Desert Harvesters May–June Festivities 2016 Press Release (Desert Harvesters: Appreciating the Native Foods of the Southwest)


For Immediate Release: May 3, 2016


Jill Lorenzini: 520-268-4899 |
Barbara Rose: 520-572-7221 |
Brad Lancaster: 520-275-8753 |


Tucson, AZ—Though newcomers to the Sonoran Desert sometimes miss the abundant fruits, berries, mushrooms, and greens of wetter forests, one Tucson organization wants you to know the desert is full of food: You just have to know where to look for it.

Desert Harvesters is a nonprofit grassroots group that promotes the harvest of native, wild, and cultivated desert foods and also advocates for the planting of indigenous, food-bearing shade trees (such as the Velvet mesquite) and understory plantings within rainwater harvesting “gardens” in the landscapes where we live, work, and play. Funds raised at these events support the group’s educational efforts in the community, including demonstrations, publications, and tasting events.

The group announces its summer season of harvesting workshops and activities, which aim to help the public learn how to plant, harvest, process, and prepare wild, native, and local food items, including mesquite pods, ironwood & palo verde seeds, and saguaro fruit.

Currently the group is raising funds to support the publication of a revised and expanded version of its 2010 cookbook Eat Mesquite!. This new cookbook will include recipes for mesquite and other desert foods, as well as information about how to grow, harvest, and prepare native and local foods.

Desert Harvesters is also seeking volunteers to help with (and learn from) these and other events.


  • May 31 – Desert Harvesters’ Celebration of Place: An Evening of Story, Food, Drink, and Music

La Cocina, 201 N. Court Ave., Tucson
5–10 pm

A celebratory fundraising evening of drinks & dinner featuring locally grown and harvested native wild-food ingredients. Live music with Jimmy Carr & the Awkward Moments. Presentation/stories by Brad Lancaster. 10% of sales support Desert Harvesters.

  • June 16 – Desert Harvesters’ Guided Native Food-Tree Harvest Tours

In conjunction with the Community Food Bank’s Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market
100 S. Avenida del Convento, Tucson

5 pm Walking Tour & 6 pm Bike Tour (pre-registration strongly recommended)

Cost: $10 per person (limited number of sliding scale tickets down to $5—in person & only if spots remain)

A short, hands-on harvest tour (on foot or on bike) to help you identify the best mesquite pods and other wild foods, then harvest them ethically and safely. A concurrent processing demonstration at the Farmers’ Market will also show you how to turn mesquite pods, desert ironwood seeds, and palo verde seeds into tasty dishes.

  • Very likely June 11, and maybe another June 26 (both depend on ripening times of pods) – Desert Harvesters’ Mesquite Seed Collecting Workshop – For Desert Harvesters Members and Volunteers Only

4:45–10 am

This workshop is about identifying and harvesting the best mesquite seed used to propagate and grow higher-quality mesquite trees. Most mesquite trees (except the screwbean) cross-pollinate and hybridize with other mesquites, including non-native mesquites, particularly in urban and suburban environments. Learn how to identify, harvest, and process seeds collected and germinated from mesquite trees with best flavor, harvest, and quality characteristics. We’ll gather at a carpool spot near downtown Tucson and drive out of town together to the workshop location far from any non-native mesquites that would otherwise cross with the natives.

  • June 18 & 19, 2016Additional workshops on Mesquite Pod Tasting, Inspection, and Ticketing and Hammermill Operation for those who want to become Desert Harvesters volunteers or staff, or others wishing to expand their mesquite-related skill sets.

Visit or email to learn more.


Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market at Mercado San Agustín, 100 S Avenida del Convento, Tucson

Bring your clean & sorted mesquite pods to be milled with our hammermill (fee applies) and taste an array of wild foods.
We will also be serving craft beers (Smoked Mesquite Apple beer as well as a beer finished with creosote flowers) from Iron John Brewing Co. with a proceeds going to Desert Harvesters.

  • June 24 – Desert Harvesters’ Happy Hour at Tap & Bottle

403 N 6th Ave #135, Tucson

5–8 pm

Enjoy great regional brews, some infused with locally sourced native wild ingredients. A percentage of all happy-hour sales goes to Desert Harvesters! A local food truck will also be on site with delicious offerings including native wild ingredients.

  • June (late) – Saguaro Fruit Harvesting Workshop

Saguaro National Park West
6–10 am

In collaboration with Borderlands Theatre’s Standing with Saguaros project, Desert Harvesters joins Stella Tucker of the Tohono O’odham Nation to learn about and help with the annual saguaro fruit harvest. Tucker and her family have been harvesting in Saguaro National Parks since before it was a park. Come learn about the harvest and saguaro ceremonies and share stories about your experience.


  • Celebrating Tucson’s food traditions. Tucson was recently named as a UNESCO World Heritage site for Gastronomy. As the oldest continuously inhabited agricultural site in the country, Tucson is celebrated for its tradition of cultivating and harvesting wild, native, and local foods. Desert Harvesters, a grassroots organization, has been helping to keep these traditions alive through community education and celebration for over a decade.
  • Mitigating climate change. Especially considering that 4% of global greenhouse emissions come from the US, harvesting wild and local foods is a fresh, nutritious, energy-efficient alternative to industrially produced food items, which require fossil fuels to produce, harvest, and transport.
  • Stewarding the Sonoran Desert. Planting and harvesting endemic plant species helps people understand the local ecosystem and can foster a greater connection with plant and animal species that share this community. Pima County’s Multi-Species Conservation Plan, one of the most ambitious in the country, lists 44 endangered or threatened species. Keeping our ecosystems intact and learning to live in accordance with them helps these species.
  • Enhancing our water & fertility resources. Wild native foods thrive when watered solely with free, on-site passively harvested rainwater and stormwater runoff. Thus these food plants do not require costly and imported groundwater or surface water that is currently being over-extracted. The passive water-harvesting earthworks with these plants also capture free fertility in the form of leaf drop and bird droppings, while dramatically reducing flooding during storms.
  • Improving human health. A number of desert foods, notably mesquite, slow the body’s intake of sugar. Harvesting and eating these foods can help combat the disproportionately high rates of diabetes and obesity in Pima County, particularly among Hispanic and low-income populations.
  • Improving food security. Recent statistics indicate that 14% of Pima County lives in a food desert, as defined by the USDA. Wild, native, and local foods are easily accessible once you know how to harvest them. Understanding how to plant, harvest, and use them can supplement existing diet choices with healthy, free and accessible food.


Download the PDF version:
Desert Harvesters May–June Festivities 2016 Press Release