Kino herb

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.

 

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

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.

Porophyllum gracile Benth., "odora" -9
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.
porophyllum ruderale glands wiki free
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

Pucker Up for Pickled Lemons

Jacqueline Soule here, on a lovely spring day, subbing for “Savor Sister” Martha who usually posts the second week of the month.   As I write this some people are celebrating Passover and others are getting ready for Easter Sunday.  Both holidays celebrating renewal and new life.  Very appropriate because the entire Northern Hemisphere is experiencing spring and new life.
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In my garden, the citrus trees are developing tiny young fruit from the fragrant flowers of last month.  The older lemons from last year are all fully ripe and ready for harvest.  I always wait to harvest my lemons at the point when they fall into my hand with the gentlest tug.  Now they are fully flavorful and astonishingly juicy.  Tart, yes, but barely acidic at all.

Since my lemon trees produced prodigiously this year I am working using all these lemons in new and fun ways.  In December 2016 I wrote about making lemony alcoholic drinks, In March 2017 Carolyn wrote about lemon pie.  Time to look at another lemon use – salted lemons.
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Salted lemon, also called lemon pickle, is a condiment common in South Asian and North African cuisine, including Moroccan tagines and Cambodian ngam nguv, a chicken soup.  Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of salt, lemon juice, and water.  Generally spices are included.

Create.
Lemon – you can do this with only one lemon, or with many.  Rinse off the lemons.
Salt – use canning, sea or kosher salt, not iodized.
Jars with lids – you can sterilize these, but no one in the rest of the world does so.  Your choice.

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Slice the lemons, making a criss-cross through the center, but not cutting all the way through. Just enough to open them up.  Put lemon in jar and add salt.  Plan on at least a 1/2 cup of salt for a quart jar.  Press the lemons down as you go, packing them in tight. Pressing helps release the juice that helps preserve them.

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Choose if you wish to add spices – or not.  Any combination of dried herbs and spices will do – get creative!  I experimented with coriander seed, cinnamon bark, bay leaf, peppercorn, cloves, cardamom pods and sumac.  If you use fresh herbs, use a full cup of salt per quart jar, to ensure the brine is strong enough to kill botulism bacteria.

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Shake the jar once a day for the first few days to help dissolve salt and get any air bubbles to the surface.  The jar should be at least 3/4 full of juice by day three.  If not, be sure to add liquid – either lemon juice or water.

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I add a layer of plastic wrap between salty mixture and the metal lid to help keep the lid from rusting.

Wait.  Lemons are best allowed to pickle at room temperature for at least a month. Longer is fine.
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Use. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (both zest and pith) that is most valued. The flavor is mildly tart but intensely lemony.  Pieces of lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness.
The lemons may be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish.  Slip some under the skin of a whole chicken for roasting, rub diced over a piece of fish prior to grilling, or coarsely chop and mix in a cold whole grain salad (a twist on taboli).  The rind may be used with or without the pulp.  But don’t throw away the pulp!  The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used.
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Notes:
Salt.  Use non-iodized salt.  This can be kosher salt, sea salt, or pickling salt.  The iodized salt experiment resulted in harsh flavor and a slippery texture.
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Label.  Always label what you have!  Include the date!  Sharpies write on glass and are easily erased with some rubbing alcohol.
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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 and they may not be used, borrowed, shared, etc.

Categories: Cooking, fruit, Kino herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Savor the Seeds

Savor Sister Jacqueline Soule here this week to discuss seeds.  Seeds to eat and seeds to plant.

March has been a month of seeds for me.  I got out my boxes of seed for spring planting, All American Selections sent me some seed to try, I harvested bags of barrel cactus fruit for the seed, and I spent 2 long days at the Tucson Festival of Books, in the Science of Food tent, handing out samples of gluten-free mesquite muffins, and talking about the Desert Legume Program (DELEP).

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Mesquite pods are easy to harvest and grind (with the seeds inside) to make a flour or meal that is a good source of protein.  (recipe below) We were handing out samples to spread the word about DELEP’s mission, which is to acquire and preserve seed of legumes native to the arid and semiarid lands of the world; to learn more about the nature and utility of these unique species; to share legume germplasm; and to aid in the preservation and conservation of desert legume biodiversity.  Volunteers meet once a month, September through May on every 2nd Wednesday from 9 to noon.  The cadre of volunteers assists with seed processing and storage, and we welcome new volunteers!

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Barrel cactus seed processing and use were discussed in earlier Savor the Southwest blogs.

seed library

Did you know that there is a Seed Library in the Pima County Public Library?  The Seed Library is a collection of open-pollinated and heirloom seeds that you can borrow from the Library and grow at home (or in a community garden!).  All you do is check the seeds out of the library using your library card.  They would appreciate if you would later share the seed of what you grew, but it isn’t a requirement.  The idea behind this seed bank is that the best seed to grow in our area is the offspring of whatever grew and thrived in our area.

04 seed harvesting 1508572 (c) JASoule one time use only to CSP

Seed of epazote, canagria, and garlic chives.

Save Seed
It is easy to save seed of annuals, wildflower, vegetables, and herbs. The key is to  collect the seed just as it matures and before it starts to drop. You especially want to keep an eye on seed in pods that dry and shatter to disperse seed.

Stalks of Pods – snip off the stalks and invert them into large paper bags. Fold the bags shut. Now when seedpods shatter, the seeds are trapped in the bag for next year’s sowing.

Seedheads – often these seedheads simply break off in your hand. Hold a container below them as you break them off.

For future sowing, you don’t need to clean the seed, although purists like to.  At DELEP we clean seed for long-term storage.  For seeds you use as a herb (like coriander or dill seed), you will need to clean the seed. Kitchen colanders and sieves are useful.

Label your seeds!  Penstemon seed and poppy seed look remarkably similar in a paper bag 2 years later.

04 seed save of penstemon 0800451 (c) JASoule one time use only to CSP

Looking Ahead
In my book Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico I mention that now is the time for USDA zones 10, 9 and 8 gardeners to sow seed of hot-season greens like amaranth, New Zealand spinach, purslane, and Malabar spinach (a perennial vine).  Don’t forget the heat-loving herbs basil, epazote, and perilla. For Zones 7 and 6 gardeners, this is the time to plant cool-season vegetables from seed, like radish, arugula, and European spinach. Plant slow-growing members of carrot family, including parsnip, carrot, fennel, parsley, and dill. In zones 5 and 4, you will plant these in May.

Bailyea multiradiata_4341

Gluten-free Mesquite Muffin
1/8 cup mesquite flour
1/8 cup flax seed meal
1/2 teaspoon alum-free baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sweetening – to taste (stevia, honey, molasses, sugar)
1 teaspoon oil – choice (olive oil, butter, coconut)
1 egg

Use a microwave safe mug or pyrex measuring cup, sprayed with cooking spray.
Mix the dry ingredients.
Add the wet ones, stir well.
Microwave for 1 minute.
Remove from the cooking dish right away.
Note: You can quadruple this recipe and cook it in a loaf pan for a loaf cake (but cook for 3½ minutes).

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: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, heirloom beans, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Kino herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | 1 Comment

Beautiful Brittlebush

Brittlebush is one of the most common and conspicuous wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert; seasonally providing a glowing golden-yellow cloak for the desert.  Yes, the wood is brittle, hence the name.

encelia_farinosa_habitBrittlebush has a long history of native use.  The resin collected from the base of the plant is often yellowish to brown in color.  This resin can be heated and used as a glue.  The O’odham and Seri use it for hafting, to hold points on arrows and, in the case of the Seri, harpoons.  A different sort of resin is collected from the upper stems, is more gummy and generally a clear yellow.  The Seri use this to seal pottery vessels.  As a child, I learned from Sells area Tohono O’odham children that this upper stem resin makes a passable chewing gum.

kino-webEarly on the Spanish priests learned that brittlebush resin made a highly fragrant incense, akin to frankincense in odor.  In 1702, Father Kino wrote “. . . in this journey inland and on other occasions I have found various things – little trees, fruit, incense, etc. – all species which are peculiar to . . . [this area]  . . . alone, and samples of which I bring, to celebrate with the incense, by the favor of heaven, this Easter and Holy Week, and to place five good grains of incense in the Paschal candle.”

To harvest resin, use a sharp blade, like a single-edge razor blade, to make a shallow vertical slit about one inch long along the stem.  The resin will ooze out of this cut and dry on the plant.  Return in a day or two to collect the resin.  A healthy, well-maintained plant can have numerous cuts made all over it, just have care to not girdle the stem.

encelia-leaves-2825-webIn the 1960’s, I was taught by a longtime cowboy that a brittlebush stem makes a dandy toothbrush.  Simply select a largish branch and peal off the bitter bark, no need for toothpaste.  He had learned the trick years before from an old cowhand.  Whether this was self-taught or learned from natives, it is impossible to say, although the Seri use brittlebush to treat toothache.  For toothache the bark is removed, the branch heated in ashes, and placed in the mouth to “harden” a loose tooth.  Modern dentistry advocates using mildly alkaline solutions to help maintain oral hygiene, which makes me wonder about the pH of brittlebush sap.
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Some Southwestern folks will bundle the leaves and stems and use them to smudge with, much like smudging with white sage.

Flowers are long-lasting in bouquets but do leave some flowers on the plant, because the seeds of brittlebush are an important food source for native seed-eating birds.
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Planting and Care.  
Brittlebush is a lovely addition to any xeriscape.  The shrub generally reaches around three feet tall and naturally forms a symmetrical globular form.  The fragrant silvery leaves are soft and fuzzy, and work well in fresh floral arrangements.  The golden yellow flowers appear in early spring and cover the bush, but in an interesting array.  Flowers open first on the warm south-facing sides of the bushes and blooming gradually moves up and over the bush, ending with the north-facing branches.
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While it can take full sun, brittlebush does best in a location where it gets noon-time shade in summer.  Avoid planting the shrub near sources of reflected light, like pools or hot south-facing walls.

Brittlebush plants grow best with  rejuvenation pruning every three years.  Just pretend you are a hungry javalina and cut the plants to around six inches tall.  Do this in the fall.  Bloom will be sparse the following year unless you give them some extra water to help them recover.

The above was partially taken from my book, “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today.”

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: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran Crafts, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native | 1 Comment

Admirable Anise

anise-bloom-01

Jacqueline Soule here with another delightful herb you can plant now in your winter garden – anise.

The fragrant anise plant has a long history of use.  Pictures of it have been found in ancient Babylonian carvings, Egyptian tombs, and Roman ruins.  Ancient uses were perhaps medicinal as well as ornamental.  We know that by the Middle Ages anise was used in cooking, medicine and mouse traps.

anise-illustration_pimpinella_anisum

Anise seed and fresh leaves are used to promote digestion and to relieve stomach upsets.  An infusion (tea) of the seeds has been shown to increase glandular secretions, including gastric glands, sweat glands, and mammary glands.  Anise has mild expectorant qualities, thus it was once used in asthma powders, and is currently used in some cold remedies.  There is some indication that it is also helpful to alleviate menstrual cramps.  In aromatherapy, anise properties are: digestive, head-clearing, warming, clarifying, respiratory, and muscle relaxant.

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Much of the anise plant is useful.  Leaves, flowers, and seed are edible, and are often used as a flavoring agent.  Spice uses vary by ethnic origin, but generally the seed is used, as it is most flavorful and easily stored.  If you have access to fresh anise, enjoy leaves and the edible flowers in salads or sautéed with other greens.  And let us not forget anise is used to make liqueurs, including anisette.

In the 1970’s there was some concern that anise oil was carcinogenic.  Those fears have since been shown to be groundless.

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Star anise has a similar flavor but comes from the fruit pods of a tropical tree.

Planting and Care.  
Native to the dry rocky soils of the eastern Mediterranean, anise does well in our area.  Late September to November is the ideal time to plant seeds.  In its homeland, anise grows after the start of their winter rains (the only rain they get).

Due to its taproot, and dislike of being transplanted, anise is generally planted from seed and rarely found for sale as seedlings.  That said, if do you see seedlings -go ahead and buy some.  Much quicker results.

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Plant seed in well drained (sandy) soil.  Keep evenly moist for the best flavor and highest seed production.  Plants require at least six hours of sun and can be grown in containers at least two feet deep.  Fertilizer is not necessary, but if you desire ample seeds, a flowering fertilizer, high in phosphorous, helps produce an ample seed crop.

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Anise seed cleaned and ready for cooking.

Harvesting and Use.
Use anise leaves fresh in salads or as a flavoring in cooking.
Leaves may be used fresh or dried for tea or use as a culinary herb.
Seeds are harvested for use and can be winnowed with a kitchen colander or strainer.

JAS avatar

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

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

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran Medicinal, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Fantastic Fennel

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaves can be enjoyed well before bulbs are formed.

Planting and Care. 

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

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Clusters of yellow flowers are attractive to pollinators.

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

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The Pimeria Alta was under Father Kino’s care.

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

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

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

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

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

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Harvesting and Use.

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

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

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

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

JAS avatar

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

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

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

Castor for Sonoran Summers

Riccinus in NC 8088

Developing seedpods on a castor plant are striking.

Jacqueline Soule here today to talk about a great plant for the summer herb garden, castor bean (Ricinus communis).  It is called ricio or higuerilla in Spanish, and called “blech” by small children dosed with it’s oil.  It is a member of the Euphorbiaceae, the spurge or poinsettia family, which is widely considered a plant family to avoid consuming, so who first figured the oil was a good laxative and spring tonic?!  Not only for internal use, but the oil was popular 3000 years ago for body lotion, hair dressing, and for lamp oil.

Riccinus in NC 8090

Yes, some highly effective medicines, insecticides, and uses of the oil come from the castor seeds (they are not botanically beans), but it is not a plant for home remedies.  All parts of the plant contain both useful and highly toxic compounds.  I mention the plant today because it was used in the Southwest starting in Father Kino’s time, indeed was planted in his mission gardens, plus it is a lovely ornamental plant.  I like to grow castor in my modern day garden as a link to such ancestral gardens.

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The seed pods dry to brown and easily release the seed.

Castor beans are toxic due to ricin, a chemical present in the flesh of the seeds, but not present in the oil.  Although the lethal dose in adults is considered to be four to eight seeds, reports of human poisoning are rare as the seed coat is quite durable and can pass intact through the human digestive system.  Poisoning occurs when animals ingest broken seeds or break the seed by chewing.

Planting and Care.

Castor plants are striking ornamentals.  They can vary greatly in growth habit and appearance. The variability has been increased by breeders who have selected a range of cultivars for leaf and flower colors, including scarlet, bronze, or maroon leaves, topped by large, decorative seed pods in shades of red, orange, or maroon.  Plants make an excellent temporary screen or exotic backdrop for the back of the border.

Riccinus in NC 8086

In this North Carolina garden, the castor plants provide a backdrop to the annual beds.

Intolerant of frost, castor plants can be started indoors and planted out once the soils warm, or planted directly in the soil in spring.  For best results, soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting. The large seeds should be buried about one inch deep. Castor plants prefer full sun and should be kept evenly moist to get growing.

Ricinus communis seeds

Harvesting and Use.

It is not recommended to attempt processing of castor oil at home.  But do save some seed of your plants, as there is some effort to outlaw their sale.

kino festival 2016

The 19th Annual Festival of Kino will be held throughout the town of Magdalena, in Sonora Mexico,  18 to 22 of May.  This year the celebration commemorates 50 years since finding Padre Kino’s bones.

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, Tumacacori Mission (founded by Father Kino), Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

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

Categories: Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Glorious Garlic Chives

MICHO Mts near Uruzpan 6 Aug 90 050

The mountains of Michoacan in 1990. That road sign is only a slight exaggeration.

Jacqueline Soule this week with a charming and easy-to-grow herb – garlic chives.  This herb offers a dish the hint of garlic and the fresh crispness of scallions. 

The first time I ate garlic chives that I know of was chopped and sprinkled on my soft tacos at a little roadside food stop in a forgotten town in Michoacan. The woman serving us was so taken with my questions about the plant that she sent her son scurrying home to dig up some bulbs to give me. Since I was on a plant collecting trip I had all the permits I needed to legally bring the bulbs back to the USA with me.  These tough perennials have been surviving in my gardens in various USDA zones and even indoors in pots for the next 30 plus years.

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Garlic chives are tough plants that survive with little extra water and taste great.

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) make a graceful green statement in the landscape, are low water users, and bloom in September and October with a fireworks-like burst of white bloom on a tall stalk held above the grassy green leaves.

Allium tuberosum AMAP c_4763

Blooms are white, followed by easy to harvest seed heads.

Originally from the Mongolian steppes, plants tolerate our alkaline soils and thrive in zones 10 to 4. Despite the tuberous name, the part you eat are the leaves. Harvest anytime to add raw or cooked to any dish where you desire a mild garlic flavor.

Allium tuberosum AMAP c_4761

Garlic chives are equally edible when vegetative, in bloom or in seed – quite unlike many other herbs.

Use garlic chive leaves how you would use scallions. We like them in stir-fry and omelets, or just a few to give zing to salad. They are also great in soup, even in simple soup made to hydrate and warm on a cool winter day.

Plant grow readily from seed, and can spread through the garden, appearing in watered areas. It is easily removed if it comes up where you don’t want it. If you are trying to eat only plants that are in season, these are always in season! Garlic chives great addition to the garden, even if you never plan to eat any.

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No matter what your garden style, garlic chives can fit right in.

JAS avatarIf you wish tips on gardening in the Southwest, please visit my facebook page Gardening With Soule.  If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Tumacacori (Fruits & Herbs of the Old Missions, 12:30, Thursday February 4th, 2016), Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

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

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

Pine – as an Herb and More

Pinus_in_Birya_Forest

Alepo pines planted as a reforestation project in northern Israel.

By Jacqueline A. Soule, Ph.D.

As December approaches, let’s look at an herb that many bring into their homes for the holiday season – the pine. Why not opt for a living Christmas tree (or Chanukah bush, as some of my friends call them)?  They are evergreen …. plus green.

pinus halepensis_habit

Alepo pine in Israel.  Grown in Arizona as well since it tolerates our alkaline soils, heat, and low humidity. 

Humans around the world have used pine as herbs for eons. They used whichever species of pine lived near them to treat just about every sort of affliction. Pine has especially used for the ailments that have truly plagued humankind, like internal and external parasites and the aches and pains of being human and getting older.

pine tea 3

Pine tea.

In almost every case pine needles or bark are used as a tea (infusion) to either drink or bathe tissues. For intestinal parasites, the tea was drunk, for external ones such as ringworm (a fungal infection) or lice, the tissues were bathed with pine tea. Pine oils and resins have also been extracted, purified, and used medicinally.

Pinus_resin harvesting in_Portugal

Pine sap extraction in Portugal.

At this time, Commission E, a German-based group which scientifically studies herbal medicines, recommends using pine oils externally for rheumatic and neuralgic complaints, as well as for upper and lower respiratory tract inflammation.

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Pinyon pine near Parker Canyon Lake in AZ.

Ideally, harvest and dry pine needles before use. This allows some of the more acrid compounds to evaporate. The active ingredients are predominately in the oils and are not lost by drying.

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Tarahumara basket made of pine needles.

Modern housekeepers around the world use pine based cleaners to keep the house smelling clean and fresh, little realizing that this harkens back to a yesteryear tradition of using pine products, including turpentine, to kill off pests, treat colds, and dress wounds.

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Pines add a touch of green to a winter yard.  This one was a living Christmas tree two years prior.

Pines can be grown here in Tucson. Once established, they will need extra water in the hot dry months, especially May and June. Indeed, pines are a very green landscape plant. They provide housing for wildlife, especially hawks and owls, plus shade your home helping reduce energy consumption for cooling. The needles can be used as a wonderful mulch for plants around your yard or garden.

pinus halepensis 036

Mature Aleppo pines have a rounded crown.  Eldarica pines have a more pointed form.

For a living holiday tree that you can plant in your yard, chose from the eldarica (Pinus eldarica) from Afghanistan or Aleppo (Pinus halepensis) from the Middle East.

Pinus pinyon parker canyon HPIM6761

Pinyon jay in a pinyon pine at Parker Canyon Lake.  A bright blue bird can be well camoflaged!

What about a Southwestern pinyon pine? If you can find some – go for it! I do have to warn you, they grow in higher altitudes than Tucson and will be stressed by our comparatively hotter summers. Extra water should help them survive.

Pinus_edulis_cone_with_seeds_2005-10-15

Pinyon “nuts” are seeds, botanically speaking.  When they are fully ripe, they fall from the tree.

What about the pine beetle now attacking Tucson trees? The beetle is the six-spined engraver beetle, one of 11 species of insects living in the inner bark of pine trees. It typically infests the thicker-barked and deeply fissured main tree trunks of older trees. An obnoxious pest to be sure. It appears to only be an issue with larger mature trees. A young tree should be able to grow in your yard for many years. Be sure to keep it healthy with extra water in the dry months.

Pinus_trunk_IS

Pine beetles typically attack older  trees with fissured bark.

Dr. Soule is trained as a botanist. She teaches workshops on plants and writes science and garden articles. Jacqueline has been using, growing, researching and writing about herbs for over three decades.

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, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

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

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Categories: Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran Crafts, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native | Leave a comment

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