it a meal worth digging three feet down to enjoy.  Fibrous and dull, it makes for a lot of mindless chewing and difficult swallowing.  Nonetheless, the tuber was eaten, or at least that’s what various sources claim, and the seeds were roasted and consumed.

Just look at the size of that tuber.  The young man holding it in the following photo, who is the baby of the family and who now stands six feet-two inches tall took about forty minutes to excavate the giant “potato.”  It weighed about twenty pounds.  I’ve never seen a Texas Bull Nettle tuber this size but I imagine there are many others among the hundreds of mala mujeres growing in the area.

Scientific Name: Cnidoscolus texanus
Common Names: Texas Bull Nettle, Mala Mujer


  1. Wow, I would have never guessed the root of that would have been so large. Was that a large plant (> 4 feet tall) or smaller ?

    Maybe combine the slices of that with some spiced up nopalitos, its coming on that time of the year anyway.

    1. That plant was not all that large, maybe about two feet high. It had, however, been pruned several times. I should've mentioned that pruning or whacking the plant off at the base with a machete doesn't do any good. In a week the plant has already begun growing another stem. The only way to kill the plant is to remove the tap root. Actually, the nopalitos came and went about a month ago. All the pads are quite large now. I think we're in for an early summer. The mesquite have already started making their beans.