Looking out on the Tucson streets, it may feel a bit like the city has become a dead zone. While pedestrians have taken shelter from the heat inside, now is actually a very interesting time in the region agriculturally, as some of the most unique native plants are now ready to harvest. Pre-monsoon harvests include the bahidaj (or saguaro fruit) that is pivotal in the Tohono O’odham new year season and can be harvested and made into syrup, candy or a wine-like fermented ceremonial drink. Unless you have a saguaro in your yard, though, you’ll want to be sure you’re allowed to harvest the fruit, as many saguaros, including those in the eponymous national park, are protected.
That doesn’t mean you’ll be out of the desert harvest all together, though. Just look around at all of the mesquite pods ready for the picking. If you missed last week’s Desert Harvesters guided tours of foragable pods and beans growing on trees around town, you can still learn plenty at the 14th annual Mesquite Milling and Wild Foods and Drink Fiesta. There, the local nonprofit will be set up at Mercado San Agustin (100 S. Ave. del Convento) during the Santa Cruz River Farmers Market. From 4 until 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 23, on-site mesquite pod milling will transform all of your plucked pods into sweet, nutty flour for $3 per gallon of whole pods milled with a $10 minimum.
This special event, which goes to benefit Desert Harvesters in their mission to promote native foods and water security in the region, will also feature mesquite pod tasting, aflatoxin testing (to ensure the flour you’ve milled is safe), craft beer made with wild ingredients from Iron Johns and mesquite and chiltepin flavored cold brew from Exo Roast Co. A variety of other native and wild foods products will be for sale, such as date vinegar, cholla buds, desert lavender tea, carob powder and chiltepines. The Pima County Public Library’s seed library will be there to offer up instruction on hands-on bean tree propagation with a giveaway of food-producing native trees, as well.
More information on harvesting
mesquite, as well as this event
, can be found on the Desert Harvesters website.