Sonoran Desert Heritage Foods: Food in the most unlikely place.

In the upcoming weeks we will be highlighting aspects of our local food web, giving you insight into what is grown in this arid climate and celebrating the heritage foods that abound.

For hundreds of generations the Tohono O’odham have thrived off the land, rich in culture and traditions. Many of those traditions are agricultural in nature. Today, combating the highest historical rates of diabetes, the Tohono O’odham nation is embracing the wisdom of their ancestors, taking a more holistic approach to their health through farming, ranching, and eating what is locally available and grown on their land.

The Sonoran desert may be dry, but it does provide for us. The Tohono O’odham are turning to its bounty, and some of the foods are slowly being introduced to the general public and made available for retail sale. In a walk around the farmers’ market you will find tepary beans, mesquite flour, cholla buds, and prickly pear products like syrup, cactus pads and jams & jellies. In the upcoming weeks, join us as we introduce you to the many foods that I consider our Sonoran Desert Heritage Foods.

This week, allow me to introduce you to tepary beans.

Tepary Beans are grown during the blistering hot summer of the Sonoran desert, and are one of the most heat- and drought-resistant crops in the world. The same adaptations that allow them to thrive in harsh desert conditions make them incredibly healthy. They are extremely high in protein and very low on the glycemic index (29). As a result, they help regulate blood sugar levels and are particularly good for diabetics and others concerned about the impacts of simple carbohydrates on their health.

Two main varieties of tepary beans are grown by the Tohono O’odham: brown and white. The brown tepary bean has a rich, earthy flavor, while the white beans have a slightly sweet flavor.

If you want know more about these delicious beans please visit Flor de Mayo Booth on Sunday at the farmers’ market. If you would like to purchase tepary beans you can find them at our Sunday Farmers’ Market at St. Philip’s Plaza and online from Native Seed Search and Toca Online.

Tepary Bean Basic Cooking Instructions:
To cook, rinse beans with water, pick out an discard any stones or broken pieces, place beans in a large pot and cover with water (8 cups of water of one cup of beans) and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Partially cover and cook until tender, about two to four hours. Once cooked, they will double in volume. The cooked beans can be frozen and store well in the refrigerator for up to one week (leave them in the cooking liquid).
Recipe courtesy of TOCA.