On April 11, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Cultural Resources Department participated in a group activity at the Community Gar-den’s new farm field, spending a few hours planting tepary beans, a traditional crop for the O’odham.
The beans grew in the field for a few months until they were dry and ready to harvest. The two varieties grown were white and brown tepary beans.
Groups of two or three people worked as teams, using cactus ribs to make holes in the dirt and planting the seeds in stages, row by row.
Acting Community Garden Coordinator Stetson Mendoza invited O’odham Action News back at harvest time to see how the beans are separated from their pods and collected onto a tarp below using a large commercial fan.
Mendoza said that the way that the Community Garden staff separated the beans differs slightly from how O’odham would do so traditionally.
“Using the fan is a modern-day technique that makes the process quicker,” said Mendoza. “The old style is to find a flat surface, trample [on the pods] and gather [the seeds] using baskets.”
After the sorting process with the fan, the beans are put into a bucket and the process is repeated until all the dirt and plant debris is almost gone, leaving mostly beans.
Mendoza has a few ideas as to what to do with the beans, besides saving them for the seed bank and having them available for Community members to grow in their home gardens.
The ideas include using them for cooking classes at the Cultural Resources Department, sending some to the Senior Center to be cooked for the elders, and bringing some over to the River People Health Center for use in nutrition-focused cooking classes.
“We still want to grow [the seeds] so we can give back to our own community,” said Mendoza. For more information about how to obtain some of the seeds for home use, Community members can contact the Cultural Resources Department front desk and leave a message for assistance at (480) 362-7346.