In the Arizona Desert, Tucson Models Affordable Food Access
The Greenest Party
Tucson is a foodie town. But rather than artisan breads and local avocados drawing crowds of tourists, it’s the relationship between diverse plants and people that earned it the distinction of being the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States in 2015.
The UNESCO distinction came as a result of Tucson’s long agricultural history and its wide-ranging efforts to preserve its food heritage and increase access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods for all residents. And a recent report from the University of Arizona Center for Regional Food Studies, on the “State of Tucson’s Food System,” delved further into how the city can use its UNESCO designation to further improve its food system.
“We didn’t get the City of Gastronomy designation because we have 40 gourmet restaurants with James Beard Award winners,” said ethnobotanist and report co-author Gary Nabhan. “We got it because we’re trying to deal with the basic food security and food justice needs that any community in America is really dealing with.”
Why Doesn’t Tucson’s Mexican Food Scene Get More National Attention?
On South Tucson Boulevard, in an abandoned special needs school, resides Merchant’s Garden. Outside of a large greenhouse on what could have been a playground at one time, there is no indication that a farm actually exists. At first I thought I was lost but when a modular classroom door opened, a slender man in a distressed ball cap waved and welcomed me in.
Chaz Shelton is the founder and CEO of Merchant’s Garden, who started the company with his father in 2015.
“Honestly, before this, I had zero agriculture experience,” says Shelton with a bright smile. “I was in health care and I just saw a big need for healthy food. So together we got this property and built a greenhouse. Then it started to take off from there.”
Taste UNESCO’s Creative Cities of Gastronomy
In the fall of 2012, I discovered the best hot sauce in the United States in, of all places, Tucson.
I had just finished a lecture at the University of Arizona on my then-new book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. My host was Maribel Alvarez, a professor of anthropology at the school who is the executive program director for the Southwest Folklife Alliance. She documents food traditions of the Arizona-Sonora borderlands, and she sent me back home with a goody bag of regional delights: carne seca (sundried beef), tepary beans (a small, meaty legume grown by natives since time immemorial) and flour tortillas called sobaqueras that are the size of a basketball hoop.
Tucson Chefs Find Tasty Ways to Honor ‘City of Gastronomy' Tradition
In November, the mouthful that is UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) selected San Antonio, Texas, as a Creative City of Gastronomy. It’s one of only two cities in the USA with such gastronomic status: Tucson, Ariz., made the list in 2015.
If you’re asking yourself “what’s so tasty about the desert,” you’re asking the wrong question.
Cactus Buds to Chimichangas: Eating Your Way Through Tucson History
Barrio Bread posts its 2 p.m. Saturday closing time on the door and on the internet. Yet by noon one Saturday in November, owner and baker Don Guerra was locking up to the moans of acolytes still streaming toward the bakery.
From Retro Redos to Soul Foods: 6 Tucson Chefs Talk 2018 Food Trends
In the 1980s, the Sonoran hotdog arrived in Tucson, imported from roadside stands in Mexico. The essential ingredient, a wiener, is wrapped in bacon, grilled and placed in the bun with avocado and pinto beans creating a 6.8 on the napkin/messy scale and a solid 10 on the delicious one.
Tucson’s Desert Soul
Remember when cupcakes, frozen yogurt, bacon, and kale were everyone’s foodie obsessions? We talked to six Tucson chefs and restaurateurs to see what kinds of trends we should expect in 2018.
The trend all the chefs see continuing: local produce and farm-to-table ingredients.
Tucson a Model in Food Biodiversity, Report Says
A sunset drive over Gates Pass outside Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, a half hour west of downtown Tucson, delivers momentary goose bumps. In the vast valley before you, lanky green cacti stand silhouetted against purple-red mountains, a visual rock opera. Hit it just right, and golden light pierces the cactus spines, electrifying their outlines.
Restaurant Rewind: The Stories That Kept Our Attention
A report on Tucson food systems done by The Center for Regional Food Studies at the University of Arizona shows 14 community organizations make Tucson a leader in conserving food biodiversity.
9 Reasons Why We Were Dragged Kicking and Screaming from This Desert City
Tucson’s restaurant industry in 2017 at times felt like a rollercoaster ride, with enough twists and turns to keep us on our toes.
A Conversation with Gary Paul Nabhan about the State of Tucson’s Food System
If you’re a Goldilocks kind of traveler like we are, you may at first glance be turned off by Phoenix’s enormous sprawl. Meanwhile, there’s mystical Sedona and charming Flagstaff, both pretty—but also kinda petite. But, wait. Tucked into the state’s southeast corner is enchanting Tucson. A multi-culti blend of Native American, Mexican and European influence with a population of a half million chill peeps and a harmonious blend of city and nature, Tucson is juuust right. Sunny, funky and always buzzing, we’re darn near in love with the place and predict you will be too. Here’s why…
New Report: Tucson is a Leading U.S. City in Food Diversity and Access
It’s the diversity of life–of species, genes, textures, flavors and nutrients–embedded in the meals we eat, and in every garden, farm, food forest and ranch from which we gain our “daily bread.” It includes the cornucopia of crop seeds, fruit trees, bulbs, cuttings of herbs, mushrooms, wild edibles, livestock, poultry, fish and game in our food system. And it’s part of the larger realm of biocultural diversity–the know-how for wisely and sustainably harvesting, processing and eating diverse foods.
Report Hails Tucson’s Excellence in Food Diversity
Tucson is one of the top cities in the United States conserving and disseminating edible biodiversity and local heritage foods, a new report reveals. Released by the University of Arizona Center for Regional Food Studies, the second annual “State of Tucson’s Food System” documents Tucson’s rich variety of common, heritage, native, and heirloom plant species and varieties available, often at little or no cost, in its local economy.
Tucson City of Gastronomy Employee Brings New Focus to the Table
It is the second anniversary of Tucson’s designation as the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the U.S.
The University of Arizona Center for Regional Food Studies has issued the second annual report on Tucson’s food system, focusing on the role of the “edible biodiversity” of more than 2,020 varieties of 340 food plant species in the local economy. This report documents how Tucson is an international leader in conserving and providing access to food biodiversity uanews.arizona.edu learned.
Marana Food Tour Brings Tucson’s UNESCO Designation to Life—and to Your Plate
t’s been two years since Tucson was designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, a title reflective of Tucson’s rich food history and culture. In November, the Tucson City of Gastronomy board hired Erik Stanford, who worked as a chef at the Cup Café, The Carriage House, Exo Roast Co., and 5 Points Market and Restaurant before launching his own food hub, Pivot Produce.
2 New Food Tours Let You Eat Your Way Through Tucson and Marana
In 2015, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added 47 locations to its “Creative Cities” network. Alongside Liverpool for music, Baghdad for literature and Budapest for design, Tucson was added for gastronomy.
Raising funds to send Tucson chefs to UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy
Here’s a fun thing to do with out-of-town visitors! Skip lunch and take them on a guided food tour of our city’s finest bites. The Tucson metro area is getting two new routes this season: Fourth Avenue and an archaeology-focused tour of the Marana area.
UNESCO-Approved Marana Gastronomy Tour Now Open to the Public
Turkey and stuffing aren’t the only foods on the menu this week in the Old Pueblo.
The Tucson City of Gastronomy Chefs on a Global Stage event will offer fare such as roast pork shoulder adobado with chipotle Anasazi beans, shrimp tacos with Sonoran white wheat tortillas and other distinctive dishes that celebrate the flavors of the region from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Carriage House, 125 S. Arizona Ave.
If you appreciate local food beyond flavor, don’t miss on Marana’s newly-created food tour.