Posts Tagged With: Tohono O’odham

So Many Pumpkins…So Little Time!

Tohono O’odham Ha:l “TO pumpkin” –a striped cushaw winter squashes with their corky peduncle attachments–and bright orange Tarahumara pumpkins (a NativeSeeds/SEARCH harvest) MABurgess photo

Pumpkin-bashing may be fantastic sport after Halloween, and indeed it can create great compost with the right follow-through, but I’m in the camp of those waste-not-want-not folks who enjoy pumpkins and squashes for their wholesome flavors and vibrant nutrition (not to mention their esthetic colors and sculptural forms–see last month’s post).  Tia Marta here, delighting in the diversity of our Southwestern heirloom pumpkins and sharing some diverse ways to enjoy them.

An assortment of Dineh Hubbard-type pumpkins from a Navajo community in northeastern Arizona (MABurgess photo)

The so-called “Magdalena Big Cheese squash” from Sonora, shaped like an ancestral jackolantern, has a glorious color inside and great flavor, here pictured at Mission Garden grown from NativeSeeds/SEARCH seed. (MABurgess photo)

Pumpkins are easy and fun to grow over the summer if you have a nice sunny space where the vines can sprawl, a little plot of good deep soil for the roots, and consistent water.

[Do you think that the word squash has a bad rap?  You’ll notice that I prefer to use the word pumpkin for many of the squash group within the Cucurbit family that mature with a harder shell and an be saved for longer periods.]  Pumpkins can actually take many forms–not just the carve-able Halloween type.  I think of squash as the early, thin-skinned stage of several different pumpkin relatives in the Cucurbitaceae family.  There are four different species of pumpkins that Southwestern Native People have created into a diversity of successfully adapted crops over the centuries.  You can plant seed of all 4 species in one garden as they will not easily cross-pollinate.   Dig into the NativeSeeds/SEARCH website http://www.nativeseeds.org to explore the wide realm of Southwest indigenous squashes.

Three different pumpkin lineages–the light green “Mayo Blusher”(Cucurbita maxima), the striped “TO ha:l” (C. argyrosperma), and golden-orange “Magdalena Big Cheese” (C.moschata). Surprisingly, they can all be grown together and remain pure because the different species will not easily cross.

Now for the fun of “internalizing” these colorful and nutritious foods–  Look what happens when you open one up!

Rich orange betacarotenes of Mayo Blusher pumpkin can brighten many a meal– and a nutrition panel!  After de-seeding you can roast a half pumpkin turned open-side-down in the oven or solar oven.  Served with melted butter, there isn’t anything finer nor simpler to prepare!  (MABurgess photo)

My Tohono O’odham teacher and mentor Juanita Ahil told how, when she was young, her family would take a whole TO ha:l on long trips in their wagon.  When they rested the horses they’d make a fire, roast the ha:l whole on the coals, and when done cut and serve chunks in the shell communally with the family.  That was dinner–easy, packable, nutritious, sumptuous, no mess to clean up, just toss the shell.

Winter Pumpkin stir-fry–Skin and dice fresh Mayo Blusher (or any hefty heirloom winter squash) into chunks to stir-fry with onion or garlic. Enjoy as is, or add herbs and other veggies as desired. Don’t be hesitant to even try adding curry to this stir-fry for a healthy pizzaz.  Yum!  (MABurgess photo)

A delectable one-dish meal with stir-fry pumpkin:  Mayo Blusher turkey-skillet–the perfect way to use turkey left-overs!  You can use TO Ha:l, Magdalena Big Cheese, Dineh pumpkin, or any other winter squash (or other meats). to achieve flavor-filled variations on this wonderful dish. (MABurgess photo)

Carrying the stir-fry of heirloom pumpkin to the next level, try it in a stir-fry one-dish meal with meat.  Here I have sautéed ground turkey before adding it to the Mayo Blusher and onion stir-fry.  Add fresh diced green peppers or diced I’itoi’s onions for color and flavor–or if you have a picante palate, dice a jalapeño into the entire dish, gradually testing it to your own level of “heat.”  This is an innovative use of left-over turkey a few days after Thanksgiving.

With roasted or steamed Mayo Blusher (or other pumpkin heirloom) you can make a slightly sweet dish pleasing to a younger palate.  Add agave nectar to taste, pine nuts and/or pumpkin seeds to add crunchy texture.  (MABurgess photo)

After steaming or roasting your pumpkin (here I”ve used Mayo Blusher again as we had a bumper crop), add 1 cup of mashed pumpkin as a substitute for the wet ingredients in any coffeecake recipe. It will add flavor, color, and nutrition.  (MABurgess photo)

Many hard-shelled winter squashes/pumpkins have the helpful attribute of storability without refrigeration.  I kept a whole Tohono O’odham Ha:l in the shade of my back porch all winter long until March when I cooked it up.  Its weight was getting lighter but it had lost no flavor!  Steamed or roasted pumpkin leftovers can be stored frozen ready for quick defrosting, a more effective use of space than storing whole pumpkins.

Shiny Mayo Blusher (Cucurbita maxima)  seeds washed, dried, ready to save for planting–or to roast as a healthy snack

Tohono O’odham Ha:l seed saved from a pumpkin, cleaned & saved for summer planting or winter snacking

Honoring those ancient Southwestern farmers through the ages (and those who still grow traditional squashes and pumpkins), let’s rejoice in their agricultural creativity and plant a seed next summer.  Meanwhile, with heirlooms from farmers’ markets, we can reap the benefits of their beautiful culinary contributions.  Enjoy a pumpkin served in new and delightful ways this holiday season!

 

 

 

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Categories: Cooking, Gardening, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer Solstice Celebrated with Saguaros

On Summer Solstice morning, a white-wing dove coos to the saguaro fruit to hasten its ripening, and takes its first taste. When red fruit opens, doves will dip in for a luscious meal and come up with red heads!  (photo JRMondt)

Have you seen it yet?–the rare red-headed white-wing dove of the desert?  “Red-headed Ok’ko-koi” is only around for a short while during the bahidaj.  He is the herald of saguaro fruit harvesting season.

These longest days of the year (and the hottest!!) are the Sonoran Desert New Year of the Tohono O’odham, the Desert People. It is the beginning of “action time” in the desert, tho’ it may look blistered and dead from inside an air-conditioned space.  Lots is happening.  Listen to sounds of quail and dove at dawn; watch scurrying lizards at noon; sense bats at night.  Desert life out there is pollinating flowers and dispersing seed in prep for monsoon moisture.

Fallen bahidaj on the rocks will be critter food.  For people, catch it before it falls. (MABurgess)

Tia Marta here to share ideas about the giant saguaro’s gifts of good food to its fellow desert helpers.  With San Juan’s Day celebrated June 24, I pause to also acknowledge the birthday of my dear friend and mentor, Juanita Ahil, who first led me into the desert on an early June morning to introduce me to some amazing desert treats, discussed in this post.

Pick the fruits that show a blush of rosy red on the top.  (MABurgess photo)

A saguaro fruit, opened with its sharp “pizza-cutter” calyx, is filled with sweet raspberry-red pulp and crunchy black seeds. (MABurgess photo)

 

Juanita would scoop out the nutritious pulp from thick fruit rinds–with thanks and blessings.  We’d take several juicy bites before filling buckets of bahidaj to make syrup.

Juanita would add water to the pulpy fruit to loosen the mass, then strain out seeds before concentrating the sweet water to syrup. (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

Over her open fire, she would stir a pot full of fruit and water until the water turned red, then strain the mass through a basket-sieve, saving the seed for other purposes. (See blog-sister Carolyn Niethammer’s post on “Black Beauty Wafers” of saguaro seed.)  After sieving, it was the long process of boiling down the sweet water to a dark syrup–like making maple syrup.  Don’t be surprised if you see Bahidaj Sitol selling for what looks like exorbitant prices; consider the time it takes to make!  Juanita would contribute a share of her hard-produced syrup to her Tohono O’odham Community for fermenting into wine for the rain-ceremony, with prayers for the desert’s rebirth.  Surplus syrup was so concentrated, it could be kept unrefrigerated, carrying summer’s sweetness into the winter.

Here are some delectable ideas for cool, super-simple desserts with saguaro syrup:

 

Muff’s “Sonoran Melba” topped with pine nuts and chia seed (JRMondt photo)

Directions for Muff’s SONORAN MELBA WITH PINE NUTS AND CHIA

Over a serving of vanilla or vanilla-bean ice cream, pour 1-3 tsp pure saguaro syrup (bahidaj sitol).  It doesn’t take much, as it is so rich!  Sprinkle top with 1/2 tsp chia seed and 1 Tbsp of pine nuts (shelled).   Taste and go nuts in ecstasy!

Rod’s “Saguaro Split”–topped with saguaro syrup, seeds and nuts (JRMondt photo)

Recipe for Rod’s SAGUARO SPLIT:

Divide a half banana in half longitudinally. Serve a big scoop of ice cream in between–any flavor– like chocolate chip or French vanilla.  Top with saguaro syrup, seeds and nuts of choice.  [Here the “lily is guilded” for sure.  Who needs a cherry on top when you have the rare treat of saguaro syrup?!]

Setting out fresh bahidaj pulp to dry on wax paper. (MABurgess)

Try dehydrating saguaro fruit in a solar oven with the lid partially open to allow moisture to escape. It doesn’t take long. Note the rock holding the oven cover open.(MABurgess photo)

I also love to make chuñ–the dried bahidaj fruit which you can sometimes find hanging on the branches of a palo verde, the nurse tree next to the saguaro where fruit has fallen.  Scoop out the pulp from its rind, place blobs on wax paper, dry them outside under a screen or in your solar oven.  Eat and enjoy chuñ as a totally healthy snack; it is high in complex, slowly-digested sugars, vegetable protein and healthy oils in the seeds.   Or, get creative with chuñ–as in the following recipe:

 

 

 

Sweet chun dried in the sun is even better than figs! (BTW–Now– in the dry heat of Solstice-time before the monsoons–is prime time to harvest mesquite pods too!  Check out desert harvesters.org for more info.)  (MABurgess photo)

Recipe for Tia Marta’s JUNE CHUÑ healthy fruit salad:

1/2-3/4 cup diced apple (approx 1 small apple diced)

1/2 cup organic red grapes cut in half

3 Tbsp dried cherries, cranberries, or chopped dried apricots

1/2-2/3 cup organic plain lowfat yogurt

1-2 tsp agave nectar (optional, to taste)

1/4 cup chopped dried bahidaj chuñ

Mix all ingredients except chuñ ahead and chill.  Sprinkle some little chuñ chunks on each serving as topping. Serves 2 or 3.  This is fancy and sweet enough to be used as a dessert. Enjoy the natural complex carbs, sweet nutrition, and delightful crunch!

Cool “JUNE CHUN”–a fruity and crunchy salad or dessert (MABurgess)

So, Happy Desert New Year!  And happy harvesting in the coolth of early summer mornings, rejoicing in the gifts saguaro gives to its fellow desert-dwellers–from the white-wing doves and ants to us two-leggeds!

[If you are beyond the Sonoran Desert and want to try some of these desert delicacies, you can contact http://www.tocaonline.org (website of Tohono O’odham Community Action, Sells, AZ) or http://www.nativeseeds.org (NativeSeeds/SEARCH at 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ; or 520-622-5561) to order them.  Many other traditional desert foods are available at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.]

Braving the heat, inviting the monsoons and prepping for summer planting, NativeSeeds/SEARCH will be celebrating San Juan’s Day at the NSS Conservation Farm in Patagonia, AZ, this Saturday, June 24, 2017, 11am-3pm.  Bring a dish for the pot luck and a spray-bottle of water for blessings.  For info call 520-622-0830.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

EVERYTHING-LOCAL PIZZA from Baja Arizona!

Totally local veggie pizza with cholla buds, nopalitos, acelgas, mushrooms, goat cheese and home-grown cherry tomatoes--ready to bake

Totally local veggie pizza with cholla buds, nopalitos, acelgas, mushrooms, goat cheese and home-grown cherry tomatoes–ready to bake

If you love pizza–and I’m picky about good pizza–here are some ways to celebrate local foods, to eat super-healthily, get creative in the kitchen, AND have new excuses to eat pizza!  Tia Marta here to share ideas for a delicious pizza party, incorporating the fabulous gifts that our local desert foods offer.

It will take a little fore-thought and assembly time (…like, all year harvesting at the right seasons for DIYers, or trips to the farmers market, NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, or San Xavier Farm Coop).

Locally-harvested buckhorn and staghorn cholla buds, reconstituted and ready to cut as toppings for pizza

Locally-harvested buckhorn and staghorn cholla buds, reconstituted and ready to cut as toppings for pizza

Pickled prickly pear cactus pads--better known as nopalitos in Spanish and nowi in Tohono O'odham

Pickled prickly pear cactus pads–better known as nopalitos in Spanish and nowi in Tohono O’odham

Cholla buds dried from last April’s harvest, soaked and simmered until soft through, make a tangy taste surprise– a super-nutritious calcium-packed pizza topping.  In the photo, the larger buds are from Buckhorn cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthacarpa) and the smaller buds are from Staghorn (C. versicolor), both plentiful for harvesting in low desert.  Dried cholla buds are available at San Xavier Coop Association’s farm outlet, at NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, and at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.

Another perfect topping is nopalitos, simmered or pickled and diced young pads of our ubiquitous prickly pears (Opuntia engelmannii, O.ficus-indica to name a couple).  Collecting from the desert is a spring activity, but you can easily find whole or diced nopales anytime at Food City.  The other cheater’s method is to find canned pickled cactus in the Mexican food section of any local grocery.  Nopalitos are a taste thrill on a pizza, and you can enjoy their blood-sugar balancing benefits to boot.

Starting the dough sponge--with local, organic hard red wheat flour--ready to rise

Starting the dough sponge–with local, organic hard red wheat flour–ready to rise

Risen pizza dough after a couple of hours--note the rich whole grain flour of local BKWFarms hard red wheat

Risen pizza dough after a couple of hours–note the rich whole grain flour of local BKWFarms hard red wheat

As for making the crust, we have the perfect source of the freshest whole grain organic flours right here from BKWFarms’ fresh-milled heirloom white Sonora & hard red wheat.

My suggestions for a Baja Arizona Pizza Crust:

Ingredients:

3 ½ to 4 cups bread flour mix  (consisting of 2- 2  1/2 cups organic hard red wheat flour from BKWFarms Marana, 1 cup pastry-milled organic heirloom white Sonora wheat flour also from BKWFarms, ½ cup organic all purpose flour from a good grocery)

2 tsp local raw honey (see Freddie the Singing Beekeeper at Sunday Rillito farmers market)

1-2 envelopes instant dry yeast (or your own sourdough starter)

2 tsp Utah ancient sea salt or commercial sea salt

1 ½ cups drinking water, heated in pyrex to between 105 degrees F and 115 degrees F

2 Tbsp organic olive oil for the dough

PLUS 2 tsp more olive oil for spreading on dough as it proofs

Pizza dough risen and kneaded then stretched and patted out on pizza pan ready for toppings

Pizza dough risen and kneaded then stretched and patted out on pizza pan ready for toppings

Directions for making Crust:

[Note–you can find several pizza dough recipes for bread mixers online.  Just substitute the above ingredients.]

Heat water and pour into a large mixing bowl.  Test for temperature then dissolve dry yeast.  Add honey and sea salt and dissolve both.  Add oil to wet mixture.  Sift flours. Gradually mix flours into wet ingredients until a mass of dough is formed and begins to pull away from sides of bowl.  Knead into a ball.  Let stand covered in a warm place until ball of dough has at least doubled in size (approx 2 hours).  Knead the ball again, divide into 2 equal parts, cover thinly with the additional olive oil, and roll out or hand-flatten the 2 dough balls out onto 2 oiled pizza pans.  Pat dough to approximately 1/4″-3/8″ thickness to the edges of pan.  At this point you are ready to add any number of good toppings.  Here are ideas for a local veggie and a local meatie pizza.

For the finest plain local carefully created goat cheese, find Fiore di Capra at Rillito Farmers Market, Sundays in Tucson

For the finest plain local carefully created goat cheese, find Fiore di Capra at Rillito Farmers Market, Sundays in Tucson

Baja Arizona Pizza Toppings

Ingredients for local Veggie Pizza toppings:

1/2 pt. spreadable goat cheese (I use Fiore di Capra’s plain)

local chard or acelgas (from Mission Garden) torn in pieces

local tomatoes, sliced

I’itoi’s Onions, chopped

heirloom garlic, minced

1/2 cup reconstituted cholla buds, sliced in half or quarters

1/2 cup diced nopalitos 

Fresh Chard (acelgas) from a refugee friend's garden--a great substitute for spinach in a pizza!

Fresh Chard (acelgas) from a refugee friend’s garden–a great substitute for spinach in a pizza!

Native I'itoi's Onions and local heirloom garlic from my garden for pizza topping

Native I’itoi’s Onions and local heirloom garlic from my garden for pizza topping

1/2 cup local oyster mushrooms, sliced

1/4-1/2 cup salsa, optional

Luscious oyster mushrooms from Maggie's Farm (Rillito Farmers Market) to cut in strips for pizza

Luscious oyster mushrooms from Maggie’s Farm (Rillito Farmers Market) to cut in strips for pizza

[You probably by now have some ideas of your own to add!]

Ingredients for Meatie Baja Arizona Pizza toppings:

1/2 pt goat cheese

1/2 lb local chorizo sausage, loosely fried

or, 1/2 lb local grass-fed beef hamburger, loosely fried and spiced with I’itoi onions, garlic, salt

1/2 cup tomato&pepper salsa of choice (mild, chilpotle, etc)

Fresh local pork chorizo to render before putting on pizza dough

Fresh local pork chorizo to render before putting it on the pizza dough

Directions for Toppings:

Layer your toppings artfully, beginning by spreading the goat cheese evenly over the patted-out crust dough.  For a local Veggie Pizza, scatter minced garlic and chopped I’itoi’s onions evenly atop the goat cheese layer.  Place torn leaves of fresh acelgas over the onion/garlic layer.  Add sliced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, sliced cholla buds, diced nopalitos.  Top with optional salsa.  For a Cholla&Chorizo Meatie Pizza, do a similar layering beginning with goat cheese spread over the crust dough, then scattered I’itoi’s onions and garlic, then a full layer of cooked chorizo, and topped by lots of sliced cholla buds.  Adding salsa over all is optional for making a juicier pizza.

Preheat oven to high 425 degrees F.  Bake both pizzas 20-24 minutes or until the crust begins to turn more golden.  You won’t believe the flavor of the crust alone on this local pizza–and the delicious toppings grown right here in Baja Arizona are better than “icing on the cake”!  You can add more spice and zing by crushing our native wild chiltepin peppers on your pizza–but be forewarned–they might blow your socks off.

Home-grown chiltepin peppers crushed and ready to spice up a local pizza--Look out for a wave of picante heat even with a small pinch!

Home-grown chiltepin peppers from my garden, dried, crushed and ready to spice up a local pizza–Look out for a wave of picante heat even with a small pinch!

Here’s wishing you a great local pizza party!

How could you top this Baja Arizona Pizza?!!! Our locally grown and wild desert-harvested ingredients can't be beat by any other veggie pizza!

How could you top this Baja Arizona Pizza?!!! Our locally grown and wild desert-harvested ingredients can’t be beat by any other veggie pizza!

What a great combination--wild-harvested cholla buds, local chorizo, Fiore di Capra goat cheese, and truly flavorful organic wheat flour crust!

What a great combination–wild-harvested cholla buds, local chorizo, Fiore di Capra goat cheese, and truly flavorful organic wheat flour crust!

Buen provecho from Tia Marta!  See you when you visit http://www.flordemayoarts.com.

 

 

 

 

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

“Succulent” Events with Succulent Tastes–and Invitations….

It’s show time in the desert–S’oo’ahm masad or “yellow moon” for the Tohono O’odham–the month in which seemingly everything in the Sonoran Desert blooms a glorious yellow, arroyos lined with blooming blue palo verde and mesquite, hillsides covered with paper flower, palo verde and cactus blossoms.

Staghorn cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor) flower, bud and ant protector

Staghorn cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor) flower, bud and ant-protector (MABurgess photo)

These spiny, possibly-threatening desert plants have amazing nutritious gifts to pollinators and other hungry creatures, including ants, packrats… and humans.

Tia Marta here with an invitation to learn lots more about our many species of Sonoran Desert chollas, how they fit into the fabric of desert life, and how they have been used by traditional people for generations.  Come join  Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society’s SONORA XI gathering next weekend Friday-Sunday, April 15-17, 2016, for a rich opportunity to enjoy demos, tastes, lectures, and exhibits.  You can learn more about this downtown Tucson event (held at HotelTucsonInnSuites) and register at http://www.tucsoncactus.org.  On Saturday, April 16, I invite you to attend one of my ethnobotany demonstrations at the open conference.  I’ll guide you through careful “hands-on experiences” with edible and useful succulents, complete with some surprising and yummy bites!

De-spining cholla buds at Mission Garden Workshop (MABurgess)

De-spining cholla buds at Mission Garden Workshop (MABurgess)

Cross-section of staghorn cholla flower bud showing stamens and ovules (MABurgess)

Cross-section of staghorn cholla flower bud showing stamens, stigma, and ovules (MABurgess)

Delicious Marinated White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad with Cholla Buds at Mission Garden workshop (MABurgess)

Delicious Marinated White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad with Cholla Buds at Mission Garden workshop (MABurgess)

 

 

Last weekend we celebrated the beginning of the cholla harvest at Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace’s Mission Garden in a workshop led by Flor de Mayo’s Tia Marta (www.tucsonsbirthplace.org/archives).   We explored its ecology, taxonomy, traditional preparation, its culture and archaeological evidence.  The class was topped with a feast using cholla buds in several innovative and delectable dishes–one with heirloom White Sonora Wheat.  For great cholla recipe ideas, scroll back to an earlier Savor blog post   https://savorthesouthwest.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/heres-to-the-budding-desert/.   For additional interesting cholla information and dried cholla buds for purchase, check out  www.flordemayoarts.com.

Young new-growth stem of prickly pear in leaf (Opuntia engelmannii) ready for harvesting (MABurgess)

Young new-growth stem of prickly pear in leaf (Opuntia engelmannii) ready for harvesting (MABurgess)

Another desert food staple–worthy of being considered a medicine as it is so effective in balancing bloodsugar–is our own   prickly pear.  With de-spining and preparation you can enjoy its tangy taste as nopalitos, pickled, stir-fried, or in salads.  Enjoy nopal dishes at some of Tucson’s favorite restaurants like Janos’ Downtown Kitchen or Teresa’s Mosaic.  Attend the demo nopal preparation and tastes at the SONORA XI Conference….(www.tucsoncactus.org).

White Sonora Wheat with swelling seed heads at FOTB's Mission Garden (MABurgess)

White Sonora Wheat with swelling seed heads at FOTB’s Mission Garden–to mature in May (MABurgess)

 

 

 

Seeing the heirloom winter White Sonora Wheat growing tall and green at Mission Garden, its swelling kernels in the “milk-stage,” I’m envisioning the harvest to come, and to plans for La Fiesta de San Ysidro Labrador, when the wheat, first introduced to S-chuk-Shon by Padre Kino, will be maturing and ready to thresh.  My mother’s wonderful caregiver Rosa has introduced us to a delectable recipe she created celebrating both White Sonora Wheat and the fresh vegetables currently available at farmers’ markets.  Her recipe for Market Veggie Omelette with White Sonora Wheat follows–light as a souflee.

Rosa serving her Market Veggie Omelette with White Sonora flour (MABurgess)

Rosa serving her Market Veggie Omelette with White Sonora flour (MABurgess)

 

Rosa's delicious Market Veggie Omelette with White Sonora flour

Rosa’s delicious Market Veggie Omelette with White Sonora flour (MABurgess)

ROSA’S MARKET VEGGIE OMELETTE w/ WHITE SONORA WHEAT FLOUR

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp heirloom White Sonora Wheat flour

1 lg egg or 2 small eggs

1 cup market vegetables, sautéed in olive oil (shaved carrots, chopped fresh spinach, minced I’itoi’s onions bulb and tops…)

2+ Tbsp org. broth, veg or chicken

salt to taste; butter for curing skillet

Directions: 

Saute chopped vegetables in olive oil, then simmer with broth until soft.   Allow to cool. Beat eggs with White Sonora Wheat flour.  Mix with vegetables. Pre-heat small iron skillet, melt butter, pour in mixture.  Let omelette puff.  Turn when slightly brown on bottom, then gently brown on reverse.  Serve w/salsa fresca or sliced avocados. (Another wonderful variation on her omelette is to add prepared cholla buds!)

Find dry cholla buds at the Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday’s St Philips farmers’ market, at NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, at the San Xavier Farm Coop booth at Thursday’s Santa Cruz market at the Mercado, or at the Tucson Cactus&Succulent Society’s SONORA XI conference next weekend.  You can find the freshest greens for Rosa’s Veggie Omelette, including local baby spinach, onions, etc at our many Tucson farmers markets, especially at Tom’s Marana-farm booth at Sunday St Philips market (www.foodinroot.com), or at the Community Food Bank booth at Thursday’s Santa Cruz market at the Mercado.  Easily grow your own shallots for the omelette with NativeSeeds/SEARCH’s I’itoi’s onions–the snappy little spreading onion that keeps on giving.

Come witness ever-growing inspirations for your own garden by visiting Mission Garden at the foot of A-Mountain, Tucson–it’s a must!  There are wonderful docents there to guide you every Saturday morning now that the weather is warming.  In Mission Garden we see examples of cultivated food and native medicine plants that have fed and helped humans in this valley for over 4000 years!  With that track record for desert living, chances are these same plants can help support us into an unsure future of hotter and drier weather–with assurance and nurture.  We owe inexpressible thanks to those farmers and gardeners who have preceded us!

[For more info about succulent events, tours, happenings, and products, check out http://www.tucsoncactus.org; http://www.flordemayoarts.com; http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org; http://www.nativeseeds.org, http://www.sanxaviercoop.org]

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

Taste Buds Ready to “Rejoice in Local”–at Mission Garden!

Gluten-free black tepary brownie-cockaigne for a desert dessert!

Yum!–Gluten-free Akimel O’odham Black Tepary Bean brownies with pinyones — a truly desert dessert served at the Farm-to-Table Picnic Feast at Mission Garden

Indeed, there is no doubt Tucson should be given the designation as an International City of Gastronomy!  Where else in the world could we enjoy a finer, more diverse, perfectly indigenous, more delectable and nutritious PICNIC-FEAST than here in Tucson?  Delicious dishes were the pieces de resistance by some of Tucson’s most renowned chefs for……the first-ever Farm-to-Table Picnic at Tucson’s Mission Garden.

Picking heirloom figs at the Mission Garden for the Farm to Table Feast.

Native-foods cook and author Carolyn Niethammer picking heirloom figs at the Mission Garden for the Farm to Table Feast for her gone-to-heaven fig-bar postre.

At the base of our landmark A-Mountain–the very birthplace of Schuuck-shon–set in a scene of verdant orchard trees heavy with fruit, and heirloom vegetables bearing their colorful autumn harvest, we feasted this past Sunday, October 18, on the tried and true fruits of our desert land.    The community registered for this edible fundraiser via the two hosts of the Farm-to-Table Picnic Feast–our Tucson-born-and-bred organizations– Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace and NativeSeeds/SEARCH.   The cost of $75 covered a magnificent repast–not just a dainty little taste of hors d’oeuvres but a sumptuous serving of at least 7 gourmet entrees, plus a variety of hand-made desserts and some locally fermented beverages!  Either website can guide you to ways of supporting or volunteering for these worthy outfits–http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org or http://www.nativeseeds.org.

At our special outdoor feast, we learned and appreciated where every single bite comes from!  Every ingredient was LOCAL–grown on our own Baja Arizona soil, bathed by our own Arizona sun, watered by our own Pleistocene aquifer, tended by our own neighbors’ hands not to mention those of Mission Garden and NSS volunteers and staff.

To recognize them from the source….the beautiful Native Tohono O’odham Ha:l squashes, grown at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Conservation Farm, in combo with I’itoi’s Onions and other heirloom veggies, morphed into betacarotene-rich chile with Loew’s Ventana Canyon‘s Chef Ken Harvey’s magic.   Mission Garden’s heirloom pumpkins and greens transformed by Chef Doug Levy at Feast Tucson to a superb salad-supreme.

Traditional and delicious--Tohono O'odham Ha:l winter squash with magic inside--and curry pumpkins (MABphoto)

Traditional and delicious–Tohono O’odham Ha:l winter squash with magic inside of them–with curry pumpkins (MABphoto)

Akimel O’odham pearly black teparies from Pima farmer Ramona Button‘s fields  and locally-harvested cholla buds transformed with culinary sorcery by Chef Janos Wilder’s Downtown Kitchen into the most gourmet vegetarian delight.

S-Chuuk Bavi from Ramona Farms

Padre Kino’s White Sonora Wheat from BKWFarms‘ organic fields became the most flavorful and delicately marinated wheat-berry salad by the hand of Chef Rebecca Ramey at Blue Willow Restaurant.  And speaking of transformation, BKWFarms’ organic white Sonora wheat, with the magic of friendly microbes at Dragoon Brewery, became a festive brew with an amazing back-story to delight all samplers.

Ripened seed heads of organic heirloom Padre Kino White Sonora Wheat from BKWFarms in Marana (MABurgess photo)

Ripened seed heads of organic heirloom Padre Kino White Sonora Wheat from BKWFarms in Marana (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farmer Frank’s Crooked Sky Farms‘ GMO-free fresh corn expressed itself in a fresh-from-the garden casserole by Proper’s Chef Kris Vrolijk.    Tohono O’odham traditional melon with other fresh corn and tomato, evolved into a gourmet gazpacho created by the Chef at Desert Diamond Casino, our major event sponsor.

 

Tia Marta here thanking ALL who came to the Table–the Farm-to-Table outdoor Picnic Feast at Mission Garden–to enjoy this enriching experience of Tucson’s traditional foods, cultivated with love in our own “desert terroir.”*  THANKS TO ALL our local–yet world-famous–culinary talent who prepared these sacred foods with care and dedication!  THANKS ALSO to the supporters and volunteers who made this event such a success!   Was it a sign of its significance at that moving moment culminating the feast when the heavens blessed us with a glorious sunset?

The public is invited to visit the ever-changing setting of this feast–the very garden and orchard where many of the heirloom foods are still hanging on fruit-tree boughs or ripening on the vine.  The Mission Garden is open for tours every Saturday with knowledgeable guides to take you through this special desert oasis–a living agricultural history museum.  (For info see http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org).

For your own table, you too can source the heirloom foods served at the Picnic Feast, at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store, 3061 N Campbell, Tucson, http://www.nativeseeds.org, or at the Flor de Mayo booth (online at http://www.flordemayoarts.com) and other farm booths at Sunday’s St Philips Farmers’ Market (www.foodinroot.com).

Native Black Tepary Beans from Flor de Mayo at St Philips farmers market Sundays

Native Black Tepary Beans from Flor de Mayo at St Philips farmers market Sundays

Join NativeSeeds/SEARCH as a member and stay in touch with seed-savers, gardeners, and cooks as we keep these desert-adapted foods alive and well into an unknown future.

Yours truly, Tia Marta, have also honored these heirloom foods artistically by documenting them from my garden in their harvest splendor as watercolor images.  I invite you to view them firsthand at two upcoming OPEN STUDIO eventsART TRAILS on Saturday, Oct 24, and the TPAC OPEN STUDIO weekend Nov.14-15 at Carolyn Leigh Studio.  Search by my studio name, Flor de Mayo Studio, or by artist’s name, Martha Ames Burgess, at  http://www.ArtTrails.org , and at http://www.tucsonpimaopenstudiotour.org  for directions, and do come by for a visit.  You can also check out some of my Southwest Native heirloom food images on my website gallery http://www.flordemayoarts.com — enjoy!

NativeSeeds/SEARCH heirloom Navajo Cushaw Squash watercolor by artist Martha Ames Burgess

NativeSeeds/SEARCH heirloom Navajo Cushaw watercolor by artist Martha Ames Burgess

 

What will Tucson's top chefs cook for the Heritage Picnic?

Tucson’s top chefs cook for the Farm-to-Table Heritage Foods Picnic Feast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Desert Terroir,  by renowned author and co-founder of NativeSeeds/SEARCH, available at the NSS store, is a great read about the deep significance of LOCAL.  We can “internalize” his messages by shopping at farmers’ markets,  growing our own, and honoring long-successful desert traditions, seeds, and foods.

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

Black Teparies Make a Come-Back!

Rich black teary beans dried, ready to hydrate for cooking

Rich black tepary beans dried, ready to hydrate for cooking

In some light they are a dull charcoal difficult to spot if the pods shatter onto the ground. Sometimes they appear shiny black or opalescent. Somehow black teparies appear to have an antiquity about them–mysteriously harking back to a time rich in prehistory. Tia Marta here to tell you a little about the black tepary bean’s odyssey back into cultivation and into the cooking pots of Southwesterners once again.

Shiny black teparies close up

Shiny black teparies close up

Back in 1912, before WWI and the rapid plunge the “remote” Southwest unavoidably took into East-Coast food fads, there was a crop survey done of the many types of tepary beans being grown and used by different Native American families and communities throughout the Borderlands. The diversity at that time was astounding—some 40+ different colors, forms, sizes, speckles, of tepary beans were reported. Within about a decade there remained only a couple of dominant tepary colors—“red” (an orangy-brown) and white. [For more history, check out Volume 5, No.1 of Desert Plants Journal published by the University of Arizona CALS. Specifically this issue is devoted to tepary beans, and includes an article by yours truly.]

The neat thing about cultivars that are still genetically close to their wild ancestors is that they still contain a diversity of genes that can “pop out” occasionally as visibly different seeds. In the case of the teparies, every so often in a harvest of white teparies, for example, there may turn up a few coral pink, or blue speckled, or even black beans. At the University of Arizona’s Maricopa Experimental Farm, an amazing crop researcher, Mike Sheedy, was, for several years growing teparies to isolate some of these genetic “sports”. He used assistance from his kids (In farming, child labor rules just can’t apply) to help pick out the odd-ball seeds from hundreds of pounds of harvested teparies. Over the years, he grew the separated colors in isolation from each other to preserve color purity. Before research funds ran out he had “re-created” an ancient lineage of black teparies—i.e. he has assisted the ancient genes to come again to the fore, to bring the “invisible” genotype back into the “visible” phenotypes. At termination of his research project he generously donated the black tepary collection to the traditional Pima farming family of Ramona and Terry Button.

Native Black Tepary Beans & Flor de Mayo 1-lb pkg

Native Black Tepary Beans & Flor de Mayo 1-lb pkg

Now—tah-dah!—at last black teparies are in agricultural production on ancestral lands! The public can purchase these little food gems of antiquity now at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store (3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson) www.nativeseeds.org , at the Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday St Philips Farmers Market www.flordemayoarts.com , or online via www.ramonafarms.com.

S-Chuuk Bavi from Ramona Farms

Black teparies are very different in taste from the red or white teparies—although all teparies are much richer than their more distant cousins like the common bean, lima or black-eye pea. Black tepary, schkug ba:wĭ of the Tohono and Akimel O’odham, is the deepest, nuttiest of all, with an earthy bouquet and a slightly bitter after-note reminiscent of coffee. Well, you will just have to try your own taste buds on them!

The public will have an exciting opportunity to taste black teparies prepared by none other than our beloved Tucson Chef Janos Wilder (of Downtown Kitchen fame) at the upcoming Farm to Table Picnic feast at Mission Garden, Sunday afternoon, October 18, 4-6:30pm. Janos is not letting on what his special black tepary recipe will be, but we can be sure it’ll be sensational. [The picnic is by pre-registration only so buy your tickets soon! Online purchase is via the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace site www.tucsonsbirthplace.org.]

Potted blooming chiltepin plant for edible landscaping

Potted blooming chiltepin plant for edible landscaping

All of the heirloom foods served at the Farm to Table Picnic are being grown (even as I write) locally in Baja Arizona, either at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Conservation Farm in Patagonia, or at the Mission Garden itself, or by sponsoring farmers and ranchers such as BKWFarmsInc, the 47-Ranch, and Ramona Farms. Some of Tucson’s best chefs are donating their skill and time to prepare different dishes for us. It will be a great opportunity to put the fun in fundraising for two worthy local non-profits, to share the delicious tastes of our heirloom foods of the Borderlands, and to share community joy in what we are able to produce together locally.

For adventuresome cooks, dessert addicts, and chocoholics, I would like to share two variations on brownies made with—yes, you guessed it—black tepary beans! You will not believe how yummy these are.

Gluten-free Black Tepary Brownie-Cockaigne on cooling rack

Gluten-free Black Tepary Brownie-Cockaigne on cooling rack

 

First, cooking black teparies (as with all teparies) takes some time—and premeditation.  The day before you want to use them, sort, wash, and pre-soak your black teparies. I hit them with a quick boil and let them sit overnight to hydrate slowly. Change the water the next day, adding fresh drinking water. Simmer until soft (it may take 2-3 hours on stovetop or 4-6 in crockpot). You want them beyond al dente in order to puree them in a blender or CuisinArt for the following recipes.

 

Muff’s Gluten-free Black Tepary Bean Brownies-Cockaigne

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked and pureed black tepary beans

1 stick butter= ¼ lb= ½ cup butter

5 Tbsp dark 100% cocoa powder, unsweetened (1 oz.)

¼ tsp sea salt

1 cup organic cane sugar

1 cup loose organic brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs well-beaten

¼- ½ cup nutmeats (I use pinyon nuts to keep the Southwest theme)

Directions for Muff’s Gluten-free Black Tepary Brownie-Cockaigne:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8” baking dish and place a wax paper cut to fit the bottom of pan. Melt butter (preferably in top of double boiler). Stir in thoroughly 5 Tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder. Let the mixture cool. Add sugars and sea salt to mixture and beat until creamy. Add vanilla. Beat 4 eggs and add to mixture stirring until uniform in color. Add 1 cup pureed black teparies and hand-mix. Pour batter into greased bake pan. Sprinkle top of batter with pinyones or other nutmeats. Bake 45-50 minutes until it tests done with toothpick.   Cool pan on a rack. Cut in small squares to serve because it is so rich and moist. Enjoy their delicious flavors AND the healthy qualities of high protein/high complex carb teparies, protein-rich eggs, and the benefits of dark chocolate!

Gluten-free black tepary brownie-cockaigne ready to eat

Gluten-free Black Tepary Brownie-Cockaigne ready to eat–wheat-free, light, nutritious and delicious!

My next black tepary brownie recipe was first inspired by food-writer and “Blog-sister” Carolyn Niethammer’s recipe found in her book Cooking the Wild Southwest (p.133)–a must-have in every SW cook’s kitchen shelf. Here I’ve made some interesting gastronomic additions…including the use of our fantastic local heirloom White Sonora Wheat flour, crushed wild chiltepines, and Mano y Metate’s fresh-ground Mole Dulce powder produced by our local Molera herself, Amy Valdes Schwemm.

 

“Hot-Dam”* Black Tepary Brownie Bars [*in the best sense of the expression]

Ingredients:

5 Tbsp unsweetened 100% cocoa powder

½ stick (1/4 cup) melted butter

¾ cup organic cane sugar

¾ cup org brown sugar, not-packed

2 eggs, beaten

2 tsp vanilla extract

¾ cup pureed cooked black teparies

¾ cup organic heirloom White Sonora Wheat flour**

3 or 4+ crushed wild chiltepin peppers*** (number depends on your desired picante level)

¼ tsp sea salt

1-2 Tbsp Mano y Metate ground Mole Dulce powder

2 Tbsp raw pinyon nutmeats

Adding White Sonora Wheat flour and crushed chiltepin to molten chocolate mixture

Adding White Sonora Wheat flour and crushed chiltepin to molten chocolate mixture

** Freshly milled White Sonora Wheat is available at our Flor de Mayo booth, Sunday’s St Philips farmers market (www.foodinroot.com). Call ahead for quantities larger than 1 kilo—520-907-9471.

***whole wild-harvested Chiltepines are available at the NSS Store, 3061 N Campbell, and at Flor de Mayo booth, Sunday St Philips farmers mkt. Chiltepin plants to grow can be purchased at NSS plant sales.

Flavors to guild the lily--Wild chiltepin peppers, ironwood bear molinillo grinder, and Mole Dulce powder

Flavors to guild the lily–Wild chiltepin peppers, ironwood bear molinillo chiltepin grinder, and Mole Dulce powder (all available at NSS store and Flor de Mayo at St Philips farmers market)

 

 

Directions for “Hot-dam” Black Tepary Brownie Bars:

Pre-heat oven to 325F. Grease 8×8” baking pan with wax paper set in bottom. Melt butter and mix powdered cocoa in thoroughly. Add the brown sugar and organic white sugar and vanilla to the butter and cocoa, and beat. Beat 2 eggs and stir thoroughly into the choc/sugar mixture. Wisk in ¾ cup pureed black teparies. Sift together: ¾ C white Sonora wheat flour, ¼ tsp sea salt, and the well-crushed chiltepin peppers. Stir dry ingredients into liquid mixture. Add pinyon nutmeats. Pour batter into bake-pan. Sprinkle 1-2 Tbsp of Mole Dulce powder on top of the batter. Bake 25 minutes or until it tests done (when fingerprint pressed on top springs back). When cooled, cut into small bite-size squares to be served with hors d’oeuvre picks—you will see why…..(and don’t rub your eyes after eating.)

"Hot-dam" Black Tepary Brownies ready to enjoy!

“Hot-dam” Black Tepary Brownies ready to enjoy!

 

 

Tia Marta is hoping you enjoy these fruits and flavors of the Sonoran Desert assisted by fruits of tropical North America—a marriage made in dessert-Heaven! With every bite we should be thanking ancient tepary farmers, and the recent ones who have brought back the Black Tepary from near genetic-oblivion.

 

 

Coming this week to Tucson is a food event not to miss: the Farmer to Chef Connection, this Wednesday, September 16, at Tucson Community Center, 12:00noon-5:30pm, sponsored by LocalFirstArizona. Google their site for tickets and come enjoy a smorgasbord of local tastes.

Also be sure to mark your calendar for October 18 and join NativeSeeds/SEARCH and Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace at the very heart of Tucson’s Birthplace –the Mission Garden at the base of A-Mountain—for the first-ever outdoor Farm to Table Picnic. It will be a feast to remember. Make reservations now and we’ll see you there for fun, flavor, history and friendship!

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

Here’s to the Budding Desert!

red staghorn cholla flower and bud (MABurgess photo)

red staghorn cholla flower and bud (MABurgess photo)

Can you almost hear them?  I mean the sound of buds swelling and bursting with life out there is the rain-soaked desert?  This spring the wildflowers are a joy, for sure, but the perennials this season will really be in their glory.  Tia Marta here with some wonderful ideas about how we can share in the coming cornucopia of cholla.

Cholla cactus flower buds emerging, covered with spines--brimming with goodness for all desert creatures….

Cholla cactus flower buds emerging, covered with spines–brimming with goodness for all desert herbivores….(MABurgess)

It should be a bountiful bloom this year–the buds are off and running already.  Every branch on our Sonoran Desert chollas is loaded with little buds, and they seem to double in size every day.  It looks the same in the western part of Arizona, the Mojave….a zillion buds on the golden branches of Cylindropuntia echinocarpa.

While the chollas are preparing for their yearly reproductive ritual–a wildly colorful show for attracting pollinators–many desert creatures will be benefitting from this flamboyant event, including Native Desert People who have always shared in the bounty.

cholla feeds many desert creatures (MABurgess photo)

cholla feeds many desert creatures (MABurgess photo)

You can learn traditional and modern ways of harvesting, preparing and cooking cholla buds in one of several classes coming up soon in April.  With the guidance of ethnobotanist of Tia Marta (yo,) we will get out in the bloomin’ stickery desert, get up close and personal with chollas, get to know their lore, their anatomy, their culture, learn to carefully de-spine them, cook, dry, pickle, and prep them into the most unusual and fun recipes.  Their health benefits are off the charts–we’ll learn about those too.

prepping cooked cholla buds with I'itoi's onions for White Sonoran Wheatberry salad

prepping cooked cholla buds with I’itoi’s onions for White Sonoran Wheatberry salad (MABurgess photo)

The biggest kick will be impressing your family and friends with off-the-wall gourmet recipes that no one else makes (other than some wild and wonderfully creative foodies like Janos Wilder, Chef of the Downtown Kitchen, not to mention NativeSeeds/SEARCH staff cooks!)

 

rusty orange flower of the various-colored staghorn chollas

Rusty orange flower of the various-colored staghorn cholla, Cylindropuntia versicolor (MABurgess photo)

We have many cholla varieties in the Sonoran Desert—each with its own distinct characters and timing of flowering. The cane cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior) is found in a few places in low desert but is more typical of higher desert and desert grassland. It’s the one with the persistent round yellow fruits, and gorgeous magenta flowers. The jumping cholla (C. fulgida) always has long clusters of green persisting green fruits hanging like bunches of grapes. It typically blooms with the monsoon rains of summer with a lovely deep rose flower. If you can find the buds of either of these chollas in their season, their buds are great tasting too.  The buds of both are spiny, but the first-mentioned staghorn cholla (C.versicolor) bears easily-removable spines, so that’s the one my Tohono O’odham “grandmother” and mentor Juanita preferred to pick. I will be demonstrating her teaching at our upcoming workshops in April.

cane cholla in bud with last year's persistent yellow fruits

Cane cholla (C.spinosior) in bud with last year’s persistent yellow fruits

fruits of jumping cholla clinging to former years' fruits

Fruits of jumping cholla (C.fulgida) clinging to former years’ fruits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tongs specially designed for harvesting cholla buds and prickly pear--available at Flor de Mayo tent Sunday St Phillips farmers' market

Tongs specially designed for harvesting cholla buds and prickly pear–available at Flor de Mayo tent Sunday St Phillips farmers’ market

The best instrument for safely harvesting buds is simply a pair of tongs. Long barbeque tongs can help you maneuver through hazardous cactus branches at a safe distance. We commissioned a young woodworker from Sedona to fabricate the right size tongs for us out of fire-killed ponderosa pine—available at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store and in our selection of handmade wooden utensils at our Flor de Mayo booth at the Sunday St Phillips market.

Cholla buds from yellow and red flowers--de-spined and ready to cook

Cholla buds from yellow and red flowers–de-spined and ready to cook (MABurgess)

After de-spining, the buds must be further prepared by roasting or boiling before eating them either plain as a tasty vegetable or fixing into other delectable dishes.

 

 

Here’s an easy sure-fire winner for pot lucks……

delectable cholla bud and white Sonora wheat-berry salad

Delectable cholla bud and white Sonora wheat-berry salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marinated Wheat-berry Salad with Cholla Buds!                                                                                         

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 cups cooked and cooled White Sonora Wheat-berries**                                                                                                                                1/4 -1/2 cup of your favorite Italian vinagrette dressing

¼ cup chopped celery
¼-1/2 cup chopped colorful sweet peppers
¼ cup minced I’itoi’s Onion bulbs and tops, or minced red onion
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half (optional)
½ cup cooked and cooled cholla buds.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Romaine lettuce leaves as bed

Instructions: Marinate cooked white Sonora wheat-berries in the dressing overnight in frig, stir once or twice.
Mix in all fresh chopped veggies and cholla buds.
Serve on a fresh romaine leaf.   Makes 6 generous servings.

first cut into cholla bud cornbread--yum!

first cut into cholla bud cornbread–yum!

At our up-coming Cholla Bud Harvesting Workshops you will joyously taste cholla in a variety of gourmet recipes. You will a;sp learn how to preserve them, dry them for storage, learn their survival strategies and how those natural “tricks” can help us. Come “internalize” a deeper appreciation of these desert treasures!

For more photos and interesting details, please check out my Edible Baja Arizona article from April 2014 online at http://www.ediblebajaarizona.com. You can view a neat short clip about cholla harvesting created by videographer Vanda Pollard through a link on my website http://www.flordemayoarts.com.  Best of all, you can attend one of our scheduled Cholla Bud Harvesting Workshops to learn the process first-hand!  From there you can harvest your own–and bring these nutritious and off-the-wall taste treats into your home and party menus.

 

Workshop Dates (find a downloadable flyer on the website http://www.flordemayoarts.com):
Saturday April 4, 2015, 7:30-9:30am—register at 520-907-9471
Wednesday, April 8, 8-11am, Pima Co Parks & Rec 520-615-7855 x 6
Saturday, April 11, 8-11am, Westside, sponsored by NativeSeeds/SEARCH, call 520-622-0830×100                   Saturday, April 18, 8:30-11:30am, Tohono Chul Park, 520-742-6455 x 228

Hoping to see you at one of these fun classes!  Happy harvesting–to all budding harvesters and cholla aficionados!

**Certified organic heirloom White Sonora Wheat-berries from BKWFarms are available at the Flor de Mayo booth at FoodInRoot’s Sunday St Phillips Farmers Market, St Phillips Plaza, N Campbell Avenue, or online from http://www.flordemayoarts.com in ½ lb, full pound, kilo bags, and greater quantities for chefs. Also available from the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson.

Dry cholla buds for reconstituting to cook are available at San Xavier Coop Association booth at Thursday Santa Cruz Market and at NativeSeeds/SEARCH.

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

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