medicinal plant

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

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

Savory Cinnamon

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).

© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos courtesy of Pixabay.

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.)

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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

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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.

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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 in this article courtesy of Pixabay.

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

Turmeric

Jacqueline Soule, AKA Gardening With Soule, today.  If you have a garden (as opposed to a landscape) you will always have some task to perform. Pots of plants become overgrown, the roots crowded, and the plants need to be divided. I was recently performing this chore, and one of the plants needing attention in this warm month was turmeric.

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Turmeric (Curcuma domestica) is a member of the Ginger Family (Zingiberaceae), related to grasses, orchids, and bananas. The economically important portion of the plant is the rhizome, a large, lumpy underground storage stem (which is structurally different than a root).

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Turmeric is a tropical plant that dies back to its rhizome in the coolness of our Sonoran winters. (Yes, snow birds come here for our “warm” winters – but everything is relative.) Iris and ginger also grow from rhizomes, with iris staying above ground in winter, but ginger also retreating underground.

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Planting turmeric
Plant turmeric rhizomes horizontally and cover them with a sparse layer of soil. In the Southwest, turmeric grows best in full sun to afternoon shade. Provide ample water for this lush-leafed plant. Plant in well-drained rich to slightly sandy soil. Turmeric will do well in containers, which is how I grow them, with the lowermost inch of pot submerged in the water garden.

If you have an entirely desert landscape, turmeric won’t look right in your landscape. But – if you are like most of us in the Southwest – you have an oasis zone in your xeriscape, and thus turmeric will fit right in. Turmeric will also grow well in a water garden. So yes – you can grow them in the desert.

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Turmeric in Medicine
Turmeric is popular in India and the Far East to treat stomach complaints. A paste is applied to help cure bruises, and to accelerate the formation of scabs caused by chicken pox and (in the past) smallpox. The fumes of the burning rhizomes are used to relieve colds and lung congestion. In the 1800’s turmeric was used in the United States as a stimulant and stomach tonic. Turmeric is now popular as an anti-inflammatory and to help with high cholesterol and heart issues.

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Turmeric in History
In the days of alchemy, a paste made from turmeric and water was applied to paper. This paper would then change color from a saffron yellow to a reddish brown if exposed to alkaline conditions. The Latin term ‘terra merita’ (deserving or deserved earth) became shortened to termerit, and later changed into turmeric. Note that yes, there is an “r” in the word – tur-mer-ic.

In the 1500’s, books called Herbals, which were used as medical guides, mention turmeric as another name for “curcuma.” Curcuma was used as a name because the spice is highly similar to saffron, called kurkum by the Arab traders who brought it to Europe from Asia.

In 1753, when names for many plants were systematized by the Swede Linnaeus, he used the name Curcuma for the genus of plants which turmeric belongs to. The spice turmeric comes from Curcuma domestica (sometimes listed as Curcuma longa in older herb books)

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Turmeric for Dye
One major non-spice use of turmeric is as a coloring agent. It colors both cotton and wool without need of a mordant (fixing agent). The yellow robes of Buddhist monks were often dyed with turmeric. Turmeric powder is also used in candies, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and in some commercial brands of mustard (which is why some mustard “stains” your clothes).

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Turmeric in Cooking
Turmeric is valued worldwide for the subtle flavor and brilliant color in gives to curry sauces. It can be used alone to color rice and rice pudding. In Yugoslavia, a festival bread is flavored and colored with turmeric.

My grandmother Soule used turmeric in her bread-and-butter pickles, which always included slices of onions. I remember my age 6 astonishment at the brilliant yellow hue the white onions “magically” turned after the canning was done. “Turmeric caused it,” Grandma explained. “It’s a spice that comes from plants.” Thus another step in my path to becoming a botanist was unknowingly taken.

 

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: Cooking, Dye, dye plant, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, medicinal plant, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Bringing in the Sheaves–a Fiesta of ancient grains at Mission Garden–May 13, 2017

What do Andalusian horses, traditional feasts, mariachis and heirloom wheat have to do with each other?

Vaquero with traditional tack at Mission Garden’s San Ysidro Fiesta

The answer:  Plenty!–when you are in Baja Arizona this month!  Tia Marta here to tell you about one of those special Tucson “happenings” not to miss….

The Old Pueblo is gearing up at Tucson’s Birthplace–Mission Garden–for an important seasonal moment in the “Food Calendar” of Baja Arizona.  This coming Saturday, May 13, 2017, we celebrate the Feast of San Ysidro Labrador, patron saint of farmers and gardeners.  Winter crops of wheat, barley and flax, introduced by Padre Kino and other missionaries, are turning golden in the Mission Garden fields, their plump ripe seed heads undulating in unison like sea-waves with spring wind.

Waving heirloom grain at Mission Garden ready for the harvest! (MABurgess photo)

It’s time to harvest!  And that means… time to celebrate!  The San Ysidro Fiesta promises hands-on learning, food, music and fun for every age and every interest.  In Baja Arizona’s inimitable way, San Ysidro brings together our diverse cultures to rejoice in this special Sonoran Desert homeland.

A sheaf of heirloom wheat freshly harvested and hand-bound in the traditional fashion using fresh green straw. (MABurgess photo)

By the way what is a sheaf–what are sheaves–anyway??   In the dictionary a sheaf is defined as “one of the bundles in which cereal plants, as wheat, rye, etc., are bound after reaping.”  At Mission Garden’s Fiesta de San Ysidro Labrador we can get into sheaving hands-on, do the sheaving the old way, then watch as the ancient breed of helpful Andalusian horses thresh the grain loosening seedheads from straw.  [Who needs a gym?]  We can get fresh air and exercise winnowing the wheat with a traditional wooden pala, tossing grain into the air to let the breeze separate kernels from chaff.

Jesus Garcia and a volunteer winnowing heirloom wheat at Mission Garden. (MABurgess photo)

Winnowing heirloom White Sonora Wheat with the traditional pala. (MABurgess photo)

 

 

The Fiesta will begin with a procession at 9am led by Tucson Presidio volunteers in full period garb, from the site of the original San Augustine Mission at the Santa Cruz riverbank 2 blocks distance to the Mission Garden itself (planted on the original site–a living agro-history garden).  Everyone is invited to join the procession.

Kickoff procession for San Ysidro Fiesta carrying the painting of the patron saint of farmers

Tucson’s young musicians entertain in 2015–They may be small but their mariachi music is grande! (MABurgess photo)

 

Mariachis will have our feet tapping–This year it’s Los Changuitos Feos to play!

Native Tohono O’odham dancers will bless the ground once again with their rhythms.

Historians will tell us of the rich happenings on this very site for the last 4100 years, and Padres from San Xavier will offer their blessings.

Tohono O’odham dancers in their colorful garb will help us pray for good rains again for the garden this season (MABurgess photo)

If you haven’t seen the Mission Garden recently, you will be thrilled by the new structures giving shady space for relaxing and beautiful period-adobes for future education classes.  The heirloom fruit trees are heavy with membrillo fruit (quince), pomegranate and figs.  The Mission Period vegetable garden is dense with produce, artichoke-tops 7′ high, and medicinal hollyhocks in full flower!

Colorful hollyhocks at Mission Garden–Come find out how they were used for medicine as well as for beauty! (MABurgess photo)

Several information booths will be there with volunteers –including NativeSeeds/SEARCH,  Tucson Herbalist Collective (THC), and Avalon Gardens–sharing their rich knowledge about heirloom seeds, traditional gardening and cuisine, or herbal medicine.

Heirloom White Sonora Wheat, saved by NativeSeeds/SEARCH, now grown organically by local producer BKWFarmsInc (MABurgess photo)

Tucson Herbalists sharing tips for herb gardens and knowledge of herbal remedies (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The freshly harvested wheat was traditionally made into a delicious posole stew.  Cooks at this San Ysidro Fiesta will be prepping cauldrons of POSOLE DE TRIGO for all to enjoy!  (You can find a recipe for Posole with Tepary Beans, Pilt’kan ch Ba’bawi Posh’oldt, on our May 8, 2015 Savorthesouthwest post.  Google posole de trigo for many great versions, some with chicken, some with beef, some vegetarian.)

You can find out more about this FREE event full of fun and local flavors at http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org or at MissionGarden.Tucson@gmail.com   or by calling 520 955-5200.  Here are details for Día de San Ysidro Labrador, our Traditional Tucson Farmers’ Festival,  Reviving A Celebration of our fields and farmers.  Put next Saturday, May 13, 2017, on your iPhone calendar right now.  Procession begins at 9:00 a.m.  Activities, music, booths, and hopefully the posole will last to 11:30 a.m.

  • Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos
  • Alabanza by Bobby Benton
  • Native American four-directions blessing
  • Presentation by Father Gregory Adolf
  • Ceremonial wheat harvest, threshing & winnowing
  • Blessing of fields, food, and animals
  • Tohono O’Odham Dancers
  • Tasting of Pozole de trigo

Notecards with the legend of San Ysidro, from a colorful mosaic yours truly Tia Marta created from 21 Heirloom Beans, will be available for sale–along with many other traditional native foods–at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH booth.  Come see a demonstration of whole kernel White Sonora Wheat being cooked in the solar oven!

San Ysidro Fiesta is a Baja Arizona feast of knowledge and tradition to be shared–come and enjoy our diverse community in the fruitful Mission Garden!

Wheat harvest at Tucson’s Mission Garden–where heirloom wheat brings us together– (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, heirloom beans, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Workshops, walks and events celebrate growing, harvesting and preparing desert foods this spring

Happy Spring, Tucson! Amy here to tell you about opportunities to learn about growing and harvesting desert foods in our neighborhoods. Urban desert explorations allow us to track the seasons and harvests…will it be a fruitful year for barrel cactus? An early or late harvest? What desert edible plants are the neighbors using in the landscape? How are the birds and squirrels faring?

Check Desert Haresters or other sponsoring organizations for further dates and topics in each of these series!

Desert Harvesters La Cocina Walks

Tuesdays March 21, April 11, May 23 and June 20, 2017.  201 N Court, north entrance. $5 donation to support Desert Harvesters education programs.

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Desert Harvesters will lead casual walks from La Cocina through historic El Presidio Neighborhood to identify native perennial food-bearing plants and other edibles. Walks start in spring, and continue monthly thereafter, into the oncoming heat of summer. Desert Harvesters is partnering with LaCo to incorporate native food ingredients into the menu during our Tuesdays-for-Tucson fundraiser nights, including prickly pear, cholla buds, nopalitos, desert herbs, mesquite, and more.

Desert Harvesters is interested in seeing what wild ingredients might be in the LaCo neighborhood that could be sampled, harvested, and potentially used at LaCo. LaCo Walks are scheduled on Tuesday evenings so that after the walk, folks can support both LaCo and the organization that Tuesdays-for-Tucson benefits that evening; a percentage of LaCo’s night is donated to the organization. Desert Harvesters’ Tuesdays-for-Tucson fundraiser at LaCo is May 16—save the date!

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photo:Barbara Rose

BRING: Drinking water, sun protection, camera, notebook, and anything else to make you comfortable.

For further information and to sign up, please contact: workshops@desertharvesters.org or jaelle@lorenziniworks.com

 

 

Desert Harvesters and Community Food Bank Series at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market

Mercado San Agustín, 100 S. Avenido del Convento

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Cholla Buds
with Desert Harvesters’/Mano Y Metate‘s Amy Valdés Schwemm
Thursday, March 23, 3-6 pm (Saturday hands-on workshop on March 25)
Celebrate one of the first native foods of Spring: cholla-cactus flower buds! Learn how to safely harvest and cook with these calcium-rich, tasty buds. Sample cholla buds with spicy-savory mole sauces.

Spring Bounty! NEW
with Desert Harvesters’/Bean Tree Farm‘s Barbara Rose
Thursday, April 6, 3-6 pm
The desert is abloom at this time, and many plants offer edible flowers and foliage to use in teas, garnish, and as flavoring. See what can be made from these and other desert ingredients like Spring greens and herbs, green palo-verde beans, cholla buds, stored foods, and other seasonal surprises.

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Nopalitos
with Desert Harvesters’/Mano Y Metate‘s Amy Valdes-Schwemm
Thursday, May 11, 3-6 pm
(Saturday hands-on workshop on May 13)

Learn how easy it is to collect these nutritious cactus pads from your own yard or neighborhood, and how to prepare them in tasty recipes everyone will love.

All THURSDAY DEMOS are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. For more information, contact the Food Bank at (520) 882-3313.

*For further INFORMATION about follow-up HANDS-ON SATURDAY WORKSHOPS, please contact: Barbara beantreefarm@gmail.com or Jill jaelle@lorenziniworks.com To REGISTER for HANDS-ON SATURDAY WORKSHOPS, please contact workshops@desertharvesters.org

 

Sonoran Desert Series at the Food Conspiracy Coop, facilitated by Desert Harvesters’ Jill Lorenzini and friends.

REGISTER via THIS LINK. All classes will be held in the Hoff building on the NE corner of 7th St & Hoff Ave, behind the Food Conspiracy Co-op. Class fee $10. Desert Harvesters volunteer, member, and partner discounts offered. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, please contact: jaelle@lorenziniworks.com.

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YOU ARE HERE: SONORAN DESERT 101

Monday, MARCH 27, 6–8 pm Interactive exercises about where we are and where we come from using maps, info, and stories to build place-based awareness. We’ll explore from macro to micro, from global to regional to local, from the Southwest to the Sonoran Desert, and to the Uplands Arizona subdivision of the Sonoran Desert we experience here in Tucson. This is one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet! Welcome to the desert and the amazing plant life here! Sample prickly-pear lemonade.

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YOU ARE HERE: UPLANDS-ARIZONA-SUBDIVISION NATIVE FOODS

Monday, APRIL 24, 6–8 pm Use the Sonoran Desert Foods Calendar, Wild Foods Calendar, and Native Seeds/SEARCH‘s 5-seasons calendar wheel to understand seasonal cycles and to see the wealth of delicious native perennial plant foods available throughout the year. These nutritious foods—and the many other benefits they provide—will be discussed in detail in subsequent classes. Get familiar with the dynamics of winter and summer monsoon seasons; meet Sky Island mountain ranges, river and riparian areas; explore long-term climate change and ongoing drought cycles. Sample desert-flowers iced tea.

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BEAUTIFUL BENEFICIAL BEAN TREES

Monday, MAY 22, 6–8 pm Meet the native mesquite, ironwood, and palo verde trees that anchor the Uplands Arizona plant palette. These trees act as nurse plants for other desert flora, and create rich environments under their canopies where both plants and animals survive and thrive. Desert legume trees provide bountiful harvests of protein-packed beans and tasty pods year after year. The “Be Like a Bean Tree” poster encapsulates many of their attributes. Taste mesquite flour and pods, and shell and taste green palo verde beans.

Dunbar/Spring Walks Sponsored by Desert Harvesters and Partners

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The Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood has a long history of community action, most recently through the work of Brad Lancaster and a network of like-minded neighbors and friends of the Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood who’ve planted native perennial food-bearing trees there, established rainwater- and greywater-harvesting earthworks, pioneered curb cuts and cores, thereby bringing multiple benefits to the neighborhood, including shade and cooler temperatures, more native animals and pollinators, enhanced beauty, tree-planting and -pruning workshops, mulching services, interaction with neighbors, less stormwater lost to storm drains, community art and services, and more.

Monthly weekend walks through the Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood are a fantastic opportunity to see these green-infrastructure strategies in action, as well as to become acquainted with and impressed by common but amazing native (and other) food plants in the area, as they change and grow, flower and bear fruit, shed leaves, and endure seasonal extremes, throughout the year. Learn about native desert foods by watching, harvesting, touching, listening, tasting, smelling, feeling. Additional opportunities include foodshed mapping and return photography. See walk schedule below. See also www.dunbarspring.org.

Saturday MARCH 4, 10–11:30 am (optional: meet early, at 9:30, to get food/drink and socialize) Meet at EXO Roast Coffee, NW corner of 7th St & 6th Ave

Saturday, APRIL 15, 2–3:30 pm Meet at Dunbar/Spring Community Garden, NW corner of University Blvd & 11th Ave

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Hands-on Homesteading

Santa Cruz River Farmers Market
100 South Avenida del Convento

RAINWATER HARVESTING CONCEPTS & DESIGN with Desert Harvesters’ Jill Lorenzini and friends

Thursday, April 20, 3–6 pm (Saturday workshop* April 22)

Food security depends on water security. Learn the basic concepts and the many benefits of rainwater-harvesting design, so you can begin implementing simple strategies at home. Based on award-winning books by Brad Lancaster, local author of the Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond series.

SOLAR OVENS with Desert Harvesters’ Jill Lorenzini

Thursday, May 25, 4–7 pm

In ultra-sunny Arizona, it makes a lot of sense to cook with the sun. Learn basic solar-oven concepts and design principles, then watch various solar ovens in action and sample delicious solar-cooked foods. Place-based cooking.

All THURSDAY DEMOS are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. For more information, contact the Food Bank at (520) 882-3313.

*For further INFORMATION about follow-up HANDS-ON SATURDAY WORKSHOPS, please contact: Barbara beantreefarm@gmail.com or Jill jaelle@lorenziniworks.com To REGISTER for HANDS-ON SATURDAY WORKSHOPS, please contact workshops@desertharvesters.org

 

 

Watershed Management Group’s Edible Shade Mesquite Pancake Breakfast

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Sunday, March 26, 9am – noon
1137 N Dodge Blvd

It’s that time again! Come join us for a fun-filled morning as we celebrate the delicious shade of mesquite, pomegranate, olive and other edible native and desert-adapted trees. Enjoy an artisan market and hands-on learning activities as you explore sustainability practices in action at WMG’s Living Lab and Learning Center. And come hungry—we’ll be serving up local mesquite pancakes, fresh off the griddle!

Only 500 tickets are available, so purchase early or risk missing out. Notice: Unlike previous years, tickets will NOT be available at the door if we sell out in advance!

For tickets and information, contact WMG.

 

EDIBLE TREE CELEBRATION

Edible Tree Celebration in Honor of the UA Campus Arboretum’s 15th Anniversary

April 1, 11am-2pm

In front of the State Museum Building at the UA, NE corner of Park Avenue and University Blvd

Co-Sponsored by the UA Campus Arboretum (arboretum.arizona.edu/)

and the LEAF Network (Linking Edible Arizona Forests) (leafnetworkaz.org/)

Please join us to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the wonderful UA Campus Arboretum and highlight the value of “edible trees” in the campus and urban environment. (LEAF Network uses the term edible trees to refer to those native and nonnative trees that produce edible fruits, nuts, seeds and pods.)

Activities will include:

11:30 presentation to mark the 15th Anniversary of the UA Campus Arboretum

12:00 commence 30-minute tours of edible trees at the UA Campus Arboretum leaving every half hour

Potted edible trees on display including native and nonnative trees

Free raffle every 15 minutes for potted edible trees, arboretum materials, tree related t-shirts, and other items

Entertaining table displays about the UA Campus Arboretum, edible trees, the LEAF Network and other NGO and educational groups (and more activities to come…)

Collaborators include the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, Arizona Community Tree Council, Iskashitaa, Trees for Tucson, Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace, Bean Tree Farm, Desert Harvesters and more.

For more information about the event and to reserve a table, contact Ann Audrey ann.audrey.1@gmail.com

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Leave a 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

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