Ramona Button of Ramona Farms on the One Thing Most People Don't Know About Native Foods

Ramona Button of Ramona Farms on the One Thing Most People Don't Know About Native Foods
Courtesy of Terry Button

From now until we publish the 2016 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times is naming 100 Tastemakers — members of our local culinary community who help shape the way we eat, drink, and think about food in Phoenix. Some you'll know, and for others, it'll be a first introduction, but each person on our list deserves a nod for helping make our city so delicious. Oh, and while you're here, be sure to check out our list of 100 Creatives.

48. Ramon Button of Ramona Farms

If you pay attention to native foods, then you may have noticed Ramona Farms' tepary beans or heirloom corn on the menu at restaurants around the Valley. The business takes its name from Ramona Button, an Akimel O’odham farmer who's been working to restore her people's traditional food ways since the 1970s.

Button was raised in a traditional Akimel O’odham family (River People, Pima) from the Gila River Indian Community, and grew up speaking her native language and eating traditional foods grown by her father on the same land she farms today. She and her family also ate foods gathered from the desert environment, such as the quavuul (wolfberry), ba’idach (saguaro fruit), vihuk (mesquite beans), haanum (cholla buds), and iipai (prickly pear fruit), and her mother was a traditional healer who used herbs gathered from the desert. 

"I grew up strong and healthy," Button says. "I have dedicated my life to bringing back to our people and sharing with others our wholesome and nutritious traditional foodways."

Today, she dishes on the one thing people don't know about native foods. 

My go-to place for dining in Phoenix ... there are three: The Phoenix City Grille at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road, Gertrude’s at the Desert Botanical Garden, and the Kai and Kosin restaurants at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort.

The best-kept secret in Phoenix is Kai restaurant, Phoenix’s only five-diamond and five-star restaurant at the Sheraton Resort at the Gila River Indian Community.

The one thing people don’t know about native foods they are wholesome, nutritious, and delicious.

My favorite summer/spring crop is Akimel O’odham Huun (Pima 60-day corn) and my favorite fall/winter crop is kalvash (garbanzo beans or chickpeas).

My perfect meal would be ga’ivsa made from Pima 60-day corn topped with ground venison or bison then covered with sautéed peppers, onions, chiles, and tomatoes with a side of poshol, a soup made from soam bavi (brown tepary beans) and smoik pilkan kai (white Sonora wheat berries) with red chile and onion.

The 2016 Tastemakers so far: 

100. Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis and Phoenix Public Market Cafe
99. Ross Simon of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour 
98. Debby Wolvos of DW Photography
97. Anibal and Salem Beyene of Café Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant 
96. Bo Mostow of Uptown Farmers Market
95. Julian Wright of Pedal Haus Brewery
94. Stephen Jones of The Larder + The Delta
93. Eric Glomski of Page Spring Cellars
92. Richard Bock of Giuseppe's on 28th
91. Walter Sterling of Ocotillo 
90. Daniel Sevilla of Angry Crab Shack
89. Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco and Otro Cafe
88. LaDawn Driscoll of Liberty Market
87. Jason Calhoon of The Shop Beer Co. and Side Kick Cold Brew
86. Tim and Kim Cobb of United Lunchadores Street Gourmet
85. Micah Olson of Bar Crudo and Okra Cookhouse and Cocktails 
84. Paola Embry of Christopher's + Crush and The Wrigley Mansion
83. Jared Porter of The Clever Koi
82. Diane Corieri of Evening Entertainment Group
81. Erich Schultz of Steadfast Farm Shares His Go-To Place For Beer That Tastes "Like Arizona"
80. Jeff and Leah Huss of Huss Brewing Company
79. Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
78. Diana Santospago of The Maine Lobster Lady food truck
77. Gio Osso of Virtu Honest Craft and Nico Heirloom Kitchen
76. Lauren Bailey of Upward Projects
75. Rodney Hu of Arizona Distilling Company and Yucca Tap Room 
74. Jacob Cutino of Homeboy's Hot Sauce
73. Country and Sergio Velador of Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
72. Dean Thomas of Cornish Pasty Co.
71. Jennifer Caraway of The Joy Bus
70. Scott Holmes of Little Miss BBQ
69. Jared Allen of Proof Artisan Breads
68. Steve McFate of McFate Brewing Company  
67. Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
66. Jessa and Dan Koppenhofer of Gilbert Farmers Market
65. Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks
64. Ryan Probst of Odelay Bagel Co.
63. Diana Brandt of AZFoodie
62. Benjamin Butler of Hayden Flour Mills
61. Jim and Maureen Elitzak of Zak's Chocolate
60. Michael Babcock of Welcome Diner and Welcome Chicken + Donuts
59. Nick Ambeliotis of Mediterra Bakehouse
58. Peter Kasperski of Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz World Wine Bar
57. Kimber Stonehouse of LGO Hospitality
56. David Tyda of EATERAZ and Arizona Taco Festival
55. Pavle Milic of FnB
54. Pat Christofolo of Santa Barbara Catering Company and The Farm at South Mountain
53. Brandon Casey of The Ostrich
52. Jonathan Buford of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
51. Sasha Raj of 24 Carrots
50. Rob Fullmer of Arizona Craft Brewers Guild
49. Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys of AZ Bitters Lab


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