Chapulines (Grasshoppers) con Mole


On a late season prickly pear harvesting trip, my friend Nicole and I found few tunas but lots of grasshoppers. I’ve always wanted to try chapulines, but never had the opportunity. Nicole learned how to harvest them this summer, so we attempted ourselves.

Catching them is the trick! When the sun is up, they are fast. We managed to flush some out of the grass into a clearing, toss a big straw hat over one, and grab it by hand. We bagged three, not even enough for one taco. As the sun set, they stopped jumping but were too hard to see in the grass in the low light. We returned with nets. In the cool early morning they weren’t active enough to jump into the nets but were easier to see; we tossed the net over one, and grabbed it by hand. As the day warmed, they got too fast for that method, and sweeping the grass with the net was more successful. Yes, it’s slow, but fun. Plus a beautiful day in the desert.

Nicole fashioned an way to hold our catch without letting any escape when we caught another.


Here they are inside. While they hopped around, they emptied their digestive tracts.


At home we put the whole container in the freezer.


Then we picked them out of the grass seeds and debris. So beautiful.


We melted a little duck fat a cast iron pan and fried the chapulines.


This is when they turned from animals to food, and the only moment in the process that made me a little uncomfortable. We let them get really crispy.


But after all that work, I needed to at least try them. Nicole knew from previous experience to eat the small ones whole, but remove the wings and legs from the larger ones.


YUM!!!! Crispy fried meat. Then we dusted them with Mano Y Metate mole powder, of course.



Delicious, abundant, local, free. We’ll do that again!

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Diversion to Scotland and Iceland–Food Traditions Old & New

Red-berried rowen tree on Isle of Mull, western Scotland, sacred tree of Celtic peoples with many uses (MABurgess photo)

Red-berried rowan tree (Sorbus sp.) on Isle of Mull, western Scotland, sacred tree of Celtic peoples with many uses including tool handles, tannins, dye, jams & jellies, wine and liqueurs.  Our local Arizona Sorbus growing in our sky islands is known as Mountain Ash, which birds love and with which we could be making medicine and food as well.  (MABurgess photo)

Indulge me, dear reader, as Tia Marta carries you far afield from the desert Southwest in this post for vicarious tastes from “across the pond.” My partner Rod and I have just returned from exploring family roots in Scotland, and delving into geological roots in Iceland.  Our passion for heirloom foods led us into some rich culinary and wild-browsing experiences worth sharing with you.

Wild blackberries abound in Scottish hedgerows, a delight for birds and 2-leggeds alike (MABurgess photo)

Wild blackberries abound in Scottish hedgerows, a delight for birds and 2-leggeds alike (MABurgess photo)

The last ancient oak from Birnam Woods, made famous in Shakespeare's Macbeth (MABurgess photo)

The last ancient oak from Birnam Woods, made famous in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (MABurgess photo)

Scottish oak acorn probably provided healthy food for Neolithic peoples. It should be harvested today!

Scottish oak acorn probably provided healthy food for Neolithic peoples. It should be harvested today!  Our own Baja Arizona herbalist John Slattery holds workshops to teach how we can harvest our Southwestern oak acorns. (MABurgess photo)

Scots love their hairy "coos"--endearing with 4" eyelashes to protect from wind and snow (MABurgess photo)

Scots love their “hairy coos”–so endearing with 4″ eyelashes to protect from wind and snow.  Their beef is time-honored–the finest.  (MABurgess photo)

Beloved bard of Scotland Bobby Burns, a fan of the dish haggis, wrote the poem Address to a Haggis (calling it “great chieftan o’ the pudding-race”).  His poem is always declaimed at Burns Dinners every January 25 along with a feast of the same.

Traditional Scottish haggis, tatties (potatoes), and keeps (mashes rutabagas or turnips) (MABurgess photo)

Traditional Scottish haggis, tatties (potatoes), and neeps (mashed rutabagas or turnips) with the necessary chaser!  (MABurgess photo)

Of course we couldn’t leave Scotland without sampling haggis, made with various unmentionable parts of the beef and/or sheep (of which there are a zillion happy creatures on the green Scottish landscape) plus oats, onion, suet, spices and stock.  Our meal was washed down contentedly with a local barley brew.

Sign outside an Edinburgh pub: "Every loaf of bread is a tragic story of Grain that could've become Beer but didn't."

Sign outside an Edinburgh pub: “Every loaf of bread is a tragic story of Grain that could’ve become Beer but didn’t.”

With my deep interest in our local Southwestern heirloom grains, I was obliged to sample not only brews but also breads.  On Orkney, the isles to the north of mainland Scotland, we were served a traditional bread called bere bannock made with flour milled from a local 6-row heirloom barley called bere (pronounced bare), which, according to local lore, may have been introduced in the 10th century AD by Vikings.  A rapidly-maturing 90-day grain, bere is well adapted to the chill, winds, and moisture of the northern isles.  It made a delectable, dark and heavy bread that our hostess served cut in wedges as scones.  Bere flour is available in a few Orkney groceries.  Apparently there is only one mill still grinding bere flour; only a few hectares are in cultivation.  We considered ourselves fortunate to taste this delicious and rare bere bannock, an heirloom close to extinction but steeped in tradition.


Icelandic sheep

Icelandic sheep (shaped like GaryLarson cartoons)


Small but sturdy Icelandic horses

Small but sturdy Icelandic horses (MABurgess photo)

Next we flew to Iceland where the volcanic landscape is very young.  Black basalt dominates, flat fertile green pastures support sheep and Icelandic horses.  Rocky old lava flows are covered with pigmy alpine shrubs, and high domes of glacial ice feed innumerable graceful waterfalls.

Tasty fat crowberries are a surprising ground-cover in Iceland. (MABurgess photo)

Tasty fat crowberries are a surprising ground-cover in Iceland. (MABurgess photo)

Icelandic blueberries are ripe for picking--no competition from bears, only birds. Their rosy foliage makes a colorful show in fall. (MABurgess photo)

Icelandic blueberries are ripe for picking–no competition from bears, only birds. Their rosy foliage makes a colorful show in fall. (MABurgess photo)









Greenhouses heated with geothermal steam or hot water produce cucumbers and tomatoes which are always part of a traditional Icelandic breakfast.

Greenhouses heated with geothermal steam or hot water produce cucumbers and tomatoes which are always part of a traditional Icelandic breakfast.

Iceland's water may be the purest in the world. Here it is used in making flavored brews with local strawberries, licorice, heather, and even sea-weed.

Iceland’s water may be the purest in the world. Here it is used in making flavored brews with local strawberries, licorice, heather, and even sea-weed.

Heirloom Icelandic goats provide milk, tallow for soap-making, meat, and furry hides--plus great amusement!

Heirloom Icelandic goats provide milk, tallow for soap-making, meat, and furry hides–plus great amusement! (MABurgess photo)

We had the privilege of meeting Johanna Thorjaldsclittir, the farmer, herbalist, soap-maker, nurse, who has almost single-handedly saved the rare old breed Icelandic goat from extinction (supported by crowd-sourcing).  This cold-adapted goat can forage on almost any greenery and should do well in many high-latitude climes such as Alaska.

Three cheers for the hard-working people on every continent who are close to the land and are keeping the old, successful landraces of cultivated plants and heritage breeds of domestic animals alive and well!  (In the long run they may prove to be far more sustainable than any engineered organisms.)

The smart, versatile, but endangered Icelandic goat (MABurgess photo)

The smart, versatile, but endangered Icelandic domestic goat (MABurgess photo)


We invite you to view some photographic examples of Scottish and Icelandic landscapes and food plants, plus our other artistic creations at the upcoming ART TRAILS OPEN STUDIO event, Saturday and Sunday, October 22-23, 2016, 11am-4pm both days.  For info see map at or call 520-907-9471 for more details.  We hope to see you at the Flor de Mayo Arts studio of Martha Burgess!

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Family Traditions


img_2418Linda here, just off the plane from a great family roots trip with my father. Hearty and strong at 87 yeas of age, we tromped though grave sites and Historical Society’s records to uncover what we could. We talked with older relatives, read through old letters,  were guided by local historians. Much of the conversation happened around meal tables.

So it was that I enjoyed the best applesauce of my life this week. It was made especially for us by an 86 year old farmer relative. It’s flavor had both simplicity and spark – and immediately wooed me.

Apples are a fruit of the fall. and applesauce is easily made. And it can be amended to the tastes you/your loved ones prefer quite easily, by simply choosing  tart or sweet apples. You can use your culinary wand and add traditional ingredients like cinnamon – or think outside the box and try adding red chili powder. You can also sway the texture this way or that, depending on how you thin or chunky you like it.



Here is Cousin Mary’s Applesauce Recipe. Play with it with a bit this fall as the abundance of apples is upon us, and make it your own. Enjoy the aroma as you work with the apples! Note there is no sugar in this recipe.

Ingredients (4 people worth)

6-8  Apples – sweet or tart or a mix.


How To:

Thinly peel about 6 or 8 apples (sweet variety if you like sweet, tart variety if you like tart); remove the core and cut each apple into about 6 or so pieces. Put the apples in a pan on the stove burner with about 1/2 cup of water, 3/4 cup if you like it thinner. Then cook this until the apples are soft but not too mushy. (They will turn dark if you cook them too much.)  While apples are still warm, use any type of masher (such as a potato masher) and mash to the consistency of chunkiness that you desire. The apple sauce freezes well also.

Significantly, as she shared this recipe with me, she interwove how her deceased husband, enjoyed it, that he liked sugar in his, what he ate it with etc. Hardly a sentence went by without such a caveat. Which reminded me: Fall is a time when many traditions – all over the globe – remember their ancestors.  Often a favorite food is set out by an alter, or even the grave of the person(s).  Consider making a favorite family food tradition that a deceased loved one especially liked, and make it this fall. Smell the aromas, savor the flavors, delight in the color and texture of that special food that your loved one enjoyed.


img_3451She paired the apple sauce with home made Bacon Quiche.


One of the traditions near and dear to my own heart is beekeeping. I discovered that at least two of my great great grandfather’s kept bees. One also had fruit trees in a small orchard, and had seven hives. Upon his death, it appears that his widow obtained at least one of the hives, and his son another. I love the idea that she kept those bees – or maybe had been the beekeeper all along?

If you are interested in learning about keeping honeybees, there are a few spots left in Jaime de Zubeldia’s beekeeping class later this month. Here are the details:

Introduction to Natural Beekeeping – Saturday and Sunday, October 22nd and 23rd, 2016

 Want to be a bee keeper but don’t know where to start? How about a full weekend of hands on instruction with one of the Southwest’s most experienced bee keepers? This two day introductory beekeeping workshop in Avra Valley just west of Tucson, Arizona will get you started.   

Location:  The San Xavier Coop Farm.  Final directions and info for the day will be sent  about a week before the date of the workshop.  The San Xavier Coop Farm is located approximately 15 minutes south of downtown Tucson near the San Xavier Mission on the Tohono O’odham reservation.  Time: 9AM-4PM each day.  Cost: You must register for BOTH Saturday and Sunday.  The early bird discount is $150 on or before October 2nd  and $175 after that date up until one day before date of the workshop.  This workshop is taught by master bee keeper  Jaime de Zubeldia. To register by check, money order, cash, or on-line credit card follow the registration directions at or contact Dan at 

Dan Dorsey: Sonoran Permaculture Guild

Phone: 520- 624-8030


Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Sonoran Native | Leave a comment

Southwest Foraging: A book to guide you

Southwest Foraging: 117 wild and flavorful edibles from barrel cactus to wild oregano

by John Slattery. (Timber Press, $24.95)

By Carolyn Niethammer

In the introduction to John Slattery’s new book on wild foods, he states, “If you have not foraged for your food, you have not yet fully lived on this earth.”  I couldn’t agree more as there is nothing like popping a handful of sun-warmed orange hackberries into your mouth as I did on my Sunday morning walk.


Although the book encompasses the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Southern Utah, and their great diversity of habitats, Slattery does a good job of telling you not only what you might find in your area, but also in which season you should go out looking for a particular plant.

Although I have been playing with and writing about edible wild plants of the desert Southwest for more than 40 years, Slattery includes many plants that are new to me.  I recognize desert willow flowers, but didn’t know that they can be steeped to make a tea.

Desert Willow flowers

Desert Willow flowers – a picture pretty enough to frame!

Steep flowers for a nice tea.

Steep flowers for a nice tea.













Slattery  makes it easy to recognize each plant with precise color photos, which he took himself on his many foraging expeditions. Some of the photos rise to the level of art and will have you just tasting those juicy berries and grabbing your backpack to go find some for yourself.

I do have one small quibble with the book. Slattery mentions harvesting the bulbs of mariposa lily. As an avid seeker of spring wild flowers, I’m always thrilled to find the gorgeous mariposa lilies. The fact that someone might dig up these bulbs to eat, unless they were truly starving, doesn’t sit well with me. (However if you do find yourself lost and starving, you will be very happy to have learned something from this book).  In fact, wild foragers should always consider harvesting anything sustainably and Slattery does address this briefly in the introduction. When you grab a copy of this book and head for a date with Mother Nature to try your luck, and I hope you do, please stick with the other 116 nuts, berries, fruits and greens he suggests and leave the bulbs in place.

Folks interested in wild foraging, but wanting a little more guidance than they can get from a book, can sign up for one of Slattery’s frequent foraging classes and the Sonoran Herbalist Apprenticeship Program. You can find a link here. For a previous article on John showing pictures of the potluck his graduating students prepared look here.

This summer, Slattery has been experimenting with using his foraged berries to make shrubs, which might be described as colonial-era homemade fruit sodas.  Using this basic recipe, you can experiment with other fruits. Here is Slattery’s recipe using lovely graythorn berries.

Graythorn berries

Graythorn berries

Garythorn shrub in process

Garythorn shrub in process

Bottled graythorn shrub

Bottled graythorn shrub












Slattery’s Recipe for Graythorn Soda

1 1-quart canning jar

1 cup fresh, fully ripened graythorn berries (don’t wash them)

1/4 cup organic cane sugar

filtered, or spring, water to fill the jar

Combine the fresh fruit, sugar, and most of the water in the jar and screw the lid on tight. Shake the jar vigorously to dissolve the sugar. Fill the jar to within 1/4 inch of the top with filtered, or spring, water and leave the lid on loosely.

Allow the fruit to ferment for two to three days in a warm, shaded place indoors. We’re simply utilizing the native yeasts present on the fresh, unwashed fruit. Once bubbles are visible and active, strain out the fruit, and transfer the contents to swing-top bottles filling to within 1/4 inch of the top (even if less than 2 days). Here you have the option of adding 1/4 teaspoon of sugar (to 12oz) to encourage more carbonation before placing in the refrigerator for four to seven days. You can leave it longer, if you like. Taste as you go. If the fermentation is particularly active, the sugars will be eaten up very quickly and your drink will become sour. So keep an eye on it!


Once you have your carefully foraged foods, it’s time to think of how to cook them into something wonderful. For complete directions and recipes for  cooking with edible wild plants, check out Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. and The Prickly Pear Cookbook.

Categories: medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fantastic Fennel

Jacqueline Soule here today to discuss an herb you can plant in your cool season Southwest garden any time in the next few weeks – fennel.


Some varieties of fennel form tasty “bulbs” that can be eaten raw or cooked.

Fennel has a long history of use, and why not? The entire fennel plant is useful! Leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seed are all edible. As a spice, the seed is used in beef dishes, sausage, or in breads and cakes, depending on nationality. Leaves, stems, and flowers can be eaten raw, steamed, or added to soups and stews. Father Kino brought seed to our area over 325 years ago. He no doubt ate fennel as a boy, the seeds in sausage and the bulbs as a vegetable.


Father Kino blessing food.  Art by Jose Cirilo Rios Ramos.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is so well-liked that there are a number of cultivars. First are varieties with an inflated leaf base which form a bulb-like structure popular as a vegetable, eaten either raw or cooked. This goes by the names: sweet fennel, Florence fennel, finocchio, and occasionally it is sold as “anise.” Another group of cultivars are grown for leaf and seed production and include the standard and bronze fennels. Note that “giant fennel” is a different species (Ferula communis) and is a large, coarse plant, with a pungent aroma, not feathery and fragrant like fennel.


Leaves can be enjoyed well before bulbs are formed.

Planting and Care. 

Fennel is a tall herb, reaching four to six feet tall. Leaves can be over a foot long and are finely dissected into filiform (thread-like) segments a bare one-eighth inch wide. Foliage comes in a variety of hues, from the bronze fennels that may appear almost purple to sweet fennel in chartreuse green.


Clusters of yellow flowers are attractive to pollinators.

In the Pimería Alta, start fennel in October in your winter garden. Local nurseries carry fennel seedlings, or you can start plants from seed. For eating, select sweet fennel, Florence fennel or finocchio, while for seed you can use any of the above or merely “fennel.”


The Pimeria Alta was under Father Kino’s care.

Like most herbs, fennel grows best in a well-drained, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. It is also easy to grow in containers. Use a container at least one and a half feet deep. Potting soil with some added sand makes a good growing media.

Fennel needs six or more hours of winter sun to do well. It is also important to choose a planting site that is protected from high winds because towards the end of the season (in March) the tall hollow stalks can be easily blown over.

Sow seeds a quarter inch deep in rows around eighteen inches apart. When seedlings are two inches high, thin them to stand around a foot apart. Or they also look nice planted in a dense clump in a flower bed.

Keep the soil evenly moist during seed or seedling establishment. Once well established, you can let fennel dry a little between waterings. Some people believe this makes the flavor stronger.

Fennel should not require fertilizer. If you amended your soil at the start of the growing season, the plants should do fine. Plus, avoid fertilizing anything when frosts are a possibility. In late February you could apply a general purpose fertilizer at half strength.

Harvesting and Use.

Fennel leaves are delicately flavored and can be harvested at any time. They taste quite refreshing in green salads or added to stir fry. I like to munch on them as I work in the garden.

Harvest fennel bulbs once they reach softball size. They make a crisp raw snack and individual leaf bases can be delightful used as a healthy dipper instead of potato chips. This vegetable can also be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled, or perhaps best of all – sliced and roasted with root crops such as potatoes, beets, and onion.


The “bulb” has easily separated leaf bases that are perfect for scooping up dip.

Harvest seed of fennel by cutting stalks and tipping the entire mass into a paper bag. Let dry for several weeks before cleaning and storage. Store such herbs in airtight containers out of direct sunlight.

JAS avatar

If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Broiled figs in peach sauce and Plum almond cake


Hello, Amy here playing with the last of the summer fruits. My mom’s Black Mission Fig tree, planted by my grandfather so many years ago, yields two crops a year, early and late summer. The flowers open and are self pollinated inside the developing fruit. This baby fig tree had its first two fruits this year.


We mostly eat them fresh, the entire fruit with skin, seeds and all, leaving only the stem. They dry beautifully on screens outside, or in a hot car.


I wanted to do something special with the figs, so I consulted Sweet Simplicity: Jaques Pépin’s Fruit Desserts. Broil the figs!


I halved the fruit and decided that they were plenty sweet. If they weren’t, I would have sprinkled with sugar as suggested. After a few minutes under the broiler, they were even sweeter and the flavor concentrated, but still moist and easier to eat than dried.


Jacques made a sauce with strained peach preserves, but I had a few tiny fresh peaches from higher elevation southern Arizona.


I seeded and chopped the peaches, skins included. So much color, nutrition and fiber is in the skin. Plus I like varied textures.


The peaches simmered with a tiny bit of water for a few minutes, until soft.


I pureed the peaches and seasoned with a squeeze of lemon and a splash of rum.


That worked! So when someone gave me a handful of little plums, I immediately consulted the same book to show off the little treasures.


Here is my version of the Plum and Almond Cake

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup almonds

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons butter, softened

2 eggs

1/3 cup heavy cream


14 little plums

1/4 cup apricot jam

2 teaspoons hazelnut liqueur

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 inch or similar size baking dish. Grind almonds in a food processor until powdered. Add the rest of dry ingredients and process. Add the wet ingredients and pulse into a batter. Spread batter into prepared dish and nestle in the whole fruit. Bake for 55 minutes or until the cake is browned. Mix the jam and liqueur and brush on top of the cake. Warn the eaters of the pits and enjoy!

Categories: Cooking, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Living Giving Heirloom Pomegranate

Brought by the Padres to Baja Arizona during the Mission Period, this desert-adapted Sonoran White Pomegranate can continue to feed us visually, nutritionally, esthetically (photo MABurgess)

Brought by the Padres to Baja Arizona during the Mission Period over 350 years ago, this desert-adapted Sonoran White Pomegranate can continue to feed us visually, nutritionally, sustainably  (photo MABurgess)

It is thought that the so-called “apple,” the fruit of knowledge of good and evil which Eve shared with Adam in the Garden of Eden, was actually a pomegranate.   Now, thankfully, since Eden, we are all “fallen” and can enjoy pomegranates with no guilt!   Tia Marta here, inspired deeply by the recent article in Edible Baja Arizona by Dena Cowan about the comeback of heirloom Sonora White Pomegranate being celebrated at Tucson’s Mission Garden.  (This is a must-read: .)

Heirloom Sonora white pomegranate blooms and fruits all summer at Tucson' Mission Garden (photoMABurgess)

Heirloom Sonora white pomegranate blooms and fruits all summer at Tucson’ Mission Garden at the base of   “A”-Mountain (photoMABurgess)

One of the first joys of pomegranates is esthetic, making pomegranate (particularly our local heirloom Sonoran White) a primo candidate for edible landscaping.  Its rich green foliage is cooling to eyes and spirit.  Its glorious, shiny red flowers decorate the trees all summer, followed by sensuous round beige fruits that become rosy as they ripen like Christmas ornaments hanging on the tree.

Sensational flower of Sonoran White Pomegranate--an extra bonus for edible landscapers (MABurgess photo)

Sensational flower of Sonoran White Pomegranate–an extra bonus for edible landscapers .  (Check out the shape of pomegranate flowers to see the design influence in Spanish silver work which in turn inspired Dine/Navajo  “squash blossom” jewelry.) (MABurgess photo)

Peeking over the wall of Cordoba House in Tucson's historic neighborhood is a double flowered pomegranate (MABurgess photo)

Peeking over the wall of Cordoba House in Tucson’s historic Presidio Neighborhood is a double flowered pomegranate (MABurgess photo)

A "fallen star" --a pomegranate flower on the pavement continues as a radiant bouquet (MABurgess photo)

A “fallen star” –a pomegranate flower on the pavement continues as a radiant bouquet (MABurgess photo)


Prepare to share your plentiful crop of Sonoran White Pomegranate with other frugivorous creatures. True bugs can be pests. No prob--damage is limited. (MABurgess photo)

Prepare to share your plentiful crop of Sonoran White Pomegranate with other frugivorous creatures. True bugs like these leaf-legged bugs (Coreidae) can be pests. No prob–damage is usually limited. (MABurgess photo)

The structure of pomegranate fruits, with its separate juicy cells or arils, normally prevents insect damage from destroying an entire fruit.  Just cut off the effected area and the remaining arils still will be perfect for eating.

Traditional Sonoran style for opening an heirloom Sonoran White pomegranate (MABurgess photo)

Traditional Sonoran style for opening an heirloom Sonoran White pomegranate (MABurgess photo)

Jesus Garcia, founder of the Kino Heritage Tree Program at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Mission Garden (and traditional knowledge-keeper of important Sonoran folkways), teaches how to cut the top off of a pomegranate to clearly see the septa or membranes that separate the five or six groupings of juice cells (arils), each containing a seed.  In most modern cultivated pomegranates, there is a hard bitter seed that must be “discarded,” making eating less than perfect.  Amazingly, the Sonoran White has small, tender seeds that present no problem–just eat the arils whole and enjoy!  (No spitting necessary.)

Traditional way of opening the Sonoran White Pomegranate for happy access to arils (MABurgess photo)

Subdivide the fruit along its easy membranes.  This is Garcias’ traditional way of opening the Sonoran White Pomegranate for happy access to “arils” –the juicy beads or sarcotestas (MABurgess photo)

I always thought that pomme -grenade was named for the city of Granada, but actually it is the other way ’round.  The Spanish city was re-named Granada when the Moors brought the fruit there from the MiddleEast and it made a big splash.

Technically the pomegranate  (Punica granatum) does not have many familiar relatives to us in its family of loosestrifes (Lythraceae).  It is so different from other plants that some taxonomists place it in its own family Punicaceae.  Pomegranate fruit is a berry, with each seed surrounded by sweet juice in little discrete cases called sarcotestas.  (There must be a better name for these delicious little beads of bliss!)

Nutritionally pomegranate has sweet advantages, providing antioxidants,  folate, vitamins C and K, plus manganese, phosphorus and potassium.

Fruity dessert topped with juicy clear Sonoran White Pomegranate seed-cells (MABurgess photo)

Fruity dessert topped with juicy clear Sonoran White Pomegranate seed-cells (MABurgess photo)

Sonoran White Pomegranate can be juiced to drink straight or add to other drinks. (Talk about a nutritious addition to margaritas!) The simplest, most delightful way of enjoying our clear Sonoran White seed-cells is simply snacking by the handful.

I make a luscious dessert with vanilla yogurt topped with slices of fresh apricot, local apple, and blueberries, and crowned by the sweet seed-cells of Sonoran White Pomegranate.  Rejoice in this ancient gift brought by the Missionaries to Baja Arizona–a desert survivor, well-adapted to carrying us into climate change in arid lands!

Let your Sonoran White Pomegranate fruits remain on the tree until you see a rosy blush--then you know they are getting sweeter!

Let your Sonoran White Pomegranate fruits remain on the tree until you see a rosy blush–then you know they are getting sweetest! (MABurgess photo)

Sonoran White Pomegranate tops this southwestern dessert (MABurgess photo)

Sonoran White Pomegranate tops this southwestern dessert (MABurgess photo)

Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace will be sponsoring a Pomegranate event this month–September 24, 2016– at the Mission Garden.  Come learn all about our local heirloom treasure, the Sonoran White Pomegranate, how to grow it in our own gardens, and how to prepare it in zillion delectable ways.  For details call 520.777.9270 or email (  Let’s keep this living and giving food-heirloom alive and well in our gardens into the future!


Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two Ingredient Super Salsa

Linda here on this hot, humid day, wondering how on earth we arrived at September.

IMG_2780 (1)

This Salsa is Super Simple. And Powerful. Not only in the way it explodes onto your tongue, but also in how easy it is to digest. I find the two ingredient version of this easy on my stomach and not as “pesado” (heavy) as the salsa with more ingredients.

I’ll admit that, in the beginning of my affair with chiltepin,  my bias was to add more flavor to this salsa. So I added oregano and garlic and tomatoes and some salt.(see last photo)

But, having dabbled and experimented, I have returned to the very, stripped down, basic recipe.   I adore it.   Sometimes people add a bit of salt too – which up’s the ingredient count up to a staggering 3.

This recipe was taught to me my a dear friend from Sonora, Mexico. It is the basic chiltepin salsa that you will find in nearly every household there.


Warm a skillet. No oil.


Put in a tablespoon (or more!) of chiltepin, move the chilies around and immediately turn off the heat. You are essential toasting the chiles. The aroma is intoxicating for the Lover of chiles. Be careful of your face, as sometimes these little chilies will “pop”.


In a food processor blend the warm chiles with just boiled water. I used less than a cup of water.

Note: Make sure to use a lid while you blend. And when you remove the lid, take care! I almost had my socks blown off me.  Like a true explosion, the aroma alone can force you backward, away from the blender/food processor to catch your breath.  I was warned about this, but didn’t take it seriously, because I am an arrogant chile eater with an over confident sense of my tolerance for this chiles’ “heat” and didn’t think that the oils in the chiles that wafted out of the blender would actually affect me.

I mention this to you in case you too might need reminding to keep your senses about you as you wade into the world of this 9000 year old chile. And chiltepins “heat” works differently than domesticated chiles. The heat FLARES quickly on the tongue and inside of your cheeks, and then subsides. Most domesticated chiles’ heat seem to “work” in reverse.


Place in a glass jar. This salsa has a thinner consistency than many salsas north of the border.



Great on chips, quesadillas, eggs, beans, rice ………..



If you cant resist adding “more” to it, play around with the flavors/ingredients s of your choice and blend away until you create the flavor and consistency that speaks to you. The  version in the photo above has Mexican oregano, fresh garlic, and roasted tomatoes in their pre-blended state.  There really is no “right” way to do this – enjoy robust experimenting until you get the taste and texture that delight both tongue and spirit!  (I roasted cherry tomatoes in a sauce pan like the chiles (no oil), but you could roast them in an oven, or, grill them over fire).  Then add them to your basic chile salsa. 



Categories: Sonoran Native | 1 Comment

Barrel Cactus Provide Ample Seed for Cooking and Baking

Today’s post is by Jacqueline A. Soule.

Back in November 2014, I introduced you to the pleasures of using barrel cactus fruits (Lovely and Lemony – Barrel Cactus Fruit), and I think it is time to revisit the topic.

Barrel cactus is the generic term for a number of species of large barrel-shaped cacti.  The one with the most edible of fruit is the fish hook or compass barrel (Ferocactus wizlizenii).

Ferocactus wislizeni and zeph JAS 06

This species of barrel cactus is unlike many other species of cacti in that it often blooms two or even three times per year, thus providing you, the harvester, with ample fruits, often several times a year.
Ferocactus wislizeni fruit

You can eat the lemony flavored fruit, but only in moderation.  Fruit is high in oxalic acid, which can be hard on human systems.  But the seeds are just fine to consume in quantity.  They are the size, texture and taste of poppy seeds and can be used anywhere you use poppy seeds.  They can also be cooked in with quinnoa or amaranth, or even eaten alone.

ferocactus fruit 1118

Barrel cactus seed are very simple to harvest in quantity because the seeds are easily removed from the fruit.

The average barrel cactus has 12 to 24 fruits ripe at once (unless the animals have been busy).  24 fruits yield roughly 1/4 cup of seed.

ferocactus fruit 1090
Prepare.  (10 minutes for 24 fruit).

Rinse the fruits.  This does two things.  First, this removes dust and contaminants (bird droppings etc.).  Second, the water softens the former flower petals on the top of the fruit, rendering them  gentler on tender fingers as you process them.

Cut tops off the fruits.  The seed filled chamber is surprisingly far down away from the flower petals.
ferocactus fruit 1099
Cut fruits in half.

ferocactus fruit 1105
Scoop seeds into a terra cotta saucer.  Leave them 24 hours to dry.  This will help dry any bits of flesh clinging to them before you store them.  Alternatively you can put them right onto a baking sheet to toast them if you want to use them toasted.  I also keep a number untoasted and throw them in when I cook quinnoa or amaranth.

ferocactus fruit 1114

Processing tip:

ferocactus fruit 1091

Sometimes you find an empty fruit.  This is why we need our native pollinators!

I like to make an assembly line and cut all tops off first, then cut all fruits open, then scoop all the seed. Why?  because the seeds inside the fruit may be gummed together and you want to leave the seed scooping to last, else you get sticky seeds everywhere and lose a portion of your crop all over everything.

ferocactus fruit 1095

JAS avatar

If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my many free lectures.  Look for me at many branches of the Pima County Library, or possibly Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, and more.  After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, (due out in September 2016) “Month-by-Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona,  Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press).

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Leave a comment

Mole Negro Grilled Burgers and Veggies

mealAmy here on a cloudy monsoon afternoon with a bounty of summer produce like long green chiles, Shishito peppers, okra, yellow squash and great tomatoes. It makes me want to grill and eat outside.

But my new friends want to try Mano Y Metate Mole, and the last thing I want is to make a formal meal. I wondered if burgers seasoned with mole powder would work…meat mix

Local pastured beef pairs well with the smoky, spicy, bold flavors Mole Negro in other forms, so that’s what I chose. I mixed the mole powder with not too lean meat and sent to the grill.

grilling burgers

cooked burgers

The juices from the cooked meat were infused with Mole Negro flavors. It exceeded my expectations.


I was thinking of a nice leaf lettuce to top burger, but that’s definitely not in season. Oh, tomatoes!

complete burger

Charred spicy meat, tomato, and a slice of sourdough whole wheat from Barrio Bread. Salt on tomato.

Without lettuce, I wanted something green in the meal. Wait, August means green chile!!!!!!

long green

And Shishito peppers, too small for the grill but great in a grill pan. Most are completely mild, but about one in 20, surprise! The skin is so thin no need to peel, and the seeds so small no need to clean. Too easy and great flavor.


Also, I rolled some beautiful fresh okra in a splash of olive oil and Mole Negro powder.

grilling okra

cooked okra


Grilled squash is one of my favorite foods in the whole world. I can’t grill without making some. First time with Mole Negro powder, though. It worked really well. Just toss with a splash of olive oil and sprinkle on mole powder to taste.

raw squash

grilling squashgriled squash2








cuke salad

For raw contrast, a quick cucumber salad with goat queso fresco, olive oil, black pepper and fresh basil.

Enjoy with prickly pear lemonade. Happy picnicking!


Categories: Cooking, herbs, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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