Beekeeping

Pleasing Poreleaf

porophyllum gracile calflora 1803Savor Sister Jacqueline Soule here today with native plant that is lovely in the landscape, never needs water, and can be used as an herb for cooking.  Can it get better than this?  Well yes, our native solitary bees use this as a food source in that time when spring wildflowers and cacti are done blooming and not much else is in flower.
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Slender poreleaf, also called hierba del venado, odora, (Spanish), xtisil (Seri), bears the scientific name of Porophyllum gracile.  If you like word origins you can just look at this scientific name and learn something about the plant.  The word gracile has the same root as graceful, poro tells us it has pores, and the one you may not know phyllum refers to leaves, but enough Latin for now.
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Slender poreleaf is a member of the Compositae or sunflower family and is good for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes.  A native, hardy, blue-green evergreen perennial, it grows 1 to 2 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide.  It can take full sun and even reflected sun, and also grows well in part shade.  It needs the alkaline desert soils, and does not tolerate over-watering.
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Use.
First, the taste is somewhere between arugula, cilantro and rue. I like it in salsa. I also crush the dried leaves and add them to hamburger.  Careful!  A little goes a long way.
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The Seri use a tea made from the stems of this native plant as a remedy for colds.   Roots are macerated and used to treat toothache.  In some Mexican markets fresh and dried material is available for sale.  People crumble dried leaves together with salt and rub it on meat for flavor and to help make it last in the absence of refrigeration.

These medicinal uses may have scientific validity since many related species in the Tageteae tribe contain thiophenes, sulfur compounds with proven bactericidal properties, good as cold remedies.  The thiophenes may also help preserve the meat while the other secondary compounds flavor the meat.
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Slender poreleaf appears to be unpalatable to rabbit, javalina, rodents, and deer.  Since it is distasteful to deer it is puzzling why it is called “hierba del venado” which translates as “herb of the deer.”  Perhaps because it is found in remote areas where deer roam, or perhaps it is good for field dressing deer meat.

Planting and Care.
You won’t find this delicate fragrant perennial blue green shrub in nurseries, but if you find seed while you are out hiking, bring some back and plant it about a quarter inch deep in an unused corner of your yard.  Protect it from seed eating birds, and with a little water and you will be rewarded with a durable desert plant that needs no care and produces lovely white to pinkish flowers with attractive red highlights.

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If you are not a hiker, head over to the Pima County Seed Library – online or in any branch library.  I donated a bag of seed to them, and smaller packets should be available for check out.  All they ask is that you return some seed to them in coming seasons.
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Harvesting and Use.
Harvest fresh material of the slender poreleaf as needed for salads and salsas, or harvest and dry for use later.
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Sister Species.
Porophyllum ruderale is commonly grown throughout the New World and used as a condiment, especially in salsas.  Since it is used by many cultures, common names, include Bolivian coriander, quillquiña, yerba porosa, killi, pápalo, tepegua, mampuritu, and pápaloquelite.  It needs more water than our native species, and shade in summer, but taste is much the same.

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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 where marked and they may not be used.

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bean Flower Soup

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Jacqueline Soule here today to share a savory way to use the flowers of palo verde.
In case you wondered, palo verde flowers are slightly sweet and taste mildly like young garden peas.

In a handout I got back in the 1970’s, I learned that the O’odham name for this April-ish month is Uam Masad which roughly translates to “the yellow month.”  On the slopes of the the Tucson Mountains yellow is certainly the case – with palo verde, brittle bush, paperflower, and desert marigold all combining to cover the slopes in a cloak of glowing yellow.  On a still day, the sound of the various species of native bees working their way through this bounty is a many toned symphony of delight to my ears.
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The common name “palo verde” can refer to a number of species, including
Mexican paloverde (Parkinsonia aculeata)
blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida)
foothill palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla)
palo brea (Parkinsonia praecox)
Texas palo verde (Parkinsonia texana), and the
Desert Museum hybrid paloverde (Parkinsonia X ‘Desert Museum’).

I told you that so I could tell you this.  All of these New World species of palo verde have edible flowers.  The palatability of the flowers varies though – depending on species and on growing conditions.  Sample before harvest.  Some are tough and stringy, some are large and flavorful.  The flowers on the trees in the leach field were especially large and palatable.  After the initial sample thou, I left them for the busy digger bees (Centris species) moving among the blooms.

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Chop up herbs and flowers to an easily edible size.

Since palo verde flowers are relatively small, compared to other edible flowers like pansy and chrysanthemums, I wanted to find dishes where I could harvest many flowers in a single swipe along the branch then use them en mass.  With a big basket full of flowers, I started experimenting.
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The results – palo verde flowers are fine in salads.  They are good in a pancake-like fritters.  Lightly sauté the flowers with chard and I’itoi onions then pour eggs over them for scrambled breakfast – good.  The floral vinegar will have to wait about a month for my report.  But meanwhile there is my new favorite – bean flower soup.  Bean flower soup is especially good late in the season as flowers are intermixed with young developing palo verde beans.

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Remove bitter tasting petioles.

Many Americans are not used to the concept of soup before a meal, but it makes sense for three main reasons – even in summer.  Such home-made soups are high in trace minerals, helping replace the electrolytes lost to perspiration during the day (especially in our climate).  The American Institute of Health estimates that 1 out of 5 Americans is clinically dehydrated, in other words, dehydrated enough to interfere with our body’s ability to function properly.  Lastly, for folks trying to lose weight, the hormones signaling hunger take about 20 minutes to become canceled out by eating.  Soup first means that your hormones have more of a chance to tell you that you’ve had enough without overeating.

Palo Verde Flower Soup
1 cup fresh palo verde flowers
1 quart liquid of choice (water, vegetable stock, chicken stock)
1 tablespoon oil of choice (helps better develop the flavor)
herbs to taste (use mild to not overpower the delicate flower flavor)
sea salt to taste
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If it is late in the season, and you harvest beans with petioles, remove the tough and bitter petioles.  Give everything a good dicing to help release the flavor and make any potentially fibrous bits small and edible.  Optionally, sauté the herbs in the oil first to develop the flavor but avoid over-heating the flowers, they can become bitter. Add one quart liquid.  Bring to a boil and turn off and remove from the heat.  Let sit for 10 minutes to meld flavors together and finish cooking the soup.  Serve.  Enjoy!

Disclaimer: The authors of this blog have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods.  Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction.  In case of doubt please consult your doctor.

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 and they may not be used.

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, herbs, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wake Up Make Chorizo

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Linda here celebrating a springlike day here in the Old Pueblo. I am sitting near an open window as I write;  warm springtime air feels great on my skin  – the sounds of birdsongs flood me with Spring Fever.

It is the Year of the Fire Rooster in Chinese Astrology.  Roosters have many characteristics; they strut about;  they are prone to power struggles; they are excellent sentinels. And they crow.  They actually crow throughout the day (and sometimes night) and for different reasons, but their signature trait is their morning crow. I am going to take artistic license here and say that Fire Rooster 2017 is crowing: “Time to Wake Up”.

Wake up?  To what? Ah, well I could get political … what with all the “waking up” going on, and not going on, in the US  right now. For our purposes here, however, let’ Wake Up to the fact that we are all “eaters.   Let’s “get” that as Eaters we both influence and are influenced by our  food Systems/Sources.

As a country and increasingly as a globe, we eat standardized, high yield hybrid crops for a variety of reasons. The cultivation of just a handful of crops is a subject that impacts our lives on a multiple of level – and for more in depth reading I HIGHLY recommend  Michael Pollan’s intelligent research and writings as well as investigative journalist Simran Sethi’s  Bread Wine Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love.

Today, lets adventure into a cross border food to highlight how fun food diversity is. Remember Biology 101:  we learned that biodiversity is the crucial strategy nature uses to ensure survival – whether it be plant, insect, animal, or human-animal.  Biodiversity also happens to taste good on the tongue and might as good for the planet as it is for your health. (And may even be good for your pocketbook)

Chorizo is really sausage.  It is a hearty, spice-filled food that is easy to make and  versatile.  Traditionally it was made with pork, but can be made with ground turkey, wild game, even tofu. You can vary the spices to your liking.

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We made this chorizo with Javelina meat just the other day.

 

Today we will explore two chorizo recipes from the same region in Sonora, Mexico.

Liby’s  Y  Carlos’s Chorizo Receta 

Liby was born in 1910 and was a fantastic “cocinera” (cook) all her life.  Her son Carlos learned her recipes and relayed her Chorizo Receta to me just today. Liby made it with ground pork. He has made it both pork, and also with ground turkey. I am going to start with this recipe as it is more user friendly for the modern Eater; the meats are readily available in stores and can be obtained already ground.

A few notes from Carlos:

  • Except for the garlic, which should be mashed (if you are not grinding the meat yourself) all the other spices should be dried; in chorizo the dried spices make it more flavorful.  Carlos uses the flat side of a knife to really mash the garlic cloves until they are “almost pasty”.  Then add it to the ground meat; “you really cannot add enough garlic”.
  • Add the spices one at a time to the ground meat. (versus mixing all the spices together and then adding them to the meat)
  • If you are using Turkey you might want to add more spices than the recipe amounts below to make sure it has a strong enough flavor.
  • Finding a good quality chile powder is fundamental to making great tasting chorizo. Ideally, he said,  the red chile powder is made from chile from the red chile ristras (wreaths) here in the southwest. If that is not an option, look for the best quality of red chile powder you can find.  “Quality chile is “Precious”!
  • Do not be afraid to make the chorizo a few times to really perfect it to YOUR liking.

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 lbs of ground pork or turkey

20 garlic cloves – (mashed) “Garlic makes it

2 Tablespoons white vinegar

one handful of dried mint

one handful of “cilantro de bole” (coriander seed) Crush it in a blender or molcajete

Salt and Pepper to taste

At least one handful of Red chile powder – added at the end- it will add a fantastic flavor as well as add a beautiful red color to the chorizo

Mix in each ingredient one at a time and then let it sit in the fridge over night.

Chorizo is great with eggs, potatoes, beans – and for the more urban or modern pallet put on top of pizzas, in quiches …. use your imagination!

Gracias Carlos!!! Y Gracias a Liby tambien!

Chorizo de Rancho: Chorizo de Javelina 

The recipe below is made essentially the same way – except that the Javelina meat was from the Campo (countryside) and we ground it ourselves. We used a hand grinder and added the garlic directly to the meat. No mint nor vinegar was used, but dried Mexican oregano and cilanto (crushed) were used.

Our ancestors were not squeamish. They new intimately where their food came from. Food was not taken for granted, and large amounts energy went into thinking about food and survival. They were actively engaged in hunting, foraging, planting, harvesting, preparing, and storing food. They knew exactly where their food came from as they were not just Eaters, but food producers  (or finders/foragers). You do not need to hunt your food or ingredients (although if you so I highly recommend Jesse Griffiths book Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish. 

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Add the meat little by little to the molino and grind.

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add the garlic one clove at a time and grind

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this gives you an idea of the texture

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once ground, add the handfuls of dried herbs: this is Mexican Oregano

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we grew this cilantro, which when it goes to seed is Coriander (Cilantro de Bola)

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the light is poor in the photo – but red chile was added here.

 

More ideas: Rooster Chorizo.

Backyard chicken keepers and poultry farmers alike know that in a typical batch of chicks will yield 50% males and 50% females – give or take. If you have too many roosters in one area and you will quickly find power struggles as well as a lot of crowing, so city ordinances do not allow them in most city limits. (Barking dogs are more socially acceptable). So “what to do” with roosters is a something backyard chicken keepers, who live in the city limits, have to deal with. I can’t tell you how many calls I have gotten from new chicken keepers about What to Do with their roosters. My answer: there is no Right Answer. You can find them new homes,  you can respectfully eat them. I don’t espouse one way over another way. I have done both and for differing reasons, as the years have progressed. If you decide to cull your birds, do it respectfully and skillfully (find someone to teach you if you don’t know) and consider making Rooster Chorizo – with the recipes above as your springboard.

A Few More Regional Foods:

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Fresh caught fish and “mountain oysters” being prepared for lunch

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Another version of ‘mountain oysters” cooked with lots of garlic.

 

Above I mentioned that eating in diverse ways may be good for your pocket book – it takes time and skill to catch the Fish or Javelina in the photos above (or to “gather” the mountain oysters!) but not much money.  It is also empowering to provide for oneself.

This idea of Waking Up to our food sources requires some real courage and honesty. Often because we have a lot tied up in food-lifestyle ideologies and identities. I know that my food choices have changes and evolved as I have lived and learned. I try to read and study broadly on the subject – and I fully expect some more editing in my choices as I Wake Up.

 

 

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, herbs, Javelina, foraging and hunting, Simran Sethi, Mexican ranch recipes, Michael Pollan, bio diversity, roosters "eaters", Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: | Leave a comment

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.

 

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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.

Water

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.

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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 http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org/courses-and-workshops/ or contact Dan at dorsey@dakotacom.net 

Dan Dorsey: Sonoran Permaculture Guild

Phone: 520- 624-8030

http://www.sonoranpermaculture.org

 

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

Within & Without: WILDFLOWER Honey Facial Mask (DIY)

Aunt Linda here, on this breezy Tucson morning. IMG_7283 As I write, the full moon shines powerfully in the west, as it sets. The bee yard is aglow. The beams of moonlight bounce off the hives;  alight upon the honey house roof;  shine through west facing doors and windows. The bees are hunkered down in their hives this morning. They will not launch into their foraging flights as early as they did in the summer. They are solar beings, and navigate with the sun. Being past the equinox , and with less sunlight available, their first flight begin later and their return home in the evening, earlier. They are also affected by cooler temperatures,  and are not partial to the winds we have been having. We are all, bee and human, between night and day; between summer and winter. As the cycles of flow and blossoming  constantly change, so do the stores of nectar, pollen and honey within the hive. The “inside” of a hive here in Tucson reflects the light yellow color/light aroma of Mesquite Flows from earlier in season, to the darker, stronger tasting and smelling honey of desert wildflowers of late summer and fall. The pollen comes in different colors as well. So it is that bees, in the process of their practicality, create mosaics of pollen and canvases of honey, depending on what is available to them regionally and seasonally. Below: you can see the variation of color and texture of pollen both on the bees’s “pollen baskets” on their hind legs, as well as in their “mosaic” of pollen stores within the hive. IMG_2744

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See how this desert wildflower yields a bight orange colored pollen (back legs of bee) as compared to the lighter yellow in the above photo.

By now you may be reveling in all the colors and tastes (and smells!)  of honey. Visit your local beekeeper at a farmers market  or health food store this weekend, and see how real and raw honey differs from the “honey bear honey” sold on many grocery store shelves. Bees have “honey stomachs” that they use to carry nectar back from the flowers, and into the hives to produce honey. The variation in plant nectars account for the variation on types of honey.

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Note the difference in color of the  very light Mesquite Honey (in the exquisite photo ABOVE – taken by Ben Johnson; you can learn more about this talented man at ben@benjohnsonart.com) as compared with the deeper colored Cactus Flower honey (photo below).

IMG_7793 True Fall Wildflower honey is usually an even deeper brown (bottom photo) and has higher antioxidant levels, which may be better for our skin! IMG_7218  Within and Without:  WILDFLOWER Honey Facial Mask (DIY)

Ingredients: raw honey and time How To:

This simple facial mask takes us from our own pores to the pores of plants.  As you can see in the photos,  the honey produced inside the hive literally reflects the environment around it. When we plant a garden or keep a hive, we move from being being a food consumer, to a participant in our food production. So, too, with our health products. It is wildly fun, and often more economical,  to use your own honey (or to purchase directly from a local beekeeper!!! That is a powerful act which moves you closer the “source”), than to purchase a  prepared product.

Honey has been used for skin repair and nourishment for thousands of years. Literally.  It is a humectant,  an anti-oxidant (darker, fall wildflower honey shows higher anti-oxidant levels than other types of honey,  in scientific studies),  and aroma “therapy” (is smells so, well, sweet!).

The idea here is as much about the Ritual as the Result.  Enjoy the smells and sensations WHILE applying the honey. Place the attention we so easily abdicate to the external world within once again. Our attention is rarely our own anymore, and a ritual as simple and everyday as washing our faces, can be a vehicle to practice enjoying the moment.

1) Exfoliate, however you like. This allows the properties of the honey to do their magic, without the barriers of dirt and oils.  Rinse. (Facials are not for everyday … at least not in my world.   I like to do the facial mask in the shower, on days when I wash my hair (which is not everyday) in order to utilize the humidity that the shower provides to open pores. (Water is a precious element in the desert, and I like to use Permaculture wisdom of “stacking functions” in order to lessen my water use.)    Truthfully, I do this facial mask less frequently than I should.

2) Right as you apply your conditioner, apply the honey to your face. Then wrap up your conditioning hair in a towel and step out of the shower  for about 20 minutes.  Who knows … during those magical twenty minutes you might even the feel the flights of the worker bees,  the “waggle dance” as specific foraging information is passed along,  the way the flowers tip and bend in the breeze, the smell of flower,  the sacred offering of pollen at dawn.  Once you have soaked up both the tangible and intangible properties of the fall facial mask, rinse (both face and hair, if you are doing a duo) and apply your favorite facial cream. Your skin will GLOW.

More Wild-Flower Foraging Fotos IMG_7193 The photo above shows how the hairs on a bees body gather pollen; note head on left bee. The photos  below show honey bees (and native bees) foraging in a variety of desert plants; and what “uncapped” honey looks like.   IMG_0748 IMG_1293 IMG_7804 IMG_1886 IMG_2173 IMG_7071

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Savory Cilantro

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Cilantro is easily grown in our area in the cool winter months.

Jacqueline Soule posting today on a great herb to start growing now.

Most folks think of cilantro as the quintessential Mexican herb, but it isn’t from Mexico. Cilantro is also called Chinese parsley, but it’s not from China either. The seeds of cilantro go by the name coriander, and are a popular flavor in French sauces, and now we are getting closer. Originally from southern Europe, cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) has been carried around the globe by its fans, and has made itself popular in many regional cuisines.

Say “cilantro” here in the Southwest, and most folks think of salsa. And while cilantro can get along with the heat of chilies in salsa, it quickly dies with the heat of a summer day. Therefore you will want to grow this herb in the cool winter months.

Hate the taste of cilantro? You are not alone. Scientists agree that there appears to be a genetic component to cilantro taste preference. Those that enjoy the herb find it pungent and tangy, those that don’t like it often say it tastes soapy. It’s your genes, and both experiences are equally valid.

Cilantro has been used for millennia as a culinary and medicinal herb. An infusion of coriander seed is said to soothe upset stomach, aid indigestion, as a carminative against flatulence, and was reputed to be an aphrodisiac. It was prized in Father Kino’s time as an ingredient in herbal vinegar used to preserve meat.

Planting and Care.
Cilantro is a cool season crop, and is best planted in our area in September. It should grow through the winter and into April before starting to flower, also called bolting. Leaves are more flavorful before bolting. Once bolting begins, reconcile yourself to the fact that you will soon have ample coriander seed, plus seed to plant next year. Harvest the seed if you want it, because otherwise the lesser goldfinch and doves will clean it all up.

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Coriander “seed” are technically a single seeded fruit with a dry papery husk. (Only a botanist would care!) The papery husk can be removed or left when using this herb.

Like many members of the parsley family, cilantro is a tad fussy about growing conditions. Virtually every member of this family grows best in a well-drained, sandy, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. The good news is that this makes them easy to grow in containers. Use a container a foot or more deep. Potting soil with some added sand makes a good growing media.

Cilantro is best grown from seed, because like many members of the parsley family, it does not transplant well. Seeds require darkness to germinate, thus the recommended depth is 1/2 inch deep. Cilantro can also be bought as a seedling from a nursery but be careful not to damage the roots when transplanting it.

Cilantro does best with six or more hours of winter sun. Mature plants can take frost to around 20oF, so cover if a harder frost is expected.

Keep the soil relatively moist during establishment. You can let cilantro dry a little more between watering once the plants get larger. Some people believe this makes their flavors stronger.

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Cilantro roots look like tiny carrots, and are eaten in some cultures.

Cilantro gets very lush and full with some fertilizer. However, if you amended your soil at the start you don’t need to add fertilizer. Plus, avoid fertilizing anything when frosts are a possibility. Come late February you could apply a half-strength general purpose fertilizer.

Cilantro is considered a good companion plant to anise and potatoes.

Cilantro could be justified as a garden plant if only for the job it does in attracting pollinators to the garden. Bees enjoy the nectar-rich flowers and the resulting coriander honey is prized for its flavor.

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Coriander flowers are wonderful to attract pollinators to the garden.

The seed provides the culinary herb coriander, and I harvest a great deal of it, but I also like to leave some stalks with seed behind so that flocks of lesser goldfinch will grace my garden with their bright bodies and cheerful chatter.

Harvest and Use.
Cilantro leaves tastes great when fresh but lose much flavor when dried. Freezing the leaves retains more flavor. Select healthy leaves, rinse, pat dry but leave some moisture. Chop into roughly quarter inch squares and freeze in a labeled plastic bag or other container. Use directly from the freezer.

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Cilantro chopped and sprinkled over freshly cooked tilapia.

The seeds, used as coriander, should be harvested after they begin to turn brown and when outer coat cracks, but before they drop off the plant and scatter. Cut the stem below the seed heads and place the whole thing into a paper sack to dry. To clean the seed, rub them gently to remove the outer shell. Many people skip this step.

 

Note: You can read more about growing cilantro in my latest book “Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening” (2014, Cool Springs Press, $23). I hope you will consider purchasing a copy locally at Antigone Books, Arizona Experience Store, or Rillito Nursery. Or buy from me in person (autographed copy!) after one of my next free talks for the Pima County Libraries. More at http://www.library.pima.gov/

 

Photos copyright free and courtesy of Wikimedia.  Article © 2014, Jacqueline Soule.  All rights reserved. I have received many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you are free to use a very short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact me if you have any questions. JAS avatar

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Gardening, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gifts from September Gardens–intentional and otherwise

Tia Marta here to share some culinary ideas happening now in Baja Arizona herb gardens, and to extend an invitation to visit el jardinito de hierbas at Tucson’s Mission Garden to experience the herbs in action!

Estafiate--all purpose Artemisia ludoviciana--in the herb plot, Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Estafiate–all purpose Artemisia ludoviciana–and Mexican arnica beyond (close-up of flower below), in the herb plot, Mission Garden (MABurgess photos)

Heterotheca--Mexican arnica flower (MABurgess photo)

Of all the herbs in our Southwest summer gardens—presently rejoicing in monsoon humidity and in the soppy tail of Hurricane Norbert—I think the most exuberant has gotta be Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil……..

Mrs Burns' Famous Lemon Basil, at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil, at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

In its versatility, Mrs Burns’ lemon basil provides many possibilities for the kitchen and the cosmetic chest, the first being olfactory delight. Brush its foliage lightly with your hands and you get an instant rush of enlivening yet calming lemon bouquet. Like Monarda or lavender, this lemon basil is definitely one to plant in a “moon garden” for nighttime enjoyment, or along a narrow walkway where you have to pleasantly brush up against it, getting a hit en route, always a reminder that life is good.

I wish this blog could be “scratch-and-sniff” so you could sense the sweet lemony aroma of this heirloom right now. Maybe technology can do that for us someday, but meanwhile, find a Native Seeds/SEARCH aficionado who has planted it and get yourself a sprig to sniff.   On any Saturday morning, come visit and whiff this desert-adapted basil at Mission Garden (the living history exhibit at the base of “A”-Mountain created by Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace). There, among Padre Kino’s heirloom fruit trees, in the monsoon Huerta vegetable plot, a group of herbalists known as Tucson Herbalist Collective (usually referred to as THC—like far out, righteous herbs, man, whatever) has planted a patch of traditional Mission-period medicinal and culinary herbs within reach of the fence. Lean over and touch Mrs Burns’ lemon basil for a real treat. At present (mid-September) “her” basil is a mound of dense smallish leaves and is sending up a zillion flower stalks sporting tiny white flowers. High time to snip the tops to encourage more foliage. Snippings can be used to zest a salad, to bedeck a platter of lamb chops, or to dry for a long-lasting potpourri.

Close-up view of Mrs Burns' Famous Lemon Basil flowers and foliage (MAB)

Close-up view of Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil flowers and foliage (MAB)

Mrs Burns’ lemon basil—not your typical, soft, floppy-leafed basil—is bred for desert living, with smaller, sturdier foliage. Yes, it does need water, but it can take the desert’s heat and sun. This heirloom’s history is worthy of note and relating it honors the Burns family. The person who put “Famous” into the name Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil was Dr. Barney T. Burns, one of the founders of the seed conservation organization NativeSeeds/SEARCH and an amazing seed-saver himself, whose recent passing we mourn and whose life we gratefully rejoice in. It was his mother, Janet Burns, transplanted from Canada to Carlsbad, NM, who, with a neighbor over several decades, continued to grow and select surviving, desert-hardy seed in Southwestern heat. Barney contributed her basil seed as one of the first arid heirlooms to become part of the NSS collection. Interestingly, these tiny seeds have since traveled around the globe. One year Johnny’s Seeds picked it up, grew it out for their catalog, and sent NSS a check for $600 in royalties, having profited considerably from its sale.

You can use Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil leaf in many marvelous dishes. Layer fresh leaves with slices of farmers’ market tomatoes and thin slices of feta or fontina cheese and droozle with flavored olive oil. (I like Queen Creek Olive Mill blood-orange.) And OMG—this basil makes phenomenal pesto. Include this lemon basil with roast chicken for the best lemon-chicken ever. Dry it and put it in stuffing. Add a few fresh leaves to salad for a taste surprise. Or, add a sprig to soups to add a tang. You can even bedeck a glass of V-8 or your Bloody Mary with a lemon basil sprig to fancy up your presentation.

 

Handmade soap with Mrs Burns' Lemon Basil-infused jojoba oil (MABurgess photo)

Handmade soap with Mrs Burns’ Lemon Basil-infused jojoba oil (MABurgess photo)

Once when I enthusiastically grew a 50-foot row of Mrs Burns’ basil, it produced for me bags of dried herb, inspiring some fragrant projects. I distilled the aroma-rich herb to make a gentle hydrosol spray which, I feel, carries medicinal/psychological qualities of soothing, pacifying refreshment. By first infusing this marvelous herb in jojoba oil, I create beauty bars—with Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil as the exfoliant in the soap—available at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, the Flor de Mayo booth at St Phillips Farmers Market, or at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.

In my mass planting of lemon basil, I observed bees going totally ecstatic over the profuse flowers and so wished that I had had bee boxes close-by. If any desert bee-keepers want to try a new gift to their bees and to us consumers of honey, I recommend they plant this one. Can’t think of anything finer than Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil honey!

Brush leaves of devilsclaw for a cooling sensation (MABurgess)

Brush leaves of devilsclaw for a cooling sensation (MABurgess)

Here in culinarily-exciting Baja Arizona, as we promote the uniqueness of Tucson as an International City of Gastronomy, it is fun to consider another of our unique local food plants, a wild and unlikely weed which pops up with monsoon rains in low places, including at Mission Garden and is respectfully spared there. Known as i:hug by the Tohono O’odham (pronounced eee’hook), devilsclaw or unicorn-plant by Anglos, and Proboscidea spp by taxonomists, ours is not to be confused with the herb devilsclaw of commerce, Harpagophytum procumbens native to South Africa. Our native i:hug (of which there are a few species, some yellow-flowered, some pink) is a weed of many uses.

Tohono O'odham coiled basket by Juanita Ahil with domestic long-clawed i:hug (MABurgess photo)

Tohono O’odham coiled basket by Juanita Ahil with domestic long-clawed i:hug (MABurgess photo)

It is primarily known as the fiber used by Tohono O’odham, Akimel O’odham, and N’de weavers to create the striking black designs in their coiled basketry. Otis Tufton Mason’s tome Aboriginal American Indian Basketry, first published by Smithsonian Institution in 1904, shows beautiful specimens of unicorn-plant weaving, and mentions its use by many desert people including Panamint basket-makers of Death Valley.

I have a feeling that the devilsclaws that are volunteering now at Mission Garden are the children of plants that have been grown by Native People in that very place along the Santa Cruz for many centuries.

Devilsclaw (Proboscidea) flower close-up (MABurgess photo)

Devilsclaw (Proboscidea) flower close-up (MABurgess photo)

As an ornamental, unicorn-plant or devilsclaw can be a welcome surprise of greenery in late summer into fall, making a mound of large leaves sometimes 2’ high and 3’ wide. Tucked among its spreading fuzzy branches, under velvety maple-leaf-shaped foliage, will appear tubular flowers edged in pink. Should you need a cooling touch on a hot day, just lightly brush one of its big leaves and you are instantly refreshed. The velvety look of devilsclaw foliage is actually one of the plant’s defenses against water-loss. Each leaf is covered with fine hairs. At each hair tip is a gland containing a microscopic bead of moisture. Hair causes wind-drag, slowing evaporation from the leaf surface. What evaporates from the glands acts to cools the leaf—what remains can also cool our skin, should we touch it.

Young, harvestable devilsclaw pods (MABurgess photo)

Young, harvestable devilsclaw pods (MABurgess photo)

Most interesting of all are the foods that our native devilsclaw can provide. After pollination of the flower, a small green curved pod emerges like a curled, fuzzy okra. When young, that is, under about 2 ½” long, and before the pod develops woody tissue inside, these small green unicorns can be steamed as a hot vegetable, stir-fried with onion, green chile or nopalitos, or pickled for a Baja Arizona snack.

Maturing green devilsclaw pods beyond the food stage (MABurgess)

Maturing green devilsclaw pods beyond the food stage (MABurgess)

Tangled wild devilsclaw dry pods ready to split for basketry and seed harvesting (MABurgess)

Tangled wild devilsclaw dry pods ready to split for basketry and seed harvesting (MABurgess)

When the long green pods of devilsclaw ripen, the skin will dry and slough off leaving a tough, black, woody seed-pod that splits with very sharp tips. (Beware how they can grab—they were “designed” to hitch a ride on a desert critter’s hoof or fur and thus spread the seed.) With care, and sometimes the need for pliers, open the pod and out will come little rough-surfaced seeds. If your incisors are accurate, and if you have lots of time to get into meditations on i:hug, you can peel off the rough outer seed skin. Inside is a yummy, oil-rich and fiber-rich seed that looks like an overgrown sesame seed. (In fact, scientists at one point had classified Proboscidea in the same taxonomic family as sesame but it now stands in its own.)

Black seeds of wild devilsclaw from split pod.  White inner seeds delish after peeling (MABurgess photo)

Black seeds of wild devilsclaw from split pod. White inner seeds are delish after peeling. (MABurgess photo)

White-seeded domestic devilsclaw has slightly larger seeds like giant sesames (MABurgess photo)

White-seeded domestic devilsclaw has slightly larger seeds like giant sesames.  Peeled inner seed between fingers is ready to eat. (MABurgess photo)

When I see cutesy figurines of roadrunners or Christmas ornaments made with devilsclaw pods, my first thought is, wow, what a waste of a good treat, but then gladly, I realize that this unique plant produces more than enough fresh pods and mature pods to satisfy all the purposes of Nature or hungry and/or creative humans. Give i:hug a try!

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Sonoran Crafts, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Foes or Friends ? and Foes as Friends Fudge !

Aunt Linda here:

Walking home this humid evening, and exactly as I was gazing up at the gorgeous, dark grey, monsoon clouds, a tiny insect flew right into my eye. Ironically, I had been admiring the bats just above me, swooping and eating insects with both efficiency and drama.  The tiny bug now in my eye, had somehow escaped their skill, yet flew right into my moist eye, where it became stuck, wriggled a bit, and then met its end in involuntary blinking of eyelids.

Which got me thinking about life and death in the worlds of insects.

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Over the past few days I have been watching one particular spider. Hiding itself under a similarly colored part of the plant, it is quite the hunter.  Strategically situated above the birdbath designated as a primary water sources for honeybees, it has cast its web, and quite efficiently catches and eat bees.

Now, if you find that you are a bit squeamish about these photos you are not alone.

Many in this culture have lives and palates and plates, very much disassociated from their food sources.   Much of our food had become de-animalized and is often unrecognizable from its original source. Insects have no distance between themselves and their sources of nourishment. This is perhaps one reason that we wince a bit when we see such raw feasting before us.

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I suspect that there may be more going on for us than that, however.  It is possible that we are rooting for the sweet bee. After all, it is a HONEY bee. It is fuzzy, and cute, and provides it’s own species (as well as ours)  with delicious honey!  It may be the one insect on the planet  — , (but I am not an entomologist, so please chime in with corrections or tweaks if you are one)  —   that actually enhances the flowers/plants from which it “takes” its food. It does not take a life as some insects do.  It does not harm one leaf or petal. It leaves plants “stronger” than they were before it’s visit to gather pollen and nectar.

So, perhaps, when we wince at scenes like the ones in this post, some part of us feels a metaphorical, or archetypal, pinging somewhere inside us. That of the Monster. Eating the Hero, or in this case, the Heroine.  Myths, children’s stories, and movies, are full of Monsters. And here, right in our own back yards, we find this multi-legged, relatively ugly (to all but the most arachnida-loving predator or human), weird eyed monster eating our Sweet Honey Bee.

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Ah.  But things in Life, and in stories/movies, are not always what they seem. The sweet honey bee has a sting and powerful venom that is not subtle. And spiders are amazing allies, weird appearances aside, as their diets keep overpopulation, and therefore disease, in check.  Even inside our homes, where we generally do not welcome spiders nor monsters, they are powerful allies for humans.  For several years now, I have allowed spiders to live and hunt in the corners and crannies of our old adobe home. (Being selective is obviously important; I don’t welcome black widows for example.)   Co-habitation with them is mutually beneficial. Our home provides them with a happy hunting ground with few predators, while they rid the house of SIGNIFICANT numbers of mosquitoes and flies. Getting a good night sleep without that incessant mosquito whine, is but one benefit.  For me, they are the equivalent of having a cat that is a skilled “mouser”.  Home spiders also eat fleas and flies and cockroaches.; some even eat black widows.

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I wish I had a black widow-eating -spider in one of my hives.   In nearly 20 years of being in and out of hives, this is the only one in which I have a problem. (see photo above).  But for two consecutive years,  beginning about this time of year, when I open up the hives there they are. Black bodies, egg sacks, and bees all tied up in webs.  I admit to smooshing these red-8 abdominal spiders and their egg sacs with my hive tool. Yuck. Having a spider to do Black Widow Patrol for me would be so much nicer.

So, sometimes foes are foes; and friends are friends.  Othertimes, who/what we think of as foes are actually friends. When we can adjust our focus to include that possibility, now that is when the world can open up.

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Foes as Friends Fudge: 

(makes five thick fudge rounds or 9 thin ones)

This fudge, I have to say, may be a Super Food.  It’s ingredients that are so healthy, that this fudge might even be considered medicinal.

Ingredients:

The Must Have ingredients

– 1/2  cup refined coconut oil, melted

– 1/3 cup of (local) honey (healthier than sugar; and honors insects)

– 1/2 cup cacao (unsweetened)

– 2 tablespoons almond butter (play around with this; try peanut butter)

–  a few tablespoons of fresh mint and a few mint flower (leave the lion share of flowers on the plant for bees)

Optional Ingredients:

– 3 Tablespoons Goji berry powder or berries (Goji Berries are also Wolf Berries, which grow right here in the South West and are considered a power food)

– 3 Tablespoons Cacao nibs

How to:

– Put all the ingredients (except the nibs) in an electric mixer (I used as Cuisinart but am sure you could use one of those submersible mixers and mix it al right together in a bowl) and blend.

– Place parchment paper in a cupcake or muffin pan; or if you want squares, place parchment in a pan. Pour mixture into the parchment/pan and freeze for 15 minutes for thinner rounds and 20 for thicker.

– Refrigerate.  Left at room temperature these will melt a bit.

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Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Gardening, Sonoran Native | 4 Comments

Savor the Southwest Portable Pies

Aunt Linda here….

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It is predawn in the Old Pueblo, summer constellations flicker overhead, the early morning mating songs of birds twirl their way to my ears. Right now the air cool and dry. In a matter of hours it will heat up to triple digits. Those who live in the desert a resilient sort. We live with significant temperatures swings all year long, fascinating animals (I saw a Gila Monster June 1st), and lots of spiny cacti, all of which we find beauty in.

I like my food to be resilient as well. Which makes me think of pie. It can be savory or sweet., or both. It can be served hot or cold. It is forgiving in what it allows the pie maker to do. It can be frivolous or serious; nutritious or not. Its flavors can reflect family and cultural identities and preferences. Pie does it all.

Which makes me curious about who the First Pie Maker might have been. The particular “who” remains a mystery. After reading up on pie, it seems to me that there were likely many many many First Pie Makers in nearly every culture known to cook and experiment with food. It is, after all, quite simple: the creating of dough, or pastry, and then filling it with regional, seasonal foods.

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“New World Resiliency Pie”   Being inspired by the prickly pear pads that radiate with that fresh spring green color, (photo) right now. I decided to make a pie, ancient and not from this continent, with a New World Flare. New World Pie Fillers:  nopalitos (fresh prickly pear pad), chiltepin, chocolate. (Talk about Resiliency, each of the foods above have survived centuries. One example: Coprolites (human droppings) found in caves reveal that humans have been the relatives of the chiltepin for thousands of years! )

 

The First Pie Maker was not a Southern American, despite many Americans strong cultural identity about pie. Read even a little bit about pie and you quickly find intensely personal accolades about it. For those who “get” pie, there is a love for it that is both reverential and sensuous. It includes a deep feeling of being “nurtured”, pie often being equated with Grandma’s Love. It is clear that human beings have been feeling nurtured by what we now refer to as pie, for a lot longer than the United States has been a country.

One first version of pie, came from Egypt, around 9500 B.C.  That surprised me.  It places the first pies all the way back to the Neolithic Period. The rustic pies were made from dough made from oat, rye, barley, and wheat – and then filled them with honey! The pies were then baked over hot coals. There is no doubt in my mind that their flavor was fabulous – what with the sweet of the honey and the smoky taste of having been naked in coals. By the time the Pharoh’s bakers got into the action (by 1300 BC-1200-something BC) nuts and fruits were added to the honey “pies”. Ramsey the II’s tomb shows etchings of this.   The beekeeper in me loves this! Remember that the Egyptians were prolific beekeepers, floating their hives up and down the Nile to follow the honey flows.

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“The Pharohs’ Honey Nut Pie” (add fruit of your choice)

As epochs continued, and cultures evolved the fillings included meats of all kind, as well fish, muscles, and oysters; dairy products became another beloved filler.   Human are creative and the number and variety of pies world wide is enormous. They include Indonesia’s “panada”;, Jamaica’s “patty” Malasia’s Keripap (curry puff), Nigeria’s “meat pie” and on and it goes. Throughout Latin America and Mexico you find the Empanada. Sweet meat emapanadas are made for Christmas in Mexican tradition.. At the ranch, we make Calabasa (squash) with Pilloncillo (a brown cane sugar) Calabasas.

As much as I value a good, slow cooked meal, it is just too hot in Tucson presently to  be near heat for very long. So I decided to try to create a version of pie that was smaller and thus quicker to bake. It is also more portable. And infinitely flexible: you can eat them warm or cool, pack them for a hike, lunch, bike or car trip, kids lunch. They can be fancy, humble, or decadent.  Create great tasting pies from foods you are most passionate about. Create them from leftovers. The two photos above show you how versatile the ingredients can be.

Savor the Southwest Portable Pies

INGREDIENTS: for 9 to 12 portable pies

All you need in the way of equipment for these joyous little pies is a standard 12 cup, muffin pan and some parchment cupcake-paper inserts for your muffin pan.

+++  Pie Dough or Pie Crust of your choice.

Make the favorite family recipe. Investigate a new one. There are a plethora of recipes available in these food savy days, vegan options, full fat ones, raw ones. I used a store bought crust for these tiny pies. While I have made crust in the past, and value making it, I needed something quicker this week. There are a number of buying options these days. I found one at my local health food store, whose ingredients I felt comfortable with.

I feel dough-headed (brain fog) and lethargic if I eat a lot of dough, so I minimized it in these recipes – but you can and should use as much or as little as your would like.  Fill the sides! Cover the tops (remember to slice air holes). Add decorations with the left over dough.  Remember resilience, and you can practice it in the act of making pies. I used the equivalent of 1, 9″ pie crust; but if you would like to have more pie crust to the pies, make enough for two 9″. Also, using the parchment is completely optional. I used it because I travel a lot and I thought the pies would travel better, too. I think the tiny pies might be more beautiful for your table if you don’t use the paper, and if you use dough for the whole pie, including sides and top. In that case, after unrolling your dough (you’ll do this whether you make it yourself or buy it), place it on a lightly flowered surface, and roll with a rolling pin, to about 1/8′. Using a biscuit or cookie cutter cut 12, 4” circles for the bottom of the pie and 12, 3″ circles for the top, or for as many pies as you would like to make.

+++  3 eggs

+++  Imagination and Play-full-ness as you select your Other Ingredients.  We humans can be a tad on the serious side. Too much seriousness undermines resiliency. A spirit of play help us strengthen resilience.  So allow your spark to guide you, as I did in the New World Pie above.

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Fresh egg yolks.

 

The Basic Recipe/How to:

Place the muffin parchment papers in the muffin tins, or gently handling the dough, press dough into the muffin cups. Break the 3 eggs into a small bowl (preferably one with a pouring spout) and beat with a fork until combined.

Divide your ingredients to the bottom crusts, and then pour about two tablespoons of the egg to the pie. Add the top crust, or weave a top crust. Once you have the pies filled, and topped with crust, refrigerate the muffin tin for 30 minutes. Preheat Your oven to 375 F – and when the small pies have sufficiently chilled, bake them for 20-30 minutes. The time will vary from oven to oven, and from the types of pies.

For the New World  Resiliency Pie, I added prickly pear, chilpetin cheese (see my January post for the recipe), and the 2 T of beaten egg.

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I then tried a New World Dessert Pie – and filled the pie with  Chocolate and  Chiltpein Cheese (like a French pastry, but with the chile cheese). Note there is crust just at the bottom.

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Then the 2 T of egg was added, and the crust on top. I did this with the Pharohs’ Honey Nut Pie. As well

 

 

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The “before” baking Portable Pies – you can see the pirckly pear pads peeking through. The “after” photo is at the top of this post.

 

 

I was surprised how VERY fun it was to think up names for pies!

Here are a few:

Bye Bye Mrs. Neolithic Pie

Pico de Gallo Pie (hmm there goes the rooster – rooster pie?)

Portable, Picante, Prickly Pear Pad Pies

New World Resilience Pies

 

Feel free and post some of your pie variations and names!

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Welcome to Savor the Southwest ! Savoring Honeycomb

Blog Post # 1

This is Tia Linda, one of several “food friends” who will be collaborating on this blog, and the lucky soul who gets to welcome you to Savor the Southwest, a blog Savoring the wild plants, herbs, and animals that grow here in the Southwest.  The focus for my part of the blog is to converse with you about the animals and insects that we live among.  You might already be raising animals, or may flirting with the idea.  Some of my posts may be “notes from the hive”. Some will come from the corrals;  some from the coops. And all will have an offering of some relevant food or recipe.

This week we greet Halloween,  Dia de los Muertos, and less well known, from the Celts Countries, Samhain.   Samhain  means the “End of Summer” and is considered the years third and final harvest. It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st.  Originally a “Feast of the Dead” it was celebrated by leaving food offerings on altars and lighting candles. Extra chairs were set out as an invite to the spirits of loved ones to come home while the veil between worlds thinned.   Symbols at Samhain included apples, Jack-o-lanterns, and gourds, among others.

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“Apis Mellifera Becomes Apis Calavera”  (a quilt by me).  On display at Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery here in Tucson; proceeds will be split equally between Raices (to support one of our best local art venues) and Xerces Society (for quality bee research and protection)

Dia de los Muertos, whose roots are traced back to an Aztec Festival, is celebrated throughout modern Mexico as well as the Southwest.  Favorite foods and beverages of departed loved ones are placed at private alters or gravesides. In the spirit of both Dia de los Muertos and Samhain (and Asian and Afirican cultures have similar rituals)  my offering this year extends beyond the human family to the insect world. Because of my love of bees, and because they are so crucial to our food supply, I am Remembering the vast number of honeybees colonies that have died in the past few years of Colony Collapse Disorder. By setting out honeycomb at my beehive alter, I am both welcoming them home and acknowledging their place – very significant place – in the interconnectedness of all things.

Image                                             So the first food offering to you from this blog is:  Honeycomb.  I offer it both as a food of interest,  as well as to the departed bees that may visit my alter. If you have never eaten honey straight from the honeycomb,  you have a real treat in store.  It is the purest form of honey that we can eat. It is not processed by human hands at all. In fact, the last “hands” to touch it were those of the worker bees, as they placed the wax capping over hexagonal cells holding the honey.

What do you do with the wax? You can swallow it;it will pass right through your system. Or just spit it out. Some people like to chew it like gum. Find a local beekeeper and taste honey from the plants/trees that live in your environment. Mainstream markets will be unlikely to have comb honey, so visit your farmers markets and local health food stores. And consider getting to know the local beekeepers around you.  More than that,  consider becoming a beekeeper yourself!  It will  transform you from being “just” a food consumer, into being a food producer – even if you keep just one hive. Small scale beekeepers play a powerful role these days … but that is for a future post!

Bye for now.

Categories: Beekeeping, Gardening, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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