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Tohono O’odham Cowpeas: Growing, Harvesting, and Cooking

Article by Melissa Kruse-Peeples, Education Coordinator. Published May 14, 2018.

As spring turns into summer, gardeners are asking what crops can be planted that will actually survive the impending burning inferno that is Southern Arizona’s summer. At Native Seeds/SEARCH we encourage gardeners not to be afraid of the summer heat but to embrace the arid-adapted varieties of the Native Seeds/SEARCH collection. These varieties are arid-adapted, full-sun loving powerhouses. One of our favorite heat-loving varieties is Tohono O’odham cowpeas. In June and July when other crops seem to go dormant waiting for cooler temperatures, Tohono O’odham cowpeas grow so fast you can almost hear them. The lush growth will help shade the ground and create a cooler microclimate, AND they taste delicious! Immature pods are great raw in salads or sautéed with garlic and butter. As they ripen, the soft peas can be shelled and cooked or the dried pods can be harvested to accumulate for a big pot of cooked peas with a creamy texture and rich flavor.

Trip Report: Supporting Native Farmers

By Melissa Kruse-Peeples, Education Coordinator and Nicholas Garber, Conservation Program Manager. Published April 27, 2018.

If you are familiar with Native Seeds/SEARCH you are probably aware that we steward a collection of arid-adapted seeds from the Southwest United States and Northwest Mexico in our seed bank in Tucson. Seed banking provides long-term security for agricultural biodiversity. However, is it just one of our core strategies. The work of Native Seeds/SEARCH also focuses on empowering local seed stewardship through education and putting agricultural biodiversity in the hands of regional farmers. After all, what good is the agricultural diversity if no one is growing, eating, and stewarding these crops in their places of origin? Earlier this month we traveled to work with growers at White Mountain Apache and Hopi with these goals in mind.

Caring for Tomato Plants in the Desert

Article by Melissa Kruse-Peeples, NS/S Education Coordinator and Laura Neff, NS/S Education Assistant Published April 10, 2018.

In the low desert, it is ideal to start tomatoes by seed early in the season to allow the plant to be transplanted as soon as the threat of frost is over (around early to mid March through early April in the low desert areas of Tucson). Tomato seeds need about a 6-8 week growing period before you transplant. More specifically, it is a good time to transplant when a seedling has three to four true leaves and after it has been hardened off (the process of moving plants outdoors for a portion of the day to gradually introduce them to the direct sunlight, dry air, and cold nights). When the time comes to transplant tomato starts, here are a few tips to get the most out of your plants.

Arizona Gives Day: Thank you for your support

By Joy Hought, Executive Director. Published March 28, 2018.

Did you know that southern Arizona is home to the earliest documented agriculture in the United States? For over 4000 years the farmers of this region have sustained their communities by growing nutritious, desert-adapted crop varieties and using water-wise farming practices that respect the Sonoran desert’s delicate ecosystems. Today, agriculture in Arizona is highly productive, but places a priority on crops like cotton and alfalfa that consume large amounts of water in a time and place where water is an increasingly scarce resource.

Germination Testing at Home

By Laura Neff, NS/S Education Assistant. Published March 19, 2018.

At Native Seeds/SEARCH, we want to ensure that all seeds in our seed bank and those distributed to growers like you, are healthy and viable. One way we do this is through germination testing. In fact, germination testing is required by federal and state law to ensure that seeds sold meet minimum germination standards.

As a home gardener and seed saver, you can use the same principles of germination testing to make sure your seeds are going to sprout when planted.

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