Food Heritage and History

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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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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Agave Heritage Week: Greg Starr, Ana Valenzuela, David Yetman, Wendy Hodgson, and much more!

It would be hard to find a group of plants which offer such architectural grace and morphological symmetry as agaves do. That’s why Tucsonan Greg Starr’s book from Timber Press, Agaves: Living Sculptures for Landscapes and Containers, is one of the most-lovely horticultural classics ever published.

Greg has spent so much time with the many agave species at his Starr Nursery in the Tucson Mountain foothills ...

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Four Vows for Food Justice: An Earth Day Prayer

Although the many beings lost or wounded in our foodshed,
somehow seem nameless & numberless,
we vow to remember their names,
to hear their needs & to never forget their faces.

For the many children who are hungry daily,
while perfectly useable food is thrown away,
inundating landfills & making methane,
we vow to curb our consumption & end of our waste.

For the many immigrant farmworkers
who harvest the bounty with their sweat & blood.
but are seldom offered a place ...

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Did you know that mezcala and tequilas were bottled and savored in Tucson over a century ago?

Did you know that mezcala and tequilas were bottled and savored in Tucson over a century ago? Ironically, only a small percentage of the current residents of Tucson realize that these wild plants were artisanally processed for food and beverages up through recent decades.

Most have never heard of Old Pueblo pioneer Julius Goldbaum who, from 1886 to 1903, distilled, bottled and marketed local mezcals and imported tequilas on the corner of Congress and Meyer in what is now downtown Tucson.

Also known as Julius ...

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Gary Nabhan: Solar idea is a viable, job-creating option to border wall

Because I have lived within 20 miles of the U.S./Mexico boundary much of my life, the complexity of the debate regarding President Trump’s border wall proposal is not lost on me. I have worked in communities on both sides of the Arizona-Sonora border, the border in the world with the greatest disparity for dwellers on its two sides.

There are horrific differences in access to clean water, healthy food and jobs with livable wages that currently divide Mexican and U.S. citizens. ...

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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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Put a little wildness back into your food and drink, and you will likely become healthier for it!

Put a little wildness back into your food and drink, and you will likely become healthier for it! Ethnobotanists and archaeologists have uncovered cultural and culinary uses of wild agaves, prickly pears and mesquite that reach back at least 8000 years in the U.S./Mexico borderlands.

Just think about that for a moment: a nitrogen-fixing legume tree, a cactus and a succulent agave have offered food and drink to the hungry and thirsty of our region for a duration at least 25 ...

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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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Biodiversity food expert speaks

Gary Nabhan, an internationally-celebrated nature writer, agrarian activist and ethnobiologist, was the Convocations speaker Thursday in the Gilbert Great Hall in the R. Haze Hunter Conference Center.

Nabhan’s presentation was titled “Conservation You can Taste: Restoring Biodiversity to the Farm and Table” and focused on efforts that are being made to bring back species of edible food crops.

Nabhan also spent Wednesday making classroom visits and visiting with local farmers.

The Convocations started with a showing of a short documentary that ...

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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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Borders Out of Register: Edge Effects in the U.S.–Mexico Foodshed

This paper addresses how food systems and transboundary food supply chains are mediated and shaped by (cross-) cultural and geopolitical borders that function as selective filters. We focus on the ways in which the political boundary in a formerly cohesive foodshed generates “edge effects” that affect (1) food safety, and (2) food waste, particularly in desert communities adjacent to the U.S.–Mexico border. We hypothesize that as these various boundary lines get “out of register” with one another, their dissonance creates ...

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“Restoration Economy” Strives to Protect Pollinators, Create Jobs

Conservationists hope to boost livelihoods along the poverty-stricken Arizona–Mexico borderlands by repairing habitat for more than 900 species of wild pollinators

 

 

Gary Nabhan and I are bumping along in a rental car down a two-track dirt road that follows the edge of Sonoita Creek’s floodplain, some 29 kilometers north of the Arizona–Mexico border. Nabhan—an ethnobiologist, conservation biologist and agroecologist at the University of Arizona and author of more than 30 books on food, farming and nature—tells me how extraordinary ...

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Living, Dying, and Eating in the “Day of the Dead” Belt

To properly celebrate Día de los Muertos, we must do one thing: offer our deceased loved ones the food that feeds their souls.

Other regions of North America may claim that they are the Corn Belt or the Bible Belt, but here in Tucson, we cling to the buckle of the cinturón of Day of the Dead. In an arc stretching from New Orleans through San Antonio and Albuquerque, from Tucson to Yuma and San Diego, the Dia ...

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Feeding Our Future: Harvesting the Desert

Just before the monsoon rains, it’s time for the mesquite trees to start dropping their long, cream-colored pods. It’s also time for Brad Lancaster to spread the love of mesquite to the people of Tucson.

Brad Lancaster is co-founder of Desert Harvesters. “We’re a local nonprofit that’s all about promoting the growing, harvesting, processing, enjoying and celebrating of local, wild, native foods,” he explains, chewing on a freshly-picked mesquite pod.

“Mmmm! This one is sweet! Not like candy-bar ...

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Native American farmers deserve to be fully represented on state agriculture board

We typically celebrate Columbus Day with clichéd truisms: An adventurous European Christian explorer “discovered” a New World filled with a “strange people,” gold and silver, pungent spices and marvelous crops, all for the taking. In truth, the land had been not been “discovered” by Columbus, but had been home to hundreds of distinctive farming, fishing and hunting peoples for millennia. Even the first sighting of land from the explorer’s ships was not made by Columbus himself, but by a Jew ...

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Tucson Becomes an Unlikely Food Star

TUCSON — There are food deserts, those urban neighborhoods where finding healthful food is nearly impossible, and then there is Tucson.

When the rain comes down hard on a hot summer afternoon here, locals start acting like Cindy Lou Who on Christmas morning. They turn their faces to the sky and celebrate with prickly pear margaritas. When you get only 12 inches of rain a year, every drop matters.

Coaxing ...

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20 Native North American Foods with Stories to Tell

Indigenous and traditional crops are an important source of food and fiber for people around the globe. Often these crops are resilient to pests and disease or can tolerate high temperatures, drought, or flooding. And while millions of people in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America depend on native crop varieties, North America is also home to many important indigenous crops that need to be protected for future generations.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), since the early ...

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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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Tucson, Arizona, cultivates its foodie reputation – with a nod from Unesco

Having gained Unesco city of gastronomy recognition, Tucson’s new wave of downtown restaurants are making the most of the area’s unusual desert foods

 

 

The desert surrounding Tucson, Arizona, is filled with soaring Saguaro cactus, their bright red fruits long a delicacy here. The abundance of this native food is one reason why, last December, Tucson became America’s first Unesco city of gastronomy, joining just 18 others worldwide, despite having fewer fancy restaurants than many US cities, and being one of its ...

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