heirloom crops

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

Savor the Seeds

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

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

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

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

seed library

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

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Seed of epazote, canagria, and garlic chives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty Pomegranate for an Edible Landscape

Jacqueline Soule here this week to tell you about a lovely landscape plant that bears luscious fruit – and you can plant now.

Easy to grow, pomegranates are an “in-between” plant.  They are either a short shrub-like tree, or maybe a tall tree-like shrub.  Mature plants have multiple trunks and reach 6 to 12 feet high and generally 5 to 10 feet around.  This size makes them good for a smaller yard, and their multiple trunks make them a good screen.

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Pomegranate plants offer year round interest in the landscape.  Rich, bright green leaves in summer turn golden yellow in autumn and drop, leaving the smooth cinnamon and gray bark in visible in winter.  In spring, the leaves grow once again emerging at first with an almost bronze hue.  Spring also brings several weeks of radiant flowers.  Bloom color depends on variety, from lacy pink and white to salmon, to red, or scarlet.  These bright blooms are pollinated by our calm native bees as well as European honeybees.  Soon the fruits start to develop, and take long slow months ripen.

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Pomegranate fruits come in a variety of colors when ripe, from a yellowish green with red freckles, to pink, to crimson, to an almost black hue.  The fruit that is lighter colored when ripe are less bothered by birds than those that turn red.  The interior of the fruit varies in color as well.  The ‘Kino Heritage White’ is popular because it does not stain fingers.

 

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Pomegranates are self-fruitful, so a single tree is all that is needed for fruit production. Some pomegranate varieties can have thorny stems, so select plants carefully.

Pomegranate plants require full sun, but appreciate some afternoon shade in our summer.  They grow well in our alkaline soils, not needing extensive soil amendments and constant monitoring like citrus trees.  One exception is clay soils.  If you live in an area of clay soils, plants can easily drown if you over-water them.  Amend such soils before you plant with ample sand and compost.

Blazing hot Southwestern summers are not an issue for pomegranates, nor are cold winters.  Found in the snowy Judean mountains of Israel, they tolerate winter lows to 10 degrees F.  While the trees are fairly drought tolerant, they get water once a week when they have leaves, they will fruit better.

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Pomegranates are a good xeriscape plant.  That said, the trees are fairly drought tolerant, but if you water them once a week through the summer, they will fruit better.

Don’t expect fruit the first year or two.  My tree is three years old and had 7 fruit last fall.  Fruit drop during the plant’s juvenile period (first 3-5 years) is quite common.  Fruit drop is aggravated by too much fertilizer and excess water – making this a good tree for the forgetful gardener.

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Fruit ripens in October and November and can be used right away or stored for months in a cool place.  Technically the part you eat are called “arils” it is a sweet flesh that covers the seeds.  Eat the arils fresh, or press them for juice, or boil them with sugar to make grenadine syrup or jelly.

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Spring is almost upon us and it can be a busy time of year.  But in the next few weeks I hope you will find some time to plant at least one of these lovely trees.  They do quite well planted before the heat of summer is upon us.

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JAS avatar

Dr. Jacqueline Soule has been writing about gardening in our region for over three decades. Her latest book Month by Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press) just arrived in December.  It’s a good companion volume to Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2014).

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, heirloom crops, Southwest Food | 3 Comments

Corn to posole

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Do you love posole? Amy here today making posole from dry, untreated corn. What corn to use for posole? Flour corn varieties are good, as they have a large starch content. Also dent corn varieties, which contain some starch, dry unevenly on the cob and form an indentation in the top of the kernel. The dent corn I’m using today is sometimes called field corn, and it may have been grown to feed to livestock. I sometimes get dry corn, purple or white, from the bulk bins at the Mexican store. Use what you can find or grow and see what happens! This corn was a gift of completely unknown origin from my friend Lori.

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The ratio is 1 cup dry corn, 3 cups water and 1 tablespoon lime. Not lime, the citrus fruit, it is specially treated limestone. The best source for culinary calcium hydroxide is called cal sold with Mexican spices, or called pickling lime sold with canning supplies to keep pickles crisp. It is becoming rare since modern pickle recipes are more cautious of botulism growing in the less acidic environment. If necessary, type S (slaked) construction lime for concrete and mortar works, but you have to add more of it.

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Place all in a non reactive pan, simmer for a few minutes and then remove from the heat. If you are making posole, it is not critical if the corn starts to cook a bit. If the corn will be ground into tamales or tortillas, it will be gummy and not stick together well if cooked.

As soon as the corn is in the lime water, it turns bright yellow!

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Then let it soak overnight. I decided to boil some corn in plain water to compare the results.

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The next morning: On the right, the limed corn is much darker yellow color than the corn boiled and soaked overnight in fresh water, on the left. On the right the lime water, formerly white, is now yellow from the seed coats of the corn. The water in the pot on the left remains clear.

Drain the lime water and send to the sewer, not your plants! It is very alkaline and will harm the soil and plants.

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The lime turns the seed coats into slime. Now rinse, rub, rinse, rub, rinse.

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Now the rinsed, limed treated corn in the colander is a lighter yellow than the plain water boiled corn in my hand.

This is called nixtamal, and can be ground into masa for tamales or tortillas, or cooked into posole. I will make masa in another post.

You can purchase nixtamal ready to rinse at most grocery stores. After rinsing, it freezes beautifully. I have purchased it dry, whole or ground, but never dried it myself. I use it dry in the Mano Y Metate Mole powders to give body to the sauce.

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When the corn rinsing water is clear, boil in fresh salted water. Add chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic. Cooking times vary wildly depending on the batch, but at least an hour, until tender and the kernels burst open.

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The same corn after identical soaking and cooking times: the treated corn on the right blossomed to toothsome tenderness and has the characteristic posole aroma. I see some residual seed coat, but I do not notice when eating. On the left, the fresh water soaked and cooked corn has a few kernels that blossomed some, but is overall texture is hard with seed coats remaining in my mouth after chewing. It does not smell like posole.

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This reason alone would justify the nixtamal-ization process, but it also makes it more nutritious. The niacin present in corn becomes more available, the amino acid balance improves and the lime adds a digestible source of calcium.

To the pot you can add little red chile, green chile, cubes of pork, beef tripe, pinto beans, or sliced carrots. I added Mano Y Metate Pipian Picante Powder. Garnish with shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, cilantro, white or green onion or lime wedges.

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Categories: Cooking, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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