Eat Mesquite and More Cookbook Event

Our new cookbook Eat Mesquite and More, a Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods and Living by Desert Harvesters, answers the greatest question I have: How to fearlessly and consciously make flavorful delicious dishes using native foods.  I wanted to find out the method to the culinary madness of such extraordinary flavors.

This quest took me to one of the cookbook contributors Barbara Rose’s Bean Tree Farm. Barbara is a Desert Harvester, longtime Co-op member, and permaculture designer. I wanted to know how she approached enigmatic flavors of the Sonoran Desert and how she concocts such delightful results. I love her salts, sauces, salsas and chutneys.  What I found are three main principles: 1) Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to try and taste. You don’t have to be an expert.  Start with mesquite, prickly pear or nopales and then move on to berries. 2) Don’t get stuck in a recipe mindset.  Look for fundamental patterns.  Find them in conventional foods, like a salsa, and then begin replacing the ingredients with wild foods. 3) Thank, learn from and contribute to the people and traditions of the desert in the best way you can.

Barbara says the very first thing that to do is get outside and taste.  Bean Tree Farm is an education center, residential community and 20-acre Ironwood and Saguaro forest sanctuary, where “farming” means harvesting, caring for and teaching about Sonoran desert foods and living.  Yes, there are chickens, water harvesting and small kitchen gardens with bright green herbs and greens and crossed chiles from a chiltepin and patagonia peppers.   But this farm is far outside of what you might have in your mind when you imagine a farm.  Bean Tree Farm disrupts your thinking and forces you to see the abundant resources of the Sonoran Desert right in front of you.  In this place you are called to get to know it, partner with it, and cultivate its ancient saguaro forest.

“Nearly everything growing in the desert is edible or medicinal, usually both.” says Barbara.  With little homework at the library or a visit to a Desert Harvester event, Barbara says, “You are off to discovering the tastes and healthful bounties of the desert.” Her knowledge originates from lifelong curiosity, sense of place, and learning from elders.  Barbara rejects being called an expert despite her extensive design, building and cooking experience. She believes being fearless is shedding the need to feel like you must be an expert.  Barbara suggests a visit to Desert Survivors, asking about edible plants and integrating them into your home landscape. She also suggests the Desert Harvesters website or a class at Bean Tree Farm to begin to see the desert as a living food forest.

Barbara advises to approach a comfortable recipe but remember those five essential flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Those five flavors are the beginnings of any delicious, flavorful dish.  Barbara approaches building and creating with the same awareness of fundamental patterns.  “Then you can begin to see what is the fundamental pattern of a great house or a great salsa,” she says. “Cooking is no different from building and in the end you get something to eat that is fun and delicious and social” says Barbara. With the Prickly Pear Borscht recipe from the book, Barbara looked for the five essential flavors and incorporated them into her understanding of her family’s favorite borscht recipe from her Eastern European roots. You will note that her recipe is only three sentences long! The fundamental pattern of the borscht is to sour or ferment the beets, in this case with the prickly pear juice.

The last principle, Barbara states, is to honor the people and place of the Sonoran Desert.  For Desert Harvesters that means caring for and replanting or re-wilding your neighborhood, community garden and yard with Sonoran desert plants.

Barbara at Bean Tree Farm and the Desert Harvesters espouse a philosophy steeped in this ethic. Their base is an appreciation and respect of place, plants, and people who share knowledge of the desert.  This awareness comes from seeing your part in the natural system as Barbara says and finding out what is your role in it.  “Whether it’s a business, building or a salsa, it needs to be place-based, contributing to the natural system in which it is nested.”

Isabella’s Ice Cream: Name the Flavor Fun this weekend!

Isabella’s 1927 model T has become a Tucson icon, recognized at events throughout the city, like Cyclovia. Just one look at that model T and your mouth waters! But you don’t have to chase down the revamped, solar-powered model T to sample the company’s fabulous ice cream. At the Co-op’s birthday sale on Saturday, February 3, 2018 we will host an Isabella’s Ice Cream tasting from 2:00 – 4:00pm. Isabella’s will create two new custom flavors horchata and a prickly pear sorbet to help us celebrate…and Co-op customers will help name them! Create a name that captures the essence and spirit of each new flavor and enter our “Name the Flavor” contest for the chance to win a free pint!

Food Conspiracy Co-op has been selling Isabella’s Ice Cream since 2011 and was the first store to stock it. We like Isabella’s products because they are designed to be environmentally conscious, from the careful sourcing of ingredients to the responsible selection of materials used for packaging.  The ice cream is hand-crafted at Isabella’s 4th Avenue shop from fresh cream and milk purchased from family-owned, independent dairies in Arizona. They produce unique flavors like spicy chocolate, desert honey, and organic lavender. Product packaging uses no adhesives and containers are 100 % recyclable.  Their manufacturing facility also prides itself on being water conscious, recycling the water used during production to save 5 gallons per minute.

In the coming weeks, when the Co-op’s birthday celebration is over, you’ll find Isabella’s newly-named, custom flavors for sale in our freezer section. If you’re hankering to try some of Isabella’s other fabulous flavors, you can stroll down to their shop at 210 North 4th Avenue just a few blocks south of the Co-op.

Check Isabella’s Ice Cream website at www.isabellasicecream.com to learn more about its products and inquire about its catering services.

Tucson Tamale Takeover: Celebrating a Decade-Long Partnership Between the Food Conspiracy Co-op and Tucson Tamale Company

The Tucson Tamale Company is a true success story in our local Southern Arizona food scene. From its humble beginnings at the original midtown shop on Broadway Boulevard, it has become a Tucson institution with three area locations and an 8,000 square foot production facility that supplies a network of over 400 grocery stores across the United States and a thriving internet business that ships over 14,000 packages of delicious tamales annually. Food Conspiracy alone sold more than 3,800 tamale packages in 2017!

We admire Tucson Tamale Company’s commitment to using quality ingredients and their ingenuity in creating unique flavors, like their yellow curry tamale and holiday favorite Thanksgiving tamale, has garnered a loyal following. Their masa is made with organic and non-GMO corn and they use non-GMO expeller pressed canola and sunflower oil instead of lard, making a healthier and – we think – a better tasting product. They also use organic vegetables.

The Co-op has been partnering with Tucson Tamale Company since the company’s formation in 2008. In fact, Food Conspiracy was Tucson Tamale Company’s first wholesale customer! Our relationship has been strengthened over the years with healthy tamale sales and special events that highlight our shared values and food philosophy. The Tucson Tamale Company Takeover on January 18 kicks off the Co-op’s 2018 event schedule.  Our hot bar will feature a selection of tamales accompanied by a selection of Mexican side dishes created especially for the event by the talented cooks in our Co-op kitchen. We’ll have meat and vegan options on both the breakfast bar and the lunch/dinner bar. Todd Martin, Tucson Tamale Company’s owner and general manager, will be on hand to visit with tamale fans and answer questions about the products.

Our taste buds have been dreaming of a tamale takeover since last year and with the end of the busy holiday tamale season, we were finally able to snag some of Todd’s time and organize the event.  In 2017, our Food Conspiracy staff and members organized a bike ride from the Co-op on 4th Avenue to Tucson Tamale Company’s production facility on Tucson’s northwest side. We were taken on a tour of the facility then enjoyed a tamale and beer pairing at neighboring Dragoon Brewery. “Our partnership with Tucson Tamale Company has been a truly positive one,” said John Glennon, Interim General Manager of Food Conspiracy, “and one that we hope continues to promote Tucson as an example to follow in creating local business alliances that benefit the community and a sustainable food culture.”

For more information about the Tucson Tamale Company, please visit their website at tucsontamale.com

Preserving Your Organic Harvest

By: Co+op, stronger together

Want to enjoy the most healthful food—like local, organic fruits and vegetables—year round? Preserving the bounty you’ve grown yourself or purchased from the co-op or farmers’ market makes it possible. Simple food preservation techniques can lock in flavor, help maximize your food dollars, support local agriculture, reduce food waste and give you a chance to really get to know the food you eat and serve to your family.

Produce possibilities

Check out the list of what’s in season in your area to jump-start your imagination. If it’s February to late spring, that could mean greens galore and broccoli and cabbage for fermentation. In July or August, a big bubbling batch of tomato sauce or salsa could be just the thing. Of course, a walk through your garden or co-op to see what’s fresh and abundant is also a great way to identify preservation possibilities.

It’s not just grandma’s pantry

Putting up jewel-toned jars of pickled beets and brandied peaches may be what comes to mind when you think “food preservation,” and canning has become popular across generations, with plenty of unique recipes that appeal to a range palettes. But canning isn’t all there is. Other simple ways to preserve local and seasonal foods include drying, freezing, curing, pickling and even cellaring (yes, putting your food in a root cellar; grandma did know best, didn’t she?)

For beginners, dehydrating and freezing foods are a snap—and no special equipment is required

Freezing

When it comes to nutritious preserved foods, freezing is second only to fresh foods. While freezing can affect the texture of some foods, most vegetables, fruits, meats, soups, and even herbs can easily be frozen in airtight containers for use all year long. The key is to start with cold foods so that the time it takes for them to freeze is very short. This minimizes ice crystals and preserves the color, texture, and taste of your foods.

Try freezing cold berries or chopped vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag or Mason jar for storage. You’ll be able to pluck a single berry or measure 2 cups worth from the container without defrosting the entire batch.

Fresh herbs, like basil, thyme, mint, and chives, can be snipped into measured teaspoons or tablespoons and frozen in ice-cube trays topped up with water. Stored in a bag in your freezer, they’re recipe-ready almost instantly.

And remember: a full freezer is an efficient freezer, so don’t be shy about filling it up!

Did you know? Nuts, seeds, and whole grains can be stored in the freezer to extend their shelf life and prevent spoilage.

Drying

Dehydrating foods is a simple and easy way to keep vegetables, fruits, and even meats stored away until you are ready to use them. Drying preserves foods by taking all the moisture away; without moisture, bacteria cannot grow and your foods stay delicious for months—even years. While there are plenty of dehydrators available, many recipes are possible using a regular home oven.

Fresh herbs can be dried in a microwave or just hanging from your ceiling! The best thing about drying is that it uses very little energy, and the preserved foods are lightweight—easy to store and transport (perfect for camping!).

Did you know? Dipping fruit slices in pineapple or citrus juice before drying can preserve their color and prevent browning. It’s delicious, too!

Canning

Home cooks have been preserving food in jars for centuries, and these days we have plenty of resources to do so safely and with confidence. Canning does require some special equipment, available at many co-ops and hardware stores, and recipes designed and tested for safety. After the initial investment in jars, a canner, and a few accessories, the expenses are minimal and the results can be phenomenal. Canned goods go far beyond the usual tomatoes and green beans. Modern canning recipes allow you to create unique and memorable foods for gifting or for enjoying yourself.

Did you know? Home-canned goods should be used within a year for optimal quality, but are safe for much longer, as long as safe canning methods were used.

Fermenting

Fermentation brings us some of our favorite foods: cheese, yogurt, beer, wine, pickles, and even chocolate. Nearly every culture in the world makes use of the natural preservative effects of fermentation. Fermentation works by transforming the natural sugars in foods into tart and flavorful foods that tend to resist spoilage at cool temperatures.

Fermentation is made possible by the action of beneficial bacteria— the same bacteria that keep our immune and digestive systems healthy. So fermented foods are not only practical, they also deliver a healthy dose of probiotics. Another benefit of fermentation is that no special equipment is required. You can get started with as little as a knife, a cabbage, and some sea salt, and couple of weeks later you’ll be enjoying sauerkraut!

Did you know? Every ferment is unique because of the bacteria and yeasts that are naturally present in the air and foods in that region. The same recipe can taste different across the globe!

Want to give food preservation it a try?

Check out these recipes for Freezer Pesto and Oven-Dried Tomatoes from Liz McMann of National Co+op Grocers. Check out our Homesteading Series classes on Food Preservation with Izetta Chambers.

Want to learn more?

The Canning Across America and National Center for Home Food Preservation websites contain a wealth of information. Also, your local agricultural extension agent food co-op are good sources for written information and classes to help you can, cure, freeze, pickle and dry this season’s abundance.


References

  • The Ball Complete Book of Home Food Preserving Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine, Robert Rose, 2006
  • Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods Sandor Ellix Katz, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2003
  • The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables Carol W. Costenbader, Storey Publishing, 2002
  • The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market (Revised Edition) Linda Ziedrich, Harvard Common Press, 2009

 

Natural & Organic Turkeys are Here!

NATURAL TURKEYS  from Diestel Turkey Ranch in Sonora, CA $1.99/lb

No reservations needed.  While supplies last.

Diestel Turkeys are always raised without antibiotics, growth stimulants or hormones.

–No added salt solutions and ice-chilled for quality

–No antibiotics, growth stimulants, or hormones

–100% Vegetarian Diet, enhanced with vitamins and minerals

–Raised Gap Rated Step 3, raised in a barn environment with enhanced outdoor access

–No gluten, casein, carrageenan, phosphates, MSG, artificial ingredients or preservatives

Learn More

“We are proud to be one of the last turkey producers in the Western United States to take the extra time and attention required to mill our own feed. We allow turkeys to develop slowly, resulting in a more tender and juicy old-fashioned turkey flavor.”

Roasting Instructions

ORGANIC TURKEYS  from Organic Prairie are $2.99/lb

Organic Prairie meats are produced by an independent cooperative of organic family farms. No reservations needed.  While supplies last.

  • Organic Prairie certified organic turkeys roam freely, with unlimited access to fresh air and sunshine.
  • Organic Prairie only feeds 100% certified organic feed

Learn More

Roasting Instructions

Join us for free film series as we explore the Future of Food in Pima County

Re-posted from Against the Grain Nutrition Blog:

The first movie in the series is The Future of Food, which will be shown this Saturday, May 6, at the Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Library in Marana. A post-film discussion will take place with Going Against GMOs author Melissa Diane Smith, farmer Anne Loftfield of High Energy Agriculture, and Nurse Janay Young.

On Saturday, May 13, at 2 pm, Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives will be shown at the Joel Valdez Main Library downtown.

The series concludes with SEED: The Untold Story, which will be shown at the Murphy-Wilmot Library on May 20. The last time this movie was shown in Tucson – in the 500-seat main theater at the Loft Cinema on February 5 – it sold out.

All events are free, but seating is limited. So, make sure to get to each movie screening early to ensure that you can view the film. Each movie received a rating of 7.0 or higher on the Internet Movie Database.

Below are the details of each showing. Hope to see you at the movies!

Saturday, May 6See Facebook event page

The Future of Food, 90 minute movie, discussion

This film offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled grocery store shelves for the past decade.

2-4 p.m, Wheeler Taft Abbett Library, 7800 N. Schisler Drive (just west of I-10)

Saturday, May 13See Facebook event page

Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives,  90 minute movie, discussion

This seminal documentary provides compelling evidence to help explain the deteriorating health of Americans, especially children, and offers a recipe for protecting ourselves and our future. Free organic popcorn and organic snacks while supplies last. Bring your own water bottle.

2-4 p.m., Joel  D. Valdez, Main Library, downtown, 101 N. Stone Ave.

Saturday, May 20See Facebook event page

SEED: The Untold Story, 90 minute movie, discussion

In the last century, 94% of our seed varieties have disappeared.  As chemical companies control the majority of our seeds, farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers fight a David and Goliath battle to defend the future of our food.  Free organic popcorn and organic snacks while supplies last. Bring your own water bottle.

2-4 p.m., Murphy-Wilmot Library, 530 N. Wilmot Road

See full blog post at Against The Grain Nutrition blog

 

2017 Election Results

This year’s annual meeting was themed “We are Better Together” at the Rialto Theatre Foundation’s new venue 191 E. Toole.  Local small bites were catered by Caridad Community Kitchen and music by Cadillac Mountain.  Staff of Food Conspiracy were recognized  for their commitment and years of service.  We thank everyone from the Co-op’s local business partners and non profit organizations as well as the Board, staff and owners who attended.  Thank you to everyone who voted in this year’s election! Here are the results:

Board of Directors

Susan Silverman (71); three year term beginning March 2017

David Miller  (65); three year term beginning March 2017

Newly elected Board member David Miller 

Newly elected Board member Susan Silverman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooperative Community Fund 

No More Deaths (26)

Round Up at the Register

Emerge! Center Against Sexual Assault (35)

Humane Society of Southern Arizona (27)

Local First Arizona Foundation (23)

Northern Jaguar Project (20)

People for Animals in the Prevention of Cruelty & Neglect (19)

Staff Representative, elected by Food Conspiracy Staff

Nick Super

Your Voice, Your Vote in Co-op Elections

Your Vote Your Voice!  Participate in Cooperative Economic Democracy

Food Conspiracy Co-op is governed by a nine person Board of Directors who each serves three-year terms.  Each year the Co-op member-owners normally elect three members to three-year terms.  This year there are two candidates for the three open positions.

Board of Directors  Directors represents all of the owners of the Co-op and as such is responsible for the operation of the business through the General Manager.  The Board also works to form a vision to guide the Co-op into the future.

Cooperative Community Fund Grants                                                                             

Food Conspiracy Co-op’s Cooperative Fund (CCF) is one of 38 local Cooperative Community Funds in the country, all of which are sponsored by the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation. Since the CCF’s creation in 2001, Food Conspiracy Co-op has participated and has invested several thousand dollars into our CCF.   In coordination with the Board election each year, the interest earned from our CCF is donated local nonprofits. Every year owners elect which nonprofit organizations will receive a Cooperative Community Fund Grant.

Round Up at the Register

This election cycle Round Up at the Register is added to the ballot for owners to choose which local non profits will benefit from our collective impact.   Every other month, together shoppers round up their spare change  for the selected non profit.  At the end of the month, all change collected is sent to that organization.

Electronic Voting or Paper Ballots

Member owners who prefer paper ballots can vote by paper ballot in the store.  You may also vote by via the website in a computer provided in the store.  You will be able to vote for them online starting February 1 and go through February 26th at the Annual Meeting.  Voting online will close at midnight on Saturday, February 25th. Choose the most convenient way for you to vote, just vote!