Mesquite Milling Time

June 10, 2015 |

MesquitePlant, Harvest, Mill, and Celebrate Wild Abundance Before the Rains

Desert Harvesters is co-organizing events to plant, harvest, mill, and celebrate local wild foods in the month of June—the peak of our native bean trees’ harvest season. These events will give you the opportunity to taste and enjoy delicious desert wild foods; learn how to significantly elevate the quality and flavor of your harvests; and enable you to align more closely with the Sonoran Desert’s seasonal cycles in a way that enhances our shared home and biome. Toward that aim, Desert Harvesters is teaming up with local culinary businesses to increase both the offerings of native wild foods in their cuisine, and the growing of some of these native food plants within water-harvesting earthworks next to their buildings and streets.

But why is Desert Harvesters doing this during the hottest, driest time of summer? In June, many of our essential native wild food plants will be in the process of pumping out incredible fruit, seed, and bounty in preparation for the first summer rains, which typically begin sometime between June 24—Día de San Juan—and July 4. This way, when the rains come, they will enable the seeds to germinate and grow abundantly—especially where the rain is planted, or harvested, with the seed.

The events include:

Celebration of Place: A Desert Harvesters Evening of Story, Food, Drink, and Music Tuesday, June 9, 2015 5–10pm. Hosted at La Cocina 201 N. Court Ave, 5–10 pm: Live music along with drinks and dinner featuring locally grown and harvested native wild food ingredients. Come try a margarita made with locally harvested prickly pear juice! 7:30 to 8:15 pm: Desert Harvesters: Planting & Harvesting Rain, Wild Foods, and Place-Based Celebration, presented by Brad Lancaster. This entertaining story tells how Desert Harvesters and other individuals and organizations have cultivated stronger ties to wild food production, habitat, and health to regenerate ourselves, our community, and our shared watershed and ecosystem—and how you too can be a dynamic part of it all. As part of La Cocina’s Tuesdays for Tucson tradition, 10% of all proceeds from the evening’s food and drink sales will be donated to Desert Harvesters.

Desert Harvesters Guided Native Food-Tree Harvest Tours Thursday, June 18, 2015 Hosted at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market in partnership with the Community Food Bank 100 S. Avenida del Convento West of I-10 at Congress and Grande, 4:30 pm: Required sign up for walking harvest (tour begins at 5 pm) 5:30 pm: Required sign up for biking harvest (tour begins at 6 pm) Led by Desert Harvesters including Amy Valdés Schwemm and Brad Lancaster $5 to $10 per person (sliding scale). These short, easy-paced hands-on harvest tours show you how to:

– Identify and sample from the mesquite trees with the best-tasting pods. Every tree is different, but some varieties are consistently much better than others. Taste the difference, and you’ll settle for only the best. They will also likely harvest from desert ironwood, canyon hackberry, and palo verde.

     – Harvest safely, ethically, and responsibly. Harvesting pre-rains is the best practice to avoid invisible toxic mold; harvesting from the tree avoids fecal contamination of ground harvests, etc.

– Use cool tools such as the harvest hoe.

– Plant seeds at the best time for the best bean trees (and other native perennial food plants), and how to plant water in a way that ensures the growth of a vibrant, multi-beneficial tree with tasty and prolific harvests irrigated passively with only free on-site waters. These trees can be the basis for edible forest guilds. Everyone is strongly encouraged to bring sun protection (hat, sunscreen, sunglasses), and a reusable water bottle.

In addition, Barbara Rose of Bean Tree Farm will be offering Bean Tree Processing Demonstrations from 4–7 pm. These demonstrations by a desert-foods farmer/fermenter/cook will show you how to process milled or whole desert ironwood seeds, palo verde seeds, and mesquite pods into numerous tasty dishes ranging from sprouts to edamame to desert peanuts to atole to sauces and beyond. (These demonstrations are part of the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market’s ongoing Desert Harvest series to teach the public how to identify, process, and use native foods.)

Other tasty & useful features of the event include: The official launch of Exo Roast Company’s new Exo Mesquite Cold Brew coffee drink, made with locally sourced mesquite pods, as well as Exo Chiltepin Cold Brew which features Sonoran-grown chiltepin peppers, dark chocolate, and cream—both will be available for sample and sale Demonstration of cargo bicycles for harvesting set up by Transit Cycles Hand-made harvest bags by Iskashitaa for sale Native wild foods for sale such as mesquite flour; cactus fruit, drinks, syrup, and popsicles; ocotillo blossom kombucha; and cholla buds. Look throughout the Santa Cruz River Farmers Market for San Xavier Farm Co-op, Desert Tortoise Botanicals, Aravaipa Heirlooms, Black Mountain Spring Kombucha, and other vendors.

     13th Annual Desert Harvesters Mesquite Milling & Wild Foods Fiesta Thursday, June 25, 2015 (in the unlikely event of heavy rain the milling may be postponed to the following Thursday, July 2) 4–7 pm Hosted at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market in partnership with the Community Food Bank 100 S. Avenida del Convento West of I-10 at Congress and Grande, Mesquite (and carob) pods will be milled BEFORE THE SUMMER RAINS to encourage harvesting before the rains (as recommended by the Mesquite Harvest Working Group) for a higher-quality harvest, with less insect predation, and far less potential for invisible molds than are more common in post-rain harvests.

Pods for milling must be clean; dry; and free of mold/fungus, stones, leaves, and other debris. Cost: $3/gallon of whole pods, with a minimum of $10. 1 gallon of whole mesquite pods mills into one pound of flour, so the price averages $3 per pound of flour—this is a bargain considering that the flour usually sells for $14 to $20 per pound. After pod inspection and prepayment, you may leave your pods in sealed food-grade containers (preferably 5-gallon plastic buckets with lids) with owner’s name and phone number written clearly on each container. Flour will be ready within a week and must be picked up.

Mesquite flour is a naturally sweet, nutritious, and delicious addition to recipes for cakes, cookies, pizza, bread, tortillas, granola, dog biscuits—you name it! And like many other native foods, gluten-free mesquite is great for people with hypoglycemia and diabetes as it regulates blood glucose levels.

Desert Harvesters Happy Hour Friday, June 26, 2015 5–8 pm Tap & Bottle 403 N 6th Ave #135. Celebrate the harvest and coming rains with cool local brews. Tap & Bottle will have great regional brews on-hand, some infused with locally sourced native wild ingredients. A percentage of all happy-hour sales will be donated to Desert Harvesters. Plus, a local food truck will be on site with delicious offerings, some including native wild ingredients.

     For more info visit: or to find  out how you can volunteer, email


Category: Community, DOWNTOWN / UNIVERSITY / 4TH AVE, Events, FOOD & DRINK