Passion Found Under a Palm Frond

Recently, we heard of the devastating passing of Downtown Phoenix community member Monika Woosley. She left behind a powerful legacy that can only intrigue and inspire. Monika founded Hip Veggies in 2012 as an outlet for her passion for community, food, art, and outreach. Through Hip Veggies, among many subjects, she taught us about foraging in Phoenix; about how easy and fulfilling it can be and how important it is to our Arizonan culture.


This weekend, we honor her by digging into some foraging knowledge imparted by her foraging friend and colleague, The Green Man himself, Andrew Pisher. Andrew grew up in upstate New York and moved to Phoenix 13 years ago in search of sun. He is an entrepreneur to the core, always thinking up ways to embrace Mother Nature (literally–this is a man who seriously loves to climb trees) with his certification in urban farming and ongoing studies in nutrition.

Treelation, his tree trimming and removal company, works with residents through his Foraging Fanatics service to make use of excess from trees that bear edibles or have medicinal properties. Many residents are overwhelmed by the harvest, leaving it misunderstood, unwanted, and disregarded. With Foraging Fanatics, Andrew is able to accrue pounds and pounds of excess fruits, herbs, legumes, and nuts native to our state. He then sells that harvest in bulk through his website, thus making would-be rotted or dried out trash profitable. Andrew’s business, and foraging in general, is a win-win for our ecosystem and its inhabitants. 


Foraging is defined as the process of searching for food or provisions; it’s a sort of hunting that often requires looking beyond the usual garden plots, lifting a palm frond, or even watching for what has fallen around your feet. The desert is often perceived as a barren, fruitless expanse. In reality, we have a beautiful and exciting variety of native edibles in our backyards year-round that are exclusive to the Sonoran Desert. And since water is a more scarce resource in our area, nutrients are condensed and many of our native edibles are considered superfruits, much like the South/Central America’s acai berry.

Taking a stroll in your Phoenix neighborhood, you could take home…

(click through to see how Monika embraced these finds)

Nopales

Dates

Mesquite Pods

Prickly Pear Fruit

Barrel Cactus Fruit

Citrus

Carob Pods

Figs

Pomegranates

Mulberries

Pecans

Depending on where you are–even down to the neighborhood–there are different varieties of each crop. And the farther out of the metropolitan area you go, the more diverse the variety gets. Edible mushrooms can even be found in Flagstaff! It’s truly a matter of keeping your eyes peeled, doing a little research, and being open to unfamiliar flavors and applications. Using resources such as the Heard Museum and its heritage specialists, local gardeners and nurseries, or even your landscapers can lead to exciting uses for foraged vegetation. Be sure to ask the friendly faces of the Community Exchange Table about their foragers’ finds, too!

Join us in honoring the tradition of foraging by attending the informational workshop held by Andrew at this Saturday’s market at 9am. Then, join us in honoring the legacy of Monika Woolsey at her Celebration of Life Picnic hosted by loved ones at the market on October 28th.

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