Gardening

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

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

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

Easy to Grow – Caraway

Jacqueline Soule (Gardening with Soule in the land of El Sol) this week to share a wonderful plant to raise this winter.

Caraway has a long history of use as both a culinary and medicinal plant. Evidence of the seed has been found among Mesolithic (middle stone age) food remains, indicating that it has been used by humans for over 10,000 years. Caraway is also mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medicinal manuscript from 1500 B.C.E. Caraway was used in Roman cooking, and Olde English cooking as well, since it is listed in the “Form of Curry,” a cookbook written by Richard the II’s cook in 1390 C.E.

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The entire caraway plant is useful. Leaves, roots, flowers, and seed are all edible. As a spice, primarily the seed is used; by Austrians in beef dishes; by Germans to season pork; by Hungarians in goulash; and by Swedes and Norwegians to flavor their bread. Caraway seed is also tasty in eggs, cheeses, baked goods, pastries, fish dishes, or with many types of steamed vegetables, in pickles, or in fruit dishes such as compote, apple sauce, or some chutneys. I mix caraway seed or leaves with tofu and stir-fry for a pleasantly different flavor. Others use the leaves raw in either green or fruit salads, or in soups and stews. The roots may be eaten raw, steamed, or added to soups and stews.

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With all these wonderful uses of the plant, you may wonder if caraway will grow in the southwest. The answer is a resounding yes! Start caraway seeds in October in your winter garden. Or plant the seedlings any month without a freeze. If you intend to harvest the roots, be sure that you keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season, otherwise they can be bitter. Caraway can be grown in the yard, in the oasis area of a xeriscape. It also does well in containers at least two feet deep.

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Ethnomedicinally, caraway is used to promote digestion, stimulate the appetite, and relieve cases of diarrhea. In most cases it is prepared as an infusion, and has a slightly sweetish taste to it. There is no known indication of toxicity, but all plants contain defensive compounds to deter pests, thus it is best consumed in small doses. People with food allergies to other members of the carrot family, such as dill or cilantro, should also avoid caraway.

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Caraway is easily grown, a prolific seed producer, and a delicious addition many dishes. Adding some caraway to your garden or yard is a green action. It will reduce, at least a little bit, importation of caraway seed from eastern Europe, the principle growers. It can also add a wonderful new flavor dimension to your food.

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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 courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Beekeeping, dye plant, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Mexican Food, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Glorious Germander

Teucrium chamaedrys 008Believe it or not, autumn has officially arrived.  Once it no longer gets into the triple digits, it is time to think about planting perennial plants.  Get them in the ground in fall – and then they will have a fighting chance to become well established before the heat of next summer hits.

Teucrium chamaedrys and Chrysactinia mexicanaA list of landscape herbs can go on extensively, but I do want to mention one that is often overlooked – germander.  Originally brought here in Father Kino’s time, germander was originally used as a medicinal, but it can also be used in cooking.  Like so many other herbs that come to us from the eastern edge of the Mediterranean (along with bay laurel, sage, rosemary, thyme, and more).  On their native rocky hillsides of Greece and Turkey, these herbs receive rain only in the winter, and are thus excellently drought adapted for our region.

 

There are around 100 species of germander, but most commonly used is the wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys).  This species has tiny, bright green, rounded leaves. The creeping germander is the same species, but has been selected over time to be a low ground cover (Teucrium chamaedrys var. prostratum).

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When it comes to landscaping, I favor germander over rosemary because it does add a graceful note of bright, foresty kind of green while rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has bluish green and needle-like leaves.  When it comes to fragrance – I appreciate both species.  Both germander and rosemary have many oil glands in their leaves.

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But then there are the flowers!  Germander flowers are far more fragrant, almost honey scented, like sweet alyssium.  And yes they are bee pollinated, by both European honey bees and by our native solitary bees.

Both rosemary and germander can be used in roasting potatoes or to add flavor to meat dishes.  I use either one to scrub down the grill prior to cooking – depends on which needs pruning.  In ancient Greece, hunters would field dress their meat with germander, often found growing wild in the hills.  (It may have anti-microbial properties.)  Germander is often found in abundance in the wild since, like most herbs, the essential oils render it unpalatable to wildlife.  I won’t promise it is rabbit proof, but those “wascally wabbits” don’t bother mine.

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There are many herbs that can be used to create a beautiful, low-water-using, edible, Southwest landscape.  Stay tuned to Savor the Southwest and I will keep discussing them here.  I hope to have my own blog up and running soon as well.

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 Guide to Gardening in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico,” (Cool Springs Press, $26).

© This article is 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 are courtesy of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, Calflora, and Pixabay, and may not be used.

 

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Wild Satisfaction: A Simple Sandia (Watermelon)-Pomegranate Margarita; (and for the Intrepid Sipper, Chiltepin)

 

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Savor Sister Linda here on this beautiful, lightly drizzling, evening in the Old Pueblo. It is nearly time for the Wild Chile harvest in the mountains in Sonora. The rains have brought life back to the very parched land. I have to admit that I had begun to loose faith that it would ever rain, even though I am generally friendly with cycles in life and seasons.  It is so hard to watch the land get so dry that even it shows it’s ribs;  and not just the hoofed creatures that depend upon it.  Now,  because of all the reconditioning and regenerating brought by the rains, we’ll soon be harvesting chiltepin.  I’ll be be musing and meandering in this blog about the rare Wild Chiles,  and how they are harvested, dried, and used – and likely about how darned transformative it is to simply be in their midst. Today I am in the mood for something simple and satisfying to kick off the season. I look around my kitchen at the red, ripe fruits of late summer/early fall and have decided to craft an adult beverage. And because I always have chiltepin on hand, I added it to the mix of ingredients as well.

I am not at all sure how smart it is to write after sampling a few versions of this Sandia Margarita, but here goes. This Recipe is for 2 people and served in smallish glasses. It takes about five minutes to prepare.

Combine the follow ingredients:
1 cup fresh watermelon
2 Tablespoons fresh pomegranates
Juice of one fresh lime – or two if you like lime flavor.
1.5 OZ Tequila Silver (this amount is a starter amount – wax and wane as you desire. Use good quality tequila, you’ll feel better in the morning)
1 chiltepin
Blend, and blend it well.  Otherwise you’ll have glumps of sandia/watermelon which is distracting; and the seeds of pomegranate will stick in your teeth. Instead: blend it all until satisfyingly smooth. 
Put into beautiful glass and garnish as you would like. I garnished one glass with just pomegranate seeds. Another with Pomegranate and one crushed chiltepin on top.
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Natures Beauty ….

 

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Scoop put one cups worth of watermelon …

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…. place watermelon in blender.

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Add 2 Tablespoons of pomegranate seeds and juice of one fresh lime.

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1.5 Silver Tequila. 

 

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Blend and Garnish as you would like; pomegranate seeds add color and a nice crunch.

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Add one crushed chiltepin for a surprisingly satisfying “heat”  that  balances out the cooling property of the watermelon.

 

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

Blessed Monsoon Weeds!

Yikes–look what has happened all around us!

Verdulagas — purslane — exploding in the garden. (photo by ChadBorseth, NativeSeedsSEARCH store mgr.)

With our recent record-breaking rainfall in Baja Arizona, weeds continue to go rampant. Now, what to do with them? Tah-dah–Eat them before they eat up all your garden space!

Tia Marta here—admitting I actually don’t believe in weeds at all—Weeds are gifts to be used, relished gastronomically and nutritionally, admired as amazing strategists,… appreciated!  Weeds are much-maligned plants with a different way of surviving than our regular “garden variety” plant.  They know genetically how to hustle to “make hay while the sun shines.”  So if you need to deal with a bounty of weeds coming on like gang-busters in your garden or nearby in the desert, I’d like to share some fun ways to consume and internalize them.  If we are what we eat, perhaps their “energies” may be a form of speed on some ethereal plane.

Fresh young quelites  (Amaranthus palmeri), aka pigweed and carelessweed, popping up with summer rains–ready to pick!  (MABurgess photo)

Quelite, weed of many names– careless weed, pigweed, Amaranthus palmeri, known as “rain spinach” or Juhukia i:wagi to the Tohono O’odham–is popping up in great green swaths wherever rainwater has pooled. It grows faster than one can imagine. The scourge of cotton farmers, it is, on the flip side, a positive boon to traditional harvesters—Native, Hispanic, African or Asian. As climate change digs its teeth into desert environments, our native Amaranth “weed” holds great potential as a rapid-responder “dry-land” crop for the future.

When flower stalks of Amaranthus palmeri emerge, leaves toughen. Be sure to harvest only the tender leaves. (MABurgess photo)

Mature, drying Amaranthus palmeri image taken at Mission Garden. The seedhead is spiny but contains nutritious seeds! (MABurgess photo)

The nutrition of Amaranth, our rain spinach, is way up at the top of the chart. Consider that 100g of young shoots provides 42 calories packed with 3-4 grams of protein, 3mg iron, and 4-11 mg of available calcium.

If your Amaranth patch matures faster than your harvesting schedule allows, don’t fret–all is not lost. As long as there are soft, non-fibrous leaves to pick, they are fair game for steaming or stir-frying as greens or quelites. Later, when the arching spike of spiny seed capsules matures and dries, you can harvest seeds (carefully with gloves) and winnow the tiny grains in the breeze. THEY are fabulously nutritious too. Amaranth seed is 15-18% protein—far higher than most cereals. They can be cooked as hot cereal or ground into flour– full of healthy, gluten-free carbs and fiber. Amaranth weed seed baked into bread adds a pleasing and healthy crunch. If you want quantity and lack patience to harvest wild carelessweed, the NativeSeedsSEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, has grain-amaranth for cooking or milling, also popped amaranth for adding to baked goods or confections for Dia de Los Muertos. [More to come on that topic in early November.]

Caution:  Here’s a trick plant that may look like Amaranth but it is a perennial that leafs out with summer rains, especially in the Tucson Mtns area–Ambrosia cordifolia–not good for eating–better for soil stabilization. (MABurgess photo)

Delicious and healthy grain amaranth and popped amaranth, available at the NativeSeedsSEARCH store for cooking.

Another “weed” that is probably at this very minute creating mats of green in your garden is verdulaga. Traditional Tohono O’odham know it as ku’ukpulk, and some gardeners refer to the same puffy-leafed ground-sprawler as purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It can be added fresh to any salad for a juicy, succulent texture and tang. And check the nutrients, especially if your body needs available calcium. Every 100g (a little less than ½ cup) of verdulagas provides 0.3mg iron, 19mg calcium, high omega-3-fatty acids and lots of vitamins A&C. Rinse your verdulagas in a bowl of water, then toss the water back in the garden where the many teensy seeds that have dropped to the bottom can go for a “second round.”

Caution:  Another “trick plant” is this purslane- look-alike called “horse purslane”-Trianthema portulacastrum. It will taste a little soapy if you try it. (MABurgess photo)

Picked and washed true verdulaga/purslane, ready to make into pesto (MABurgess photo)

Here is an idea for Monsoon Pesto made with tasty weeds! Pestos of course can be made with almost any greens—e.g. with kale in the winter—so why not use what Nature provides locally and now?  Both amaranth or verdulaga can be used in your favorite pesto recipe for a healthy and tasty Southwest vacation from basil. [A word of caution: If you harvest from the wild, be sure to collect at least 50 feet from a roadway, or upstream from any road along an arroyo. Know your plants when harvesting!]

 

Here is a SUPER-NUTRITIOUS SONORAN DESERT MONSOON-WEED-PESTO RECIPE:

Ingredients:
2+ cups well-packed, fresh, washed Amaranth or Purslane greens
2-3 cloves heirloom garlic
¼ cup pinyones shelled (pine nuts), or any other fresh nutmeats, or soft seeds such as pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2/3 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt or ancient Utah salt, and ground pepper, to taste (all optional)
½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Directions:
In a food processor, combine wild weed greens (Amaranth or verdulaga), garlic, and pinyones, and process on the  “pulse” setting until finely chopped.
With processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the texture is smooth and fine.
Add the cheese and pulse briefly just to combine ingredients.
Taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed. (It may not need any.) Give one last pulse after seasoning.
(Pesto can be stored in frig or freezer.)
Serve on crackers with cream-cheese, in pasta, on pizza made with local white Sonora wheat flour for another local twist, or simply spread on good bread for a fantastic snack, as seen below!

Monsoon Weed Pestos–The top row is Purslane Pesto with Pine Nuts. The darker green is “Pigweed & Pepita Pesto” made with pumpkin seeds–(here served on harvest seed bread squares)–Both Weed Pestos are SO delicious (MABurgess photo)

As you taste either of these nutritious weed pestos with eyes closed, you can SAVOR the wild Southwest bouncing back into its burgeoning monsoon mode and relish the desert’s rhythms. This is Tia Marta’s wish for you– Happy weeding and eating your way through monsoon season!

Amaranthus palmeri seedheads growing too tall for a selfie –but soon ready to harvest for seed

(You can read about Winter/Spring Weeds in my blog from February 14, 2014. Interestingly, the weeds that flourish with our Sonoran Desert summer rains in the heat are totally different from the species that sprout in winter with cool/wet conditions here. The metabolism of winter vs. summer weeds involves totally different biochemical strategies—tho’ they are all similarly nutritious.)

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mexican Food, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flowers of the Sun

My niece, who gets married this week, chose the sunflower as her wedding flower.  I decided this is a great topic for a Savor the Southwest article, because in our corner of the world, monsoon season is a great time to plant sunflowers.

Helianthus pixabay 004

 

Sunflowers are all-American. Seriously, they first occurred only in the New World, but once “discovered” were rapidly spread by humans and planted around the world. There are over 70 different species of sunflower (Helianthus) – and while the annual garden sunflower is best known, the number of perennial species (such as the “Jerusalem” artichoke or sunchoke) far outnumber the annuals.

Helianthus tuberosus 2192048

Interestingly, the perennials appear to be one of the first semi-domesticated plants on this continent. Early tribes in North America were hunter-gatherers and had regular migration routes. Roots of the perennial sunflowers were dug for food as the clan hiked along, and smaller rootlets were replanted further along the path, helping ensure that there would be food to harvest next year. (Women are fairly smart that way.)

 

Helianthus pixabay 005

 

Natives didn’t ignore the annual species, especially once they started cultivating other crops, such as corn, beans, and squash. Sunflower isn’t one of these Three Sisters because unlike corn, sunflower doesn’t like beans climbing its tall stalks, and it makes a tad too much shade for squash to grow around its base. Guess you could say it doesn’t play well with others, although it does grow quite well with other sunflowers.

Helianthus pixabay 007

Sunflower seeds rich in protein and contain roughly 30 percent oil, a substance once hard to come by in Native diets, thus their popularity. The Hopi prized tceqa – a variety they selected over time for a striking blue-black hull color. This coloring was used as a dye for baskets and later wool. The Tarahumara cultivate a variety with all white hulls. The Havasupai sunflower has black seeds that are much smaller than most other sunflowers, but it has many flowers per plant.

Helianthus pixabay 008

Grow Annual Sunflowers

Plant seeds of the annuals (Helanthus annus) in the spring or with the summer rains. Plant them1 inch deep and 12 inches apart. Plants can grow 6 to 8 feet tall so if you live in a windy area, plan on staking them. I favor planting in large blocks rather than single rows. Site them in full sun to afternoon shade. Keep seeds moist while sprouting, but encourage deep roots by deep, infrequent watering once they have 6 to 10 true leaves.

Helianthus pixabay 001

Harvest
It’s best to allow seeds to dry in the flower heads. Cut the heads off the plants and bring them inside to dry (out of reach of the birds). Once dry, rub out seeds and winnow off chaff.

Helianthus seed head pixabay 020

Enjoy
Seeds can be eaten raw or roasted. I enjoy them on long drives, cracking them in my teeth and spitting the hulls into a handy “hull cup” carried for the purpose. The hulls are a bit tough for my compost, but gradually become detritus when placed under shrubs in the landscape.

Helianthus bread pixabay 021

Seeds (sans hulls) are wonderful ground and mixed with chickpeas for a sunflower humus. (Incidentally the Pima County Seed Library is featuring chickpeas as their seed of the year. Look for several Savor Sister presentations at your local library this fall.) Seeds can also be mixed into various cookie and bread recipes. Due to their high oil content, sunflower seeds do not make a good “flour.”

humus with sunflower seeds pixabay 017

Seeds make delicious and nutritious sunflower sprouts that can be used in salads, especially welcome when greens are in short supply in the garden.

Helianthus sprouts pixabay 015

Some more about the name (because I love playing with words). Helianthus is from the Greek helios or sun. The Spanish common name, mirasol, comes from their habit of following the sun with their massive shining flowers (the better to entice pollinators to visit). And finally, in case you didn’t know, Soule is pronounced like sol, which is why I adopted “Gardening with Soule, in the land of El Sol” as my motto – honoring that powerful orb in the sky we rely on for life.

Helianthus pixabay 012

 

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 in this article courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Dye, dye plant, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native | 1 Comment

Fig Pecan Mole Dulce Chutney

Hello, Amy here excited about figs and sweet corn this steamy Tucson summer.

We’ve cooked figs before, and I’m going to make Carolyn’s fig bars next. But normally my preference is for savory food, so today I made a savory, sweet, sour, spicy chutney. I started with gooey ripe black mission figs from my Mom’s tree.

This young fig tree at the community garden is making fruit this year, but with the water harvesting earthworks you can see in the background of this photo, I can’t wait to see what it does next year…

After a rinse, I trimmed the stems from the figs and chopped them. Then I chopped a bit of onion and garlic.

I softened the onion and garlic in butter, then added the figs and a splash of water only as needed to keep it from burning.

Apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt and black pepper wasn’t enough spice, so I added Mole Dulce powder.

Staying indoors in the heat of the day, I’ve been organizing my pantry, removing the stems from dried herbs and shelling nuts.

A sprinkle of pecans gave the chutney a contrasting texture. (By the way, it is gone by now. No need to process jars.)

 

Spicy Corn and Tomatoes

I had a few ears of sweet corn and a basket of cherry tomatoes from Tucson CSA/Crooked Sky Farms. First I grilled the shucked ears to give them a toasty flavor and color. On this rainy day, I used a cast iron grill pan on my indoor stove, but it would be better outside, of course. I cut the kernels from the cobs and froze the cobs for making soup stock.

In a frying pan, I sizzled up some cumin seeds in oil, followed by onion and garlic. Corn, halved tomatoes, turmeric, red chile and salt went in the pan and came together quickly over high heat. You can never go wrong with fried corn.

A pork chop in the grill pan completed the meal.

Fig Chutney with Pecans and Mole Dulce

1 cup (packed) chopped ripe figs

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon butter

Dash of salt

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder, available here

2 tablespoons pecans pieces

Soften the onion and garlic in butter. Add the figs and cook until softened, adding a tablespoon of water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt, vinegar and Mole Dulce. Finish with pecans.

Enjoy!

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, heirloom crops, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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