Desert Harvesters thanks the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona for its support!

Thanks to the financial support of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona’s Punch Woods Endowment Grant, you will soon be able to get a copy of Desert Harvesters’ new cookbook, “Eat Mesquite and More! A Sonoran Desert Living Cookbook!”

In 2015, we Desert Harvesters set out to build on the energies of a growing volunteer base and the voices of our community, to revise and expand our “Eat Mesquite! A Cookbook” into a more comprehensive guide to teach our community how to plant, harvest, cook, and enjoy rain-fed, wild desert foods where they live, work, and play.

Our latest cookbook goes well beyond the uses of naturally sweet and nutritious mesquite pods, containing planting, harvesting, and processing tips and recipes for over 20 additional perennial Sonoran desert food plants (including desert ironwood, palo verde, cholla, prickly pear, barrel cactus, chiltepin, oreganillo, and more).

The Punch Woods Endowment Grant was key in helping fund the huge community effort that goes into producing such a publication as ours. After countless hours of recipe recruiting, coordination, creation, and testing, we at Desert Harvesters have 328 wild Sonoran Desert food recipes in our recipe bank!

Over 40 authors submitted recipes. These authors range from renowned chefs, such as Janos Wilder; to cookbook authors, such as Carolyn Niethammer; to community activist organizations, such as Tohono O’odham Community Action and their Desert Rain Cafe; to restaurateurs and craft brewers who utilize local wild foods, such as EXO Roast Coffee and Iron John’s Brewing; to many skilled home cooks.

The submitted recipes were then reviewed by one of two means: community tasting events, or review by community volunteers, who then tested the recipes both for their quality as well as ease of replication. Only the top recipes made it through the vetting process into the cookbook.

Great food attracts great company and the sharing of great stories, so the cookbook also includes short stories and articles ranging from the medicinal uses of our wild food plants; to culinary fusions of myriad ethnic foods incorporating wild Sonoran edibles; to how to enhance the health of ourselves and home with the planting and foraging of wild food plants; to how different people, businesses, and organizations are reconnecting us with place by making wild Sonoran Desert food plants part of our daily experience and delight—so you can do the same and more!

We are in final editing stage now. The cookbook should be available before the summer rains—just in time for the mesquite pod harvest and milling season! Check the Desert Harvesters calendar of events regularly for new postings of events—including guided harvests, processing workshops, and the cookbook’s release.

And sign up to volunteer and learn with us!

on ethical wild-foods growing and harvesting

Nature is a system of abundance, cycles, and efficiency.
We can mimic that.
Increase the fecundity of plants and their companions.
Leave and invest fallen pods, leaves, and cut-up prunings as fertile
mulch for animals, soil life, and trees.
Say “thank you” for your harvest with generous actions.
Turn landscapes into lifescapes and lushscapes.
Give back. REINVEST.

We live in a land of precious water.
Use local, free, and gravity-fed water—rather than
imported, costly, and mechanically pumped waters.
Capture rainwater by digging basins and other earthworks.
Catch rainwater runoff from roofs.
Divert public street run-off into public right-of-way rain gardens.
When you grow and harvest rain-irrigated desert food, you
ENHANCE our local ecosystem.

HARVEST nearby.
Look for wild native-food sources in your backyard,
rights-of-ways, and urban trails.
If they don’t exist there, PLANT them.
Leave desert abundance where it belongs—in the desert.
Re-wild the urban and suburban core.

Delight your tastebuds.
Be a culinary cupid. Introduce new flavors to one another.
Find new combinations of traditional, wild foods. INNOVATE.
Prickly pear borscht, anyone? Mesquite muesli?
Practice place-based, place-appropriate, place-inspired fusion.

Be here now. CELEBRATE.
Give thanks to the ancestors.
Make offerings for the future.
Contribute to food, fertility, and water security, here, now, and for
your children, their children, and their children.

Expand your COMMUNITY.
Meet your fellow desert dwellers.
Those that have roots and flowers.
Those that crawl and flutter.
Get to know other humans who harvest.
There is so much to observe, so much to love.
Invite. Involve. Include.

Abundant thanks to Kimi Eisele for unleashing her poetic alchemy on the collective free-association musings of Desert Harvesters’ core-group members!


Tucson has been designated a “World City of Gastronomy” by UNESCO

This video features Desert Harvesters’ Amy Valdés Schwemm and many others whose work led to Tucson’s receiving this honor. For still more on the World City of Gastronomy designation, listen to this great interview with Gary Nabhan.


Who are we and what’s our story?
Check out our new & in-progress About Us page!

Donations are gratefully accepted to support our work in the community!

Please send your check made out to Desert Harvesters, P.O. Box 92, Tucson AZ 85702, or use the PayPal donation button on the bottom left side of any page of our website. We are unable to commit to responding to other correspondence sent through the post office. See the Contact Us page for our array of email addresses.


For a blast from the past, check out the photos from some of our events of yesteryear: