A multicultural Tohono O’odham round dance at Mission Garden’s San Ysidro Fiesta (DenaCowan photo)
Celebrating our food–from its source……Celebrating the farmers who grow it, their farming traditions, our culinary ways, and the amazing tastes that come from our Sonoran Desert soil…..This is so BAJA ARIZONA!– SO TUCSON!
Tia Marta here inviting you to join the prayers, the music, the feasting together in our multi-cultural community this Saturday: It is one of the Old Pueblo’s traditional festivals–saluting the people who grow our food–La Fiesta de San Ysidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers and gardeners–to be held this SATURDAY, MAY 14, and not to be missed. The feast, its activities and ceremony have been revived by Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace at the Mission Garden, the site of the original San Augustin Mission Garden at the base of A-Mountain.
A traditional grain-threshing ground prepared for action at San Ysidro Fiesta (MABurgess photo)
Harvesting heirloom wheat at San Ysidro Fiesta, Mission Garden–living history we can eat! (DenaCowan photo)
It promises to be a most colorful event, with Tohono O’odham dancers singing for rain and a healthy crop, Native blessings of the ground, mariachi music, and a chance for everyone–young or “veteran”– to experience the actual harvesting of our heirloom wheat (grains introduced about 350 years ago by missionaries and adopted early on by Native residents) on a real threshing floor known as an “era” where the precious grain is separated from its straw and chaff. For a neat trip into living history, there will be volunteer historians dressed in Presidio Period costume to enliven the early-Schukshon atmosphere.
Heirloom PimaClub wheat maturing at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)
Heirloom PimaClub wheat ripe and ready at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)
It really matters that we meet our food before it arrives on our plates, get to know it even before it arrives at the market or grocery. It matters that we know the soil in which our food is grown, and to know the person(s) whose hands have tended it–the person who has sung to it, prayed for it with hope and then thanksgiving.
Seedheads that were fat and green in the “milk stage” last month are now dry on the stalks, a beautiful straw-color, ready to cut and thresh. Pima Club wheat, which had been saved by NativeSeeds/SEARCH as a gift from Native farmers over 34 years ago, is now being grown again by San Xavier Coop Association and available for sale from their shop and at the Thursday Santa Cruz farmers’ market.
Heirloom white Sonora wheat maturing (MABurgess photo)
White Sonora Wheat swelling green last month is plump and dry, some of it already bundled in the traditional way to be threshed this weekend. Bring the kids to learn how their morning cereal or toast begins–what it has to go through before it becomes their breakfast!
Heirloom white Sonora wheat in a traditional bundle ready to thresh (MABurgess photo)
Certified organic White Sonora Wheat is now being grown commercially by one of our oldest and most respected Chinese families at BKWFarms in Marana, supplying local bakeries like Barrio Bakery and Big Skye Bakers with low-gluten, heirloom organic flour, and several local micro-breweries like Dragoon, Borderlands and Sentinel Peak with the makings of the best wheat-beers.
Heirloom Magdalena barley in the “milk stage” at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)
Heirloom Magdalena barley, still being grown by traditional farmers in Magdalena, Sonora, was brought to Mission Garden by bi-cultural botanist and heirloom fruit tree expert Jesus Garcia. Notice in the photos how different this ancient barley is from the wheat grains. Our heirloom wheats, unlike modern wheats, do not have much of a “beard” or awn sticking up making the seedhead appear “hairy”. Our heirloom wheats are “beard-less.” Awns on this heirloom Magdalena barley form curly and kinky “beards.”
Ripe Magdalena barley ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)
Inside, nutritionally, barley grain (and its flour) is one of the most healthy of grains, with the lowest glycemic index (important especially for those with blood-sugar issues.)
The grinning reaper (MABurgess photo)
So come, celebrate, and meet your food where it starts, where food has been cultivated for the Tucson communities and cultures continuously through time for 4100 years!
On May 14, 2016, you’ll also meet gardener-neighbors from local organizations with information to share about traditional foods (SanXavierCoopAssociation, NativeSeeds/SEARCH, Flor de Mayo), herbal medicines (TucsonHerbalistCollective), innovative gardening ideas (AvalonGardens.org), children’s activities (IronwoodtreeExperience), and Tucson’s rich history (TucsonPresidioMuseum, Friends of Tucson’s birthplace).
We will feast together with Posole de Trigo, the traditional dish honoring San Ysidro Labrador, made with white Sonora wheat-berries and vegetables grown right on-site at Mission Garden by the caring hands of many devoted volunteers –bless them! (A fabulous recipe for Posole de Trigo Sonoran-style is in an EdibleBajaArizona article by Bill Steen worth trying at home–Find it online at http://ediblebajaarizona.com/a-personal-posole.)
Check out archived May 8, 2015 and May 12, 2014 posts on this blog for more beautiful illustrations, recipes and stories about San Ysidro.
Showy medicinal hollyhocks planted at Mission Garden by Tucson Herbalist Collective (MABurgess photo)
Tia Marta and Bro Rod will be at the Flor de Mayo tent at the San Ysidro Fiesta sharing a diversity of Southwestern heirloom foods to cook for yourself or to grow in your garden. We’ll have notecard images of my heirloom bean mosaic of San Ysidro available. Come by to see white Sonora wheat-berries cooking in the solar oven. Local organic wheat-berries with great recipes are available in gift bags by the half or whole pound from http://www.flordemayoarts.com or from the Presidio Museum Gift Shop (196 N.Court, Tucson), the BaggesenFamilyBeanBooth at Sunday StPhilipsFarmersMkt, at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store (3061 N.Campbell,Tucson), and at the Wiwpul Du’ag store (SanXavierMissionPlaza).
Here are the details for planning your SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2016, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m :
Día de San Ysidro Labrador Traditional Tucson Farmers’ Festival, sponsored by Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace (www.tucsonsbirthplace.org)
Procession from The Future Tucson Origins heritage Park to Mission Garden begins 9:00 a.m. then
• Mariachi Milagro
• Alabanza by Bobby Benton
• Presentation by Michael M. Brescia, Ph.D. • Native American four-directions blessing • Ceremonial wheat harvest
• Blessing of fields, food, and animals
• Desert Indian Dancers from San Xavier
• Tasting of Pozole de trigo
For more details email MissionGarden.Tucson@gmail.com or call 520 777 9270
See you there for this special BAJA ARIZONA celebration–another reason Tucson has been named an International City of Gastronomy. Those grass-roots are bearing grain!
Heirloom bean mosaic of San Ysidro Labrador created by artist/ethnobotanist MABurgess