Nopalpalooza: Phoenix Celebrates Cactus

Nopalpalooza shopping bag

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.

Steve Dunker and Steve Markt with their mesquite granola at the Nopalpalooza.

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.  

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7 responses

  1. Pingback: Carolyn Niethammer had fun at Nopalpalooza! | Hip Veggies

  2. nopales in cooking are very versatile. they can even be added to pozole (a great cold weather stew) which will thicken the broth into a good red chile gravy. no southwestern yard should be without a bunch of nopales growing. just scrape the ground and “throw” a pad into the scrape and water it consistently, but not too much, to get the new nopal plant. they are not only good for food they make great barriers in the yard, landscaping plants and might even lure a cactus wren to build a nest & reside with you!

  3. Carolyn,

    Your demo was a big highlight of the event. Thanks so much for coming up!

    Happy to hear you will be working with BPA. I am on their native food committee and will help get the word out for the event!

    Monika Woolsey
    Hip Veggies

  4. So disappointed that I didn’t hear about this event until now. I would love to learn more about the acceptable types of nopales and how to use them.

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