16 November 2014

Across the U.S., Day 41 - Phoenix (AZ)

For a (w)hole experience in Phoenix, I started with the Papago Park early this morning, located in the north-east of the city and full of hiking trails, biking paths and picnic areas. Also in this park are the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden. And the "Hole-in-the-Rock".

This hole in the conglomerate sandstone is thought to have been created by water erosion. It was used as calendar device by the prehistoric people of the Sonoran Desert. They were able to determine when the summer and winter solstice occurred by paying close attention to the sunlight shining through the hole and the position of the ray of sunlight on the floor.

(W)hole view onto Phoenix

However, I prefer the city view from a rock at another location in the park. It's a bit closer to the city and without the "get me as close as possible to the rock with the hole" parking lot in the way.

Phoenix, most populous state capital in the U.S.
with 1,445,632 people (US census 2010)

Phoenix and its surrounding communities such as Scottsdale, Mesa, Carefree and Anthem have a good coverage of Farmers Markets throughout the week, except on Mondays. I visited the Ahwatukee Farmers Market in the south-east of the city. It's an open-air market and in place since 5 years. They have fresh, locally grown produce, locally made salsas, bread, jellies, honey and also some arts and crafts.

I picked up some organic tomatoes and Pink Lady apples. "Jans baked goods" looked also very good to me. I got one Apricot bread and an Apple with Black Walnuts bread. No guaranties that they will survive all the way back to Sunnyvale!

Thinking about a new recipe?

Rick and I had a longer conversation about the pickled products he sells and the origin of the ingredients, but also about his German-Irish heritage, his Venezuelan fiancé and lifestyle in Venezuela vs. the United States. We easily came to the agreement that a healthy body has a lot to do with healthy eating and regular exercise. I really liked the pickled red bell peppers and spicy pickles!

Guess how old he is.
Hint: he looks much younger than
 the DOB on his ID says he is.

Phoenix has long, extremely hot summers and warm winters. A canal system, put in place by Hohokam people who lived in the Sonoran Desert, made the land arable. Parts of this irrigation system are still in use and make the long growing season in this area feasible. Arizona's hot climate and rich soil of the Sun Valley also provides the basis for the Queen Creek Olive Mill and the olive orchard of the Rea family.

Perry Rea, his wife Brenda and their five children run the orchard, which was established in 1998 and now has 7,500 olive trees on 120 acres (~ 48.5 hectare). Although olive trees are not native to the Americas, the olive business thrives well where the climate is similar to the Mediterranean. The Queen Creek Olive Mill seems to be very successful with their (extra) virgin olive oils, stuffed olives, spreads, soaps and lotions. They offer tours to provide an insight into the steps from olives to oil.

The olives get manually harvested with specific raking tools. The harvest date or maturity of the fruit and the olive variety have a large impact on the olive oil flavor and shelf life. The orchard has 16 different olive varieties. Olives harvested and processed in their green ripe stage will give the oil a more grassy flavor and longer shelf life, while oil from purple ripe olives tastes rather buttery, fruity to flat. Harvested olives get pressed within 24 hours to assure the highest possible oil quality. At this olive mill they only produce extra virgin or virgin olive oil. Hence, only mechanical means are used to extract the oil, but no heat or solvents.

The Queen Creek Olive Mill also has a large store for all their goodies. Today they had a harvest festival, including a band playing and kids who got all wild having fun.

Snapshot of Emily explaining their small olive milling device

Other than parks, Farmers Markets and olive mills, Phoenix has museums featuring arts, history, music instruments, the Phoenix police and many more. The city and especially Scottsdale in the north-east is also well known as a shopping mecca. But honestly, shopping rarely give me a reason to get out of bed. Some of the museums sound interesting though, on a rainy day.

Two more days to come.


  1. I would say Rick is 68 years old. How old is he, how old is he??

  2. Any more guesses anyone about Rick's age??

  3. Replies
    1. You guys were really good in guessing, much better than me! Rick is almost 64. :-)

    2. It might be a difference if you meet someone in person or only see a picture of an unknown person. Maybe I made him a little older because of your hint, but he is a good looking almost 64 old man anyway.

  4. Ok, very nice. Who else likes to guess??