Sonora, Mexico, is an outstanding area for growing good quality and high-yield vegetables, fruits, and nuts for year-round exportation. Each year, Sonora produces important, large quantities of fruits and nuts for exportation, including table grape, citrus, pecan, and olive fruit. Also, fresh vegetable production in Sonora is very important. Annually, large volumes of melon, pumpkin, summer squash, chili, husk tomato, tomato, and asparagus are produced for exportation to the United States, Europe, and Japan. Throughout the year, two important growing seasons for vegetable production have been established in Sonora. The most important growing season for vegetable exportation in Sonora is the autumn-winter season, when higher prices are reached for summer vegetables in the U.S. markets. The autumn–winter season begins in August and finishes in December. In Sonora, during the 2002–03 agricultural cycle, 39,666 ha (89,000 acres) of vegetables were established in the field. Many growers in Sonora are investing in imported high technologies for protected cropping from several developed countries, such as the United States, Canada, Israel, and some European countries. Currently in Sonora, high technology is applied by growers for vegetable production, i.e., plastic mulching, low and high tunnels, greenhouses, and shadow frames, which have been frequently used on fresh vegetable commercial production to improve both quality and yield. Because of a large labor force and the attractive income from fresh vegetable exportations to the United States, fresh vegetable production is a very important industry in Sonora. In fact, growing summer vegetables for exportation during the wintertime in Sonora, Mexico, is a good business.
In Sonora, Mexico, a new crop is emerging as a potential and alternative crop industry: the bacanora plant (Agave angustifolia Haw). The bacanora plant belongs to the Amaryllidaceous family and is a type of agave with a low water requirements, growing as a wild plant in Sonora, Mexico. It is different from the one used to produce the most famous Mexican liquor in the world—tequila. Some time ago, the bacanora plant had been used to distill and produce a kind of liquor known by Sonoran people as bacanora. However, this activity was prohibited by the Sonoran government during the past century. Now, in order to encourage job growth, the Sonoran government has given permission to producers for new bacanora plantations. To protect the originality of both bacanora plant production and the bacanora distillation industry, the Federal Mexican government issued a law that prohibits all activity for growing bacanora plant and bacanora distillation outside of Sonora, Mexico. The law was approved in 2005 and now, all natural areas where wild plants of bacanora grow are known as “origin denomination,” which means that some Sonoran areas are unique locations where the bacanora industry can be legally established for plant production, distillation, refining, and labeling. Currently, there are about 20,000 ha of bacanora plants located in Sonora. Some producers estimate that, in the near future, there will be more than 60,000 ha of bacanora plants. Although bacanora plants are used mainly for producing liquor, they could be considered ornamental plants for establishing home desert gardens together with desert plants, such as cacti.
The piquin chili (Capsicum annuum L.), a type of high-pungency small-ball chili fruit, is traditional among Sonoran people and is consumed as paprika and dry fruit in some regional dishes. Also, the high prices obtained in domestic and oversea markets every year, mainly through piquin dry fruit sales, have encouraged this small informal and seasonal industry. In some Sonoran Mountain ranges, where piquin chili plants grow wild, a latent, informal industry has been maintained by people who harvest piquin chilies as fresh and dry fruits for sale. Enough precipitation, good environment conservation, and other conditions maintain the natural preservation of this chili plant, so that the piquin chili industry is maintained without cultivation, and has become a natural and ecological chili industry. During harvest time (September through November), low-income people harvest by hand dry piquin chili fruits for sale in several cities in Sonora. After harvesting, fresh red piquin chili fruits must be dried over several days. The fruit is spread out over a fabric during sunny days and removed at nights, and the small piquin red fruits dry in just a few days. Usually dry piquin chili presentations are sold in liter (0.25-lb) or kilogram (2-lb) lots. Throughout the 2005 dry piquin chili harvesting season, sales reached prices close to $18 and $82 (U.S. dollars) per liter or kilogram, respectively. Although the dry piquin chili is exported to the United States, fresh fruit sales are still limited to the domestic Sonoran market. The piquin chili harvesting season offers temporary employment and represents, in part, an important source of family income.
The pod cactus (Opuntia sp.), a tender stem, has been consumed by Mexican people for centuries either as a fresh or boiled vegetable. Traditionally, Southern Mexico people consume this tender pod cactus in several traditional Mexican dishes. During recent years, an increase in nopalitos consumption by Sonoran people has been observed. People interested in a disciplined diet or people troubled with high cholesterol desire this peculiar vegetable. In Hermosillo, Mexico, people buy nopalitos in small plastic bags packages a pound of small cutting of tender pods from local supermarkets and mobile sellers. Usually, a nopalitos bag pound price is a range of $1.00 to $1.2 U.S. dollars in Hermosillo. Nopalitos production in Sonora, Mexico, is a seasonal. Nopalitos harvesting starts in early April and runs through late October. Because low temperatures start in late October, and continue during the winter season, there is no nopalitos production in Sonora. Hense, Sonoran producers are considerig building high tunnels, to provide more temperature control and to produce nopalitos during the winter. Most growers are low-income people that produce nopalitos in home gardens. This activity allows low-income growers to have nopalitos during most of the year, except during the winter. The current growing area production of 240 acres (170 ha) of tender pod cactus was recorded during 2005 in Sonora, of which a half is cultivated in home gardens. A potential yield production of nopalitos in Sonora is about of 40 tons per acre of tender pod cactus. In comparison to other crops, nopalitos production is a good alternative for small growers.