With the seemingly endless list of foods available from local growers in Maricopa, Yuma, and Pinal Counties, choosing a Valentine’s Day gift for the foodie in your life is likely to be easy as pie – and a lot more nutritious.
These three counties, in the southwest corner of Arizona, grow and sell 78 percent of the more than $3.7 billion dollars the state brings in via agricultural sales. Maricopa county topped the list in 2012 (the last year the USDA compiled its fact sheets), at slightly more than a billion. Second in line is Yuma County, with $985 million. The figures may be two years old, but given recent advances in growing and harvesting in these counties, the numbers are likely quite a bit higher today.
From this wealth of produce, including fruit, there are almost infinite choices. You can visit a local farmer’s market (in Pinal County, try the Arizona State University market for foods, recipes, food news, even growing tips and tricks). In Yuma County, choose the Sunrise Farmer’s Market, Sundays only, at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park. In Pinal County, the Casa Grande market is open every Tuesday and offers, in addition to produce, eggs, grass-fed beef, and honey, a selection of gourmet dog treats. (This latter is for those of us whose foodie is a canine!)
For those who like it hot, visit the Elfrida Community Garden for habaneros. Muy caliente!
If salads are your foodie’s thing, don’t forget the olive oil. It’s also good for dipping your favorite basil-jalapeno panera. Just make sure it is extra virgin olive oil from the Queen Creek Olive Mill, billed as the only locally made extra-virgin oil and sold at four local stores.
Does your true love love chili and other spices? Visit the Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company in Tumacacori. You can also find gourmet southwestern foods and cookbooks, which will show you how to use those superbly spicy Arizona-grown chilies.
For a truly local taste treat – local to Arizona, that is – try Mesquite pod flour. Sweeter than rice flour, and not quite so bland, this unique-tasting baker’s essential can also be found at Arizona Mesquite Company, at any one of four locations.
What romantic meal would be complete without wine? Coronado Vineyards in Willcox grows the grapes and bottles excellent wines under its own label. Of course, there are many more local vintners and breweries than the ones mentioned above. If you want it closer to home, check out Fill Your Plate’s splendid index of locally grown and/or bottled wines.
Speaking of that apple pie, if you and your true love plan to be truly sinful on Valentine’s Day, run by Apple Annie’s Country Store. Choose pie or bread, and jams or other goodies, all made from Apple Annie’s locally grown apples. Later in the summer, visit Annie to pick-your-own, and then try baking your own. Apple pie, that is.
You can find any number of recipes for any kind of food you can imagine, on Fill Your Plate’s website. Once you have your chef’s game face on, pick up a twosome gift, like a tea for two cup or a fondue for two pot, exclusively designed for lovers. Just be sure to use Arizona-based food products, some of the best in the nation.
- 9 Great Ways to Celebrate Love this Valentine’s Day (fillyourplate.org)
- Arizona Centennial Celebration (fillyourplate.org)
- Show Your Love with the Cupid’s Diet for Valentine’s Day (fillyourplate.org)