The Food Forest Co-op fights food insecurity in Phoenix. Here’s how

Young chaparral shrubs have emerged near the corner of 15th Avenue and Vineyard Road. Their neighbors, a safe distance away, are young too: Wolfberry seedlings, aloes sprouting their first lances, moringa saplings with their skinny spines. Red, round chiltepin peppers, the size of a dime, have already come in.

These drought-tolerant plants – some indigenous to the Southwest, some not – have medicinal uses. Chaparral can be made into a salve to treat bruises and minor cuts.

Chiltepin peppers add spice to your food, but the leaves can also be dried for tea, said local chef Maria Parra Cano, as she made her way out of the trenches and held out a palmful of the fiery little peppers on a recent afternoon.

The littlest ones are the hottest, warned her husband Brian Cano from beneath a straw cowboy hat.

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