Last week Phoenix veggie lovers and the veggie-curious came out for the Nopalpalooza to celebrate the launch of a new shopping bag featuring cactus pads. The bag is the second in a series of veggie-themed bags from HipVeggies, the brainchild of Valley of the Sun dietitian Monika Woolsey. The Phoenix New Times did a piece on her venture that you can read here.
The bag was designed by Phoenix graphic artist Joe Ray and some of the profits from the sales go to the Desert Mission Food Bank. Monika is so into nopales that she even commissioned a Phoenix baker to make several dozen nopal cookies (just sugar cookies, but very cute.)
I was there, showing people how easy it is to clean nopales and cook them. Also attending was a delegation from Ramona Farms with some delicious tepary bean dishes.
There to get feedback for their new venture of making commercial products from mesquite meal were Steve Dunker and Steve Markt. Markt recently graduated from commercial baking school and had brought some mesquite granola and mesquite-based powerbars to pass out. He hoped to get feedback as he designs his product line. He is purchasing his mesquite from Mike Moody, who is growing a mesquite plantation over by the Colorado River.
And speaking of mesquite, Tucsonans get ready for the Desert Harvesters (www.desertharvesters.org) annual mesquite grinding. They will have their hammermill at the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market at El Mercado on West Congress on November 15 beginning at 3 p.m. On November 18 they will move to the Dunbar-Spring community garden beginning at 9 a.m. They’ve already been to Phoenix and Oracle with their hammermill and have conducted a couple of events in Tucson. So if you still haven’t had your pods ground into silky delicious meal, this is your last chance this year. In conjuction with the grinding, there will be a bake sale of fabulous mesquite-based goodies with the profits going to support Desert Harvesters. I’m still trying to decide what to take — ginger mesquite cookies? mesquite banana cake? Or sweet, crumbly scones? Come out and see!
And if you have your mesquite meal and are wondering about some ideas for what to do with it, check out my cookbook Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. For inspiration and directions on what wild plants are available in what season, watch a short video here.