Greater Phoenix is famous for its endless sunshine that, in addition to providing that year-round dose of vitamin D, also produces diverse crops that visitors and locals can experience at Phoenix farms, restaurants and markets that celebrate local farmers and the distinct ingredients they produce.
Here’s our seasonal guide to Phoenix's farm-to-table harvests, and where to pick, purchase and savor them.
Come mid-August, it’s time to harvest the prickly pear, a chubby cactus fruit that sits atop green, beaver-tail like paddles and is carefully plucked and dethroned for consumption (unlike our spring citrus, a permit is required). Thankfully, prickly pear famously appears in most margarita lineups in the Southwest, but is also a star ingredient in many other dishes, desserts and drinks, including beer, salad dressing, jelly, salsa, ice cream and more. It’s even fermented in vinegar and tea. The vibrant magenta color, high nutritional value and tart/sweet flavor make it a versatile, local crop that you can find making an appearance at a variety of eateries throughout Greater Phoenix.
To get a taste of the revered prickly pear, head to Flancer’s restaurants, in Mesa and Gilbert, where the Perfect Prickly Pear Chicken sandwich is marinated in cactus juice and served with lettuce, tomato, provolone and New Mexican green chile aioli. For breakfast or brunch, visit Vovomeena, an independently owned breakfast and brunch spot in central Phoenix that serves up corn and chile “johnny” cakes drizzled with prickly pear maple syrup. And while prickly pear margaritas are featured at most local resorts and restaurants, check out Chelsea’s Kitchen, an industrial-themed roadhouse in the Arcadia neighborhood, for its take on the signature desert cocktail made with blanco tequila infused with the sweet cactus fruit, house-made sweet and sour and curacao.
Pumpkins & Corn
Fall isn’t complete without a visit to a pumpkin patch. Tolmachoff Farms in Glendale is an affordable and traditional pumpkin farm experience with games and activities for the entire family. In addition to a 6-acre corn maze, they also offer a mini maze perfect for younger children. Kids also can meet farm animals close up at the petting zoo and play in a corn box, and families can battle it out on the pedal cart track, climb the hay pyramid or hit the bounce house.
If you find yourself on the opposite side of town, however, you’ll want to check out Mesa’s Vertuccio Farms, where the fall festival takes place the entire month of October. Explore the 5-acre corn maze, hit the mini golf links, paint a pumpkin and visit the farmers market for seasonal produce and flowers. Pro tip: Come back in December for the Lights At The Farm holiday experience, Arizona’s largest synchronized, walk-thru light show, and check out the 4,000 square-foot synthetic skating rink.
While they aren’t plucked from the earth, winter officially marks the season of the tamale in Phoenix. A Mexican holiday staple, tamales are made with a mixture of corn dough (masa) and filling wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. Part of the ritual of eating a tamale is letting the steam rise from the wrapper. Another is waiting in line to pick up an order of the portable delicacies, which are labor-intensive and typically sold in batches.
In Phoenix, you can get ‘em while they’re hot (or frozen) at The Tamale Store. The handmade selection at this family-owned restaurant and market include fresh-made, half-pound red-and-green-chile pork, chicken mole and green corn and cream cheese tamales with New Mexican Hatch chiles — vegetarian, vegan and dessert options are also available. Be sure to check out the brand's line of olive oils and salsas before you go. Meet the family behind this operation here.
Winter also is the perfect time to dine at Gertrude’s Restaurant (currently available for take-away orders), located at the Desert Botanical Garden. The restaurant’s seasonal menu showcases local ingredients from farmers throughout the Southwest, and during the holidays, diners can savor winter’s harvest while experiencing the magic of thousands of hand-lit, paper luminarias as part of the garden’s annual Las Noches de las Luminarias event, which takes place on Friday through Sunday evenings throughout December.
For all your holiday cooking and gift-giving needs, another must is Queen Creek Olive Mill. This family owned gourmet market and restaurant on southeast side of the Greater Phoenix area earned a 2019 New York International Olive Oil Competition Silver Award for its Arizona extra virgin olive oil. The mill features locally produced olive oils, vinegars and stuffed olives, and offers tastings and tours of the farm. In addition, shoppers can decompress from the holiday rush with some pampering via Olivespa, a line of all-natural, nutrient-rich bath and body products made onsite with the mill’s olive oil.
For fresh, locally grown produce, head to Singh Meadows, a former 70-acre golf course in north Tempe set along the Indian Bend Wash. A hybrid of sorts, Singh is part farmers market, part restaurant and juice bar, and part Moroccan-themed outdoor escape that offers an array of organic fruits and vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, beets and honey. Open Friday through Sunday mornings, it’s the perfect spot to sit on the patio, gaze at the lush green surroundings and enjoy the enviable spring temperatures that Phoenix boasts.
Spring temps also draw many to the The Farm at South Mountain, located at 32 Street and Broadway Road. A modern farm and agritourism destination that helped launch Phoenix’s farm-to-table movement, all of the restaurants on the property — Morning Glory Café, The Farm Kitchen and Quiessence (reopening Sept. 15, 16 and 22, respectively) — use locally sourced ingredients for their menu lineups. Soil & Seed Garden at The Farm produces fresh vegetables, greens, herbs and edible flowers that are used throughout the menu each evening. Diners at Quiessence experience the freshest ingredients available, with items being harvested just hours before dinner.
In addition to dining, visitors can attend cooking and gardening classes, shop arts and retail vendors, and purchase fresh produce, herbs, eggs and flowers at The Farm’s pop-up Soil and Seed Farm Stand every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more on The Farm, check out our favorite travel guru’s tour on the Phoenix episode of "Samantha Brown's Places To Love."
From December to April, lemons, oranges and grapefruits grow generously in residential neighborhoods throughout Phoenix, evidenced by the free bags of fruit that line the streets. While you’re welcome to take them, we recommend you score citrus and other seasonal crops directly from the source at one of Phoenix’s many farmers markets, with free admission held throughout the city. Check out the markets that made our standouts list here.
If you’re in the mood to select your own fruity crop, visit Gilbert’s Agritopia Farm, which hosts family friendly citrus U-pick events as early as December. The 160-acre certified organic commercial farm, residential community and public village includes Joe’s Farm Grill, a burger joint that uses seasonal organic ingredients plucked from the farm, The Coffee Shop, and retail spaces showcasing the works of local artisans and craftspeople, and more.
Arizona may not be the called the peach state, but we’re in a peachy state of mind thanks Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek. May through August, the fuzzy fruit is ripe for the season and the farm’s orchards have consistently been named the best in the country by Wine Spectator magazine. Typically the first location to open in the U.S. for peach picking season, the farm routinely hosts a peach festival to celebrate its variety of peaches, which include Earligrande, Springcrest, Florida Prince and Florida King — all of which that guests can gather from the orchard’s U-pick gardens. The tasty treats don’t end there: Check out the on-site bakery and country store for fruit-forward sweets, breads and more.
While you’ll find events and festivals here year-round, Schnepf Farms became especially popular for its old fashioned drive-in movie nights this summer. On select evenings you can catch some of your all-time favorite flicks, family films as well as good ol’ classics for just $15 per vehicle.
Additionally, Greater Phoenix is home to many farmers markets that offer straight-from-the field fruits and veggies, as well as a wide variety of other locally made products. Uptown Farmers Market, located at the corner of Central Avenue and Bethany Home Road, moves inside during the summer months to keep shoppers connected with vendors on Saturday and Wednesday mornings year-round.
The Downtown PHX Farmers Market brings farm-fresh goods right into the city’s urban heart every Saturday morning. Located at Central Avenue and McKinley Street, this market is urban gathering place that brings produce and ready-made food, workshops, live music and food trucks to the downtown community every Saturday morning.
Mark your calendar: On select evenings each December, this space transforms into an open-air holiday market that features more than 200 local artists and makers. Formally known as Phoestivus, these pop-up nights are perfect for knocking out that holiday shopping list and, of course, taking a photo with “hipster Santa.”
For a list of the area’s top farmers markets, including where and when to find them, click here.