Food Heritage and History

KCRW – Good Food – Tucson’s foodways

In 2015, Tucson was named the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the U.S. due to the region’s more than 4,000 year-old agricultural history, among other reasons. Gary Nabhan is an ethnobotanist and the founding director of regional food studies at the University of Arizona.

He recently authored a report on the state of Tucson’s food system and visits to talk about the significance of the designation.

 

 

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This originally broadcasted May 12, 2018 on KCRW.

 

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Saving Our Food Supply in the Face of Climate Change

In the already-scorching Southwest, a group of scientists, ranchers and farmers are figuring out how to adapt the current agricultural system for a hotter, drier planet.

A smoldering vista southeast of Tucson, Arizona—a city that saw 68 days of temperatures at 100°F or higher last year, and averages less than 12 inches of rainfall annually. Photos by Russ Schleipman.

Gary Paul Nabhan ...

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There’s more to agave than tequila

You can sip me, you can eat me and you can moisturize with me—what am I? The agave plant.

Today, this plant is widely known as the key ingredient in the alcoholic beverage that is taken with lime and salt or mixed in to make margaritas, but agave has a much greater importance in the Sonoran Desert than just tequila.

“We think about tequila as the major way we know the plant today, but up until a century ago more people ate ...

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Native Chiltepine pepper in Southern Arizona

Something other than coffee is brewing at Exo Roast Co. Along with the typical coffee beverages like lattes, cappuccinos, and chai, Exo Roast Co. also offers something with a little extra kick to it—a chiltepine cold brew.

“It sprung from an interest in using local ingredients,” Doug Smith, co-owner of Exo Roast Co., said.

From the very beginning Smith knew he wanted to incorporate local ingredients into his menu. As someone who likes the sweet, savory combination of chocolate ...

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Shifts in Plant Chemical Defenses of Chile Pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) Due to Domestication in Mesoamerica

We propose that comparisons of wild and domesticated Capsicum species can serve as a model system for elucidating how crop domestication influences biotic and abiotic interactions mediated by plant chemical defenses. Perhaps no set of secondary metabolites (SMs) used for plant defenses and human health have been better studied in the wild and in milpa agro-habitats than those found in Capsicum species. However, very few scientific studies on SM variation have been conducted in both the domesticated landraces of chile ...

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In the Arizona Desert, Tucson Models Affordable Food Access

UNESCO’s first City of Gastronomy in the U.S. relies on its built-in biodiversity and a wide network of food justice organizations to feed its most marginalized residents.

Tucson is a foodie town. But rather than artisan breads and local avocados drawing crowds of tourists, it’s the relationship between diverse plants and people that earned it the distinction of being the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States in 2015.

The UNESCO distinction came as a result of ...

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The Teacher: No need to bring this teacher an apple – he’s got a whole seed bank in Waldoboro

‘Our seeds have basically gone all over the world,’ says Neil Lash, who earns the Source Award for Teacher.

Sometime around 1990, Waldoboro school teacher Neil Lash was watching the PBS program “The Victory Garden” when Kent Whealy appeared on the screen. Whealy had co-founded Seed Savers Exchange, one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States and as he talked about the work they done with heirloom seeds, including some that had been brought to the United States ...

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Untold Arizona: Arizona-Grown Tepary Beans Preserve The Past, Hold Promise For The Future

To commemorate Arizona’s birthday, we dispatched our reporters far and wide to bring you stories from the region you’ve probably never heard before. Hear more from our Untold Arizona series.

 

 

Arizona farmer Terry Button grew up eating beans in New England.

“I never sit down to eat a little portion of beans,” he said, grinning. “I eat a big bowl of beans.”

They were his favorite food — baked beans, great northern beans, navy beans, Lima ...

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The Vault

How good are you at keeping secrets? Do you blab immediately, or do you have a Seinfeld-esque Vault?

Of course, that’s not an actual vault — more of a metaphorical one.

This week on Endless Thread, we talk about a real vault, one that holds not only secrets, but actual valuables as well. The contents don’t glitter or shine or pay for anything, but they are probably the most valuable items in the world.

The vault in question is located far north, up ...

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Tucson a Model in Food Biodiversity, Report Says

A report on Tucson food systems done by The Center for Regional Food Studies at the University of Arizona shows 14 community organizations make Tucson a leader in conserving food biodiversity.

Gary Paul Nabhan is the founding director of regional food studies at the UA. He said nonprofits like Desert Harvesters are thinking long term.

 

 

“Many of these organizations are, in a sense, sewing our future food security by bringing this diversity into our food ecosystem,” Nabhan said.

Jonathan Mabry is ...

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New Report: Tucson is a Leading U.S. City in Food Diversity and Access

Tucson is one of the top cities in the United States conserving and disseminating edible biodiversity and local heritage foods, a new report reveals. Released by the University of Arizona Center for Regional Food Studies, the second annual “State of Tucson’s Food System” documents Tucson’s rich variety of common, heritage, native, and heirloom plant species and varieties available, often at little or no cost, in its local economy.

“This report shows that Tucson’s community organizations have done ...

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UA Report Details Tucson’s Excellence in Providing Food Diversity and Access

A new report on the state of Tucson’s food system – produced by the UA Center for Regional Food Studies – shows that Tucson is one of the top U.S. cities in its high diversity of edible plants affordably accessed, grown and eaten as means to reduce food insecurity.

Marking the December 15 second anniversary of Tucson, Arizona’s designation as the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States, the University of Arizona Center for ...

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Mirror Images

Two UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy, located across the world from each other, offer distinct insights on desert terroir.

I am sitting in an outdoor café on a hot summer day. The café, in Zahle, Lebanon, is on the edge of a broad desert valley that stretches out between two mountain ranges, one of them high enough to capture snow every winter and suffer forest fires most summers. Out of the mountains flows enough snowmelt to allow some irrigation from ...

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To Be an Ethnobotanist

Now, being an ethnobotanist

Is not all that different

From being a musician,

Ballerina or chef:

 

You’ve got to practice

Your licks and chops,

Your forms and foot positions

Your dicing, slicing

And making a roux

Every day (or else)

You get rusty.

 

No one I know

Likes a rusty ethnobotanist

One who is constantly hoping

To discover some herbal WD-40

 

So make and take

Some time each day

To go on out

And eat the flowers

Drink their nectars

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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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An Ecumenical-Interspecific Communion

The so-called Last Supper was not the last we know that nourished Yeshua of Nazareth and his motley crew of ne’er-do-well friends from Galilee. The other ones had fish swimming into them. For two millennia, Christians all around the planet have faithfully practiced the Ritual of the Open Table—one where everyone has a place at that table to have their hunger curbed, their thirst slaked, and their dignity respected. Other faiths have similar rites of sharing food among both friends ...

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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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Activists Envision a Border Wall Made of Solar Panels

President Trump has requested prototypes for what he calls a “physically imposing” and “beautiful” border wall. This week in a meeting with congressional leaders he floated the idea of covering it in solar panels. That’s not a new concept. Quite a few people have been working on solar wall designs. Arizona author and ecologist Gary Paul Nabhan says a solar installation would create clean energy and sustainable jobs for the U.S. and Mexico. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with him about ...

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