Family, Community & Place

The chiltepin pepper has a special home in Santa Cruz County

After enduring a bouncy drive up a rough road heading into the Tumacacori Mountains last Tuesday morning, the group of hikers crossed a shallow rocky canyon on foot. Then, after bushwhacking through spiky desert plants and looking under trees, they found their prize: a single bright red, shriveled chili clinging to a dry chiltepin plant.

The fruit of the chiltepin isn’t always so hard to find at this spot, said Kevin Dahl, an ethnobotanist specializing in desert plants. The ...

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Tortilleria Arevalo’s secret to a healthier tortilla is Peruvian mesquite flour

Esperanza Arevalo wakes up at 3 a.m. every day to make tortillas. She sometimes receives help from her husband and sister-in-law, but for the most part, she’s a one-woman show.

Tortilleria Arevalo started with Esperanza’s father, Javier Arevalo, shortly after 9/11. At the time, Esperanza had just been laid off from her job, so she began helping her father. Years later, when Javier was diagnosed with cancer, Esperanza stepped up and took over the business.

Although making tortillas as a business ...

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Tucson’s seed library fosters food sovereignty in a desert

With help from Pima County’s public libraries, Tucsonans grow urban gardens.

In front of the Joel D. Valdez Main Library in Tucson, patrons can claim round concrete landscaping beds for free and create their own gardens with seeds from the library’s seed collection. Some of the three-foot-wide planters are festooned with exuberant jungles of squash, flowers and trellised bean plants, while others look more Zen garden than vegetable garden.

In addition to books and DVDs, in 2012 the Pima ...

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Janos Wilder: A Chef’s Journey from Pizza to Paris by Way of Tucson

When UNESCO named Tucson, Arizona a World City of Gastronomy in Dec. 2015, the first U.S. city so named, it put this small desert city on the global map. It also gave a boost to one of its top chefs, Janos Wilder.

In June, Wilder, a James Beard award-winner (2000, Best Chef: Southwest), represented Tucson at a reception in UNESCO’s Paris headquarters before the annual Creative Cities Network conference. In preparation he crafted the menu at his restaurant, Downtown ...

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A Future in the Ancestral

Mesoamerican culinary traditions spanning millennia have influenced the gastronomic heritage of Baja Arizona.

Tacos, tostadas, burritos, sopes, menudos, cazuelas, enchiladas, licuados—the typical foods of modern Mexico that are familiar in the borderlands—are but one set of spinoffs of an ancient Mesoamerican diet.

Since the mid-20th century, two kinds of Mexican diet have been diverging from one another. One is deeply traditional—think tamales, atolespinoles, moles, tepaches, caldos, and nopalitos—while the ...

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Howard Scott Gentry memory recognized the week of April 28th to May 7th

Let us now praise famous mezcaleros! It was 75 years ago that my mentor, the great plant explorer Howard Scott Gentry, published his Rio Mayo Plants, and 35 years ago that he published Agaves of Continental North America.

As a kid, I worked one summer at the Desert Botanical Garden in Metro Phoenix helping Dr. Gentry check herbarium specimens for localities of the ...

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Did you know that extensive prehistoric landscapes of mescal fields underlie much of the Tucson Basin?

Did you know that extensive prehistoric landscapes of mescal fields underlie much of the Tucson Basin? Archaeologists Suzanne and Paul Fish have also documented that at least one (or perhaps two) species of agave were prehistorically cultivated by the Hohokam in the Tucson Basin.

There, agaves covered tens of thousands of acres of desert landscapes, as they did from central Sonora to the south and the Grand Canyon to the north. Many of these agricultural landscapes still exhibit prehistorically constructed terraces, rock alignments, rock piles and roasting ...

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How can Tucson and surrounding Sonoran Desert communities revitalize a legacy of using plants such as mezcal both for food and for drink?

“Welcome to the Agave family!” was the way that late Arizona botanist Howard Scott Gentry used to greet aficionados of these wondrously-shaped and deliciously-tasting desert-adapted plants. Of course, many Americans are aware of the fact that is the popular name of a distilled alcoholic beverage, but how many newcomers to Southern Arizona know that it is also the common name for several kinds of native plants that are as good to eat as they are to drink?

Also known as the ...

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State of Tucson’s Food System

On December 11, 2016, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced designation of the City of Tucson as a City of Gastronomy in the Creative Cities Network.

The City partnered with the University of Arizona’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ Southwest Center, Edible Baja Arizona magazine, and many other community partners to successfully apply for recognition of Tucson Basin’s rich agricultural heritage, thriving food traditions, and culinary distinctiveness through a UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation.

This publication is ...

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Desert Sage – An Interview with Gary Nabhan

by T. Stone
Boyce Thompson Arboretum Magazine

Gary Paul Nabhan is one of the premier science and nature writers of the American Southwest. He’s written or edited over 35 books, mostly on the subject of arid-land farming, indigenous culture, and food production. He is an integral part of the lineage of Southwest writers which includes Charles Bowden and Edward Abbey. But it’s not just writing he is known for.

Nabhan was born in 1952, and grew up in Gary, Indiana. He earned ...

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Flowers, Creatures & Contemplatives Embracing One Another in the Wilderness World

I.

 

“…the silence of the forest is my bride & the sweet dark warmth of the whole world is my love & out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence, but it is the root of all secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in the beds all over the world.”

Thomas Merton (1997), Dancing in the Water of Life (journals)

 

Among the earliest memories imprinted in my mind: ...

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A Conversation with Gary Paul Nabhan

30 Minutes spoke with Gary Paul Nabhan, Ph.D., about Tucson’s recent designation as a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy and what that means. He is the newly appointed director for Center for Regional Food Studies. Nabhan discussed the breadth of Tucson’s food cultures as well as the importance of food justice and food security for everyone in our community.

Nabhan is the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Southwest Borderlands Food and Water Security,is an ethnobiologist, agroecologist, conservation biologist ...

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My Turn: In search of equality for Arizona farmworkers

Arizona farmworkers are more diverse than you think, and without them, up to a quarter of crops might go unharvested.

 

 

A half century since Cesar Chavez led a national boycott of grapes to highlight the civil rights of farmworkers, the status of both immigrant and native contributors to Arizona’s food system is still in debate. Although Chavez left an indelible mark on our agricultural history, we must look and see how much more equity Arizona’s food system has ...

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What Makes Tucson Deserving of the Title of the United States’ First Capital of Gastronomy

The Arizona city joins Unesco’s growing list of “Creative Cities”

 

 

 

By: Jennifer Nalewicki

Every day, tens of thousands of cars barrel down Interstate 10, a highway that hugs the western edge of Tucson, Arizona. Many of these drivers may not realize that they are driving past a region with one of the longest food heritages on the continent. Often considered the birthplace of Tucson itself, this swath of Sonoran Desert  nestled at the base of the ...

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Agrarian Ecology

One might wonder whether any twenty-first-century preoccupation with agrarian values, agrarian ecology, and agrarian ideals comes as too little, too late. Less than 2 percent of the North American public lives in rural areas outside towns, cities, and suburbs, and less than half of the world’s population now lives outside cities. But the New Agrarianism, which is emerging globally, is not restricted to the rural domain, nor is it necessarily a romantic desire to reenact social behaviors and mores associated ...

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The Road to UNESCO – Tucson ambitiously seeks to be recognized as the first creative city for gastronomy in the country—but is it realistic?

By Heather Hoch

The winding, rocky road up to Gary Nabhan’s Patagonia home is definitely not suited for a sedan. It gets pretty hairy a couple of times while creeping up the path going just a few miles per hour upward, but there, at the top of a hill with a beautiful vantage of a couple local farms, is Nabhan’s rustic Southwestern home. The irony is that, in trying to figure out what makes Tucson a gastronomic destination, driving an hour ...

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Seeking Food Justice with Forgotten Fruit

Gary Nabhan wants to create new opportunities for immigrant populations in Patagonia while reviving a taste for forgotten desert fruits, and he needs your help.

There are 68 days left to join the effort to save our desert’s forgotten fruits – and create new green jobs in Arizona’s borderland while we’re at it.

The Project

MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award recipient and Edible Baja Arizona senior contributing editor Gary Nabhan is leading the charge with Barnraiser fundraiser. His goal? ...

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An Apology to Young Agrarians

Dear Aspiring and Practicing Young Farmers,

Before anything else, I want to apologize for previously failing to acknowledge your value to our society at large, and to more fully support you in gaining traction with your endeavors. In four decades of writing about farming and ranching, I am afraid I have missed the mark by not writing about the issues most critical to your health and well-being. I have been so attracted to helping save the seeds, breeds, soil, and water ...

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Stalking Oregano in the Wilds of Mexico

Few American gourmands realize that most of the oregano they use to spice up sauces, meats, salads and vinegars—whether it be Greek or Mexican in origin—is hand-harvested from wild habitats. Although many varieties of oregano can be cultivated and irrigated as perennial crops, their aromatic oils become diluted as their leaves enlarge under well-watered conditions.

These same aromatic oils—called thymol and carvacol— become more concentrated, intensely flavorful and pungently memorable when the crisp, dry diminutive leaves of oreganos are harvested from ...

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Becoming “Laudito Si” Franciscans of the Rivers and Seas in the Era of Mining Spills

The recent toxic spill of 3 million pounds of mine wastes in the Animas-San Juan watershed is roughly I received my “call” year ago to become a Franciscan after days of solitude and prayer in the wilderness of the Four Corners region. It is also the same watershed where I once caught five catfish for breakfast while co-leading an Outward Bound-style rite of initiation in tributaries to the east of Lake Powell.

So just how does being a Franciscan brother shape ...

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