Tasting History

Do you want to enjoy a taste of history in your own backyard? Try planting the same fruit trees that European missionaries did many centuries ago!

“Five Points” Heritage Pomegranate

At this year’s Plant Sale, some of the coolest plants that will be featured are the heritage food plants. These include plants like fig trees, pomegranate trees, grape vines and more. These are the perfect plants to grow and harvest fresh fruits in your own backyard.

Although many of these fruit plants are not native to the Sonoran Desert, they have been a part of the culture for more than 300 years. The Desert Museum has been working to incorporate heritage plants since 2003 through the Kino Heritage Fruit Trees Project. The project’s goal is to bring back some of these culturally rich plants into the Tucson community.

Quince Fruit (membrillo in Spanish)

“When you bite into one of these fruits you’re eating the exact same fruit as a missionary,” said Jesús Garcia. He is in charge of the Kino Heritage Fruit trees project at the Museum. Many of the heritage plants at the Plant Sale, such as fig trees, come from mother trees from different mission orchard communities in regions such as Sonora (Mexico), San Gabriel, and Quitobaquito Springs in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

These plants were introduced to regions in the Sonoran Desert by European missionaries and have a very long history with humans. Due to the commercialization of agriculture in the U.S., the presence of these trees has almost completely vanished. Researchers, such as Jesús, go around the world looking for the oldest heritage plants they can find. Once they find these plants, they take a piece of branch from it and grow it into a pot. Those pieces are known as the mother tree. From these mother trees, Jesús can continuously cut pieces off to create new trees that generate the same tasting fruit from three centuries ago.

Heritage Fig

To grow your own Heritage Garden, Jesús recommends starting with figs, pomegranates and grapes; these are the most common and easiest to care for. At this year’s Plant Sale we will feature more than 250 species of plants from rare collectible agaves to moon cacti to different types of milkweed.

Written by ASDM Media & Marketing Intern Fall 2017 Intern, Pablo Lopez

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