Posts Tagged With: Martha Burgess

Sweet New Ideas for the honorable old Sweet-lime

Surprisingly aromatic and gracefully sweet despite its continued green, the heirloom Mexican Sweet Lime is ready to harvest at Mission Garden. This ancient and honorable citrus was brought to Tucson by the Padres and is a proven producer in our desert kitchen-gardens and orchards. Note the characteristic “nipple” on the base of the fruit which distinguishes it from other citrus.  (photos by MABurgess)

Boughs are hanging heavy with fruit in the Mission Garden’s living history orchard at the foot of A-Mountain!  With chilly nights at last descending upon us, it is time for all of us in low desert country to harvest citrus for the holidays.  The heirloom SWEET-LIME, brought by Father Kino to the Pimeria Alta more than 3 centuries ago, is a living, lasting gift to us, conserved and propagated now by ethnobotanist Jesus Garcia of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Kino Mission Fruit-tree Project.

Citrus time again in Baja Arizona! I’ve harvested Meyer Lemon, Mexican lime, and tangerine from my trees, and I hope to buy an heirloom sweet-lime from Mission Garden to plant in mi huertita–my mini-orchard.

Tia Marta here, wanting so much to share this amazinging sweet-lime with you–and doggone technology has not caught up with my wish to have you just scratch and sniff it right now!  (When will techno-dudes ever perfect the digital transmission of olfactory joys?).   For the time being you will just have to visit the Community Food Bank booth at Thursday’s Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market, or come in person to visit the Mission Garden any Saturday 10am-2pm (within the adobe wall off S.Grande Ave.  See http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org for directions.)

Mexican sweet-limes –sliced and ready to eat– There is NO puckering up with THESE limes; their gentle sweetness and bouquet will thrill your tastebuds! (And note gladly: the seeds are small and few.)

It’s easy to juice sweet-limes in a manual squeezer.

Ideas for sweet-lime juice:  Amazing what baby-boomers are getting rid of these days.  I found a manual juicer at a yard sale which is perfect for citrus halves and even for sections of pomegranate.

With sweet-lime juice you can wax creative.  For a festive punch, try it mixed with prickly pear juice that you have saved frozen from your August harvest.  Or, for more colorful punches, mix sweet-lime juice with grenadine, or your home-squoze pomegranate juice, or jamaica tea.  It also tastes great with mango.  Another admired Tucson ethnobotanist, Dr Letitia McCune, (www.botanydoc.com) is an expert in cherry nutrition so of course I had to try sweet-lime with tart cherry.  Yum!

Sweet-lime juice and tart cherry punch–a glass full of flavor and colorful cheer for the holidays!

Here are more ideas for sliced or diced sweet-lime fruit:

Sweet-lime, sweet sliced tomato, and rosemary Garni, topped with pine nuts and drizzled with olive oil.

Peeled and diced sweet-lime fruit makes an incomparable aromatic addition to a fruit salad. Here sweet-lime chunks are tossed with sliced red grapes and bananas, dressed with chia seed and agave nectar.

No need to throw away these fragrant sweet-lime rinds! Everything has a use.

Crytallized sweet-lime and tangerine rinds make a marvelous home-made holiday candy.

SWEET-LIME CANDY RECIPE:  For a simple-to-make holiday treat of sweet-lime and other citrus rinds, boil sweet-lime rinds for 5-10 minutes to denature some bitter oils, drain completely, add equivalent amount of organic sugar (i.e. if you have 2 cups of sliced rinds then add 2 cups of sugar).  Do not add ANY liquid.  In saucepan, cook on medium heat until a thick syrup forms (at the hard-ball stage).  With tongs, remove each syrup-coated slice and place to dry and harden on a cookie sheet or waxed paper.  Each will crystallize into a crunchy piece of aromatic candy to excite both the youthful and mature palette.

AN EVEN BETTER SERVING SUGGESTION:  (Ah-hah!–You have already thought of this!)  “Enhance” your punch into a fabulous SWEET-LIME MARGARITA by adding a jigger of your favorite local Bacanora, Sotol or mescal spirits to your sweet-lime punch.  Then pow!!–taste that “nutrition”!  If you happen to add prickly pear juice, you even have a built-in hangover helper.  Happiest holiday wishes to all!  Wassail wassail as we hail the heirlooms!

(All photos by the author, copyright 2017)

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

An ARTISTIC Harvest of Desert Foods

Living sculptures and a study in color–the fall harvest at Mission Garden, Tucson–Tohono O’odham Ha:l,   NSS Mayo Blusher, Magdalena Big Cheese pumpkin, membrillo fruit, T.O 60-day corn and chapalote corn (MissionGarden photo)

You salivate.  Or you catch your breath with it’s beauty!  Maybe the trigger is your taste-buds’ association with the truly GOOD foods from our Sonoran Desert… Or maybe the esthetic forms and colors of these foods clobber an “appreciation center” in our soul… We don’t even have to taste them–We react!

In Georgia O’Keefe-style, up close and intimate with heirloom beans–“Boyd’s Beauties” original watercolor by MABurgess

Shapely Dine Cushaw –a big-as-life watercolor by MA Burgess

For me,  just one look at a harvest of desert crops makes me want to PAINT it!  Over the years I’ve grown out many seeds for NativeSeeds/SEARCH (that admirable Southwest seed-conservation group saving our precious food-DNA for the future).  With each harvest–before I extract the seeds or eat the wonderful fruit–I’m always blown away by the sheer colors, patterns, sensuousness, or sculptural shape that each seedhead, each pumpkin, each pod, kernel, or juicy berry displays.  And the kicker is–they are oh-so-transient!  I am compelled to document each, capturing its esthetic essence pronto before it proceeds to its higher purpose, gastronomic and nutritional.

Tia Marta here, inviting you to come see some of my artistic creations depicting glorious desert foods and traditional cultural landscapes.   Next weekend–Saturday and Sunday, October 21-22, is Tucson’s WestSide ArtTrails OPEN STUDIO event!  You can see artworks in action (along with some inspiring fruits of the desert that inspire the art).  Check out http://www.ArtTrails.org and click on the artist’s name (Martha Burgess) for directions.  Join us 10am-4pm either day.

Velvet Mesquite’s Lasting Impressions–Imbedded handmade paper sculpture by MABurgess

In addition, at our OPEN STUDIO TOUR you will see a retrospective of Virginia Ames’ lifetime of diverse creative arts, including pastels, needlework, collographs and silkscreen, with her own interpretations of traditional foods and food-plants.

Tohono O’odham Autumn Harvest–large-scale watercolor by Virginia Ames

Cover of new children’s adventure picture-book of the Sonoran Desert Borderlands (in 3 languages); by Virginia Ames, illustrated by Frank S. Rose, and edited by Martha Burgess

Her children’s book about the saguaro in the Sonoran Desert Borderlands, entitled Bo and the Fly-away Kite will be available too.  It is illustrated by Tucson artist, plant aficionado and author Frank S. Rose, with the illustrator in person 1:30-4pm to sign copies and discuss desert plants.

Nature photography by J.Rod Mondt (WildDesertPhotography) will enhance our exhibit with his wildlife images, especially featuring our precious pollinators.

Honeybee heavy with pollen–photo by JRod Mondt

And only at the OPEN STUDIO of Martha Burgess, October 21 or 22 can you try tastes of the Native foods that you see in our artwork (from recipes you may find in earlier posts of this very blog).

Find more samples of our artwork at our website http://www.flordemayoarts.com, also at Tohono Chul Park Museum Shop and at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store (3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson).  “NOW PLAYING” at the Tucson Jewish Community Center is an exhibit by the ArtTrails.org group of diverse WestSide artists–among them yours truly Tia Marta.  The public is invited to the reception at TJCC on Wednesday Oct.18, 6:30-8pm.  Virginia Wade Ames’ books can be found on Amazon.com searching by author.

Add to your fall-fun calendar:   Friday and Saturday, Oct.27-28–not to be missed- the wild and festive Chiles, Chocolate, and Day of the Dead celebration at Tohono Chul Park, 9-4 both days.  Flor de Mayo’s Native heirloom foods will be arrayed deliciously and artistically there for purchase.

Now–with 3 art events featuring my desert food images– first check out ArtTrails.org for details of our upcoming Open Studio Tour Oct 21-22, click on “Artists” and scroll to Martha Burgess for directions.  It will be truly a feast-for-the-eyes, a visual harvest a-plenty.  We’ll see you there!

Categories: Sonoran Native, SW foods in the Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Savoring Our First Anniversary (and Mesquite Cake)

(From left) Aunt Linda, Amy Valdez Schwem, Carolyn Niethammer,  Tia Marta, and Jacqueline Soule.

The Savor sisters: (From left) Aunt Linda, Amy Valdes Schwemm, Carolyn Niethammer, Tia Marta, and Jacqueline Soule.

Carolyn Niethammer here today with this celebratory post. The Savor Sisters, the five writers who bring you Savor the Southwest, got together this week to celebrate the first anniversary of our wide ranging blog about the glories of Southwest food traditions –  traditional, modern, wild and cultivated. The Savor the Southwest month always starts out with Aunt Linda who frequently writes about her bees, recipes with honey, and even making cheese from milk from cows on her ranch. Her posts are lyrical and sometimes spirtual. On the second Friday, you hear from Tia Marta (Muffin Burgess), our ethnobotanist who keeps an eye on what the desert is producing, traditional Native American agricultural products, and ingredients she sometimes uses in her Flor de Mayo products.  I take the third Friday and write about edible desert plants, Southwest specialties and interview other interesting folks in the food world.  On the fourth Friday we hear from Jacqueline Soule who has been taking us through her book Father Kino’s Herbs among other subjects. That’s her gluten-free barrel cactus seed cake Muffin is slicing in the photo. You’ll get the recipe later this month. So far we have only heard from Amy Valdes Schwemm, producer of fabulous spices, on the occasional fifth Friday, but she will be writing more frequently in the coming year.

We are grateful to all of you readers who join us each week as we explore and celebrate the culinary delights of this fabulous area here on the Sonoran desert where we are so privileged to live. Every celebration needs something sweet, so today I’m going to give you a recipe for an easy and delicious mesquite cake that uses whatever fruits are in season. I used peaches and grapes, but plums, pears, apples or even prickly pear would be great additions. This is good for brunch or a not-too-sweet dessert.

Golden Mesquite Fruit Cake

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup mesquite meal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ginger or cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick soft butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 large egs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped fresh fruit

For topping

1 tablespoon mesquite meal

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ginger or cinnamon

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Chop fruit. Lightly butter a springform pan. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and spice of choice. In medium bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electic mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addiotn, then beat in vanilla. At low speed,  add flour mixture until ljust combined. Spread batter evenly in pan.

Spread batter evenly in springform pan.

Spread batter evenly in springform pan.

Scatter chopped fruit over top of batter.

Scatter chopped fruit over top of batter.

In a small bowl, stir together the topping mixture and sprinkle evenly over the cake.

Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over cake.

Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over cake.

Put in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes. As the cake bakes it will rise over the fruit. Cake is done when it is golden brown and top is firm but tender when lightly touched. Cool in the pan for around 10 minutes and then remove the sides of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. A little whipped cream never hurt anything.

Yummm, warm and fragrant from the oven.

Yummm, warm and fragrant from the oven.

________________________________

Want more delicious recipes using ingredients from the Southwest?  I have lots of ideas for you. In Cooking the Wild Southwest, I introduce you to 23 easily identified and delicious wild plants of the arid Southwest. The Prickly Pear Cookbook is all about the fruits and leaves of the nopal plant. In The New Southwest Cookbook, you’ll meet some of the most innovative professional chefs in the Southwest and get to try the recipes they serve in their restaurants.

 

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Gifts from September Gardens–intentional and otherwise

Tia Marta here to share some culinary ideas happening now in Baja Arizona herb gardens, and to extend an invitation to visit el jardinito de hierbas at Tucson’s Mission Garden to experience the herbs in action!

Estafiate--all purpose Artemisia ludoviciana--in the herb plot, Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Estafiate–all purpose Artemisia ludoviciana–and Mexican arnica beyond (close-up of flower below), in the herb plot, Mission Garden (MABurgess photos)

Heterotheca--Mexican arnica flower (MABurgess photo)

Of all the herbs in our Southwest summer gardens—presently rejoicing in monsoon humidity and in the soppy tail of Hurricane Norbert—I think the most exuberant has gotta be Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil……..

Mrs Burns' Famous Lemon Basil, at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil, at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

In its versatility, Mrs Burns’ lemon basil provides many possibilities for the kitchen and the cosmetic chest, the first being olfactory delight. Brush its foliage lightly with your hands and you get an instant rush of enlivening yet calming lemon bouquet. Like Monarda or lavender, this lemon basil is definitely one to plant in a “moon garden” for nighttime enjoyment, or along a narrow walkway where you have to pleasantly brush up against it, getting a hit en route, always a reminder that life is good.

I wish this blog could be “scratch-and-sniff” so you could sense the sweet lemony aroma of this heirloom right now. Maybe technology can do that for us someday, but meanwhile, find a Native Seeds/SEARCH aficionado who has planted it and get yourself a sprig to sniff.   On any Saturday morning, come visit and whiff this desert-adapted basil at Mission Garden (the living history exhibit at the base of “A”-Mountain created by Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace). There, among Padre Kino’s heirloom fruit trees, in the monsoon Huerta vegetable plot, a group of herbalists known as Tucson Herbalist Collective (usually referred to as THC—like far out, righteous herbs, man, whatever) has planted a patch of traditional Mission-period medicinal and culinary herbs within reach of the fence. Lean over and touch Mrs Burns’ lemon basil for a real treat. At present (mid-September) “her” basil is a mound of dense smallish leaves and is sending up a zillion flower stalks sporting tiny white flowers. High time to snip the tops to encourage more foliage. Snippings can be used to zest a salad, to bedeck a platter of lamb chops, or to dry for a long-lasting potpourri.

Close-up view of Mrs Burns' Famous Lemon Basil flowers and foliage (MAB)

Close-up view of Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil flowers and foliage (MAB)

Mrs Burns’ lemon basil—not your typical, soft, floppy-leafed basil—is bred for desert living, with smaller, sturdier foliage. Yes, it does need water, but it can take the desert’s heat and sun. This heirloom’s history is worthy of note and relating it honors the Burns family. The person who put “Famous” into the name Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil was Dr. Barney T. Burns, one of the founders of the seed conservation organization NativeSeeds/SEARCH and an amazing seed-saver himself, whose recent passing we mourn and whose life we gratefully rejoice in. It was his mother, Janet Burns, transplanted from Canada to Carlsbad, NM, who, with a neighbor over several decades, continued to grow and select surviving, desert-hardy seed in Southwestern heat. Barney contributed her basil seed as one of the first arid heirlooms to become part of the NSS collection. Interestingly, these tiny seeds have since traveled around the globe. One year Johnny’s Seeds picked it up, grew it out for their catalog, and sent NSS a check for $600 in royalties, having profited considerably from its sale.

You can use Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil leaf in many marvelous dishes. Layer fresh leaves with slices of farmers’ market tomatoes and thin slices of feta or fontina cheese and droozle with flavored olive oil. (I like Queen Creek Olive Mill blood-orange.) And OMG—this basil makes phenomenal pesto. Include this lemon basil with roast chicken for the best lemon-chicken ever. Dry it and put it in stuffing. Add a few fresh leaves to salad for a taste surprise. Or, add a sprig to soups to add a tang. You can even bedeck a glass of V-8 or your Bloody Mary with a lemon basil sprig to fancy up your presentation.

 

Handmade soap with Mrs Burns' Lemon Basil-infused jojoba oil (MABurgess photo)

Handmade soap with Mrs Burns’ Lemon Basil-infused jojoba oil (MABurgess photo)

Once when I enthusiastically grew a 50-foot row of Mrs Burns’ basil, it produced for me bags of dried herb, inspiring some fragrant projects. I distilled the aroma-rich herb to make a gentle hydrosol spray which, I feel, carries medicinal/psychological qualities of soothing, pacifying refreshment. By first infusing this marvelous herb in jojoba oil, I create beauty bars—with Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil as the exfoliant in the soap—available at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, the Flor de Mayo booth at St Phillips Farmers Market, or at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.

In my mass planting of lemon basil, I observed bees going totally ecstatic over the profuse flowers and so wished that I had had bee boxes close-by. If any desert bee-keepers want to try a new gift to their bees and to us consumers of honey, I recommend they plant this one. Can’t think of anything finer than Mrs Burns’ Famous Lemon Basil honey!

Brush leaves of devilsclaw for a cooling sensation (MABurgess)

Brush leaves of devilsclaw for a cooling sensation (MABurgess)

Here in culinarily-exciting Baja Arizona, as we promote the uniqueness of Tucson as an International City of Gastronomy, it is fun to consider another of our unique local food plants, a wild and unlikely weed which pops up with monsoon rains in low places, including at Mission Garden and is respectfully spared there. Known as i:hug by the Tohono O’odham (pronounced eee’hook), devilsclaw or unicorn-plant by Anglos, and Proboscidea spp by taxonomists, ours is not to be confused with the herb devilsclaw of commerce, Harpagophytum procumbens native to South Africa. Our native i:hug (of which there are a few species, some yellow-flowered, some pink) is a weed of many uses.

Tohono O'odham coiled basket by Juanita Ahil with domestic long-clawed i:hug (MABurgess photo)

Tohono O’odham coiled basket by Juanita Ahil with domestic long-clawed i:hug (MABurgess photo)

It is primarily known as the fiber used by Tohono O’odham, Akimel O’odham, and N’de weavers to create the striking black designs in their coiled basketry. Otis Tufton Mason’s tome Aboriginal American Indian Basketry, first published by Smithsonian Institution in 1904, shows beautiful specimens of unicorn-plant weaving, and mentions its use by many desert people including Panamint basket-makers of Death Valley.

I have a feeling that the devilsclaws that are volunteering now at Mission Garden are the children of plants that have been grown by Native People in that very place along the Santa Cruz for many centuries.

Devilsclaw (Proboscidea) flower close-up (MABurgess photo)

Devilsclaw (Proboscidea) flower close-up (MABurgess photo)

As an ornamental, unicorn-plant or devilsclaw can be a welcome surprise of greenery in late summer into fall, making a mound of large leaves sometimes 2’ high and 3’ wide. Tucked among its spreading fuzzy branches, under velvety maple-leaf-shaped foliage, will appear tubular flowers edged in pink. Should you need a cooling touch on a hot day, just lightly brush one of its big leaves and you are instantly refreshed. The velvety look of devilsclaw foliage is actually one of the plant’s defenses against water-loss. Each leaf is covered with fine hairs. At each hair tip is a gland containing a microscopic bead of moisture. Hair causes wind-drag, slowing evaporation from the leaf surface. What evaporates from the glands acts to cools the leaf—what remains can also cool our skin, should we touch it.

Young, harvestable devilsclaw pods (MABurgess photo)

Young, harvestable devilsclaw pods (MABurgess photo)

Most interesting of all are the foods that our native devilsclaw can provide. After pollination of the flower, a small green curved pod emerges like a curled, fuzzy okra. When young, that is, under about 2 ½” long, and before the pod develops woody tissue inside, these small green unicorns can be steamed as a hot vegetable, stir-fried with onion, green chile or nopalitos, or pickled for a Baja Arizona snack.

Maturing green devilsclaw pods beyond the food stage (MABurgess)

Maturing green devilsclaw pods beyond the food stage (MABurgess)

Tangled wild devilsclaw dry pods ready to split for basketry and seed harvesting (MABurgess)

Tangled wild devilsclaw dry pods ready to split for basketry and seed harvesting (MABurgess)

When the long green pods of devilsclaw ripen, the skin will dry and slough off leaving a tough, black, woody seed-pod that splits with very sharp tips. (Beware how they can grab—they were “designed” to hitch a ride on a desert critter’s hoof or fur and thus spread the seed.) With care, and sometimes the need for pliers, open the pod and out will come little rough-surfaced seeds. If your incisors are accurate, and if you have lots of time to get into meditations on i:hug, you can peel off the rough outer seed skin. Inside is a yummy, oil-rich and fiber-rich seed that looks like an overgrown sesame seed. (In fact, scientists at one point had classified Proboscidea in the same taxonomic family as sesame but it now stands in its own.)

Black seeds of wild devilsclaw from split pod.  White inner seeds delish after peeling (MABurgess photo)

Black seeds of wild devilsclaw from split pod. White inner seeds are delish after peeling. (MABurgess photo)

White-seeded domestic devilsclaw has slightly larger seeds like giant sesames (MABurgess photo)

White-seeded domestic devilsclaw has slightly larger seeds like giant sesames.  Peeled inner seed between fingers is ready to eat. (MABurgess photo)

When I see cutesy figurines of roadrunners or Christmas ornaments made with devilsclaw pods, my first thought is, wow, what a waste of a good treat, but then gladly, I realize that this unique plant produces more than enough fresh pods and mature pods to satisfy all the purposes of Nature or hungry and/or creative humans. Give i:hug a try!

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

Wild Greens and Mole Enchiladas

blog1Hello, this is Amy Valdés Schwem, and I’m honored to be here with such esteemed plant and cooking women!

I love harvesting wild greens, but my day job is making mole as Mano Y Metate. Today I’m going to make enchiladas made with Mole Dulce and fill them with wild greens and summer squash. It won’t heat up the house, if you take the toaster oven outside! Enchiladas made with tomato sauce instead of chile are called entomatados, and those made with mole are enmoladas. So the menu can read: Enmoladas de Mole Dulce con Quelites y Calabacitas.

Quelites can refer to several unrelated wild greens, but to me they are wild amaranth greens, Amaranthus palmeri, also known as pigweed.

I grew up eating quelites with my maternal grandfather, and he knew no shame jumping fences to pick weeds. They make a few tiny black seeds, unlike its Mexican domesticated relatives that make enough blond seed to fill bulk bins at the health food store.

It is native to the southwest US and northwest Mexico, and its wild and domesticated relatives are enjoyed around the world both as a green and for its grain-like seed. It easily out-competes summer garden and field crops and is becoming resistant to glyposphate (Roundup). But you wouldn’t want to harvest from those over fertilized fields anyway, since it can absorb too much nitrate, making it unsafe for humans and animals. However, grown in native desert soil, they are safe and nutritious, high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate, among other vitamins and valuable minerals.

Some species and cultivars available at Native Seeds/SEARCH are used for dye and have red leaves, and some make a huge red inflorescence pretty enough to grow as an ornamental, even if the birds eat all the seed. I’ve never had much luck popping the seed I grew, but you can buy commercially popped seed, like miniature popped corn.

blog2 blog4

I just visited my closest community garden, Las Milpitas de Cottonwood, and found these beauties in the irrigated beds already in flower. If this was all I had, I would pick the smallest leaves from the stalks and use those.

blog5Hopefully you find quelites before flowering, shorter than a foot tall. I found a few plants in my yard where other things get watered. Many more will sprout with the summer rains.

blog7a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year I had so many from my Tucson Community Supported Agriculture share that I dried some, just like my great aunt Tia Lucy told me they used to do. I just plucked leaves from the stems and air dried them in the house. To use, I soaked in water overnight, then sauteed with the others. I’ll dry more this summer, for sure.

blog7b blog8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To prepare the fresh quelites, wash, chop tender stems and all, and saute with a little onion and garlic in oil. My grandfather always used bacon grease, so that’s what I did.

blog6

 

It’s also prime season for calabacitas, so use them if you don’t have any fresh or dried quelites. My grandfather also collected and cooked verdolagas for us, which would work here, too.

 

 

 

blog9a

 

Calabacitas, sauteed with onion and garlic. This filling with mushrooms and queso fresco, inside mole dulce enchiladas, is my brother’s signature dish. Well, one of his signature dishes.

 

 

 

blog9b blog9c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now for the mole! For a half dozen enchiladas, to serve two people, I used about half of a tin of Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder, cooked in mild olive oil to make paste.

blog9d

Then I added about half a cup homemade chicken stock and a dash of salt, but veggie stock is great, too. Water doesn’t quite do it. Simmer until you have a nice sauce, adding more broth as necessary. There will be steam and good smells.

 

 

 

blog9f blog9g

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The secret to enchiladas: start with thin corn tortillas and fry briefly in oil hot enough to sizzle, but not hot enough to make them crispy!!! DO NOT skip this step!

If the tortilla cooks too much, or if it breaks, just turn up the heat and make that one into a corn chip.

Dip the flexible tortilla in the mole dulce.

blog9h blog9i

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put quelites or calabacitas in the tortilla and roll.

blog9j blog9l

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top with homemade queso fresco and bake until heated though. My grandfather used the toaster oven outside on the patio in the summer to make enchiladas. No need to heat the house!

Depending on your oven, you may need to cover them with foil, but I didn’t. I like crispy edges. Serve with a cucumber, tomato salad dressed with a squeeze of lime, beans, and prickly pear grapefruit-ade.

Leftovers are best fried in a cast iron pan until crispy.

Mano Y Metate moles can be purchased from Martha Burgess of Flor de Mayo Arts at the Sunday Heirloom Farmers’ Market at St. Philip’s Plaza, Native Seeds/SEARCH, and ManoYMetate.com.

 

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mesquite–Ancient Food for the Future

Yes, we gotta admit it—Tucson and ALL OF BAJA ARIZONA is a FOOD-COLONY!  To feed ourselves here, we currently import over 96% of our foods from out of state or out of country. If there were to be a transportation stoppage or disaster (perish the thought), we have less than 4 days’ food supply in local groceries. (info from Fry’s managers and Pima Co Emergency Mgmt.) This is a scary and sobering reality, and we need to remedy it for the good of all.
When it comes to food security in the Desert Southwest, if we are smart we’d best turn to those whose ancestors not only survived but thrived here, before European food fads invaded, and long before bio-technology pretended to save us–Let us listen to Native People!  If we look to traditional O’odham cuisine, and to that of all low-desert Traditional People in the Southwest, we learn that one of their most important and consistent staple foods was MESQUITE. Meal ground from the whole, ripe, dry pods was prepared in diverse ways by every tribal group, and stored safely against lean times, providing them amazingly tasty nutrition.

Now….its up to “newer arrivals” to the desert to expand our cultural tastes–and enjoy lessons from local tradition….

Harvesting ripe velvet mesquite pods--an old Chuk-shon tradition (RodMondt photo)

Harvesting ripe velvet mesquite pods–an old Chuk-shon tradition (RodMondt photo)

Everyone enjoys mesquite’s shade, its smokey flavoring and fuelwood in BBQs. But what about mesquite as food and food-security? Sweet and yummy are first.  Culinary versatility is up there.  Nutrition is paramount.  Recent nutritional analyses show what Native People have ALWAYS known intuitively, that mesquite’s sweetness is healthy (complex) sugars, and that it gives sustained energy (from slow-release complex carbs.)

A major plus for arid-lands food-security is that mesquite trees grow plentifully in the desert WITHOUT ANY HELP from humans. Having evolved with large Pleistocene herbivores, mesquite’s survival strategy is to over-produce quantities of tasty pods to entice mammoths or (extinct) ungulates to eat them and spread their seeds, scarified and delivered in ready-made fertilizer packages. In more recent centuries, cattle have provided a similar service to spread mesquite.  Hungry bi-peds can benefit too from mesquite’s plentiful productivity. With global climate change and the promise of expanding deserts, mesquite offers us a healthy staple food and a fitting dry-lands crop for our stressed Planet.

Velvet mesquite pods (Prosopis velutina) in green phase (maburgess photo)

Velvet mesquite pods (Prosopis velutina) in green phase (maburgess photo)

[Mesquite pods are ripening as I write–so heads-up!]

A most timely gathering of mesquite experts—both traditional and innovative—is about to happen at  a MESQUITE CONFERENCE open to the public and not to be missed………Attention–Novice mesquite-harvesters, cooks and culinary artists, bakers and chefs, nutritionists and clinicians, ranchers, farmers, gardeners, athletes and fitness fans, survivalists, nature buffs, climate-change planners…. this conference is for you.

MESQUITE: NEW AGRICULTURAL TRADITIONS FOR AN ANCIENT FOOD  will be held in Benson, Arizona, all day Friday, June 13, 2014, at the Cochise College Campus, 8:30am-4pm.
There will be talks by leading Mesquiteros, including traditional Tohono O’odham harvester Clifford Pablo, new crops innovator Dr. Richard Felger, the one and only mesquite agronomist Mark Moody, wild-harvester Amy Valdes Schwemm, creative desert rancher Dennis Moroney, animal feed expert Dr. Howard Frederick, desert foods ethnobotanist Martha Ames Burgess, and Cooperative Extension outreach educator Mark Apel.

In addition, generously sharing their knowledge, techniques and recipes will be demonstrators, including desert foods writer Carolyn Niethammer, wild-food teacher Barbara Rose, solar cooking expert Valerie McCaffrey, mesquite millers from San Xavier Farm Coop and Tohono O’odham Community College, and children’s book author Laurie Melrood. This is the place to contact producers of mesquite meal for your home cooking, for nouvelle local-source eateries, and breweries. Get your tastebuds ready for samples of delectable new culinary mesquite delights!

Sponsored by Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture and University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, with extra support from USDA Western SARE, we have been able to keep the registration fees to a minimum– accessible to anyone. $30 covers the whole day conference including luncheon ($20 for students or members of BASA). Space is limited so register soon. Registration is online via the BASA website http://www.bajaaz.org. For further info call 520-331-9821.
Once registered, please group your travel plans in carpools. For carpooling ideas check out the Native Seeds/SEARCH or BASA facebook sites. Let’s not let anyone miss this conference who needs to be there!

 

Select sweet velvet mesquite pods dry and ready to grind (maburgess photo)

Select sweet velvet mesquite pods dry and ready to grind (maburgess photo)

 

Delicious honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) with ripening pods.

Delicious honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) with ripening pods.

ADDITIONAL MESQUITE HAPPENINGS–Plan to Harvest, Plant, and Celebrate Native Bean-Tree Abundance Before the Rains…

DESERT HARVESTERS is organizing events to help people dramatically enhance the quality of their mesquite pod harvests, what to make with them, and how to better sync with the Sonoran Desert’s seasonal cycles in a way that enhances our shared biome.
We are teaming up with local culinary businesses to increase offerings of native foods in their cuisine, and to encourage landscaping with native food plants in water-harvest earthworks beside their buildings.

Mark your calendar for Thursday June 19, 2014!

Guided Mesquite Harvests and Plantings
Hosted at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market
100 S. Avenida del Convento, Tucson, AZ

5pm harvest on foot, 6pm harvest by bicycle
Led by Desert Harvesters including Amy Valdés Schwemm and Brad Lancaster
$5 to $10 per person (sliding scale)

These hands-on harvest tours show you how to:
• Identify and sample the best-tasting mesquite trees
Every tree is different, but some varieties are consistently much better than others. Taste the differences. (We will also likely harvest from desert ironwood and palo verde.)
• How to harvest safely, ethically, and responsibly
Harvesting pre-rains is best practice to avoid invisible toxic mold. Harvesting from the tree avoids fecal or fungal ground contamination. Check out http://www.ediblebajaarizona.com/calling-all-mesquiteros/ for more on why pre-rain harvests are the traditional practice, and so important.
• Use cool tricks such as the harvest cane.
• How and when to plant the best bean trees
Participants are encouraged to bring sun protection, reusable water bottle, and carry-bags for harvested pods.

Iskashitaa, an organization that helps resettled refugees integrate into the Tucson community, will be offering their beautiful hand-made harvest bags and fresh-squeezed juice from fruit they’ve gleaned. Also there will be AravaipaHeirlooms’ prickly pear pops and chiltepine-infused cold brews from Exo Roast Co.

Bean-Tree Processing Demonstrations
Before and/or after the Guided Harvests and Plantings
4pm to 7pm–FREE
Taught by Barbara Rose, desert foods farmer/fermenter/cook extraordinaire of Bean Tree Farm (see their website for more awesome workshops), will show you how to turn milled or whole desert ironwood seeds, palo verde seeds, and mesquite pods into tasty dishes. Native foods such as mesquite flour, cactus fruit pops, drinks, syrup, and cholla buds will be available for sale, along with seeds and seedlings of the best-tasting native bean-trees and chiltepines.

AND THEN DON’T MISS Sunday, June 22, 2014!

Pre-Monsoon Mesquite Milling
Sunday, June 22, (alert–in the event of rain, it will be moved to Sunday, June 29)
6am to 10am
Bring Your Own Pods!
Pods for milling must be clean, dry, and free of mold/fungus, stones, leaves, bugs and other debris. Cost: $3/gallon of whole pods, with a minimum of $10.

Also at the milling event:
• A native wild foods demonstration – highlighting what’s in the wild-harvest season now
• Exo’s mesquite-, mole-, and chiltepin-infused coffees
• Mesquite baked goods and cactus fruit popsicles
• Seeds and seedlings of select native bean trees and chiltepines — so you can plant yours in time for the rains.

Our thanks to hosts Exo Roast Co. and Tap & Bottle,
403 N. 6th Ave.,Tucson, AZ
Harvesters’ Happy Hour at Tap & Bottle
Come join fellow harvesters in fermented merriment. Tap & Bottle will have local brews on-hand, some infused with local native ingredients. And they will donate a percentage of all the sales to Desert Harvesters. Learn more online at: http://www.DesertHarvesters.org

 

Mesquite can help us into a food-secure future– fittingly, sustainably, healthily, and sweetly– as we face heating and drying of our desert home.  What a gift mesquite is, as we begin to declare our independence from being a FOOD-COLONY!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Praise of Seeds and Rebirth

Scarlet runner beans grown by ace gardener T.S.Swain–good nutrition and beauty besides (MABurgess photo)

Tia Marta here this beautiful Easter week, singing the praises of seeds, with stories of rebirth to share! When I hold seeds in my hand, I am blown away by their significance. These little lightweight packages of starch and protein, exine skins and genetic chains, are weighty with potential for what they can do in the future, and truly weighty with messages from the past—genetic wisdom selected by the many forces of Nature through time, and in the case of agricultural seed, by caring humans—all encased in a holding pattern, a portal where time stretches. Seeds are life in abeyance. Each seed is a nexus, connecting the ways of the past with hopes for the future. To see life spring again from a seed is a miracle every time it happens—even for elders who have seen it happen a zillion times, and one worth sharing with children for their first.

native chia (Salvia columbariae) in bloom at Mission Garden (MABurgess)

wild native chia seedheads (Salvia columbariae) ready to winnow (MABurgess photo)

wild native chia seedheads (Salvia columbariae) ready to winnow (MABurgess photo)

All of life celebrates spring re-energizing time with Nature’s renewal, Easter’s message of life out of death. In the Sonoran Desert we are celebrating not only new growth but also nourishment with the spring harvest, the results of winter rains. Here, our winter ephemerals (a totally different suite of plants than our hot-weather annuals) are completing their blooming and pollination cycles, their seedheads bulging and ready to be scattered, shattered, caught by wind, coyote legs, or human socks, to be spread to the next possible patch of desert soil in prep for this fall’s rainy season (or for feeding furry or feathered desert dwellers.) Chia seedheads will soon be ready to gather and winnow for their superfood nutrition. Don’t forget to thank the plant (and all the forces which brought those chia seeds to fruition) as you chow down on its high omega-3 fatty acids and its blood-sugar-balancing complex carbs in your smoothie or chia fruit salad!

 

Heirloom barley in flower at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom barley in flower at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom White Sonoran Wheat seedheads filling out at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom White Sonoran Wheat seedheads filling out at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

It is written that Passover (the roots of which began in a desert akin to our own with winter rainfall and grains grown as winter crops) cannot be celebrated until the barley is harvested. When Father Kino and other Padres brought Old World grains like wheat and barley to our corner of the Southwest, the same winter growing was observed. Now, at the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace Mission Garden (at the foot of A-Mountain) direct descendants of those original heirloom grains are topping out where you can see them “in action” any Saturday for a tour (see http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org).

Heirloom White Sonoran Wheat berries, local, organic, traditional, from BKWFarms (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom White Sonoran Wheat berries, local, organic, traditional, from BKWFarms (MABurgess photo)

Scroll thru our savorthesouthwest posts to check out Tia Marta’s January blog for some enjoyable insights on the ancient White Sonoran Wheat and great recipe ideas, and a nutshell history –introduced by Kino, found again by Native Seeds/SEARCH, and now being grown with soil-enriching organic methods by the Wong Family in Marana.

Wheat is rich with symbolism as well as nutrition—full of life-giving energy, complex carbohydrates when the whole grain is eaten, and good protein. Irish farmers weave complex seedhead sculptures and hangings for good luck, representing protection, provender, and plenty. For traditional Italians especially, wheat symbolizes renewal and rebirth and has become an important Easter food.

Tucson Foodie-par-excellence Vanda Gerhardt located a most marvelous recipe for an Italian traditional Easter pie (judysculinaria.wordpress.com) made with wholesome wheat grain. She has served samples to delighted farmers market visitors at the Flor de Mayo booth at St Phillips Sunday market (www.heirloomfarmersmarkets.com).  With her inspiration I have modified it for a totally local treat, made with our own Padre Kino White Sonoran Wheat berries from BKWFarms!

Luscious Easter Wheatberry pie, from judysculinaria.wordpress.com

Luscious Easter Wheatberry pie, from judysculinaria.wordpress.com

Here’s my version of this yummy custard Pastiera di Grano dessert for you to enjoy with its Sonoran Desert name:

Heirloom Wheat Berry Pie—Postre de TrigoEntero–Pastel Pascual de la Pimeria Alta!

Ingredients for pre-cooking wheat berries:
1 cup whole grain heirloom White Sonoran Wheat Berries (available from NSS or Flor de Mayo)
5 cups drinking water
2-4 narrow strips lemon peel, orange or tangerine peel
Pinch salt optional
Instructions for cooking wheat:
Rinse white Sonoran Wheat berries to remove chaff. (Overnight soak optional.)
In saucepan, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer an hour, then check doneness. Berries are best when they are al dente but done through. Allow more simmer time if need be.
[After wheat berries are cooked you can use them for many different delicious recipes.]

Sweet Pie Crust (Pasta Frolla)
(You can make this and the filling while your wheat berries are simmering!)
Ingredients for pie crust:
1 2/3 cups White Sonoran Wheat pastry flour or 00 (available from NSS, HaydenFlourMills)
1/3 cup organic sugar, OR ¼ cup sugar and 1 T mesquite pod flour
1 tsp lemon or orange zest (optional)
½ cup butter chilled and diced
1 large egg lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt (if unsalted butter)
Instructions for pie crust:
Combine flour, sugar, zest, and salt. Mix thoroughly (in food processor if available). Cut in butter until breadcrumb texture. Whisk in wet ingredients—egg and vanilla. If needed (as in dry climates) add 1-3 T of ice water and mix. Form mixture into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill at least an hour.

Ingredients for Pastry Cream Filling:
2 T organic sugar
1 T White Sonoran Wheat flour
½ cup milk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
Instructions for Pastry Cream:
Sift sugar, flour, salt together into saucepan. Whisk in egg and milk. Mix well. Cook on low heat stirring constantly until it boils and thickens (approx. 3 minutes). Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on top of cream mixture eliminating all air bubbles, and set in frig to chill.

Ingredients for Ricotta Cheese Filling:
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup organic sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup finely chopped orange or tangerine peel candied (optional)
1 tsp orange flower water or rose water
½ tsp cinnamon
Instructions for making Ricotta Filling:
Preheat oven to 350 degreesF
In mixing bowl beat ricotta until creamy. Mix in sugar and eggs. Fold in candied citrus peel, flower water, and cinnamon. Next fold in the refrigerated pastry cream and 1 cup of the cooked White Sonoran Wheat berries. Mixture should feel thick.

Final steps–Cooking Wheat berry Custard Pie:
Roll out 2/3 of the pastry dough and spread on floor of 9-inch pie dish. Pour in the cream/ricotta/wheatberry mixture. For creating lattice top on pie, roll out remaining 1/3 dough. Cut in strips about ½ inch wide and place atop pie filling.
For a glistening egg wash, whisk 1 egg and pinch of salt and brush the pastry lattice.
Bake 50-60 minutes or until top and crust edges are golden brown and the custard filling is firm in the middle. Test with cake tester or toothpick in pie center. Cook additional minutes until tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Best chilled for a few hours before serving.
Buon Appotito –y buen provecho!

Note: you can find organic White Sonoran Wheat Berries at Native Seeds/SEARCH store or online http://www.nativeseeds.org, also at Flor de Mayo’s booth at Sunday St Phillips Farmers’ Market, Tucson, http://www.flordemayoarts.com or 520-907-9471. Orange blossom water is available at Mid-Eastern groceries.

 

Staghorn cholla bud about to open, with ants enjoying extra-floral nectaries (MABurgess photo)

Staghorn cholla bud about to open, with ants enjoying extra-floral nectaries (MABurgess photo)

 

Wheatberry salad with cholla buds--an April delight (MABurgess photo)

Wheatberry salad with cholla buds–an April delight (MABurgess photo)

With cholla bud season in full swing, it’s a great time to make a marinated wheatberry and cholla bud salad for a refreshingly cool hot-weather dish. Marinate cooked wheatberries in your favorite dressing, chop fresh veggies and add cooked cholla buds—and voila you have flavor, fun, and nutrition!

Giant Aztec white runner-beans, aka bordal and "mortgage lifter" (MABurgessphoto)

Giant Aztec white runner-beans, aka bordal and “mortgage lifter” (MABurgessphoto)

With the sap rising, and the gardening bug tugging at you, now is the perfect time to sew seeds of two very special long-season beans—the Tarahumara scarlet runner (see top of post) and the Aztec white runner (available at http://www.nativeseeds.org).   (Note: white runners looking like small Easter eggs are also referred to as “bordal” and, similar to the tomato by the same name, “mortgage lifter.”  If you can baby your young plants thru the heat and drought of May and June into monsoon growth, both of these beans will give you not only great food next fall but also glorious ornamental vines until then. Trellis them on the east side of your house or a wall for eastern light and protection from the blasting western sun. Hummingbirds will love you as they visit both the brilliant scarlet flowers and even the white flowers.

May your garden and your table be blessed with the fruits of the desert, bringing rebirth of good nutrition to the land and to our greater community of creatures and cultures!

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wondrous Weeds!

Tia Marta here to share ideas about our new neighbors—the weedy greens popping up all around us.  With those fall rains we had here in the low desert, there is a bloomin’ haze of green on the desert floor– not what you’d call a florid show—but wait—what is happening where November’s mud-puddles were collecting?  That may be real food lurking in your own backyard!  Now is prime time to take advantage of spontaneous tender mercies and phytonutrients.  Interesting tastes await us, to spice up our salads and bedeck our burritos.

"Wild arugula” or London rocket (Sisymbrium irio) provides zesty greens, flower garnish, and later, mustard seeds when mature. (MABurgess photo)

“Wild arugula” or London rocket (Sisymbrium irio) provides zesty greens, flower garnish, and later, mustard seeds when mature. (MABurgess photo)

London rocket (read “wild arugula”) is everywhere, its greenery literally growing before our eyes in every low swale, rocky hillside, every ditch where water has run.  Sisymbrium irio is an introduced weed which we can enjoy with impunity—the more we eat of them the more we are removing competition for our beloved native plants.  So harvest away!  (A good rule of thumb is to collect at least 50’ from a road.  No need to ingest road dust and pollutants when there is so much to be found in friendly yards or out in the des.)

Prepare for a picante treat, sometimes a picante bite, from these wild mustards.  Toss a few wild arugula leaves with baby greens, or in a BLT to liven it up.  Try them steamed with your favorite garden greens or added to stir-fry.

Hot February weather is telling our wild mustards, “Summer’s coming.  Better go ahead and bloom fast!”  Already we see tiny 4-petaled yellow flowers rising from the rosettes of deeply lobed leaves.  Small erect spikelets of seedpods (called siliques) stand out from the central stem.  Whole flower heads with seedpods are edible, and zingingly picante.  Sooner than we think, seedheads will mature and you can harvest their tiny mustard seeds for dressings or salad sprinkles.

This year, if you spy Lesquerella gordoni (bladderpod), it will stand out like little yellow stars on the bare ground. (MABurgess photo)

This year, if you spy Lesquerella gordoni (bladderpod), it will stand out like little yellow stars on the bare ground. (MABurgess photo)

In some wet winters, a different native mustard known as bladderpod has made carpets of lemon-yellow flowers on the desert floor.  No such show this year.  Should you find a patch of blooming bladderpod, try a taste of its petals.  Their nice nip will add vivid color, nutrition, and excitement to any salad, garni, or burrito topping.

Better known as tumbleweed, Russian thistle (Salsola kali) is best harvested in this tender stage—and every rancher will thank you for your service! (MABurgess photo)

Better known as tumbleweed, Russian thistle (Salsola kali) is best harvested in this tender stage—and every rancher will thank you for your service! (MABurgess photo)

The most ubiquitous of weeds is the introduced Russian thistle which no one seems to notice until it dries, dislodges, tumbles across the road on a crosswind, and stacks up next to a fence or obstacle.  So now, while it is in its infancy, go out to that windbreak and find its progeny!  Have no compunction about snipping it at ground level while it is only inches high, young, and tender—before sharp stems develop making it unpalatable to humanoids.  You will be amazed at what it adds, snipped in short pieces fresh in a salad, steamed with butter and pepper, or stir-fried with other veggies.

Our many species of saltbush (Atriplex spp.) are tender and ready for picking in late winter into spring. (MABurgess photo)

Our many species of saltbush (Atriplex spp.) are tender and ready for picking in late winter into spring. (MABurgess photo)

Find saltbush's gray greenery along the Santa Cruz floodplain--or plant it in your yard for wildlife habitat. (MABurgess photo)

Find saltbush’s gray greenery along the Santa Cruz floodplain–or plant it in your yard for wildlife habitat. (MABurgess photo)

Now is saltbush’s time to shine—in landscaping and in cuisine.  Here in Baja Arizona there are many species of Atriplex, and all are edible.  These tough shrubs are desert survivors for sure.  They tend to grow in “waste places” where hardly any other plants can make it.  The name saltbush indicates its habitat, where soil is salty,heavy, or full of caliche.  Quail and other creatures find refuge and forage in the dense shrubs.  If you want to attract birds into your yard, go to Desert Survivors Nursery, Tucson, and buy any saltbush to plant—then stand back.  We humans can join in the saltbush foraging guiltlessly, as saltbush is plentiful and our harvesting may even stimulate re- growth.

Nearly every Native nation in the Southwest has a tradition of using saltbush in multiple ways.   When its stiff salty leaves are youthful they can be picked for cooking with other greens, the style of traditional Akimel O’odham, the River Pima.  My Tohono O’odham teacher Juanita would steam saltbush with cholla buds, and told me how “the old people would roast their cholla buds in layered beds of ontk i:wagi [salt spinach].”  Hopi cooks make a kind of baking powder out of pulverized saltbush foliage.

Try young saltbush leaves cooked with heirloom cannelini beans or cranberry beans—for a flavorful variation on beans-and-greens.  You’ll find that the salts which the plants have sequestered from the soil will add a delicious desert flavoring.  Move over, Hawaiian sea-salt!  (After saltbushes have flowered, we will “talk seeds”—stay tuned….)

NativeSeeds/SEARCH (www.nativeseeds.org) and Mission Garden (www.tucsonsbirthplace.org) carry seed of a domestic relative of saltbush called “orache” which provides a purple-leafed “green” for a winter veggie garden.

Did you ever contemplate cheeseweed thru the day? (Are you kidding?) Its palmate leaf is a sun-tracker!  I discovered these young Malva neglecta in late afternoon with each leaf bent westerly, cupped, facing the setting sun.(MABurgess photo)

Did you ever contemplate cheeseweed thru the day? (Are you kidding?) Its palmate leaf is a sun-tracker! I discovered these young Malva neglecta in late afternoon with each leaf bent westerly, cupped, facing the setting sun.(MABurgess photo)

Ah, cheeseweed—the “scourge” of gardeners, when it gets established.  Malva or cheeseweed, so called for its cheese-wheel shaped seed pod, is another one of those introduced weeds which tend to follow humans.  Only harvestable when young– get it while you can.  You’ll find it in disturbed flat areas where stock or off-roaders have churned up the natural soil, along fencelines or untended sidewalk margins.  Beware, cheeseweed seems to be sought-after by wandering dogs as a “marker plant” so wash your harvest well.

New Malva foliage can make a nutritious addition to steamed collards, kale, acelgas, or turnip tops; or stir-fried with peppers, onion, and slices of winter squash.  If you want to explore Malva’s medicinal qualities, try the foliage steeped as a tea for soothing tender digestive tract tissue or urinary tract.  It makes a healing topical poultice as well.

Life-giving weeds are all around us, especially now with their ju-ju rising.  Really no one need be hungry here.  We’d all be healthier if we were eating more of these spontaneous gifts brought by Nature and human mobility.  My respect for weeds and knowledge of their goodness outweighs my frustration as I pull them from my garden.  Here’s wishing you happy weed harvesting, a new way of enjoying the pulses of life in the desert!

If you are lucky enough to locate Carolyn Niethammer’s book Tumbleweed Gourmet, Univ. of AZ Press, 1987, grab it!  Find more info about traditional uses of saltbush in Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert by Wendy Hodgson, Univ. of AZ Press, 2001.  Find medicinal uses of Malva neglecta in Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, Mus. of NewMexico Press, 1989.  Mission Garden is open on Saturday afternoons for guided tours, and NativeSeeds/SEARCH store at 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, is open daily 10am-5pm.

Visit me, Tia Marta, for more weedy ideas and heirloom beans galore at the Flor de Mayo booth, St Phillips Farmers Market on Sundays 9am-1pm. (www.flordemayoarts.com).

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wonders of White Sonora Wheat Berries

Heirlooom White Sonora Wheat growing at Mission Garden April 2013--Rod Mondt photo

Heirlooom White Sonora Wheat growing at Mission Garden April 2013–Rod Mondt photo

Tia Marta here from Flor de Mayo to share news of an ancient grain newly emerging from its historic quietude as a flavorful and nutritious gift to Southwestern cuisine—a real boon to desert agriculture and health!   I’m talking about the White Sonora Wheat, introduced by Padre Kino, kept alive and well in a Sonoran village for 300 years, “rediscovered” and propagated by Native Seeds/SEARCH plant-sleuths, and at last being grown commercially by a few caring farmers in Baja Arizona.

Fresh harvest of White Sonora Wheat Mission Garden May 2013--Bill O'Malley photo

Fresh harvest of White Sonora Wheat Mission Garden May 2013–Bill O’Malley photo

This particular Triticum aestivum variety is a winter wheat for the desert.  Now is the time to plant it in your own garden plot through February for a later harvest into May and June.

Precious White Sonoran Wheat grain was provided by Native Seeds/SEARCH as a start-up ag experiment to a local grower, BKW Farms, and it has really taken off.  Tohono O’odham Elders may likely remember the Wong family of Marana who provided fresh produce out to the res in the early-mid 1900s.  Now in their 5th generation of attuned farming, the Wong family (as BKW Farms www.bkwazgrown.com ) have turned their attention to growing heirloom wheat—USDA Certified Organic.  Bravo for feeding us well AND improving the soil, air and water!  With their first crop a real bumper, BKW Farms is returning more than twice the wheat seed back to NativeSeeds/SEARCH than the original “starter kit” quantity loaned to them.  Kneaded by the skilled hands of Barrio Bread and BigSkye bakers, their White Sonoran Wheat’s flavor is spreading and exciting many a Tucson palate.  Check out www.barriobread.com and www.bigskyebakers.com .

At our Flor de Mayo farmers market booth, a few wheat-sensitive consumers have reported they are actually not affected by this heirloom wheat.  (Hey, scientists, there is information in its genes and constituents we need to know more about!)

BKWFarms' White Sonoran wheat berries cleaned and ready--MABurgess photo

BKWFarms’ White Sonoran wheat berries cleaned and ready–MABurgess photo

Using whole kernals of wheat in cooking seems to be almost an unknown in modern culinary culture, but health benefits are significant.  For one thing wheat berries are “live food” truly sharing life energy.  Vitamins in the bran and germ are super-active.  In commercial so-called “whole wheat bread” the vibrant living constituents have been removed for transport and storage then added back artificially when baked to make it “whole” again.  By eating the wheat berries whole from the git-go, we can enjoy their full nutrition.   [For local, fresh, the only truly whole flour (no parts removed) milled from White Sonora Wheat commercially available, we are blessed with the new Hayden Flour Mills in Phoenix (www.haydenflourmills.com) providing packaged flour to the NSS store and to Flor de Mayo LLC.] 

Providers of other heirloom wheat berry varieties locally are Ramona Farms (www.ramonafarms.com)  and San Xavier Farm Coop (www.sanxaviercoop.org) with Pima Club wheat, and the NSS Store with faro also known as emmer (www.nativeseeds.org).

I made mini “greenhouses” of recycled clear plastic boxes.  Try rice bowls, berry or hamburger boxes for sprouting. MABurgess photo

I made mini “greenhouses” of recycled clear plastic boxes. Try rice bowls, berry or hamburger boxes for sprouting. MABurgess photo

I’ve been having a wheat-berry “hay-day” in the kitchen with White Sonoran Wheat berries.  Here are a few appetizing ideas to introduce wheat berries into your culinary repertoire:

Sprouted White Sonora Wheat Berries:

Sprouts will take about 3-4 days until ready.  Plan on rinsing them daily.  Soak 1 tablespoon of wheat berries overnight in a jar.  Prep “greenhouse” box with coffee filter or paper towel cut to size to prevent grains from passing thru any holes as a strainer.  Pour wheat berries into “greenhouse” box, wash and drain.  Place box on a dishtowel out of direct sunlight.  Rinse and drain them twice a day to keep them from getting sour.  Within 2 days you will see rootlets like tiny white spiders forming.  By the third day greenish stems will rise.  That’s when they are ready to eat.  Try sprouts as a surprise snack—you won’t believe how its relatively blah starch can change with the magic of living enzymes into the sweetest pleasant sweet you ever tasted!  To slow down growth of young wheat sprouts put “greenhouse” box in frig.  You can snip or “mow” elongating wheatgrass and add it to green drinks or smoothies.  Separate wheat sprouts and toss them in salads.  With a hand-crank masa-grinder (such as the one sold at Native Seeds/SEARCH store) grind them fresh to add flavor and texture to bread-baking.  [I will be interested you hear your wheat sprout ideas too!]

White Sonora Wheat berry sprouts at 5 days

White Sonora Wheat berry sprouts at 5 days

Cracked Wheat Berries–Speaking of grinders—a masa grinder or meat grinder can be used to crack dry wheat berries for cooking bulgar dishes.  If you have a stone-burr hand mill, White Sonoran Wheat berries mill to a beautiful flour for baking.  Keep your ear to the ground about upcoming wheat-berry milling events to be announced with my new WonderMill…..

Basic cooking directions for Whole Wheat Berries:  (Simply cooking wheat berries ahead makes some tasty recipes a breeze!)

1) Rinse 1 cup dry White Sonoran Wheat berries to remove any chaff or grit.  Drain.

2) In saucepan cook washed wheat berries with 3 cups drinking water and ¼ tsp sea salt.  Bring to a boil then reduce to low simmer.

3) Check berries after 30 minutes, adding more water if necessary to cover.  Taste for doneness every 5-10 minutes thereafter.   When done, berries should be round, fully plump, softly chewy (beyond al dente) with no white starch remaining.  It may take 45 minutes to an hour to finish taking up water, i.e. to be fully cooked.  One cup dry wheat berries yields about 4 cups of cooked wheat berries.

Then…you can eat hot wheat berries right away (or zap them later) as a hot cereal.  Or, refrigerate them for up to a week for use in pilaf or marinated salads—recipes follow….

wheat berry cereal makes a wonderful hot breakfast

wheat berry cereal makes a wonderful hot breakfast

Berry-Delish Hot Wheat Berry Cereal

1 cup hot white Sonora wheat berries cooked

2 T dry blueberries and/or dry cranberries

1 T chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Pinch of sea salt

½ cup warmed milk, rice milk or almond milk

1 pat of butter on top (optional)

Serve hot and enjoy the soft crunchiness.  My elderly mother got a nostalgic look of bliss after tasting this hot wheat berry cereal, saying that it reminded her of what her mother served her as a young child.

hot and tasty White Sonora Wheat berry pilaf-MABurgess photo

hot and tasty White Sonora Wheat berry pilaf-MABurgess photo

Perfect Wheat Berry Pilaf

In  2+ Tablespoons flavored olive oil, sautee 1-2 cups chopped fresh vegetables, such as red onion, yellow or winter squash, red sweet pepper, carrots, celery, greens (optional).

When veggies are al dente in the pan, add 2 cups cooked wheat berries to the mix and 2 more tablespoons flavored olive oil.  Stir-fry until hot through.

Add 2 T pine nuts (optional—they won’t show) and 1 T chopped tops of I’itoi’s Onion (or chives)

Dress with salt, pepper, and spices, such as Santa Cruz Chile and Spice Company’s “zapp.”  Serves 3-4 generously.  Enjoy!

[A cool idea is to make extra pilaf (more than recipe) and chill it to use later as a flavorful salad.]

Wheat Berry Salad Supreme

Marinate 2 cups cooked wheat berries in your favorite Italian, balsamic, or Asian dressing overnight (8-12 hours) then toss with fresh chopped romaine, carrots, celery, sweet peppers, olives.  Serves  4.  As Mom says, “It’s so chewy—you know you’ve eaten something!”

*                                                                 *                                                                    *                                                                     *

Three cheers –for our local seed-savers and growers bringing this ancient grain afresh to our tables!  For our local bakers helping it rise again!  And for our creative Baja Arizona chefs honoring pre-industrial wheat with their culinary alchemy!

Local, heirloom, organic—wow, what more could we ask?  That is White Sonora Wheat.  Come taste a White Sonora wheat berry sprout.  Stop by and see me, Tia Marta, at the St. Phillip’s Sunday Farmer’s Market where I’ll have the BKW organic White Sonoran Wheat berries for sale in 6oz and 1 kilo size packages ready to use.   Or you can find them packaged at the Native Seeds/SEARCH Store, 3061 N Campbell, Tucson.  Order online at www.nativeseeds.org.  Please visit my website for other desert food products and scheduled events at www.flordemayoarts.com.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Heirloom Beans for Holiday Feasts!

Colorful Christmas lima, also known as Chestnut lima, will keep some of its purple color and its shape in cooking.  Photo by Muffin Burgess

Colorful Christmas lima, also known as chestnut lima, will keep some of its purple color and its shape in cooking. Photo by Muffin Burgess

Among beans, Christmas Lima is a giant not only in size but in flavor!  This heirloom Phaseolus lunatus is dramatic mottled purple and white, and lends itself to many colorful dishes.  Try a holiday tip from the Heirloom Bean Queen “Tia Pan Dulce”—sure to please vegetarian and omnivore alike:  Curried Christmas Limas!

The evening before cooking, sort and wash ½ lb of dry Christmas Limas.  Presoak overnight in plenty of water (at least a qt) as they will swell.  Next day give remaining water to your compost and add a qt of fresh drinking water.  Simmer limas without salt until they test tender (1 ½-2hrs stove top; 2-3hrs solar oven; 3-5 hrs crock pot).  Some people prefer them al dente.  I like them soft and done through but not mushy.  Reserve the bean liquid.

Saute ½ cup chopped onion, ½ cup chopped celery, ½ cup thin-sliced winter squash, and ½ cup chopped sweet pepper in olive oil and stir in 2 tsp curry powder.  (My favorite curry powder is from Santa Cruz Chile and Spice Co, available at most southern Arizona groceries.  If you are ever in the Tubac area give yourself an olfactory adventure by visiting the SC Spice Co outlet just south of Tumacacori Mission Nat Hist Park.)

Add cooked limas to the veggie curry stir-fry adding either veggie stock or the reserved bean liquid as needed.  Simmer on low heat until flavors are blended (about 1/2 hr) and salt to taste.  Serve with brown rice or polenta for a complete protein complement.

(Here’s another idea to try with cooked Christmas limas:  If they keep their shape as individual beans when done, you can serve them as veggie hors d’oeuvres with toothpicks dipped in your favorite sauce.  Try BBQ or Asian or chilpotle sauce.  They are better than meatballs and much healthier!)

If you want to GROW Christmas limas for yourself, save a few seed out of the bag you find at Sunday’s Heirloom farmers’ market or at the Native Seeds/SEARCH store (3061 N Campbell, Tucson).  Plant them in April where they can vine their way up a trellis in dappled light or into a low-growing tree.  They are long-season, so plan on tending them thru heat of May and June until the monsoons give them a boost.  You will be climbing the tree or trellis to harvest big pods in the fall, ready for homegrown holiday cookery next year.

Bright and beautiful Four Corners Gold beans are used in the traditional winter ceremony by the Zuni.  These beans are truly light-returning and life-renewing.  photo by Muffin Burgess

Bright and beautiful Four Corners Gold beans are truly light-returning and life-renewing.  photo by Muffin Burgess

An important heirloom for the season– used by Native cultures of the Southwest since time-immemorial to celebrate the Winter Solstice—is the festive yellow and white Four Corners Gold Bean (aka Zuni Gold).  It will lend itself to any hearty dish you may want to have simmering in a crock pot ready to drive off any chill from ski-ing, hiking, cycling, or dog-walking thru these short wintry days.  Try them in a bean soup with an oxtail from Jojoba Beef at the farmers’ market; or as chile beans with Native Seeds/SEARCH’s amazing chilpotle chile powder; or as a dip mashed with a Tarahumara bean masher, dashes of Red Devil tabasco sauce and 1 tsp of cumin powder.

"Moon Beans" spiced with Pipian Rojo Mole from Mano y Metate makes an exceptionally festive vegetarian dish!  photo by Muffin Burgess

“Moon Beans” spiced with Pipian Rojo Mole from Mano y Metate makes an exceptionally festive vegetarian dish! photo by Muffin Burgess

My grandmother always served us black-eyed peas for New Year’s telling us grandkids that the number of them we ate was the number of dollars we would make in the new year.  In her tradition of black-eyed peas, as New Year’s approaches, I like to fix a Southwestern version of black-eyes:  Moon Beans!   For a festive flavor try moon beans with pipian rojo mole as a centerpiece dish, adding the prepared mole powder from Mano y Metate in the last half hour of bean cooking.

Solar-cooked Moon Beans can be downright celestial.  If December 30 or 31 is going to be sunny, and if you know you will be “hanging out” available for re-orienting your solar oven every ½ hour or hour, soak your Moon Beans the night before, change the water next day, and in a saucepan with plenty of drinking water add a ham hock and/or chopped onions and veggies to your Moon Beans.  A few hours of solar cookery will provide a New Year’s home-made feast worth a million dollars.

Happy Holiday-time with Heirloom Beans– and Bon appetit from Martha Burgess!  http://www.flordemayoarts.com

Categories: Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.