Posts Tagged With: desert gardening

Monsoon Mesquite Bosque Butter

Mature pods of velvet mesquite–ready for monsoon planting  or eating!  (JRMondt photo)

Tia Marta’s 12’x12″ pod net, slit into center on an imaginary radius to wrap around trunk and over understory plants, edged with duct tape on non-selvedge sides (MABurgess photos)

Mesquite pods shaken from tree onto harvesting net

I finished the split center edges of my pod-harvesting net with hems in which to optionally insert saguaro ribs or PVCpipe for easy set-up around a mesquite tree trunk

This past week, at the last hurrah before these wonderful monsoonal rains began, Tia Marta here was out with my handy dandy self-invented pod-harvesting net to bring in some of our Sonoran Desert’s bounty–just in time to avoid the aflatoxin hazard which comes with higher humidity.

Some velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina) have a rich raspberry color–Wish you could taste this one–We compete with the wildlife for them. (MABurgess photo)

Plump pods of sweet velvet mesquite, full of pulp for making Bosque Butter. Every tree’s pods have different shapes and tastes.  Be choosy!–collect from the trees with the plumpest and sweetest pods. (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mesquite orchardist, miller of primo mesquite flour, died June3, 2017

 

With a song of thanks for this desert super-food–and with thankful recollections of some amazing mesquite aficionados–I would like to share one of my favorite mesquite recipes.  This post about mesquite is a tribute to the “gotmesquite guy” Mark Moody who recently passed, and whose fabulous mesquite flour via farmers’ markets and NativeSeeds/SEARCH has fed many a happy desert-foods buff over the years.  (Check out my piece in the online EdibleBajaArizona for more about Mark.)

Mesquite “Bosque Butter” and “Bosque Sauce” a la Tia Marta

This delectable recipe for Mesquite Bosque (pronounced boss’kay) Butter was inspired by a crack team of Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Docents in the 1970s -80s who assisted in our first Mesquite Harvesting Workshops, possibly the first ever done in English.  In particular I’m honoring the memories of docents Mike and Jean Mentus, Gerry Dennison, and Linda Stillman, who helped me invent this condiment and teach Museum members about it.

This recipe uses the whole dry pods freshly harvested–not milled meal (although you could enhance it with extra mesquite meal if you desire.)

RECIPE for Muff’s “MESQUITE BOSQUE BUTTER”:

You will need:  3 bowls(2 for straining, 1 for compostable fiber), 2 stirring spoons, tasting spoon, 1-2 colanders, 1 lg. saucepan for stovetop or solar oven, cheesecloth, electric mixer with pulse setting (Your grandmother’s osterizer is fine.)

Ingredients:

Approx. 2 qts mesquite pods, clean, mature, dry (preferably fresh off the tree)

Approx. 1 quart drinking water

2 pk sure-jell (or other fruit pectin, ca.3.5oz.)

¼ C sugar (or honey optional) [Sugar helps set the gel.]

½ C raw organic agave nectar

1-2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 T butter (optional)

juice of 4 Mexican limes (or 2 lemons)

Washed pods, covered with drinking water, set in solar oven to cook (MABurgess photo)

Directions:

 1) Rinse mesquite pods until thoroughly clean of desert dust, and drain them.

2) Place pods in large saucepan with enough drinking water to cover. Add more water if 1qt is not enough to cover pods.

3) Simmer pods 30-40 minutes until fully softened. Softening time differs with dryness of pods.

4) Water will be sweet.  Through a colander over a bowl, drain pods, reserving ALL the liquid.

Cooked pods and reserved liquid being blendered

Check bottom of blender to remove all fiber from blade with each handful

Cooked, blendered pods draining thru cheesecloth in colander

5) In blender, whirl softened pods–handful by handful, each handful with ¼ cup of the reserved liquid– with gentle pulses, 8-10 short pulses max for each handful of pods.

6) Into a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl, hand-remove the entire loosened juice, pulp, seed, and fiber mass after each handful.  Check blender blades each time to prevent burnout of motor, as pod fibers can easily bind up the works!

7) In the colander over the bowl, drain as much of the blendered pulpy liquid from the fiber as possible, pressing, squeezing, twisting it out with cheesecloth.  You might extract more if you squeeze the cheesecloth after each handful is poured from the blender.

Squeezing cooked, blendered pods thru cheesecloth to extract pulpy liquid

After adding all other ingredients,, boil the sweet pulpy liquid

8) Transfer the strained pulpy liquid to a saucepan.  Bring it to a boil.  Add lime/lemon juice, sugar, agave nectar, cinnamon, pectin, and butter, stirring all in smoothly.

9) The liquid mixture must be cooked down to concentrate it.  Simmer 30-45 minutes to desired texture or thickness.

10) Funnel the mixture into jars.  Cool down; refrigerate when cool.

If it thickens it will be a delicious spread–like apple-butter.  If it does not gel it will be a fabulous mesquite syrup or sauce over pancakes, waffles, or ice cream!  If your mix has more liquid than pulp, when it thickens it can even be served as a very rich yummy pudding.

Mesquite Bosque Butter on buckwheat pancake–delish!

However it comes out, you will be enjoying the health benefits of mesquite’s complex carbohydrates and its unforgettable sweet and natural taste!  (Don’t forget to compost the leftover seeds and fiber—good nutrients for soil building.  Or, feed it to the birds in your “back forty.”)

Plan NOW and prep for future mesquite harvests!  Why not plant you own trees and enjoy their shade, their life-giving oxygen–and their nutritious food!  In the coolth of morning start digging a tree hole where you want future shade.  Monsoon time is a good time to plant, and there are Monsoon Plant Sales happening right now.  Three mesquite species are native to our Southwest region:  Velvet (Prosopis velutina), Honey mesquite (P. glandulosa), and Screwbean mesquite (P.pubescens).  All three make fabulous pod meal but the best for Bosque Butter are Velvet and Honey, as their pods can be plump and full of high-carb pulp.  For the most local varieties of mesquite visit Desert Survivors Nursery (desertsurvivors.org).   The Tohono Chul Park’s Monsoon Madness Plant Sale Friday-Saturday, July 28-29, 2017, will have several expert local growers represented (www.tohonochul.org).  NativeSeeds/SEARCH has mesquite meal in stock and expects the most recent local harvest to be available soon.  (NSS’s Monsoon Plant Sale is Fri-Sun, July 28-30, for monsoon gardening plants, http://www.nativeseeds.org).

Happy harvesting–happy tree-planting–y buen provecho! de Tia Marta.

Categories: Sonoran Native | 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

Agave Fest Begins in Tucson

Tucson is gearing up to celebrate all things agave with the annual Agave Fest. It began Friday, August 28, at Mission Garden in Tucson with tastes of alcohol distilled from agave hearts.  Bacanora is to Sonora as tequila is to Jalisco, mezcal is to Oaxaca and sotol is to Chihuahua.  Bacanora and sotol are the lesser-known. This is how bacanora is described in Tequila: a natural and cultural history by Ana G. Valenzuela-Zapata and Gary Paul Nabhan:

“Bacanora: A bootleg mescal made from the northernmost populations of Agave angustifolia var. Pacifica in sonora and adjacent Chihuahua, sometimes mixed…with A. palmeri. Named for the small rancheria of Bacanora near the pueblo of Sahuaripa, Sonora, this mescal was recently legalized and commercialized, but the clandestine cottage industry product by this name remains the pride of Sonorans.” Bacanora has now been legally sold since 1992, but old-timers still have nostalgia for the unmarked bottles obtained with a little stealth from a Mexican rancher friend.

Native Americans and Mexicans have for centuries used agave as a food source. The agaves are harvested shortly after they start to send up a bloom spike. All the sugars are concentrated then. If you cut the bloom spike when it is just coming out, it can be sliced and eaten raw and is reminiscent of jicama.  However Jesus Garcia cautioned the audience that the raw sap from the agave heart is very caustic and any that ends up on your skin will cause an itchy welt. When the leaves are removed from the agave and the hearts baked, the result is a fibrous sweet pulp.  The volunteers at Mission Garden have constructed a traditional earth oven and Jesus Garcia demonstrated how to prepare the harvested agave for roasting.

Jesus Garcia demonstrates how to prepare an agave heart for roasting at Mission Garden.  Removing the leaves is not easy task, requiring a machete and a strong back. The earth oven is in the foreground. Jesus is preparing a thick bed of coals to roast the agave hearts.

 

Several decades ago when I was doing the research for my first book American Indian Food and Lore (now American Indian Cooking: Recipes from the Southwest), I learned the lesson about the caustic agave sap the hard way as I spattered the raw pulp with every swing of the machete.  While an earth oven gives baked agave a lovely smoky taste, you can also bake agave in a regular oven. I did this for the first time in about 20 years this week with a heart provided by Mission Garden. It was such a huge agave, that I had to quarter it to fit in my home oven.

Quartered agave heart.

Here are two baked quarters going into my oven.

Agave hearts that I have baked that are about the size of a large cauliflower have taken  10 hours at 350 degrees to become soft. These were larger and took about 17 hours until the leaves were soft enough to pull away from the core.

Nicely baked agave heart after 17 hours in the oven.

Soft sweet agave pulp, between the fibers. You can chew it or nudge it out with a knife to use in recipes.

 

 

A few years ago, I visited a mezcal-making demonstration in Oaxaca. Once the agave heads are nicely baked and caramelized, they are cooled, unloaded and the leaves are separated. This crusher is the traditional way that the baked agave leaves are crushed to release the sweet pulp from the fibers. A draft animal goes round and round crushing the baked leaves to a pulp.

The mill,or molino, that crushes the baked agave leaves.

The mill,or molino, that crushes the baked agave leaves. Usually powered by a mule or burro.

 

There are many more events coming up next week for Agave Fest: a dinner, a brunch, lectures, seminars. One I’m sure not to miss is the mezcal and chocolate pairing at Maynards at 7 p.m. May 4. You can read all about it at www.agaveheritagefestival.com or look on Facebook.

Interested in more recipes for wild desert foods?  Check out my book Cooking the Wild Southwest for delicious mesquite recipes as well as recipes for 22 other easily recognized and gathered southwest plants.  For at look at Native American uses for agave and other desert plants, see American Indian Cooking, Recipes from the Southwest.  For a short video on some of the interesting plants you can gather, click here.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tarte au Citron: Best Ever Lemon Pie

 

Spring in the desert means great citrus.

Carolyn here today with one of my favorite recipes, perfect for spring. Many people in the desert have lemon trees in their garden or have access to a neighbor’s bounty. Farmers markets also have lots of citrus in the spring. Making this recipe always reminds me of two dear friends. I begged the recipe several decades ago after eating at a dinner party hosted by Susie Morris and David Devine. I adored the pie, but dreaded making it because I always grated my knuckles along with the lemon zest. Then, a few years ago in repayment for a very minor favor, another friend, Margaret Pope, gave me a new type of zester. It is a miracle tool that makes zesting citrus peel quick and bloodless.

This zester makes producing citrus zest quick and easy.

You can use a commercial pie crust or use the directions for a lemon-flavored crust below.  Some directions call for combining the flour and butter in a food processor, but I think that cuts the butter too small. It’s those larger pieces of butter between layers of flour that make your crust flaky. I use an old-fashioned  pastry cutting tool for this.

Cutting the butter into the flour for pie crust.

To make the filling, you need to separate the eggs. Even a little bit of yolk in the whites with inhibit the amount of volume when you beat them. The trick here is to have three bowls: one for the whites, one for the yolks and the working bowl. Crack the egg over the working bowl, catching the yolk in the shell and letting the white go into the bowl. If there is no yolk in the white, add it to the bowl for whites. If the yolk breaks, set the whole egg aside for scrambled eggs for breakfast and get another egg.

Use the yolks to make the lemon custard filling. It cooks rather quickly, so use low heat and stir and stir. Stop when it is the consistency of mayonnaise.

The custard should be the consistency of mayonnaise.

Next, you will beat your egg whites. The filling for the pie is similar to lemon meringue pie, but rather than the custard on the bottom and meringue on top, you fold together the egg whites and custard.

Gently fold the the custard into the beaten egg whites.

Tarte Au Citron

Pastry:

1 ¼ cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon ice water

½ cup butter

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Filling:

4 eggs

¾ cup sugar

½ cup lemon juice

zest of two lemons

1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

pinch salt

Optional garnish: Whipped cream and mixed berries

Tarte shell: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butter into the flour. Add  egg yolk, ice water and lemon juice. If you are in the desert, you might need to add more water as our flour has little moisture. Roll out and fit into a 8- or  9-inch tart pan. Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees. (Use pie weights, beans or rice over a sheet of foil or parchment paper to keep pastry from puffing up).  Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake another 10 minutes until lightly golden. Set aside.(Can substitute own recipe for pastry but this is really good)

Filling: While the crust is baking, you can start the custard. Separate eggs. Beat yolks with half the sugar. Add lemon juice, zest and cornstarch. Transfer to saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring often, until consistency of mayonnaise, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and rest in bowl of ice water to cool completely. Again preheat oven to 400 degrees if it is cold. In a bowl, place egg whites and salt. Beat gradually, adding remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Stir about a quarter of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in the remaining whites.

Spoon lemon mixture into the pastry shell. Bake until the crust is lightly browned and the filling is set, about 15 minutes. Serve alone or with whipped cream and berries.

Cool on wire rack. Serves 8 (or maybe 2).

Whipped cream and berries are a luxury addition to a slice of Tarte au Citron.

_______________________________

Carolyn Niethammer is the author of five cookbooks on Southwest foods. You can see her books here.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Election Bread—Savoring an old Recipe

No matter who your candidate was this momentous month, by fixing this festive treat called “Election Bread,” we can at least toast the democratic process AND local heirloom foods all in one delicious slice!

Ames Family Election Bread served joyously as a dessert

Ames family traditional Election Bread served joyously as a dessert topped with natural vanilla ice cream

Tia Marta here to share an Election Bread recipe inspired from my own family tradition served around election time each November. On the internet you might find historical variations of it with the moniker “Election Cake.” Technically it is a fruity yeast bread—probably one of the precursors of holiday fruit cake, reminiscent of Italian panettone–a nice addition as weather cools and fruits ripen. In the “old days” they say this Election Bread was baked to attract people to the polls on Election Day and fortify them for the trip home.

I gleaned our Ames Family Election Bread recipe from a cherished little cook’s notebook which my 80-year-old great Aunt Rina wrote for me when I was just learning to cook—yikes, some decades ago. My new adaptation of it reflects our home turf in the flavor-filled Sonoran Desert.

Heirloom Sosa-Carrillo fig (a Padre Kino introduction) from Mission Garden now producing in my yard (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom Sosa-Carrillo fig (a Padre Kino introduction) from Mission Garden now producing in my yard (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom pomegranate from Mission Garden, Tucson (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom pomegranate from Mission Garden, Tucson (MABurgess photo)

But here in Baja Arizona, instead of waiting for fall, I had to begin prep a few months ago by harvesting ripe heirloom figs, pomegranates and apricots as they ripened.  Father Kino’s figs grace my yard and the other two yummy fruits, grown at Tucson’s Mission Garden at the base of A-Mountain, were purchased at the Thursday Santa Cruz farmers’ market.

Preserving them for later use, I dried the fruits in my solar oven with the lid slightly opened, allowing humid air to escape.

 

Fresh Mission figs cut ready for drying in the solar oven

Fresh Mission figs cut ready for drying in the solar oven

Sun-dried figs get even sweeter and more flavorful than when they are fresh!

Sun-dried figs get even sweeter and more flavorful than when they are fresh!

Celebrating our International City of Gastronomy, I rejoice in using flours grown and milled locally by BKWFarms in Marana, Arizona, to bake this rich bread.  Other ingredients I sourced close to home as well — Tucson’s precious mesquite-smoked Hamilton whiskey, homegrown heirloom fruit propagated at Mission Garden, agave nectar in place of sorghum molasses — from the bounty of Baja Arizona’s foodscape, its green thumbs, and its creative local “food-artists.”

Tucson's best whiskey from Hamilton Distillers--made with organic local malted grain dried using local mesquite.

Tucson’s best whiskey from Hamilton Distillers–made with organic local malted grain dried using local mesquite.

Bread teaches us patience.  It is a beautiful meditation so take time to enjoy the process. There are tasks for this recipe to be done on two consecutive days.  At the very least, in between texts and emails, radio news and phone calls, take time out to go to the kitchen, check the status of your “rehydrating” fruit, or check your yeast sponge, take a nip, etc.  Bread is a living gift and this Election Bread in particular brings many quite lively foods together.  Be not daunted–become one with the yeasts!

If you are already into sourdough baking and have live starter, take method A.  If you are beginning with dry yeast, take method B.  Both will give olfactory pleasure from the git-go.

 

RECIPE FOR AMES FAMILY ELECTION BREAD

Day 1—Making the Pre-ferment –method A–Using Sourdough Starter
1 cup whole milk, warmed to ~ 70º F
¼ cup active starter — fully hydrated
2 ¼ cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour *

OR Day 1 — Making the Pre-ferment — method B– Using Yeast
1 1/8 cup milk, warmed to ~70º F
1 tsp instant dry yeast
2 ¼ cups plus 2 Tbsp organic all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour *

Pre-ferment Instructions:  In a bowl, combine milk and sourdough starter or yeast. Mix thoroughly until starter or yeast is well dispersed in the milk mixture. Add flour and mix vigorously until the yeast mixture is smooth. Scrape the sides of your bowl to use all yeast. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Allow your sponge to rest and ferment 8-12 hours at room temperature. When ready to use, your pre-ferment will have bubbles covering the surface.

Also Day 1–Pre-Soaking Dried Fruits

1 cup dried fruits, coarsely diced in 3/8-inch or ½-inch pieces **
1-1 ½ cup whiskey, bourbon, brandy, or non-alcoholic fruit juice ***

Instructions for Pre-soaking Dried Fruit:  To prepare dried fruits for your bread, soak them overnight, or for several days beforehand, in a lidded jar. Measure your dried fruit then cover with liquor or liquid of choice. (To speed up the soaking process put diced fruit in a small sauce pan, warm over low heat for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and allow fruit to soak, covered, for several hours.) Until the fruit is totally softened, you may need to add more liquid to keep fruit submerged.

Before adding fruit to your dough, strain the liquid off of the fruit. Use this fruity liquid as a cordial, or to make a simple glaze after bread is baked.

Freshly mixed dough in greased and floured bunt pan

Freshly mixed dough in greased and floured bunt pan

Proofing Election Bread dough--after covering and allowing dough to rise to almost double size--fruit bites visible

Proofing Election Bread dough–after covering and allowing dough to rise to almost double size–fruit bites visible

*** My secret to this “fruit marinade” is the smokey flavor of local Whiskey del Bac!  Using spirits results in a fabulous liqueur “biproduct” to enjoy later.  But, remember the words to that song “Oh we never eat fruitcake because it has rum, and one little bite turns a man to a bum……..”  For the tea- totaler, any fruit juices will work for re-hydrating the dried fruit chunks:  try apple cider, prickly pear, pomegranate juice, cranberry.  Then save the liquid after decanting as it will have delicious new flavors added.

 

Day 2 –Preparing Dough, Proofing, Baking Election Bread

Ingredients:  
1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup unrefined organic sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup whole-milk yogurt
¼ cup sorghum molasses, agave nectar, or honey
Your Pre-ferment –yeast mixture or sourdough mixture from Day 1
2 ¼ cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour combination *
1-2 Tbsp mixed spice blend—your choice cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mace blend
¼ tsp ground coriander –optional
¼ tsp ground black pepper –optional
1-2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sherry or another spirit- optional
2 cups rehydrated local fruit from dried/preserved fruits, decanted

* Create your own combination of pastry flours. My Southwest pastry flour mix to total 2 ¼ cups is:
½ cup organic all-purpose flour
¼ cup mesquite pod milling dust
1 cup organic BKWFarms’ hard red wheat flour                                                                                                                                          ½ cup organic heirloom BKWFarms’ White Sonora Wheat flour  (heirloom flours available at NativeSeeds/SEARCH and http://www.flordemayoarts.com)

** My Election Bread fruit mix honors the Kino Heritage Fruit Tree Project. You can purchase heirloom fruit seasonally at Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market. For this recipe I used:
1/3 cup diced dry figs
1/3 cup diced dry apricots
1/6 cup dry pomegranate “arils”
1/6 cup dry cranberries (a bow to East Coast food)

You can test to see if dough is done thru using a wooden kabob skewer or cake tester. Listen to hear if bubbles are still popping in the dough.

You can test to see if dough is done through by using a wooden kabob skewer or cake tester. Listen to hear if bubbles are still popping in the dough.

Day 2–Instructions for Election Day Bread Baking

a) Cream the butter well; add sugar, mixing until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time with mixer (or spoon) on medium speed. Mix in the sorghum/honey and yogurt. If you have a dough hook mixer you can use it or good old elbow grease. Add the pre-ferment (starter or sponge) and mix slightly.
b) In a separate bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients. Mix as you add dry ingredients into liquid ingredients, being careful not to over-mix.
c) Gently fold in the rehydrated fruit (then optional sherry).
d) Grease (with butter) and flour a bundt pan or round cake pan. Divide the dough evenly into the cake pan. Proof (i.e. let the dough rise) covered in a warm place for 2-4 hours, until the dough has risen by about ⅓ of its volume.
e) Preheat oven to 375F. Bake at 375° F (190° C) for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F (177° C) and continue baking for about 25-35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before cutting and eating.         Enjoy this sweet bread either plain or topped with a simple glaze.

If you are new to yeast bread baking, it would be fun to connect with a friend to chop fruit or get hands gooey together, or to have one person read directions while the other mixes. We always do it as a family and it’s so much more fun to add humor and gossip to the mix–or even a little political emoting.

Sonoran Desert style Election Bread with local grains and local fruits--Ah the aromas!

Sonoran Desert style Election Bread with local grains and local fruits–Ahhhh, the aromas and rich history of Baja Arizona in a single slice!

During the coming holidays, you could try this easy bread for a great party treat, for breakfast, or for a colorful dessert topped with whipped cream or ice cream.
And feel free to play with the recipe, adding your own tastes, honoring your own family’s food culture and history and your own sense of place!
Buen provecho from Tia Marta!

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

Our Living Giving Heirloom Pomegranate

Brought by the Padres to Baja Arizona during the Mission Period, this desert-adapted Sonoran White Pomegranate can continue to feed us visually, nutritionally, esthetically (photo MABurgess)

Brought by the Padres to Baja Arizona during the Mission Period over 350 years ago, this desert-adapted Sonoran White Pomegranate can continue to feed us visually, nutritionally, sustainably  (photo MABurgess)

It is thought that the so-called “apple,” the fruit of knowledge of good and evil which Eve shared with Adam in the Garden of Eden, was actually a pomegranate.   Now, thankfully, since Eden, we are all “fallen” and can enjoy pomegranates with no guilt!   Tia Marta here, inspired deeply by the recent article in Edible Baja Arizona by Dena Cowan about the comeback of heirloom Sonora White Pomegranate being celebrated at Tucson’s Mission Garden.  (This is a must-read:  http://ediblebajaarizona.com/sonoran-white-pomegranate .)

Heirloom Sonora white pomegranate blooms and fruits all summer at Tucson' Mission Garden (photoMABurgess)

Heirloom Sonora white pomegranate blooms and fruits all summer at Tucson’ Mission Garden at the base of   “A”-Mountain (photoMABurgess)

One of the first joys of pomegranates is esthetic, making pomegranate (particularly our local heirloom Sonoran White) a primo candidate for edible landscaping.  Its rich green foliage is cooling to eyes and spirit.  Its glorious, shiny red flowers decorate the trees all summer, followed by sensuous round beige fruits that become rosy as they ripen like Christmas ornaments hanging on the tree.

Sensational flower of Sonoran White Pomegranate--an extra bonus for edible landscapers (MABurgess photo)

Sensational flower of Sonoran White Pomegranate–an extra bonus for edible landscapers .  (Check out the shape of pomegranate flowers to see the design influence in Spanish silver work which in turn inspired Dine/Navajo  “squash blossom” jewelry.) (MABurgess photo)

Peeking over the wall of Cordoba House in Tucson's historic neighborhood is a double flowered pomegranate (MABurgess photo)

Peeking over the wall of Cordoba House in Tucson’s historic Presidio Neighborhood is a double flowered pomegranate (MABurgess photo)

A "fallen star" --a pomegranate flower on the pavement continues as a radiant bouquet (MABurgess photo)

A “fallen star” –a pomegranate flower on the pavement continues as a radiant bouquet (MABurgess photo)

 

Prepare to share your plentiful crop of Sonoran White Pomegranate with other frugivorous creatures. True bugs can be pests. No prob--damage is limited. (MABurgess photo)

Prepare to share your plentiful crop of Sonoran White Pomegranate with other frugivorous creatures. True bugs like these leaf-legged bugs (Coreidae) can be pests. No prob–damage is usually limited. (MABurgess photo)

The structure of pomegranate fruits, with its separate juicy cells or arils, normally prevents insect damage from destroying an entire fruit.  Just cut off the effected area and the remaining arils still will be perfect for eating.

Traditional Sonoran style for opening an heirloom Sonoran White pomegranate (MABurgess photo)

Traditional Sonoran style for opening an heirloom Sonoran White pomegranate (MABurgess photo)

Jesus Garcia, founder of the Kino Heritage Tree Program at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Mission Garden (and traditional knowledge-keeper of important Sonoran folkways), teaches how to cut the top off of a pomegranate to clearly see the septa or membranes that separate the five or six groupings of juice cells (arils), each containing a seed.  In most modern cultivated pomegranates, there is a hard bitter seed that must be “discarded,” making eating less than perfect.  Amazingly, the Sonoran White has small, tender seeds that present no problem–just eat the arils whole and enjoy!  (No spitting necessary.)

Traditional way of opening the Sonoran White Pomegranate for happy access to arils (MABurgess photo)

Subdivide the fruit along its easy membranes.  This is Garcias’ traditional way of opening the Sonoran White Pomegranate for happy access to “arils” –the juicy beads or sarcotestas (MABurgess photo)

I always thought that pomme -grenade was named for the city of Granada, but actually it is the other way ’round.  The Spanish city was re-named Granada when the Moors brought the fruit there from the MiddleEast and it made a big splash.

Technically the pomegranate  (Punica granatum) does not have many familiar relatives to us in its family of loosestrifes (Lythraceae).  It is so different from other plants that some taxonomists place it in its own family Punicaceae.  Pomegranate fruit is a berry, with each seed surrounded by sweet juice in little discrete cases called sarcotestas.  (There must be a better name for these delicious little beads of bliss!)

Nutritionally pomegranate has sweet advantages, providing antioxidants,  folate, vitamins C and K, plus manganese, phosphorus and potassium.

Fruity dessert topped with juicy clear Sonoran White Pomegranate seed-cells (MABurgess photo)

Fruity dessert topped with juicy clear Sonoran White Pomegranate seed-cells (MABurgess photo)

Sonoran White Pomegranate can be juiced to drink straight or add to other drinks. (Talk about a nutritious addition to margaritas!) The simplest, most delightful way of enjoying our clear Sonoran White seed-cells is simply snacking by the handful.

I make a luscious dessert with vanilla yogurt topped with slices of fresh apricot, local apple, and blueberries, and crowned by the sweet seed-cells of Sonoran White Pomegranate.  Rejoice in this ancient gift brought by the Missionaries to Baja Arizona–a desert survivor, well-adapted to carrying us into climate change in arid lands!

Let your Sonoran White Pomegranate fruits remain on the tree until you see a rosy blush--then you know they are getting sweeter!

Let your Sonoran White Pomegranate fruits remain on the tree until you see a rosy blush–then you know they are getting sweetest! (MABurgess photo)

Sonoran White Pomegranate tops this southwestern dessert (MABurgess photo)

Sonoran White Pomegranate tops this southwestern dessert (MABurgess photo)

Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace will be sponsoring a Pomegranate event this month–September 24, 2016– at the Mission Garden.  Come learn all about our local heirloom treasure, the Sonoran White Pomegranate, how to grow it in our own gardens, and how to prepare it in zillion delectable ways.  For details call 520.777.9270 or email missiongarden.tucson@gmail.com (www.tucsonsbirthplace.org.)  Let’s keep this living and giving food-heirloom alive and well in our gardens into the future!

 

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Promise, Preparedness, Present Fulfillment–with Fruits of the Desert

small fishhook Mammillaria microcarpa celebration the monsoon with a promise of future fruitlets (MABurgess photo)

Fishhook Mammillaria microcarpa celebrating the monsoon with a promise of future fruitlets (MABurgess photo)

Crowns of Mammillaria flowers make pink arches like miniature 4th of July fireworks now suddenly visible among desert rocks and under greening bursage.  They are rain celebrations–the PROMISES of fruits to come!  In a few weeks the little fishhook pincushions will sport a crown of shiny red fruitlets.  Keep watch for them.  Known in Sonora as pitayita de raton (little mouse’s pitaya), each long red droplet will give you a sweet tangy zing– like a mini-organpipe-cactus fruit.  Tia Marta here to share ways of enjoying the cornucopia that is beginning to spill out flavorfully all around us in town and out in the desert in this monsoon time.

Late fruiting prickly pear--still green and full of promise

Late fruiting prickly pear–unripe green but full of promise this week (July 8)

Opuntia lendheimeri alba barely turning pink--more promises...

Opuntia lindheimeri alba barely turning pink this week–more promises…(July 8)

Opuntia engelmannii in first stages of ripening...

Opuntia engelmannii in first stages of ripening…not yet (week of July 8)

All around the desert and through every neighborhood, I see the promise of a good prickly pear harvest, inspired by our elongated spring and nurtured by good monsoon rain.  Each prickly pear seems to march to a different drummer.  Right now you can see every shade of color–unripe to ripening tunas–very green, to rosy, to deepening red.  These are PROMISES so don’t jump the gun!  They are not ready quite yet–but this is the signal to get your kitchen PREPARED.  Stay tuned–There will be more blog posts to detail prickly pear ideas in coming weeks.  Make space now in your freezer, and make time on your calendar for the August TUNA HARVEST.

 

Opuntia engelmannii in full ripening fruit--but not ready yet!

Opuntia engelmannii full of ripening fruit–But don’t salivate yet (week of July 8)!  Wait for a dark maroon color to extend all the way to the bottom attachment of the tuna AND through the tuna‘s entire interior before they are fully ripe and ready to eat or cook.

What a glorious monsoon our Sonoran Desert has enjoyed over the last couple of weeks!  The explosion of life in such a short time is astounding on the heels of record-breaking heat and drought.  This is when the desert shows its tropical heritage with a surge of energy, fecundity, productivity.  Isn’t it interesting that the “outsider’s” view of the desert is of hazardous scarcity?  More interesting instead is to understand and appreciate the waves of nutritious plenty that can erupt suddenly here in the Sonoran Desert.  Native People know how to rally, to harvest in the times of plenty and to store short-lived fruits of the desert against lean times–lessons worth exercising.   Plentiful foothills palo verde seeds (Parkinsonia microphylla) are a case in point.

Mature dry pods of foothills paloverde--They have potential for making flour!

Mature dry pods of foothills paloverde–with potential for making nutritious flour!

Foothills palo verde seed milled raw for baking

Foothills palo verde seed milled raw for baking

Seeds of foothills palo verde dry and hard as little stones

Seeds of foothills palo verde– dry and hard as little stones

 

At PRESENT, lasting perhaps through July, there are copious “fruits-of-the-desert” hanging on foothills palo verde trees (aka little-leaf paloverde) covering desert hillsides.  In early June, palo verde pods were offering soft sweetpeas for fresh picking (described in the June13,2015 Savor blog on this site).   Now in July, palo verde pods are rattling with shrunken stone-hard seeds.  When ground, or when toasted and milled, these little dry seeds can produce two fabulous gluten-free flours for adding to baked goods, hot cereal, gravies etc.

Dry foothills palo verde seed milled raw on L, toasted and milled fine in center, toasted coarse-milled on R

Dry foothills palo verde seeds:  milled raw-Left; toasted and milled fine-Center; toasted & coarse-milled-Right

Foothills palo verde seed toasting in a dry iron skillet

Foothills palo verde seed toasting in a dry iron skillet

Oh how I wish that technology could keep up with our needs for scratch, sniff, and taste in this blog!!  The distinctly different flavors and textures of these two flours are so pleasant.  Desert People traditionally parched and ground these seeds in bedrock mortars.  I used a coffee mill to grind them.  The raw flour has a wonderful bean-i-ness bouquet coming through.  Then I toasted (parched) a separate batch of seeds in an un-greased skillet before milling, and WOW the roasty aroma of this gluten-free flour is rich.  I am using it to add flavor –not to mention high protein and complex carbs–to multigrain breads and biscuits.  So FULFILLING!  A friend who tried these different preparations for palo verde flour even wants to use it as a spice or seasoning!

With the monsoon (and with the help of many hummingbird pollinators) has come another edible surprise to my desert garden–octopus cactus fruit–that I just have to share with you:

Stenocereus alamosensis with hummer- and perhaps ant-pollinated flower, June26,2016 (MABurgess photo)

Stenocereus alamosensis with hummer- and perhaps ant-pollinated flower, June26,2016.  Note happy ant on petal.  (MABurgess photo)

Fruit of octopus cactus Stenocereus alamosensis, ripe and splitting July 4, 2016

Fruit of octopus cactus Stenocereus alamosensis, ripe and splitting July 4, 2016 (MABurgess photo)

Sliced octopus cactus fruit on palo chino bowl (MABurgess photo)

Juicy sliced octopus cactus fruit (Stenocereus alamosensis) on palo chino bowl (MABurgess photo)

Years ago I collected seed for it near Alamos, Sonora, and grew it out in Tucson.  Surviving frosty winters, and flowering in previous years, it never bore fruit before.  This year, fertilization happened at last, and voila–there are sensational, gently sweet delicacies to eat right off the cactus.  The fruit’s fresh crispy texture is like watermelon and its seeds are tiny protein crunches.  [Light bulb idea]–With climate change, this flavorful cactus fruit–and others like it–could become an appropriate specialty food to grow locally.

Keep your eyes peeled and prepare for more harvests from the latest new “promises” blooming for multiple times this season in the desert…..Check out these potential edibles:

This is the third bloom of saguaros this season--with pollination may give another fruit harvest

This is the third bloom of saguaros this season–if  pollinated may give yet another fruit harvest

Green swelling Padre Kino fig--watch for preparing heirloom fruit ideas next month….

Green swelling Padre Kino fig–Young trees are available next week at the NSS plant sale!

A new wave of mesquite flowers and green pods promise a second harvest this season.

A new wave of mesquite flowers and green pods promise a second harvest this season.

Don’t miss the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Monsoon Plant Sale this next weekend, Friday-Sunday, July 15-17, 2016!  For your own garden-to-table promises and preparations, check out the many starts of NSS heirloom summer vegetables and monsoon wildflowers.  There will be tomatillo plants, heirloom chile varieties, cucumber, many squash and melon varieties to give your garden a jump-start.  A few 5-gallon  Father Kino fig trees propagated at Mission Garden will be available for sale, so come early.

For well-seasoned ideas for desert cookery, two fabulously useful books continue to inspire:    Tucsonan Sandal English’s cookbook from the 1970’s Fruits of the Desert published by the Arizona Daily Star, and desert-foods aficionado (& Blog-Sister) Carolyn Niethammer’s book Cooking the Wild Southwest published by University of Arizona Press.  Borrow or buy, and use them with joy.

I wish you happy harvesting as the desert’s present promises become a cornucopia of fulfilling plenty!

[For anyone seeking heirloom foods and products made with wild foods, check out http://www.flordemayoarts.com and http://www.nativeseeds.org, or visit the Baggesen Family booth at Sunday St Philips farmers market.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Desert Harvesters June Events

010Though newcomers to the Sonoran Desert sometimes miss the abundant fruits, berries, mushrooms, and greens of wetter forests, one Tucson organization wants you to know the desert is full of food: You just have to know where to look for it. Desert Harvesters is a nonprofit grassroots group that promotes the harvest of native, wild, and cultivated desert foods and also advocates for the planting of indigenous, food-bearing shade trees (such as the Velvet mesquite) and understory plantings within rainwater harvesting “gardens” in the landscapes where we live, work, and play. Funds raised at these events support the group’s educational efforts in the community, including demonstrations, publications, and tasting events.

The group announces its summer season of harvesting workshops and activities, which aim to help the public learn how to plant, harvest, process, and prepare wild, native, and local food items, including mesquite pods, ironwood & palo verde seeds, and saguaro fruit. Currently the group is raising funds to support the publication of a revised and expanded version of its 2010 cookbook Eat Mesquite! This new cookbook will include recipes for mesquite and other desert foods, as well as information about how to grow, harvest, and prepare native and local foods. Desert Harvesters is also seeking volunteers to help with (and learn from) these and other events.

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June 18 & 19, 2016

Workshops on Mesquite Pod Tasting, Inspection, and Ticketing and Hammermill Operation for those who want to become Desert Harvesters volunteers or staff, or others wishing to expand their mesquite-related skill sets. Visit http://www.DesertHarvesters.org or email volunteer@DesertHarvesters.org to learn more.

 

June 23, 2016

DESERT HARVESTERS’ 14th ANNUAL MESQUITE MILLING & WILD FOODS & DRINKS FIESTA Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market at Mercado San Agustín, 100 S Avenida del Convento, Tucson

Bring your clean & sorted mesquite pods to be milled with our hammermill (fee applies) and taste an array of wild foods.

Harvesters can have their milled mesquite flour tested for aflatoxins (see below) at our 14th Annual Mesquite Milling on June 23, 2016, in Tucson. The cost per test will be a special subsidized fee of only $5.

We will also be serving craft beers (Smoked Mesquite Apple beer as well as a beer finished with creosote flowers) from Iron John Brewing Co. with proceeds going to Desert Harvesters.

 

June 24, 2016

Desert Harvesters’ Happy Hour at Tap & Bottle

403 N 6th Ave #135, Tucson

5–8 pm

Enjoy great regional brews, some infused with locally sourced native wild ingredients. A percentage of all happy-hour sales goes to Desert Harvesters! A local food truck will also be on site with delicious offerings including native wild ingredients.

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BE IN SYNC WITH THE SONORAN DESERT’S NATURAL PATTERNS

To encourage harvesting before the monsoons, and to be more in sync with the Sonoran Desert ecology’s natural patterns, Desert Harvesters has shifted its annual harvesting and milling trainings, along with its mesquite millings and fiesta, to the month of June—BEFORE the summer rains. This is also when our native bean trees (mesquite, desert ironwood, palo verde) are ready to harvest (they produce before the rains so their seed is on the ground ready to germinate when the rains arrive). Regularly check our Calendar of Events for more such event info.

 

 

FOOD SAFETY: Aflatoxin and how to avoid it

Aflatoxin is a toxic natural compound produced by certain molds; it can cause liver damage and cancer. Aflatoxin is found in many common foods, but only in small quantities is considered safe (U.S. ≤ 20 parts per billion (ppb), Europe ≤ 2 ppb). We at Desert Harvesters are specifically concerned with the invisible mold (Aspergillus flavus) that can produce aflatoxin B1 on mesquite pods, as well as on other food crops (legumes, corn, etc) that have been exposed to moisture.

HARVEST MESQUITE PODS BEFORE THE RAINS (at higher elevations, harvesting in dry autumn weather may be an option)

Desert Harvesters is now recommending that, as much as possible, harvesters collect mesquite pods BEFORE the monsoon rains. (This can be more difficult at higher altitudes due to later ripening. In these areas the best practice may be to only harvest in dry autumn weather.) The reason for pre-rain/dry-season harvesting is to reduce the pods’ exposure to moisture, and thus the risk of the development of an invisible mold (Aspergillus flavus) and the aflatoxin it can produce. Aflatoxin poisoning can have serious health consequences over the long term, so we want to harvest in a SAFE manner. To further avoid moisture issues with the pods we recommend you do NOT rinse or wash pods.

In the small number of batches of mesquite flour we have tested thus far…ALL mesquite pods we tested which were harvested BEFORE the rains have tested SAFE.

In other words, NO mesquite pods harvested BEFORE the rains had results with unsafe levels of aflatoxin. The U.S.-designated safe limit of aflatoxin is 20 parts per billion (ppb), so safe test results will be 20 or fewer ppb.

However, all test batches of mesquite pods that DID have results with unsafe levels of aflatoxin were harvested AFTER the onset of the rains. Again, in the U.S., safe aflatoxin levels of 20 or fewer parts per billion (ppb) are considered safe. However, many other batches harvested AFTER the onset of the rains tested SAFE.

 

We hope to continue to share more studies and best harvesting practices.

 

What to do with mesquite flour?

Sonoran Cookies

Here’s a truly classic recipe from the first EAT Mesquite! Cookbook.We’ve made hundreds of these cookies. The author of the original recipe is unknown. The ones in the photo below are topped with mesquite toffee.

mesq cookies toffee

.25 lb (one stick) butter

1 cup sugar (can be reduced to .75 cup sugar, plus .25 cup mesquite)

1 egg

2 teaspoon vanilla (or local lemon extract)

2 cup corn tortilla meal (or whole wheat flour)

1 cup mesquite meal

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

.5 cup pecans, finely chopped (optional)

Cream softened butter.  Mix in sugar, egg and extract.  Sift dry ingredients and add to the first mixture.  Add nuts (optional) and beat until smooth.  Roll dough into 2 inch balls and press onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Or, roll dough into thin logs, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate or freeze.  Slice cold logs into rounds and place on cookie sheet.  (Doubled cookie sheets or Airbake prevent bottoms from browning too fast.)  Place in preheated 375 F oven and bake 12 minutes or until golden.  Cool on racks until crisp, or eat warm and soft.  Makes up to 200 tiny (.75 inch) cookies.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a 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

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