Now that we are going to make Arizona our new home, I have set about to learn everything I can about this desert climate and what plants thrive here. You can get only so much information from a book or online. Being in the field and seeing the actual plant is the best thing one can do. So, we decided to make a trip to the Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson and we were pleased to see they had many plants with clear identifying placards. Without actual plants to look at with identifying markers, I would be up the creek without a paddle because there are so many varieties of plants that have similar characteristics which makes it hard for an amateur botanist like me to figure out what’s what.
In addition to being able to identify non-edible plants I also want to know what edible foodstuffs grow well here. Luckily, there are many food plants that native peoples have developed over thousands of years and those plants are adapted to drought conditions and do very well.
One of the crops that the Tohono O’Odham people have developed is the Tepary bean (Tep-Pah-Ree). It’s a bean that is high in protein and fiber with many nutrients. A quarter cup dry has 410 calories, 1,910 mg of potassium, and 21 grams of protein among other things. Tepary beans come in white, red, brown and black. They are small and hold their shape in cooking like the Pinquito bean from the Santa Maria area of California.
The recipe I offer here is from Ramona Farms in Sacaton, Arizona, and is a traditional Tohono O’Odham meal. You can't buy the traditional beans, corn or wheat berries on Amazon or at your grocery store. One of the best places to buy them is straight from the grower:
This dish is very, very easy to make and qualifies as a one-pot meal. It is hearty, satisfying and simply delicious!
- 1 lb. tepary beans (dry, cleaned, rinsed)
- 1/4 cup whole wheat kernels - uncooked
- 1/8 cup dried roasted sweet corn - uncooked
- 1/4 onion (diced or left whole to be fished out after cooking)
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 big pinches of cumin (or more to your taste)
- 1 dried red chile pepper (whole)
- 4 strips bacon fried & crumbled (optional, if left out this will be a vegan meal)
1. Sort and rinse beans.
2. Put all the ingredients in your pot or crock pot and add water to cover plus 2 to 4 inches.
3. Bring all ingredients to a rapid boil for 30 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 hours (or until tender). This works very well in a crock pot. If you use a crock pot set on high for 6 hours or until tender. Either way, take a look from time to time and add more water if the beans are not covered.
A little bit about Ramona Farms: From the ancient traditions of their desert farming heritage Ramona Farms offers wholesome, nutritious and delicious foods as their contribution to a better diet for all people in a world of dwindling wholesome food choices and water resources.
Ramona and her husband Terry have been farming on her home reservation, the Gila River Indian Community, for over forty years. The products they offer are part of their tradition and are grown without pesticides or herbicides and are non-GMO. These foods have been the cornerstone of their community’s diet for thousands of years. They do not sell seed. They share their food with you and ask for your cooperation in respecting and honoring their crops and products.
Renée Benoit is a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who currently lives in a 26-foot travel trailer with her husband, a cat, and two dogs while they travel the Western United States in search of beautiful, peaceful vistas and hijinks and shenanigans. Connect with Renée at RL Benoit, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.
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