Author Archives: Savor Blog Partners

About Savor Blog Partners

Carolyn Niethammer writes about the food, people and places of the beautiful Southwest from her home in Tucson, Arizona. Whether she is turning prickly pear juice into a delicious sauce or baking mesquite pods or acorns into a fragrant bread, she delights in finding new recipes for desert wild plants.

Real Smut–Good Smut

Aroused by so much truly disgusting smut in the news these days (not “fake smut” at all), I am motivated to expose another perspective here.  Lets talk ‘smut of a different color’ to distinguish current human smut from sources of the word itself.  “Sooty,” “smudged,” “covered with black flakes of soot” seems to be how the term’s usage began, and of course that came to mean “tainted” or “stained,” its figurative, moral usage of today.

Corn smut–better known as “Mexican Corn-Truffle”–on teosinte (the ancient precursor of domestic corn) growing in the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store “landscape” (MABurgess photo)

Tia Marta here to tell you about –believe it or not–Good Smut!  Smut the Food, CORN SMUT, an incredibly interesting, nutritious, even ceremonially-important food!  However, spured on by the USDA, farmers, not in the know about corn smut’s food history and value, have tried to eradicate it from US corn fields for years.  Corn smut is a reaction to spore invasion by Ustilago maydis which gets into young kernels and causes reactive growth.  Admittedly, corn smut does look unappealing, weird, even tainted or disgusting if you are looking for the perfect corn cob, hence the moves in modern agriculture to get rid of it. (Just search images of corn smut on the internet for an eye-full!)

Fungal growth of Ustilago maydis (corn smut) on commercial corn (internet source)

On the positive side, corn smut has had a very beneficial role in research on human breast cancers.  Looks are not everything–This “ugly” growth has been a blessed gift to life-saving biomedical research.  We might know very little about these cancers without DNA lab studies using corn smut fungus’ DNA.  “Corn Soot,” as the fungus was termed by the people of Zuni, NewMexico, was also used traditionally as herbal medicine to hasten childbirth then to reduce bleeding after childbirth.  [You can read lots more in a neat article by Kevin Dahl in Etnobiologia 7, in 2009, pp.94-99; or in Stevenson,M.L,1915, Ethnobotany of the Zuni, Ann.Rpt.Bur.Am.Ethnology 1908-1909, pp.31-102.]

Cuitlacoche (also spelled and pronounced huitlacoche) in the Aztec (Nahuatl) language, i.e corn smut food, has been used since time immemorial as a nutritious delicacy by Native People from MesoAmerica into what is now the Southwestern US.  Nutritionally, cuitlacoche actually has more protein even than its host, corn.  Corn by itself, however, does not contain a critically important amino acid building block in the human diet, lysine, which cuitlacoche provides. Corn smut would be a significant addition to a vegetarian diet.

Alas, because of its looks, corn smut has been almost completely relegated to oblivion in the USA.  Not too many years ago I used to buy it canned, moist and ready to use, at Food City in Tucson, but recently I’ve asked for it at several Hispanic foods outlets like LaCarniceria on W.St.Mary’sRoad, El Super in South Tucson, and at every Food City.  Nada–Young store attendants don’t even know the word!  Obviously cuitlacoche is out of favor.  Too bad, what popular market demand can do.  We will have to grow our own smut from now on, or travel deeper into Mexico to find the right stuff….

Small bulbous “buds” of cuitlacoche (corn smut) harvested from teosinte for cooking (MABurgess photo)

Because….there are some super recipes for this delicacy!  To create better press for corn smut as food, restaurants now market it as “Mexican Corn Truffle.” Some gourmet bistros have tried to create awareness of it, to no avail.  When and if you find corn smut at a farmers’ market, or if you grow it yourself, you can find some great CUITLACOCHE  recipe ideas online.  Just Google “Cuitlacoche Recipes” for fabulous “new” takes on tacos, quesadillas, soups, meat sauces, enchiladas, tamales, stuffed chicken….

Normal non-infected teosinte “cob” maturing on the stalk. Note the green kernels aligned vertically at angles. (MABurgess photo)

Cuitlacoche (corn smut) on NSS teosinte cob (MABurgess photo)

Inspired by NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store Manager Chad Borseth (who sings the praises of corn smut), I like to make a smut stir-fry or sauce-base with onion, green chiles, garlic and corn “truffle buds” whole or sliced in olive oil.  Using the same ingredients with butter and eggs in the frypan, I make a Cuitlacoche Omelette or Scramble.  It’s an off-the-wall delicious surprise, simple, nutritious–IF you can find that critical ingredient!

Or, I saute diced corn smut with onions, mild green chiles, bison burger, and leftover potatoes, and slip it all in the oven for the flavors to meld.  It makes a heart-warming Cuitlacoche Casserole perfect for a wintery supper.

Here’s a visual caution:  When you cook cuitlacoche, the color sometimes will turn darker–like soot.  Aahhhh, but the taste is a delicate delight:  woodsy, earthy, richly mushroomy with a bouquet of fresh corn, hints of Hobbit food.

Teosinte corn smut diced for scrambling or adding to a cuitlacoche omelette (MABurgess photo)

Cuitlacoche Casserole made with ground bison burger, onion, potatoes, mild green chiles, and diced teosinte corn smut (MABurgess photo)

For more on Huitlacoche, check out the NativeSeedsSEARCH article in SeedHead News by Dr. Melissa Kruse-Peeples at http://www.nativeseeds.org/learn/nss-blog/293-huitlacoche.

Happy reading!  Then order your favorite heirloom corn seed from the NSS 2018 Seedlisting, http://www.nativeseeds.org, or the Whole Seed Catalog and plan right now to PLANT them this next summer season in your own garden.  If cuitlacoche buds out at the tip of your maturing cobs then rejoice– and enjoy its traditional flavor and sustenance!

This kind of smut is well worth experiencing – and don’t forget to spread their spores.

Beautiful cuitlacoche, corn smut at the top of an ear of corn

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

On Ease and Chiltepin Popcorn

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Savor Sister Linda with you in your inbox this first Sunday of 2018. As you click this open, I hope you can feel, regardless of wherever you are reading this, the clear sunshine and cool breeze playing with one another here in the Old Pueblo today.

I keep hearing echo’s of an interview with Marie Forleo and Tim Ferris that I heard  the latter part of 2017.   Actually, the echo was a question.   Ferris asks himself often: “What would this look like if this were easy?”

It is a great question for a species like ours that tends to use fine mental capacities to not only create great things, but to overly complicate things as well.

Todays recipe is designed to help you practice the art of Ease, at the very time you are exploring new tastes, because it is so darned easy.

 

The Art of Ease;  Chiltepin Popcorn

Ingredients: The main ingredients are just two: tri colored popcorn (or your choice of popcorn!), and chiltepin.  Oil for popping.  Easy.

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I found Los Chileros popping corn at Native Seeds SEARCH; but use what you like!  At first glance, it “pops out” white, like mainstream popcorn. But, look more deeply and you’ll find color in the kernels. Check out the photo above and you’ll clearly see the red, blue and yellow kernels peeking out at you. 

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The color as well as the aroma makes this popcorn divine.

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Add the your favorite oil for popping corn (I use olive oil) and coat the bottom of your pot. Crush three chiltepin to the oil.  I used a 4 quart pan – if you are using a smaller or larger vessel you might want to adjust the amount of chile you use. 

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Add  your popcorn to the chiltepin oil, loosely covering the bottom of the pot, and cover the top of the pot, allowing the heat to pop the corn. The chile flavor infusing the popped kernels is not subtle! If you are a fan of chiltepine’s heat, it should make you smile. Every palate is different, so increase or decrease the amount of chiltepin as desired. 

NOTE:

  • The chiltepin oil will infuse into the air and smell fantastic, enhancing your whole experience. It may also make you cough, so beware when opening the lid.
  • Not everyone in a family or group of friends is a chili-fan. In this case pop the popcorn without the chile – and make a topping with chiltepin!  The kernels won’t have the heat, but you will get the satisfying flavor in the melted butter/ oil. If you are reducing fats, just sprinkle your popcorn with chiltepin.
  • If you are a dedicated lover of chiltepin, double your pleasure by combining the spicy kernels with the spicy topping.
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I love real butter, and I combine my spicy topping with 1/2 butter (grass fed) and 1/2 with oilve oil. Make sure you don’t overheat it – the bubble above show that I almost overdid it. 

 

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P.S. One side affect of making the Art of Ease Popcorn is that you may have actual Pops of Insight (I couldn’t resist using the pun).  Kidding aside, take a second to recollect how many of your own “Ah Ha’s” have arisen once you let go of a problem (maybe that you may have been struggling with for days or weeks).  And having forgotten about it, surprise (!),  while showering, walking, doing the dishes, it Pops in. And a simple, elegant solution it is, too!.  I’ve experienced this as many times as there are popped kernels in the bowl above.

Categories: Sonoran Native, Tim Ferris, Ease, chiltepin, popcorn, Native Seeds SEARCH, Los Chileros | 2 Comments

New Desert Harvesters Cookbook Celebrates Glories of Wild Desert Foods

Hello everybody. It is Carolyn today with an exciting new book for you. I’ve been studying and writing about edible wild plants of the Southwest deserts for more decades than I want to fess up to, and one of the most energizing things for me is when other people catch the bug and begin gathering and experimenting.

Last year we had John Slattery’s great book Southwest Foraging with colorful photos to help us identify plants new to us (see review here). Now we have even more riches in Desert Harvesters’ new book Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods and Living.

The 170 recipes range from the very simple to lightly challenging. While heavy on dishes using mesquite, the book includes recipes for some less exploited plants such as desert ironwood, palo verde, wolfberry, and creosote (creosote capers!).

One of the most exciting things about the book is the range of contributors. While there are familiar names in the local foraging world, including fellow Savor Sisters Muffin Burgess and Amy Valdés Schwemm and myself, Janos Wilder, Brad Lancaster, Barbara Rose, Jeau Allen, and Jill Lorenzini, you will also find dozens of other folks who have also shared their recipes. What fun to see how cooks have included Sonoran desert plants in favorite family recipes. That’s exactly how to introduce a new food to family members leary of something strange—by incorporating it into something familiar.

This book goes far beyond recipes with essays on solar cooking, neighborhood water harvesting, and medicinal uses of some of the plants.

Ethnobotanist Dr. Richard Felger, who was my first mentor and thus has been writing about and advocating for  “wild agriculture” even longer than I have, contributes an article that tells us that 10,000 years ago Prosopis (mesquite) formed the nutritional foundation of some of the first human populations along the Pacific Coast of South America, long before the use of corn in their society. And we do know that mesquite was also the staple of the desert Tohono O’odham. As Dr. Felger has been advocating for decades, it is time we begin (or go back to) fitting our food production to fit the climate rather than changing the environment to fit the crop just as earlier desert inhabitants did.

Now for a recipe. For years the artists in Cascabel have put on a pancake breakfast in the beautiful San Pedro Valley. Here is the recipe they have used, developed by Pearl Mast.

Nothing beats mesquite pancakes on a winter morning.

Pearl’s Mesquite Pancakes

(Makes about 12)

1 cup mesquite flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached white flour

1 tablespoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon oil

1-2 cups of buttermilk, sour milk or fresh mile

1 tablespoon vinegar (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, oil, 1 cup of milk and vinegar. Add wet ingredients to dry. Add more milk to thin the batter. Cook on medium heat and enjoy with your favorite syrup or toppings.

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Carolyn Niethammer writes about edible wild plants of the Southwest deserts in her books American Indian Food and Lore, The Prickly Pear Cookbook, and Cooking the Wild Southwest. They are available at the Native Seeds/SEARCH store or on-line bookshop or your favorite on-line book seller.

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mole Dulce Latte and Hot Chocolate

Hello all, Amy here on bright, cold day. My friends at EXO Coffee make Mole Dulce Lattes, and they are amazing. They discovered Mano Y Metate mole, developed the recipe, and only later did we meet!

I can’t make coffee like that, but I wanted to make a hot drink for myself at home. So I decided to try Mole Dulce Hot Chocolate.

I started with half a tin of Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder (about 1 oz). In a dry pan I toasted it over low heat, stirring constantly until it got a shade darker and I started to smell the spices and cough just a bit from the chile. You can see oil from the almonds and the melting chocolate on the wooden spoon.

Then I added one cup of water and simmered for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Mole Dulce powder is made with A LOT of chocolate.  I use Xocolatl, a handmade Oaxacan drinking chocolate imported by a sweet Tucson family and available seasonally at the Rillito Farmers’ Market and online. (Tell the young salesperson Isaac we sent you.) The only ingredients in Xocolatl are cacao beans from Chiapas (60%), cane sugar, Mexican/Ceylon cinnamon and almonds. It is wonderful eaten straight, where you’ll notice its coarse ground texture, formerly found in chocolates like Ibarra, before they changed their recipe. Xocolatl also comes in 70%.

I melted 6 small sticks (about 125g) of Xocolatl Classic into the pan, making a glossy chocolate sauce, with some suspended solids from the mole and chocolate giving it interesting texture.

Then I added 4 cups of milk from Danzeisen Dairy from Laveen, Arizona. When I was a kid, my mom would buy raw milk with a cream layer in bottles like these from a drive through milk store. What the milks then and now do have in common are freshness, lower ‘food miles’ (less transportation fuel from farm to consumer), and returnable bottles with a deposit. Plus, the bottles are so pretty!

Now, for the frothy topping. The saying goes that as much work as someone put into the foam layer on the top of your chocolate mug, that’s how much they love you. I heard you could get this by pouring from one container into another from as high as you can, but I found this is messy, possibly dangerous and disappointing.

But there’s a tool designed for this purpose. My grandmother had a molinillo just like this.

However, she didn’t let us use it, just like the fancy dishes, the living room, or anything else that grandkids would certainly ruin or break. These are now available at big Mexican grocery stores, and are so fun to use! They have free-spinning rings and holes which act like wires on a whisk. (Of course, a metal whisk works at least as well.) To use a molinillo, put the handle between your palms, rolling back and forth to spin it in the liquid. Yes, this is when you sing the cho-co-la-te song, singing and spinning as fast as you can! Then sit and savor your warm, frothy, sweet, spicy, rich cup slowly.

 

 

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

Celebrate Seasons

Jacqueline Soule here, busy in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, getting baskets of garden goodies ready for gifting.  Many of the topics we Savor Sister have discussed over the years are finding their way into those baskets.

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Some of the topics I featured in the last twelve months that are great for gifts:
* lemon cordial – December 2016
* pomegranate (made into jelly) – January 2017
* seeds (some used as herbs) – March 2017
* lemon pickle – April 2017
* turmeric root (chopped and dried) – June 2017
* sunflower (dried heads for friends with birds) July 2017

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All of these gifts from your Southwest garden require planning ahead.  Harvesting, drying, preserving the bounty of the earth takes time and effort at the time that the bounty is offered.  Sharing the bounty is – in so many ways – the entire point of this season, no matter what religion or non-religion you embrace.

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As the solar year cycles through, the days get shorter and shorter, the darkness of night gets longer and deeper, until, on one specific day, the days start getting longer again, and darkness decreases.  We humans now living with artificial light may miss the point of just how tremendous this turning back the dark is.

 

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To celebrate this season of renewed light we give gifts that were generated by light! Solar light that is – light that shines down on the earth, ripening the grain so we can make flour, ripening the cane so we can make sugar, growing the trees for cinnamon and cloves, causing the flowers that grow into vanilla beans, and then we combine them in many tasty ways.

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We would not be here, nor have any gifts to give, without the bounty of the earth and sun.  Even if you give gifts made of plastic and metal, the plastic comes originally from plants, and metal came up out of the earth.  Points to ponder as the sun cycle continues and the days grow longer once again.

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However you celebrate the season, I wish you joy and peace and bounty in the year ahead.

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JAS avatarIf 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, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).
© 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 © Jacqueline A. Soule may not be used.  Some photos in this post are courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, Sonoran herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sweet New Ideas for the honorable old Sweet-lime

Surprisingly aromatic and gracefully sweet despite its continued green, the heirloom Mexican Sweet Lime is ready to harvest at Mission Garden. This ancient and honorable citrus was brought to Tucson by the Padres and is a proven producer in our desert kitchen-gardens and orchards. Note the characteristic “nipple” on the base of the fruit which distinguishes it from other citrus.  (photos by MABurgess)

Boughs are hanging heavy with fruit in the Mission Garden’s living history orchard at the foot of A-Mountain!  With chilly nights at last descending upon us, it is time for all of us in low desert country to harvest citrus for the holidays.  The heirloom SWEET-LIME, brought by Father Kino to the Pimeria Alta more than 3 centuries ago, is a living, lasting gift to us, conserved and propagated now by ethnobotanist Jesus Garcia of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Kino Mission Fruit-tree Project.

Citrus time again in Baja Arizona! I’ve harvested Meyer Lemon, Mexican lime, and tangerine from my trees, and I hope to buy an heirloom sweet-lime from Mission Garden to plant in mi huertita–my mini-orchard.

Tia Marta here, wanting so much to share this amazinging sweet-lime with you–and doggone technology has not caught up with my wish to have you just scratch and sniff it right now!  (When will techno-dudes ever perfect the digital transmission of olfactory joys?).   For the time being you will just have to visit the Community Food Bank booth at Thursday’s Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market, or come in person to visit the Mission Garden any Saturday 10am-2pm (within the adobe wall off S.Grande Ave.  See http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org for directions.)

Mexican sweet-limes –sliced and ready to eat– There is NO puckering up with THESE limes; their gentle sweetness and bouquet will thrill your tastebuds! (And note gladly: the seeds are small and few.)

It’s easy to juice sweet-limes in a manual squeezer.

Ideas for sweet-lime juice:  Amazing what baby-boomers are getting rid of these days.  I found a manual juicer at a yard sale which is perfect for citrus halves and even for sections of pomegranate.

With sweet-lime juice you can wax creative.  For a festive punch, try it mixed with prickly pear juice that you have saved frozen from your August harvest.  Or, for more colorful punches, mix sweet-lime juice with grenadine, or your home-squoze pomegranate juice, or jamaica tea.  It also tastes great with mango.  Another admired Tucson ethnobotanist, Dr Letitia McCune, (www.botanydoc.com) is an expert in cherry nutrition so of course I had to try sweet-lime with tart cherry.  Yum!

Sweet-lime juice and tart cherry punch–a glass full of flavor and colorful cheer for the holidays!

Here are more ideas for sliced or diced sweet-lime fruit:

Sweet-lime, sweet sliced tomato, and rosemary Garni, topped with pine nuts and drizzled with olive oil.

Peeled and diced sweet-lime fruit makes an incomparable aromatic addition to a fruit salad. Here sweet-lime chunks are tossed with sliced red grapes and bananas, dressed with chia seed and agave nectar.

No need to throw away these fragrant sweet-lime rinds! Everything has a use.

Crytallized sweet-lime and tangerine rinds make a marvelous home-made holiday candy.

SWEET-LIME CANDY RECIPE:  For a simple-to-make holiday treat of sweet-lime and other citrus rinds, boil sweet-lime rinds for 5-10 minutes to denature some bitter oils, drain completely, add equivalent amount of organic sugar (i.e. if you have 2 cups of sliced rinds then add 2 cups of sugar).  Do not add ANY liquid.  In saucepan, cook on medium heat until a thick syrup forms (at the hard-ball stage).  With tongs, remove each syrup-coated slice and place to dry and harden on a cookie sheet or waxed paper.  Each will crystallize into a crunchy piece of aromatic candy to excite both the youthful and mature palette.

AN EVEN BETTER SERVING SUGGESTION:  (Ah-hah!–You have already thought of this!)  “Enhance” your punch into a fabulous SWEET-LIME MARGARITA by adding a jigger of your favorite local Bacanora, Sotol or mescal spirits to your sweet-lime punch.  Then pow!!–taste that “nutrition”!  If you happen to add prickly pear juice, you even have a built-in hangover helper.  Happiest holiday wishes to all!  Wassail wassail as we hail the heirlooms!

(All photos by the author, copyright 2017)

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Our Tree of Life

 

Savor Sister Linda here on this 1st day of December in the Old Pueblo – and a cloudy Friday it is!  We are on the brink of a full moon; check the sky tomorrow evening as it rises, about 5PM, Tucson time.

I am hoping rain follows these clouds. If you know of a good school on the Practice of  Powerful Rain Dances,  let me know. The Sonoran Desert is parched. No matter what side of the border you live, or whether you are an animal or vegetable or mineral, it is dry. Dry. Dry.

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A friend and Very Dry Land, as we searched for wild chiltepin plants, two weeks ago.

I read a poem this week that won’t let me go. The poem, True North, is by Doug von Koss, I’ll offer you just a few lines in case they speak to you.

“That other compass

you bought in the city

is no good to you now

For me, these lines are less about a urban/rural lifestyles mindsets, and more about old ways of navigating that don’t work as well as they used to. It got me thinking about ways of navigating Life. For me, one newish way is to navigate is to practice being “less sure”, or rather, to be more accepting of myself when I am not certain of life’s terrains. At the ranch, I have no idea if the Winter Rains will come at all this winter. I have lived through just such a scenario; and it is not pretty. Some ranchers in our region have already sold their livestock.  All of them.  And as you can see (in the photo above the poem), the wild chiltepin harvest is also affected this year.  Being a food producer/harvester isn’t always easy. 
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This wild chiltepin plant is growing in a Plant Guild, under an Oak Tree (and Mesquite; note the legume leaves). It is because of these mutually beneficial, interdependent guild relationships that these plants survive in even tougher than usual conditions. Note the yellow butterfly.

The chiltepin we did pick are even more precious than usual now. In the photo above you can see a wild chile plant growing under an oak, and near a mesquite tree as well. I love these nurse plants so fundamental to the survival of wild chiles. We harvested here about three weeks ago, talking and picking for hours, feet slipping on steep hillsides, as have countless humans for 8000 years. As the rhythm of the picking worked it’s magic on me, I found myself thinking of the Tree of Life.

Anne Baring, author,  Thought Leader, and a woman of wonderful integrity, (and her co-author Jules Cashford),  in The Myth of the Goddess; Evolution of an Image writes,  “The Tree of Life was one of the primary images of the goddess herself, in whose immanent presence all pairs of opposites are reconciled. Growing on the surface of the earth, with roots below and branches above, the tree was the great pillar that united earth with heaven and the underworld, through which the energies of the cosmos poured continuously into earthly creation. The animating spirit that moved within it was the serpent guardian also of the fruit or treasure of the tree, which was the epiphany of the goddess, that is, the experience of unity.” (page 496).

The experience of unity.  Not the idea of unity. Not thinking about unity. But experiencing it. Which includes our unity with nature and with our food – so that we might live more as it as if we were an expression of life; and less as it we were isolated from it.  When I am picking wild chiles, for example, I feel connected to all the other hands that have picked this tiny chiles for more than 8000 years; I feel reverence for the beaks and tongues of birds who ate/eat and spread it’s seed. I feel happy that I can eat food that is really food. That comes fresh. Not wrapped in plastic; not processed at all.

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Chiltepin which in my experience is the most aromatic chile in the world. Not only are they incredibly flavorful, but they smell so darned good!

IMG_1958No recipe this week; the photos won’t transfer over to this site for some reason, and the recipe needs the pics. Instead, consider eating as if you really really really were a part of our food system. Be the Tree of Life. Because we are all connected, to each other and to our food, it is both wise and fun to bring to our tables and our tongues food that makes a positive impact on Our Tree of Life.

Farmers markets are a great place to buy food as “close to the source” as is possible, without growing it yourself. If you live here in the South West, you could plant a winter garden. There are few things as satisfying as feeling your own food. If you live in colder climes, flirt with planting some herbs in a pot inside by a window this winter. Or finding a spot to plant a garden in the spring.

Happy Full Moon.

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | 5 Comments

Savory Cinnamon

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special for Savor the Southwest by Jacqueline A. Soule, Ph.D.

Many of our winter dishes include cinnamon. Cinnamon is traditionally spice used in winter cooking, like pumpkin pie, snickerdoodles, and gingerbread.  Growing up in Tucson, our hot cocoa always had a sprinkle of cinnamon in it.  I remember the first time I encountered “American Cocoa” made with tons of sugar and marshmallows.  Even at age eight I thought it way too sweet.  I prefer a nice “Mexican Cocoa,” and part of what makes it so good is the cinnamon.

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Mexican Cocoa Mix
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup chopped Mexican chocolate (such as Ibarra)
1 cup powdered creamer
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Blend this together well and store in a quart jar.
To make the cocoa, place 1/3 cup of mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup boiling water.

This can make a nice gift – place in a quart canning jar with a few whole sticks of cinnamon around the inside.  Those cinnamon sticks are great for stirring the cocoa with, and can be nibbled on for hours.  Avoid excessive cinnamon stick consumption however, it can have a laxative effect.

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The Botany of Cinnamon
The word “cinnamon” is directly from Hebrew and is found in the Old Testament – where “kinamon” is mentioned in the same context as the treasures of gold, silver, myrrh, and frankincense.  In those long ago days, the rolled “sticks” of cinnamon bark came overland from the rainforests of Sri Lanka on the backs of beasts of burden such as elephants, dromedaries, and camels.  It was so sought after, it was one of the spices that spurred world exploration.

The spice itself comes from the inner bark of an evergreen rainforest tree which is now grown in large plantations.  The bark is carefully harvested to not kill the tree. As the bark dries it curls into “sticks” or “quills,” which are used whole or ground.  Meanwhile, leftover parts and pruned branches are used to make the essential oil sold as “Cinnamon Oil.”

 

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There are numerous species of cinnamon.  The most popular for culinary use is the pungent and slightly sweet Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamonum zeylanicum).  With a very cinnamon fragrance, “Cassia Oil” comes from Cinnamonum cassia, with the immature fruits called cassia buds used as a spice.  Camphor from Cinnamonum camphora was one of the raw materials in the manufacture of celluloid.  Now camphor is primarily used medicinally.

JAS avatarIf 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, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).

© 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 courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Cooking, herbs, medicinal plant, Mexican Food | 1 Comment

Roasted Veggies with a hint of Pipian

Happy Thanksgiving week! Amy here, planning the menu with the cooking team, which is pretty much everyone in our family. It’s fun to mix it up and offer something interesting for the big meal, but it can’t stray too far… on Thursday.

A few years ago my sister and I spiced the veggies with a dusting with Mano Y Metate Pipian Picante powder and a splash of Alfonso olive oil before going into the screaming hot oven.

This was a Tucson CSA mix of small Red La Soda potatoes, Glendale Gold onions, a Beauregard Sweet Potato and cubes of this unknown winter squash. If I had carrots or mild turnips, I would have added them, too.

Pipian Picante is medium spicy, but for a mild dish, use Pipain Rojo. The two Pipian are nearly the same recipe, but Pipain Rojo is made with Santa Cruz Mild Chile from Tumacacori, Arizona, while Pipian Picante uses Santa Cruz Hot Chile. This chile is fruity and flavorful. It’s bright red in color and the flavor matches the color. Of all the varieties of mole powder that I make, these two are the only ones that use only one type of chile, because this chile is special enough to stand on its own. By the way, if you’re looking for a fun road trip to take out of town guests, the little Santa Cruz Chili and Spice Sore is fun and right across from the mission.

Both Pipian Rojo and Pipian Picante are made with lots of pepitas, or pumkin seeds, along with almonds and a few sesame seeds. It also features plenty of coriander (cilantro) seeds and canela, the soft, easy to break sticks of Ceylon cinnamon.

Sweet cinnamon, sweet chile, and evaporated cane juice in the Pipian go great with the beautiful winter squash that usually looks sweeter than it is. And the kick in the chile is great on the sweet onion and sweet potato. The finished dish is unquestionably savory and spicy. I hope you like it as much as we do. Add a sprig of rosemary from the garden if you have it, just for fun.

 

Now, for Friday after Thanksgiving, I recommend Enmoladas with Turkey. These are enchiladas made with mole instead of just chile. Please forgive the candlelit photo, but this is all I could take before it was devoured! For the recipe, go to my very first post on this blog, and substitute leftover turkey for the amaranth greens filling.

Thank you to my family that helped me sell mole at the Desert Botanical Garden and Tohono Chul, and my friends that helped me fill and label tins to prepare for the events. Mil Gracias.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, heirloom crops, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, herbs, Kino herb, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Many Pumpkins…So Little Time!

Tohono O’odham Ha:l “TO pumpkin” –a striped cushaw winter squashes with their corky peduncle attachments–and bright orange Tarahumara pumpkins (a NativeSeeds/SEARCH harvest) MABurgess photo

Pumpkin-bashing may be fantastic sport after Halloween, and indeed it can create great compost with the right follow-through, but I’m in the camp of those waste-not-want-not folks who enjoy pumpkins and squashes for their wholesome flavors and vibrant nutrition (not to mention their esthetic colors and sculptural forms–see last month’s post).  Tia Marta here, delighting in the diversity of our Southwestern heirloom pumpkins and sharing some diverse ways to enjoy them.

An assortment of Dineh Hubbard-type pumpkins from a Navajo community in northeastern Arizona (MABurgess photo)

The so-called “Magdalena Big Cheese squash” from Sonora, shaped like an ancestral jackolantern, has a glorious color inside and great flavor, here pictured at Mission Garden grown from NativeSeeds/SEARCH seed. (MABurgess photo)

Pumpkins are easy and fun to grow over the summer if you have a nice sunny space where the vines can sprawl, a little plot of good deep soil for the roots, and consistent water.

[Do you think that the word squash has a bad rap?  You’ll notice that I prefer to use the word pumpkin for many of the squash group within the Cucurbit family that mature with a harder shell and an be saved for longer periods.]  Pumpkins can actually take many forms–not just the carve-able Halloween type.  I think of squash as the early, thin-skinned stage of several different pumpkin relatives in the Cucurbitaceae family.  There are four different species of pumpkins that Southwestern Native People have created into a diversity of successfully adapted crops over the centuries.  You can plant seed of all 4 species in one garden as they will not easily cross-pollinate.   Dig into the NativeSeeds/SEARCH website http://www.nativeseeds.org to explore the wide realm of Southwest indigenous squashes.

Three different pumpkin lineages–the light green “Mayo Blusher”(Cucurbita maxima), the striped “TO ha:l” (C. argyrosperma), and golden-orange “Magdalena Big Cheese” (C.moschata). Surprisingly, they can all be grown together and remain pure because the different species will not easily cross.

Now for the fun of “internalizing” these colorful and nutritious foods–  Look what happens when you open one up!

Rich orange betacarotenes of Mayo Blusher pumpkin can brighten many a meal– and a nutrition panel!  After de-seeding you can roast a half pumpkin turned open-side-down in the oven or solar oven.  Served with melted butter, there isn’t anything finer nor simpler to prepare!  (MABurgess photo)

My Tohono O’odham teacher and mentor Juanita Ahil told how, when she was young, her family would take a whole TO ha:l on long trips in their wagon.  When they rested the horses they’d make a fire, roast the ha:l whole on the coals, and when done cut and serve chunks in the shell communally with the family.  That was dinner–easy, packable, nutritious, sumptuous, no mess to clean up, just toss the shell.

Winter Pumpkin stir-fry–Skin and dice fresh Mayo Blusher (or any hefty heirloom winter squash) into chunks to stir-fry with onion or garlic. Enjoy as is, or add herbs and other veggies as desired. Don’t be hesitant to even try adding curry to this stir-fry for a healthy pizzaz.  Yum!  (MABurgess photo)

A delectable one-dish meal with stir-fry pumpkin:  Mayo Blusher turkey-skillet–the perfect way to use turkey left-overs!  You can use TO Ha:l, Magdalena Big Cheese, Dineh pumpkin, or any other winter squash (or other meats). to achieve flavor-filled variations on this wonderful dish. (MABurgess photo)

Carrying the stir-fry of heirloom pumpkin to the next level, try it in a stir-fry one-dish meal with meat.  Here I have sautéed ground turkey before adding it to the Mayo Blusher and onion stir-fry.  Add fresh diced green peppers or diced I’itoi’s onions for color and flavor–or if you have a picante palate, dice a jalapeño into the entire dish, gradually testing it to your own level of “heat.”  This is an innovative use of left-over turkey a few days after Thanksgiving.

With roasted or steamed Mayo Blusher (or other pumpkin heirloom) you can make a slightly sweet dish pleasing to a younger palate.  Add agave nectar to taste, pine nuts and/or pumpkin seeds to add crunchy texture.  (MABurgess photo)

After steaming or roasting your pumpkin (here I”ve used Mayo Blusher again as we had a bumper crop), add 1 cup of mashed pumpkin as a substitute for the wet ingredients in any coffeecake recipe. It will add flavor, color, and nutrition.  (MABurgess photo)

Many hard-shelled winter squashes/pumpkins have the helpful attribute of storability without refrigeration.  I kept a whole Tohono O’odham Ha:l in the shade of my back porch all winter long until March when I cooked it up.  Its weight was getting lighter but it had lost no flavor!  Steamed or roasted pumpkin leftovers can be stored frozen ready for quick defrosting, a more effective use of space than storing whole pumpkins.

Shiny Mayo Blusher (Cucurbita maxima)  seeds washed, dried, ready to save for planting–or to roast as a healthy snack

Tohono O’odham Ha:l seed saved from a pumpkin, cleaned & saved for summer planting or winter snacking

Honoring those ancient Southwestern farmers through the ages (and those who still grow traditional squashes and pumpkins), let’s rejoice in their agricultural creativity and plant a seed next summer.  Meanwhile, with heirlooms from farmers’ markets, we can reap the benefits of their beautiful culinary contributions.  Enjoy a pumpkin served in new and delightful ways this holiday season!

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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