Sonoran Medicinal

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

Wild Rhubarb Rises Again!

Wild rhubarb is emerging again this month from its hidden storage roots, dotting arroyo-banks and sandy places with green rosettes of leaves and colorful raspberry-pink stalks (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb is emerging again this month from its hidden storage roots, dotting arroyo-banks and sandy places with green rosettes of leaves and colorful raspberry-pink stalks (MABurgess photo)

It’s an unusual winter season when Canaigre (also known by many other names:  Wild Rhubarb, Desert Dock,  Hiwidchuls in O’odham language, Latin name Rumex hymenosepalus) creeps up out of its sandy hiding places to bloom and seed before spring weather gets too warm.  When conditions are right, it can dot the desert floor in early spring with its floppy leathery leaves and pink stalks similar to domestic rhubarb.  This recent cool season Nov.2016-Jan.2017, with its period of penetrating rains, has been the right trigger for awakening canaigre.  Right now it’s time to attune our vision to finding it!  If the weather heats up rapidly, as happened in the last couple of springs, its tender leaf rosettes will dry and crinkle leaving a brown organic “shadow” of itself on the sand, its stored life safely underground in fat roots.  Tia Marta here to share some experiences with canaigre or wild rhubarb.

Wild rhubarb dug out of sandy soil showing multiple tuberous roots and young leaves (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb dug out of sandy soil showing multiple tuberous roots and young leaves (JRMondt photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb storage roots (JRMondt photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb storage roots (JRMondt photo)

Canaigre isn’t just everywhere in the desert.  It’s elusive.  It usually likes sandy loose soil, like the flood plains of our desert rivers in Baja Arizona and Sonora, along major arroyo banks, and on pockets of ancient sand dunes.  Where you see one you usually see many.

Wild rhubarb on sandy soil in Paradox Valley, western CO (JRMondt photo)

Wild rhubarb on sandy soil in Paradox Valley, western CO (JRMondt photo)

Wild rhubarb emerging in ancient dune soil, Avra Valley , southern AZ (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb emerging in ancient dune soil, Avra Valley , southern AZ (MABurgess photo)

My late friend and mentor, Tohono O’odham Elder Juanita Ahil, would take me to her favorite harvesting grounds at the right time each February and March to collect the rosy stalks–if they had emerged.  Over the last 40 years, with deep regret, frustration and anguish, I’ve seen her special “harvesting gardens” go under the blade as development turned wild rhubarb habitat into apartments, golf courses, and strip malls.  Hopefully our Arizona Native Plant Society (www.AZNPS.com) will be able to advocate for setting aside some remaining sites on public lands, similar to the BLM Chiltepin Reserve at Rock Corral Canyon in the Atascosa Mountains.  Where wild rhubarb was once super-plentiful, they and their habitats are now greatly diminished, even threatened.

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Botanical illustration of wild rhubarb from Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, U.NewMexico Press (drawing by Mimi Kamp)

Botanical illustration of wild rhubarb from Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, U.NewMexico Press (drawing by Mimi Kamp)

Details of the parts of the plant that Juanita traditionally harvested are shown in Mimi Kamp’s sketch.  Contrary to some ethnographic reports, Juanita did not use the leaf petioles for food; she harvested the flower stalks, i.e. the stems, leaving the leaves to make more food for the plants to store for the next season.  Traditional knowledge is so attuned to Nature.  Hers was an awareness of the plant’s needs balanced with her own appetite.  Other reports of traditional use of wild rhubarb mention cooking the leaves after leaching/steaming out the oxalic acid from them which is not healthy to eat.

Juanita would also dig deeply into the sandy soil directly under an unusually large, robust hiwidchuls to harvest one or more (up to maybe 1/4 of the tubers) to use as medicine.  I recall her digging a big purplish tuber the size of an oblong sweet potato at a depth of 2 1/2 feet on the floodplain of the Rio Santa Cruz where ball parks now prevent any hiwidchuls growth at all.  She would dry it and powder it to use later on scrapes to staunch bleeding.  Her hiwidchuls harvesting dress was dotted with rosy brown patches of color dyed from the juice splashed on the cloth when she cut the tubers into slices for drying. (See Jacqueline Soule’s post on this blog from 2014, also Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants books, for alternate uses.)

Wild rhubarb flower stalk close-up (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb flower stalk close-up  with buds and flowers  typical of buckwheats (MABurgess photo)

Canaigre/wild rhubarb is in the buckwheat family sporting clusters of little flowers that produce winged seeds.  Their papery membranes help catch the wind for flying to new planting grounds.  The green celery-like flower stalk or stem turns pink or raspberry-tinted as it matures.  That was when Juanita would cut the stem at its base to use for her hiwidchuls pas-tild, wild rhubarb pie!

Wild rhubarb stalk with colorful immature seeds forming (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk with colorful immature seeds forming (MABurgess photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb's membranous seeds (MABurgess photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb’s membranous seeds (MABurgess photo)

In a good year, Juanita would harvest literally bundles of hiwidchuls stalks and we would set to work baking.  Her pies were sweet and tangy.  Here is what she would roughly put together in her off the cuff recipe.  But almost any rhubarb pie recipe should work with the wild rhubarb.  You can find great info on Southwest Native uses of canaigre in Blog-Sister Carolyn Niethammer’s book American Indian Food and Lore.

Juanita’s approximate Hiwidchuls Pas-tird RECIPE

Ingredients:

ca 4-6 cups chopped young wild rhubarb stems

1/4-1/2 cup white Sonora wheat flour

2-3 Tbsp butter

ca 2 cups sugar

pie crust–2 layers for top and bottom, or bottom crust and top lattice crust (A good variation is mesquite flour added to your crusts)

Directions:  Prep stems ahead.  Preheat oven to 450 F.  Chop young rhubarb stems in 1/2 inch cuts.  Stems are full of vascular bundles and can become very fibrous as stems become fully mature, so youthful stems are best.  (Be warned:  One year we harvested a little too late and our pies were so “chewy” with fiber that we had to eat our pies outside in order to be able to easily “spit out the quids.”)  Cook hiwidchuls chopped pieces in a small amount of water until tender.  Add in sugar, butter and flour and cook until mixture is thickening.  Pour mixture into your pie crust.  Cover with top pie crust and pierce for steam escape, or cover with lattice crust.  Begin baking in hot oven (at 450F) then reduce heat to medium oven (350F) for 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice is bubbling through lattice or steam holes.  Enjoy it hot or cold!

 

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Now let’s head out into the desert washes to see if there are more stands of hiwidchuls popping up out of the ground, making solar food to keep themselves and other creatures alive and well!   Let’s get ready to be collecting their seeds (which also were used traditionally by Native People as food) in order to propagate and multiply them, adding them to our gardens for future late winter shows of color, good food and good medicine.  Happy gardening and eating from Tia Marta and traditional knowledge shared!

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Dye, dye plant, Edible Landscape Plant, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Admirable Anise

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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.

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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.

anise-seedling

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.

star-anise_1

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.

anise-in-nursery-gi

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.

anise-seed-gi

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

Southwest Foraging: A book to guide you

Southwest Foraging: 117 wild and flavorful edibles from barrel cactus to wild oregano

by John Slattery. (Timber Press, $24.95)

By Carolyn Niethammer

In the introduction to John Slattery’s new book on wild foods, he states, “If you have not foraged for your food, you have not yet fully lived on this earth.”  I couldn’t agree more as there is nothing like popping a handful of sun-warmed orange hackberries into your mouth as I did on my Sunday morning walk.

southwest-foraging_hi-res

Although the book encompasses the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Southern Utah, and their great diversity of habitats, Slattery does a good job of telling you not only what you might find in your area, but also in which season you should go out looking for a particular plant.

Although I have been playing with and writing about edible wild plants of the desert Southwest for more than 40 years, Slattery includes many plants that are new to me.  I recognize desert willow flowers, but didn’t know that they can be steeped to make a tea.

Desert Willow flowers

Desert Willow flowers – a picture pretty enough to frame!

Steep flowers for a nice tea.

Steep flowers for a nice tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slattery  makes it easy to recognize each plant with precise color photos, which he took himself on his many foraging expeditions. Some of the photos rise to the level of art and will have you just tasting those juicy berries and grabbing your backpack to go find some for yourself.

I do have one small quibble with the book. Slattery mentions harvesting the bulbs of mariposa lily. As an avid seeker of spring wild flowers, I’m always thrilled to find the gorgeous mariposa lilies. The fact that someone might dig up these bulbs to eat, unless they were truly starving, doesn’t sit well with me. (However if you do find yourself lost and starving, you will be very happy to have learned something from this book).  In fact, wild foragers should always consider harvesting anything sustainably and Slattery does address this briefly in the introduction. When you grab a copy of this book and head for a date with Mother Nature to try your luck, and I hope you do, please stick with the other 116 nuts, berries, fruits and greens he suggests and leave the bulbs in place.

Folks interested in wild foraging, but wanting a little more guidance than they can get from a book, can sign up for one of Slattery’s frequent foraging classes and the Sonoran Herbalist Apprenticeship Program. You can find a link here. For a previous article on John showing pictures of the potluck his graduating students prepared look here.

This summer, Slattery has been experimenting with using his foraged berries to make shrubs, which might be described as colonial-era homemade fruit sodas.  Using this basic recipe, you can experiment with other fruits. Here is Slattery’s recipe using lovely graythorn berries.

Graythorn berries

Graythorn berries

Garythorn shrub in process

Garythorn shrub in process

Bottled graythorn shrub

Bottled graythorn shrub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slattery’s Recipe for Graythorn Soda

1 1-quart canning jar

1 cup fresh, fully ripened graythorn berries (don’t wash them)

1/4 cup organic cane sugar

filtered, or spring, water to fill the jar

Combine the fresh fruit, sugar, and most of the water in the jar and screw the lid on tight. Shake the jar vigorously to dissolve the sugar. Fill the jar to within 1/4 inch of the top with filtered, or spring, water and leave the lid on loosely.

Allow the fruit to ferment for two to three days in a warm, shaded place indoors. We’re simply utilizing the native yeasts present on the fresh, unwashed fruit. Once bubbles are visible and active, strain out the fruit, and transfer the contents to swing-top bottles filling to within 1/4 inch of the top (even if less than 2 days). Here you have the option of adding 1/4 teaspoon of sugar (to 12oz) to encourage more carbonation before placing in the refrigerator for four to seven days. You can leave it longer, if you like. Taste as you go. If the fermentation is particularly active, the sugars will be eaten up very quickly and your drink will become sour. So keep an eye on it!

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Once you have your carefully foraged foods, it’s time to think of how to cook them into something wonderful. For complete directions and recipes for  cooking with edible wild plants, check out Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. and The Prickly Pear Cookbook.

Categories: medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Festive Food and Farm Celebration

a multicultural Tohono O'odham round dance at Mission Garden's San Ysidro Fiesta (DenaCowan photo)

A multicultural Tohono O’odham round dance at Mission Garden’s San Ysidro Fiesta (DenaCowan photo)

Celebrating our food–from its source……Celebrating the farmers who grow it, their farming traditions, our culinary ways, and the amazing tastes that come from our Sonoran Desert soil…..This is so BAJA ARIZONA!– SO TUCSON!

Tia Marta here inviting you to join the prayers, the music, the feasting together in our multi-cultural community this Saturday:  It is one of the Old Pueblo’s traditional festivals–saluting the people who grow our food–La Fiesta de San Ysidro Labrador,  patron saint of farmers and gardeners–to be held this SATURDAY, MAY 14, and not to be missed.  The feast, its activities and  ceremony have been revived by Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace at the Mission Garden,  the site of the original San Augustin Mission Garden at the base of A-Mountain.

A traditional grain-threshing ground prepared for action at San Ysidro Fiesta (MABurgess photo)

A traditional grain-threshing ground prepared for action at San Ysidro Fiesta (MABurgess photo)

Harvesting heirloom wheat at San Ysidro Fiesta, Mission Garden--living history we can eat! (DenaCowan photo)

Harvesting heirloom wheat at San Ysidro Fiesta, Mission Garden–living history we can eat! (DenaCowan photo)

 

It promises to be a most colorful event, with Tohono O’odham dancers singing for rain and a healthy crop, Native blessings of the ground, mariachi music, and a chance for everyone–young or “veteran”– to experience the actual harvesting of our heirloom wheat (grains introduced about 350 years ago by missionaries and adopted early on by Native residents) on a real threshing floor known as an “era” where the precious grain is separated from its straw and chaff.  For a neat trip into living history, there will be volunteer historians dressed in Presidio Period costume to enliven the early-Schukshon atmosphere.

Heirloom PimaClub wheat maturing at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom PimaClub wheat maturing at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom PimaClub wheat ripe and ready at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom PimaClub wheat ripe and ready at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

 

It really matters that we meet our food before it arrives on our plates, get to know it even before it arrives at the market or grocery.  It matters that we know the soil in which our food is grown, and to know the person(s) whose hands have tended it–the person who has sung to it, prayed for it with hope and then thanksgiving.

Seedheads that were fat and green in the “milk stage” last month are now dry on the stalks, a beautiful straw-color, ready to cut and thresh.  Pima Club wheat, which had been saved by NativeSeeds/SEARCH as a gift from Native farmers over 34 years ago, is now being grown again by San Xavier Coop Association and available for sale from their shop and at the Thursday Santa  Cruz farmers’ market.

Heirloom white Sonora wheat maturing (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom white Sonora wheat maturing (MABurgess photo)

White Sonora Wheat swelling green last month is plump and dry, some of it already bundled in the traditional way to be threshed this weekend.  Bring the kids to learn how their morning cereal or toast begins–what it has to go through before it becomes their breakfast!

Heirloom white Sonora wheat in a traditional bundle ready to thresh (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom white Sonora wheat in a traditional bundle ready to thresh (MABurgess photo)

Certified organic White Sonora Wheat is now being grown commercially by one of our oldest and most respected Chinese families at BKWFarms in Marana, supplying local bakeries like Barrio Bakery and Big Skye Bakers with low-gluten, heirloom organic flour, and several local micro-breweries like Dragoon, Borderlands and Sentinel Peak with the makings of the best wheat-beers.

Heirloom Magdalena barley in the "milk stage" at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom Magdalena barley in the “milk stage” at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom Magdalena barley, still being grown by traditional farmers in Magdalena, Sonora, was brought to Mission Garden by bi-cultural botanist and heirloom fruit tree expert Jesus Garcia.  Notice in the photos how different this ancient barley is from the wheat grains.  Our heirloom wheats, unlike modern wheats, do not have much of a “beard” or awn sticking up making the seedhead appear “hairy”.  Our heirloom wheats are “beard-less.”  Awns on this heirloom Magdalena barley form curly and kinky “beards.”

Ripe Magdalena barley ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Ripe Magdalena barley ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Inside, nutritionally, barley grain (and its flour) is one of the most healthy of grains, with the lowest glycemic index (important especially for those with blood-sugar issues.)

 

 

The grinning reaper (MABurgess photo)

The grinning reaper (MABurgess photo)

So come, celebrate, and meet your food where it starts, where food has been cultivated for the Tucson communities and cultures continuously through time for 4100 years!

 

On May 14, 2016, you’ll also meet gardener-neighbors from local organizations with information to share about traditional foods (SanXavierCoopAssociation, NativeSeeds/SEARCH, Flor de Mayo), herbal medicines (TucsonHerbalistCollective), innovative gardening ideas (AvalonGardens.org), children’s activities (IronwoodtreeExperience), and Tucson’s rich history (TucsonPresidioMuseum, Friends of Tucson’s birthplace).

We will feast together with Posole de Trigo, the traditional dish honoring San Ysidro Labrador, made with white Sonora wheat-berries and vegetables grown right on-site at Mission Garden by the caring hands of many devoted volunteers –bless them!   (A fabulous recipe for Posole de Trigo Sonoran-style is in an EdibleBajaArizona article by Bill Steen worth trying at home–Find it online at  http://ediblebajaarizona.com/a-personal-posole.)

Check out archived May 8, 2015 and May 12, 2014 posts on this blog for more beautiful illustrations, recipes and stories about San Ysidro.

Showy medicinal hollyhocks planted at Mission Garden by Tucson Herbalist Collective (MABurgess photo)

Showy medicinal hollyhocks planted at Mission Garden by Tucson Herbalist Collective (MABurgess photo)

Tia Marta and Bro Rod will be at the Flor de Mayo tent at the San Ysidro Fiesta sharing a diversity of Southwestern heirloom foods to cook for yourself or to grow in your garden.  We’ll have notecard images of my heirloom bean mosaic of San Ysidro available.  Come by to see white Sonora wheat-berries cooking in the solar oven.  Local organic wheat-berries with great recipes are available in gift bags by the half or whole pound from http://www.flordemayoarts.com or from the Presidio Museum Gift Shop (196 N.Court, Tucson), the BaggesenFamilyBeanBooth at Sunday StPhilipsFarmersMkt, at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store (3061 N.Campbell,Tucson), and at the Wiwpul Du’ag store (SanXavierMissionPlaza).

Here are the details for planning your SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2016,   9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m :

Día de San Ysidro Labrador Traditional Tucson Farmers’ Festival, sponsored by Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace (www.tucsonsbirthplace.org)

Procession from The Future Tucson Origins heritage Park to Mission Garden begins 9:00 a.m. then

• Mariachi Milagro
• Alabanza by Bobby Benton
• Presentation by Michael M. Brescia, Ph.D. • Native American four-directions blessing • Ceremonial wheat harvest
• Blessing of fields, food, and animals
• Desert Indian Dancers from San Xavier
• Tasting of Pozole de trigo

 For more details email  MissionGarden.Tucson@gmail.com or call  520 777 9270
See you there for this special BAJA ARIZONA celebration–another reason Tucson has been named an International City of Gastronomy.   Those grass-roots are bearing grain!
Heirloom bean mosaic of San Ysidro Labrador created by artist/ethnobotanist MABurgess

Heirloom bean mosaic of San Ysidro Labrador created by artist/ethnobotanist MABurgess

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, heirloom beans, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | 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.

Pinus pinyon parker canyon HPIM6768

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.

pine needle basket 1

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.

pinus halepensis BUR 6351

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

A Useful Desert Broom

baccharis AMP_5239

People complain that they want more green in their landscape. Desert broom is one option for bright green foliage.

Desert broom is called escoba amarga in Spanish, and also called a weed by many.  But I advocate you take a moment to consider this shrub more fully.

Desert broom (Baccharis sarothroides) is a vigorous plant – often the first plant to grow on a cleared stretch of desert (or over the septic tank).  It can be useful to have such a tough plant in your landscape palatte.  Along with landscaping it is useful in a number of other ways.

baccharis seedling crop_6477

Sad to say – some people think the only good desert broom is a dead one.

Uses.

Desert broom has a history of use as a medicinal plant.  A decoction made by cooking the twigs of desert broom is used to treat colds, sinus headache, and in general “sore aching” ailments. The Seri use this when other medicinal plants are not available. The same tea is also used as a rub for sore muscles.  (Perchance Father Kino used some after one of his epic rides.)

Studies done on plant extracts show that desert broom is rich in leutolin, a flavonoid that has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cholesterol-lowering capabilities. Desert broom also has quercetin, a proven antioxidant, and apigenin, a chemical which binds to the same brain receptor sites that Valium does. However, many members of the Sunflower family also contain compounds that cause negative side effects, thus caution is advised.

baccharis seedling AMP_6330

Desert broom seedlings are often among the first plants to appear in a cleared area. The rabbits do not eat them.

As it’s name indicates, branches of desert broom do make a passable broom for sweeping the dirt floors of an adobe home.

Desert broom is so plentiful, and many of it’s seep willow cousins are used as dye, so I had to do the experiment. The result – yes! It does dye wool. Various mordants result in differing shades as seen below.  Other members of the Baccharis genus have excellent colorfastness.

baccharis dye on wool crop

Baccharis on wool with different mordants. I use the chemical symbols to mark my mordants. Al = alum, Cu = copper, FE = iron.

Desert broom can be used as filler in fresh and dried floral arrangements, with long lasting color and minimum mess since it has few leaves to lose.

baccharis AMP_5426

This plant gets chopped often for filler in my flower arrangements. Regular clipping helps keep it a dense and bushy.

Desert broom comes in separate male and female plants. The females release their tiny fluffy seeds at the same time a number of other plants release their pollen, thus the seeds of desert broom often get erroneously called an allergen. The pollen of the male plants is released in fall and can be allergenic.

IMG_2701

No, desert broom does not have yellow flowers. In this case a desert broom grew up through a Cassia.

Planting and Care.
Plants may be purchased at nurseries or can be grown from seed. Avoid over-watering in heavy soils as desert broom will drown.

Desert broom will accept shearing and can be trained into a decent, short-lived privacy hedge. Such a short lived hedge is helpful while the longer-lived, taller, non-allergenic, but slower growing Arizona rosewood (Vauquelinia californica) reaches hedge size. Desert broom can also be useful in the landscape since it grows in heavy clay or saline soils where few other plants thrive.

IMG_2708

These plants get sheared once a month by landscapers with power tools. Note that the native desert broom is growing more vigorously than the non-native cassia from Australia.

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 more. 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).

All photos and all text are copyright © 2015, Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. 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: Dye, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran Crafts, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lizard Tail Plants

yerba mansaIMG_6196 (4)

Yerba mansa is a member of a tiny plant family. Our Sonoran Desert has many such unique plants in it.

Jacqueline Soule here to tell you of a very unusual plant blooming in my garden right now – a member of the very unique Lizard Tail Family, the Saururaceae. This distinct plant family has only seven species in it, grouped into four genera. I am writing today about Anemopsis californica, also called yerba mansa.

yerba mansaIMG_6196 (1)

What looks like a single flower is technically a cluster of tiny flowers.

Medicinal.

Yerba mansa is used as a medicinal herb, but it also makes a pretty pond plant. All parts of the plant have a distinct spicy fragrance, a blend of ginger, eucalyptus, a touch of juniper and a dash of pepper. The roots are especially fragrant, reminiscent of a cross between camphor and eucalyptus with a hint of pepper. One of the active compounds in yerba mansa is methyleugenol, an anti-spasmodic, similar in chemical structure to compounds found in other medicinal herbs.

yerba mansa IMG_6212 (8)

Even when they are newly emerged, the leaves bear a tracery of the red pigments they feature in fall.

Yerba mansa is versatile; it can be taken orally as a tea, tincture, infusion or dried in capsule form. It can be used externally for soaking inflamed or infected areas. It can be ground and used as a dusting powder. In New Mexico the leaves are used to make a poultice to relieve muscle swelling and inflammation. Spanish settlers in California used the plant as a liniment for skin troubles and as a tea for disorders of the blood.

Planting and Care.

While it is a pretty garden plant, yerba mansa would not appear in xeriscape books. It requires consistently moist soil and will not tolerate drying out between waterings. But by definition a xeriscape should include some oasis, and this is often a water garden.

yerba mansa IMG_6205 (3)

Yerba mansa features large leathery leaves when it gets ample water.

Yerba mansa is valuable in the water garden. Koi and other fish do not browse it like they do many other plants, thus it can readily spread and help clean the water. It also appears to help keep fish from getting bacterial infections such as Pseudomonas fluorescens (causing fin rot and fish dropsy) and fungal infections such as Saprolegnia.

yerba mansa IMG_6212 (19)

Great for the water garden, yerba mansa’s antibacterial properties can help keep your fish healthy.

Cooler autumn weather can bring blotches of maroon to the leaves and stems. If the temperatures are cool but not freezing, the entire plant may turn color. If the temperature falls below 20 F, the leaves die. Not to worry, the plant readily comes back from the roots. The plant is considered hardy to USDA Zone 5.

yerba mansa IMG_6212 (2)

Yerba mansa will send out runners seeking to colonize new territory. It will not take root where there is not ample water – like in the desert outside the water garden!

In our area the plant is gaining popularity and can now be found in a number of nurseries that carry water garden plants.

Harvesting and Use.

Roots for medicinal purposes should be collected in the fall preferably after the first freeze. After the first freeze the plant will begin to store the useful chemicals in its root system. Harvest the thick fleshy roots under the main part of the plant, not the thin roots on the runners.

yerba mansa IMG_6212 (5)

The smaller white roots are the ones harvested and dried for their medicinal properties.

Wash roots to remove clay and silt, then set them to wilt for several hours before cutting them into small pieces (roughly 1/4 inch square). Continue to dry the chopped roots until firm and dry.

About Jacqueline Soule

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 and more. 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).

All text and all photos (except where noted) are copyright © 2015 by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. 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 herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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