Monthly Archives: January 2017

Pretty Pomegranate for an Edible Landscape

Jacqueline Soule here this week to tell you about a lovely landscape plant that bears luscious fruit – and you can plant now.

Easy to grow, pomegranates are an “in-between” plant.  They are either a short shrub-like tree, or maybe a tall tree-like shrub.  Mature plants have multiple trunks and reach 6 to 12 feet high and generally 5 to 10 feet around.  This size makes them good for a smaller yard, and their multiple trunks make them a good screen.

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Pomegranate plants offer year round interest in the landscape.  Rich, bright green leaves in summer turn golden yellow in autumn and drop, leaving the smooth cinnamon and gray bark in visible in winter.  In spring, the leaves grow once again emerging at first with an almost bronze hue.  Spring also brings several weeks of radiant flowers.  Bloom color depends on variety, from lacy pink and white to salmon, to red, or scarlet.  These bright blooms are pollinated by our calm native bees as well as European honeybees.  Soon the fruits start to develop, and take long slow months ripen.

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Pomegranate fruits come in a variety of colors when ripe, from a yellowish green with red freckles, to pink, to crimson, to an almost black hue.  The fruit that is lighter colored when ripe are less bothered by birds than those that turn red.  The interior of the fruit varies in color as well.  The ‘Kino Heritage White’ is popular because it does not stain fingers.

 

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Pomegranates are self-fruitful, so a single tree is all that is needed for fruit production. Some pomegranate varieties can have thorny stems, so select plants carefully.

Pomegranate plants require full sun, but appreciate some afternoon shade in our summer.  They grow well in our alkaline soils, not needing extensive soil amendments and constant monitoring like citrus trees.  One exception is clay soils.  If you live in an area of clay soils, plants can easily drown if you over-water them.  Amend such soils before you plant with ample sand and compost.

Blazing hot Southwestern summers are not an issue for pomegranates, nor are cold winters.  Found in the snowy Judean mountains of Israel, they tolerate winter lows to 10 degrees F.  While the trees are fairly drought tolerant, they get water once a week when they have leaves, they will fruit better.

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Pomegranates are a good xeriscape plant.  That said, the trees are fairly drought tolerant, but if you water them once a week through the summer, they will fruit better.

Don’t expect fruit the first year or two.  My tree is three years old and had 7 fruit last fall.  Fruit drop during the plant’s juvenile period (first 3-5 years) is quite common.  Fruit drop is aggravated by too much fertilizer and excess water – making this a good tree for the forgetful gardener.

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Fruit ripens in October and November and can be used right away or stored for months in a cool place.  Technically the part you eat are called “arils” it is a sweet flesh that covers the seeds.  Eat the arils fresh, or press them for juice, or boil them with sugar to make grenadine syrup or jelly.

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Spring is almost upon us and it can be a busy time of year.  But in the next few weeks I hope you will find some time to plant at least one of these lovely trees.  They do quite well planted before the heat of summer is upon us.

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Dr. Jacqueline Soule has been writing about gardening in our region for over three decades. Her latest book Month by Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press) just arrived in December.  It’s a good companion volume to Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2014).

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, heirloom crops, Southwest Food | 3 Comments

Mole Tasting Saturday, January 21

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photo: Lani Roundy Axman

Come Saturday, January 21 at 1pm for a taste! Amy here, inviting you to Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil Store at Oracle and Magee in Tucson for a little discussion about mole and to purchase fresh Mano Y Metate Mole Powders. Plus attendees take home a 60ml bottle of olive oil!

This photo was from Galeana 39, my friend Curtis Parhams’ gift shop in Phoenix where you can also purchase my mole powders.

In the foreground you see Mole Dulce Popcorn, my mom’s favorite recipe with her favorite variety of mole. Yes, you can just sprinkle mole powder on the buttered popcorn, but this method is better.

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photo: Curtis Parhams

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Take a tin of Mole Dulce powder and cook in a few tablespoons oil in a very large skillet. You can use more oil than if you were making mole sauce because it is standing in for butter on the popcorn. I prefer a mild tasting olive from Alfonso, but any cooking oil will work. After the paste is fragrant, bubbly and a shade darker, toss air-popped corn into the paste and mix until all the kernels are seasoned. Salt to taste and enjoy the sweet, salty, spicy treat while it’s still warm!

After talking about the basic components that build mole sauces, the varieties of mole and a little about Mano Y Metate, I’ll prepare Mole Dulce with butternut squash cubes.

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I start with a butternut squash, peeling and cutting into bite sized pieces. Then cook a tin of Mole Dulce powder in 2 tablespoons oil on medium heat. Nancy Alfonso said they had new fresh oil varieties since I was there last, so I’m excited to try them Saturday. Anyway, cook the paste and then add veggie or chicken broth. In a few minutes, the sauce comes together and the cubes of squash go in the pot. Simmer until tender. Alternately, you can precook the squash cubes until barely tender before adding to the sauce. We’ll enjoy these bites on toothpicks, but at home you could put on a tostada or fresh tortilla and garnish with cilantro or green onion. Serve with beans, rice and a salad for a vegetarian meal or as a side dish with another meal.

So if you’re in Tucson and want to stay dry, come taste a wild diversity of high quality extra virgin olive oils, some mild, others pleasantly bitter, some peppery.  Many infused with herbs or other ingredients. Last time I took home Blood Orange infused olive oil, perfect for cilantro chutneys! Yes some perfect for salads, but also for cooking. They also have butternut squash seed oil, oil expressed from squash seeds. Amazing! Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oils and Balsamics 7854 N.Oracle Road- Southeast corner of Oracle and Magee. They also have a River and Campbell store.20161119_105930

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

EVERYTHING-LOCAL PIZZA from Baja Arizona!

Totally local veggie pizza with cholla buds, nopalitos, acelgas, mushrooms, goat cheese and home-grown cherry tomatoes--ready to bake

Totally local veggie pizza with cholla buds, nopalitos, acelgas, mushrooms, goat cheese and home-grown cherry tomatoes–ready to bake

If you love pizza–and I’m picky about good pizza–here are some ways to celebrate local foods, to eat super-healthily, get creative in the kitchen, AND have new excuses to eat pizza!  Tia Marta here to share ideas for a delicious pizza party, incorporating the fabulous gifts that our local desert foods offer.

It will take a little fore-thought and assembly time (…like, all year harvesting at the right seasons for DIYers, or trips to the farmers market, NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, or San Xavier Farm Coop).

Locally-harvested buckhorn and staghorn cholla buds, reconstituted and ready to cut as toppings for pizza

Locally-harvested buckhorn and staghorn cholla buds, reconstituted and ready to cut as toppings for pizza

Pickled prickly pear cactus pads--better known as nopalitos in Spanish and nowi in Tohono O'odham

Pickled prickly pear cactus pads–better known as nopalitos in Spanish and nowi in Tohono O’odham

Cholla buds dried from last April’s harvest, soaked and simmered until soft through, make a tangy taste surprise– a super-nutritious calcium-packed pizza topping.  In the photo, the larger buds are from Buckhorn cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthacarpa) and the smaller buds are from Staghorn (C. versicolor), both plentiful for harvesting in low desert.  Dried cholla buds are available at San Xavier Coop Association’s farm outlet, at NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, and at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.

Another perfect topping is nopalitos, simmered or pickled and diced young pads of our ubiquitous prickly pears (Opuntia engelmannii, O.ficus-indica to name a couple).  Collecting from the desert is a spring activity, but you can easily find whole or diced nopales anytime at Food City.  The other cheater’s method is to find canned pickled cactus in the Mexican food section of any local grocery.  Nopalitos are a taste thrill on a pizza, and you can enjoy their blood-sugar balancing benefits to boot.

Starting the dough sponge--with local, organic hard red wheat flour--ready to rise

Starting the dough sponge–with local, organic hard red wheat flour–ready to rise

Risen pizza dough after a couple of hours--note the rich whole grain flour of local BKWFarms hard red wheat

Risen pizza dough after a couple of hours–note the rich whole grain flour of local BKWFarms hard red wheat

As for making the crust, we have the perfect source of the freshest whole grain organic flours right here from BKWFarms’ fresh-milled heirloom white Sonora & hard red wheat.

My suggestions for a Baja Arizona Pizza Crust:

Ingredients:

3 ½ to 4 cups bread flour mix  (consisting of 2- 2  1/2 cups organic hard red wheat flour from BKWFarms Marana, 1 cup pastry-milled organic heirloom white Sonora wheat flour also from BKWFarms, ½ cup organic all purpose flour from a good grocery)

2 tsp local raw honey (see Freddie the Singing Beekeeper at Sunday Rillito farmers market)

1-2 envelopes instant dry yeast (or your own sourdough starter)

2 tsp Utah ancient sea salt or commercial sea salt

1 ½ cups drinking water, heated in pyrex to between 105 degrees F and 115 degrees F

2 Tbsp organic olive oil for the dough

PLUS 2 tsp more olive oil for spreading on dough as it proofs

Pizza dough risen and kneaded then stretched and patted out on pizza pan ready for toppings

Pizza dough risen and kneaded then stretched and patted out on pizza pan ready for toppings

Directions for making Crust:

[Note–you can find several pizza dough recipes for bread mixers online.  Just substitute the above ingredients.]

Heat water and pour into a large mixing bowl.  Test for temperature then dissolve dry yeast.  Add honey and sea salt and dissolve both.  Add oil to wet mixture.  Sift flours. Gradually mix flours into wet ingredients until a mass of dough is formed and begins to pull away from sides of bowl.  Knead into a ball.  Let stand covered in a warm place until ball of dough has at least doubled in size (approx 2 hours).  Knead the ball again, divide into 2 equal parts, cover thinly with the additional olive oil, and roll out or hand-flatten the 2 dough balls out onto 2 oiled pizza pans.  Pat dough to approximately 1/4″-3/8″ thickness to the edges of pan.  At this point you are ready to add any number of good toppings.  Here are ideas for a local veggie and a local meatie pizza.

For the finest plain local carefully created goat cheese, find Fiore di Capra at Rillito Farmers Market, Sundays in Tucson

For the finest plain local carefully created goat cheese, find Fiore di Capra at Rillito Farmers Market, Sundays in Tucson

Baja Arizona Pizza Toppings

Ingredients for local Veggie Pizza toppings:

1/2 pt. spreadable goat cheese (I use Fiore di Capra’s plain)

local chard or acelgas (from Mission Garden) torn in pieces

local tomatoes, sliced

I’itoi’s Onions, chopped

heirloom garlic, minced

1/2 cup reconstituted cholla buds, sliced in half or quarters

1/2 cup diced nopalitos 

Fresh Chard (acelgas) from a refugee friend's garden--a great substitute for spinach in a pizza!

Fresh Chard (acelgas) from a refugee friend’s garden–a great substitute for spinach in a pizza!

Native I'itoi's Onions and local heirloom garlic from my garden for pizza topping

Native I’itoi’s Onions and local heirloom garlic from my garden for pizza topping

1/2 cup local oyster mushrooms, sliced

1/4-1/2 cup salsa, optional

Luscious oyster mushrooms from Maggie's Farm (Rillito Farmers Market) to cut in strips for pizza

Luscious oyster mushrooms from Maggie’s Farm (Rillito Farmers Market) to cut in strips for pizza

[You probably by now have some ideas of your own to add!]

Ingredients for Meatie Baja Arizona Pizza toppings:

1/2 pt goat cheese

1/2 lb local chorizo sausage, loosely fried

or, 1/2 lb local grass-fed beef hamburger, loosely fried and spiced with I’itoi onions, garlic, salt

1/2 cup tomato&pepper salsa of choice (mild, chilpotle, etc)

Fresh local pork chorizo to render before putting on pizza dough

Fresh local pork chorizo to render before putting it on the pizza dough

Directions for Toppings:

Layer your toppings artfully, beginning by spreading the goat cheese evenly over the patted-out crust dough.  For a local Veggie Pizza, scatter minced garlic and chopped I’itoi’s onions evenly atop the goat cheese layer.  Place torn leaves of fresh acelgas over the onion/garlic layer.  Add sliced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, sliced cholla buds, diced nopalitos.  Top with optional salsa.  For a Cholla&Chorizo Meatie Pizza, do a similar layering beginning with goat cheese spread over the crust dough, then scattered I’itoi’s onions and garlic, then a full layer of cooked chorizo, and topped by lots of sliced cholla buds.  Adding salsa over all is optional for making a juicier pizza.

Preheat oven to high 425 degrees F.  Bake both pizzas 20-24 minutes or until the crust begins to turn more golden.  You won’t believe the flavor of the crust alone on this local pizza–and the delicious toppings grown right here in Baja Arizona are better than “icing on the cake”!  You can add more spice and zing by crushing our native wild chiltepin peppers on your pizza–but be forewarned–they might blow your socks off.

Home-grown chiltepin peppers crushed and ready to spice up a local pizza--Look out for a wave of picante heat even with a small pinch!

Home-grown chiltepin peppers from my garden, dried, crushed and ready to spice up a local pizza–Look out for a wave of picante heat even with a small pinch!

Here’s wishing you a great local pizza party!

How could you top this Baja Arizona Pizza?!!! Our locally grown and wild desert-harvested ingredients can't be beat by any other veggie pizza!

How could you top this Baja Arizona Pizza?!!! Our locally grown and wild desert-harvested ingredients can’t be beat by any other veggie pizza!

What a great combination--wild-harvested cholla buds, local chorizo, Fiore di Capra goat cheese, and truly flavorful organic wheat flour crust!

What a great combination–wild-harvested cholla buds, local chorizo, Fiore di Capra goat cheese, and truly flavorful organic wheat flour crust!

Buen provecho from Tia Marta!  See you when you visit http://www.flordemayoarts.com.

 

 

 

 

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

On Oysters and Artists

Aunt Linda here wishing you a very very Happy New Year this first week of 2017.

 

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Water is on my mind today, after the long awaited rains we received in the Old Pueblo a few days ago. Like many desert dwellers, I can sometimes smell rain days before it arrives – our nostrils literally feel the  cool, moist and clean air entering our noses and mouths both before and after rain. We feel and sense rain like the mammals we are. Todays recipe is inspired by water.

Water was also featured as a central character in a movie I just watched: The Secret of Roan Inish. It got me thinking about food from water: Sea Stews and seafoods. In the film Seaweed Soup is made by a Silkie member of the family;  we visit it again at the end of the movie  as it is being made (generations later) by the family matriarch.  (Now, lest you dismiss Seaweed Soup too quickly, jut google it. It is Korean fare, touted for aiding in breast milk production. The ancient Inca also harvested and ate (and traded!) seaweed….explore this on your own if you wish.).

Oysters have caught my attention.  The more I read about oysters, the more I like them, so todays recipe is Oyster Stew. It turns out that Frida Kahlo enjoyed making Oyster Stew, so in a bit we’ll look at both my fathers Oyster Stew Recipe as well as Frida’s.

First though, lets look into Oysters a bit more. They are live animals – bivalve mollusks, or two-shelled mollusks. And they are carnivores. Go figure. And, like all of us animals, sensitive to environmental stimuli.  They remind me yet again that everything is connected to everything.

Oysters function like filters. They feed by filtering water through their gills extracting algae and microscopic creatures .  And filter water they do!  They can filter from 30-50 gallons of water a day as they are feeding and in the process clean the water – removing toxins and pollutants.

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This photo from my dad’s pan gives you an idea of the filters oysters have.

George Monbiot, in his book FERAL describes the powerful affect of these two shelled living filters. He refers to “the remarkable abundance of oysters on the eastern sea board of the Americas …(and in other seas) …a” map made in 1883, 500 years after trawling began, marks an area of the North Sea the size of Wales as oyster reef.” Stay with that a moment and really take it in: that huge area as an oyster reef.  He poses the possibility that that “grey sea might once have been clear. Like most two-shelled mollusks, oysters filter the seawater. They also stabilize the sediments of the seadbed. Less mud would have been raised, and that which was washed into the water would quickly have been extracted again”.

Fast forward to major fishing industry traffic and coastal pollution-pressures and oysters get stressed to the point where they suffer from lack of oxygen and are overwhelmed by the abundance of sediments – this, Monbiot writes, ” makes them “susceptible to disease, which further reduced their number. The report describing this effect remarks that Chesapeake Bay, Baltic, Adriatic, and parts of the Gulf of Mexico, are now ‘bacterially dominated ecosystems'”.

Oysters are Accidental Artists as well. They form pearls as a response to irritants like sand that slip into their shells. These particles are uncomfortable – irritating. In an attempt to reduce the scratchiness factor, these living animals secret a substance called nacre to coat the irritating intruder.  Layer upon layer of this substance is laid down for the life of the two shelled being, the result are beautiful pearls.

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Frida’s Fiestas cookbook – written by Diego Rivera’s daughter, features a recipe for Oyster Soup – that was served at Frida and Diego’s wedding in August of 1929. I found this on http://cookwithus.com/blog/.

(Wedding Day menu:  Oyster soup, white rice with Plantains, Huauzontles in green sauce, Chiles stuffed with cheese, chiles stuffed with picadillo, black mole from Oaxaca, and red Hominy stew from Jalisco) I have heard that Oysters are considered an aphrodisiac.

Oyster Soup

This splendid oyster soup was served at  Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s wedding reception.

  • 1 large onion,chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 quarts oysters, shucked with liquid
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 crusty rolls, cubed and fried

Saute the onion and garlic in butter until softened. Stir in the flour and cook for a few seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes until thickened. Drain the oysters, reserving the liquid. Add the oyster liquid and chicken broth to the saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes. Add the oysters and parsley and simmer a minute more. Pour the soup over the bread croutons in a soup tureen, serve piping hot.

Chuck’s Oyster Stew: (made right in my father’s kitchen)img_2975

Ingredients:

-16 oz of fresh oysters

-2Tablespoons of butter

-1 and 1/2 cups milk

-Tabasco to taste – or try Chiltepin!

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drain the oysters – (reserving the oyster juice for another step)

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saute oysters in butter

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Saute the oysters in butter, while the milk and oyster juice warm

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pour the milk/oyster juice mixture into the pan with sauted oysters

 

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enjoy with tabasco – or with crushed, dried chiltepin

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We all have filters. Some are cultural, some familial .. religious, political, genetic, mental & emotional. It is a powerful act to watch out that those filters don’t get overwhelmed. It seems to me that if we could use our filters more skillfully we might all be better off.

And by all I mean the birds and bees, trees and tide pools, animals and humans, alike.

Have a wonderful 2017.

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | Leave a comment

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