The day our family arrived in Phoenix it was 121 degrees. Suffice it to say, I was not an immediate fan. Did anything green grow here?
Four years later, I’ve grown to love living in the desert. One thing that changed my mind was attending the many farmers markets Phoenix has to offer.
Farmers Markets in Phoenix: A Desert Oasis
If you think nothing could possibly live in this intense climate, think again. Here are just a few of the amazing local food products you’ll find at a farmers market in Phoenix:
- Grassfed Beef and Lamb
- Fresh Tamales
- Local Honeys – including staghorn, prickly pear, desert wildflower, and mesquite honeys
- Lots of Citrus and other local produce – chiles, avocados, tomatillos, and more!
- Bee Pollen
- Homemade Artisan Bread
- Filipino Marinades and Dressings
- Fresh Tortillas
- Mesquite Flour and Pancake Mix
- Prickly Pear Syrup
- Locally Produced Olive Oil
- Pichu Berries
- Vegan Chocolate
- Crème Brulee
- Goat Cheese
- Aloe Vera Plants
- Tomato Plants
…and much more!
Churro Sheep Wool
One of my all-time favorite farmers market products isn’t a food at all. A few years ago, I took a spinning class led by Celia Petersen of Chile Acres Farms where we learned how to clean fresh sheep wool, card it, draft it, and spin it into yarn. We also used natural plant dyes to dye the yarn. It was a real learning experience and really made me appreciate the art of spinning.
Something I loved about the class was that it emphasized using wool of native sheep. For example, the instructor taught us about the Navajo churro sheep, a once-endangered species that escaped extinction due to remarkable preservation efforts. Although they are still threatened, populations have started to stabilize in recent years. To this day, the Navajo tribes in Arizona come together to honor this rare breed.
Just this week, Chile Acres Farms had a felting class for little kids. My 4-year-old daughter had a great time learning how to felt wool from a real sheep and made a toy snake for our cat.
As much as I love the food, these educational opportunities are probably my favorite thing about our trips to the market. I love it that my children are learning where their food comes from – not to mention their clothing!
My Favorite Phoenix Products
The different species of animals and plants that you find in the Sonoran desert have really made me fall in love with Phoenix. Here are a couple other local items that I’ve discovered during our trips to the market:
I had no idea that the pods of the mesquite tree are so healthy and delicious. If you follow a gluten free diet and are looking for a new flour to try, give mesquite a try. It’s high in protein and nutrients, and it tastes great.
2. Prickly Pear
Every year in September and October, prickly pear cacti start to bear fruit. If you’re not familiar with the meticulous and sensitive art of removing them from the cactus, you can watch an interesting video here. When they’re in season, my husband and I love to use the fruits (also known as tunas) to make homemade prickly pear syrup and prickly pear liqueur.
These amazing little berries are closely related to the tomatillo plant and have a lovely tart taste. They are native to Peru and are packed full of vitamin C, vitamin A, and – believe it or not – a considerable amount of protein!
4. Aloe Vera
We have several aloe vera plants in our yard, and they’re also a hot item at the market this time of year. Like most desert plants, aloe vera has been used for centuries for its medicinal qualities. I’ve never tried eating it, but it works well in relieving sunburn or dry, itchy skin.
My favorite market combination? Delicious mesquite flour pancakes topped with prickly pear syrup!
What unique items have you discovered at your local farmer’s market – food or non-food?