Monthly Archives: August 2014

Hearty Jojoba

jojoba green fruit

Green jojoba fruit dangle below the branches, slowly ripening in the desert sun.

posted by Jacqueline A. Soule

If you know how I title most of my blogs, you now have a hint on how to pronounce jojoba – it’s pronounced ho-ho-ba. (The “j” is an “h” sound in Spanish. Which reminds me of the time at the busy health clinic when “Hakalina” did not recognize her name called out by the nurse – but that’s another story.)

Jojoba is the O’odham name for the plant (Simmondsia chinensis) and it came into Spanish via the work of Father Kino. Indeed, Father Kino wrote in his journals about the plant. In Bolton’s 1919 translation of Kino’s journals, Kino writes of a visit with “Pima Indians” (pg. 93) and states that, among other items “. . . they also have bezoar, the medicinal fruit called jojoba, blankets, cotton fabrics, curious and very showy baskets or pitchers, macaws . . . and other conveniences.” Later, Kino describes the fruit as “. . . like the almond, and with a very salutary and effective remedy for different kinds of sickness.”


Jojoba shrubs are either male or female. Here a male shrub offers it’s pollen filled flowers to passing pollinators.

Other common names for the plant include goat nut, deer nut, pignut, wild hazel, quinine nut, coffeeberry, and gray box bush. Although there are references to jojoba as nuts, they are, botanically speaking, a seed.

Jojoba was used in most areas where it is native. The uses varied with tribe. O’odham would crush the seeds to yield an oily paste useful for dry cracked skin, chapped lips, cuts, scrapes, and burns. Seeds were ground and pressed into cakes, and small portions were eaten in moderation as food. Too much jojoba has a laxative action. Seri used seeds as an emergency food, but more commonly as part of a shampoo process. Seeds can also be made into necklaces.


You can purchase pressed jojoba “oil” in many stores. I use the oil in making lotion.


Currently, jojoba is grown commercially for its “oil,” in reality a liquid wax ester, expressed from the seed. This oil is rare in nature. Technically it is an extremely long straight-chain wax ester and not a triglyceride, making jojoba and its derivative jojoba esters more similar to human sebum (body oil) and sperm whale oil than to vegetable oils. Jojoba oil is easily refined to be odorless, colorless and oxidatively stable, and is often used in cosmetics as a moisturizer and as a carrier oil for specialty fragrances. It also has potential use as both a biodiesel fuel for cars and trucks, as well as a biodegradable lubricant. Plantations of jojoba have been established in a number of desert and semi-desert areas.


jojoba plantation in India

Jojoba plantation in one of the semi-arid areas of India.

Jojoba is currently the Sonoran Desert’s second most economically valuable native plant (overshadowed only by the Washingtonia palms used in ornamental horticulture). Plant breeders are doing selective breeding to develop plants that produce more seeds, seeds with higher oil content, and characteristics that will facilitate mechanical harvesting.

A few interesting taxonomic notes. Jojoba is the only species in its plant family, making it quite unique among flowering plants. While there are around 400 monotypic genera, this is the only monotypic flowering plant family. The scientific name, Simmondsia chinensis, is an example of the need for good penmanship. Jojoba does not originate in China! Johann Link, the botanist naming the species, misread Nuttall’s collection label “Calif” as “China.”

Jojoba habit

Jojoba shrubs live well in the desert.

Harvesting and Use.
Jojoba seed on a single bush will ripen slowly over several months. This is one of the traits breeders are seeking to change. Seed is ready to be harvested when the hulls easily fall off and a slight tug releases it into your hand. If it resists, it isn’t ripe.

Store harvested seed in jars or even in the freezer. Grind jojoba seeds in a mortar and pestle for topical use. Alternatively toast the seeds and munch as an occasional snack.

If you have the technology, you can harvest seeds and press them for the oil. Or simply plant them in your native landscape and let the native wildlife use the seed.

Planting and Care will be covered in a future blog.


To learn more about jojoba and other native plants used as herbs, please come to my free presentation “Father Kino’s Native Herbs” at the Main Library on Saturday Sept 13 at 1:30. More at

Some of the information in this article is excerpted from my book “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today” (2011, Tierra del Sol Press, $15). I hope you will consider purchasing a copy locally at Antigone Books, Arizona Experience Store, Magic Garden, Mostly Books, or Rillito Nursery.

© 2014, Jacqueline Soule.  All rights reserved. I have received many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you are free to use a very short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact me if you have any questions. JAS avatar

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cool Summer Bean Dishes….with Heirlooms

Sonoran Caviar in Mayo mesquite bowl (MABurgess photo)

Sonoran Caviar in Mayo mesquite bowl (MABurgess photo)

For picnics, barbeques or simple pick-me-ups, here are some fun ideas to bring a variety of heirloom beans into your summer fare.  We usually think of beans as winter food, but in the heat of August these tasty bean treats will help chill you out with gusto.

Tia Marta here to share ways of bringing the original “fast food” into your summertime menus.  Fast–that is, cook ’em first and have them “at the ready” for dressing them to suit any mood or occasion.  I am a founding member of the Heirloom Bean Fan Club, always amazed by the array of bean possibilities we have in the Southwest available to us.  Here in Baja Arizona we are blessed with inherited gifts of delectable, nutritious, desert-adapted beans from Native farmers, traditional Hispanic families, Black, Chinese, Anglo and other newcomers.  They grow well in our backyard gardens, bedecking our tables with colorful goodness.

All American sun oven set up on patio table-available thru Flor de Mayo (MABurgess photo)

All American sun oven set up on patio table-available thru Flor de Mayo (MABurgess photo)

When the summer sun fully hits our porch about 10am, out comes our sun-oven to help us pull the heat of preparation out of the kitchen.  Unfolding its reflector “wings,” I place a saucepan of pre-soaked Native tepary beans–the ones the Tohono O’odham call s-wepegi ba:wi or red tepary–covered by plenty of drinking water, nothing else necessary.  About every half hour or hour (you don’t have to be too regimented if you don’t feel like it), I go out and re-adjust the orientation of the sun-oven, vertically and horizontally, to keep it as close to perpendicular to the sun as possible.  The teps will be smelling good and testing done about 2pm if the sky has remained relatively bright.

Tepary beans, done by 2pm in solar oven, temp 300 (MABurgess photo)

Tepary beans, done by 2pm in solar oven, temp 300 (MABurgess photo)

Now, with my well-cooked teparies, if I’m not ready for kitchen cookery action I let them cool down then store them labeled in the frig or freezer.  If I am in cook mode, I drain them, reserving the liquid for soup, and let them cool while I chop veggies.  My plan–“Sonoran Caviar”–the best salad ever invented for desert rats in need of a pinch of picante.  This is the culinary creation of desert survival instructor, raconteur, and one-of-a-kind character George Price, and my thanks go to him for bringing even more excitement out of teparies!  Give it a try.

George's Sonoran Caviar--teparies with NSS heirloom garlic (both available at St Phillips Sunday farmers market)

George’s Sonoran Caviar–teparies with NSS heirloom garlic (both available at St Phillips Sunday farmers market)

Sonoran Caviar recipe:


4 cups cooked brown tepary beans, drained and cooled (from less than 1 lb dry beans)

1 cup diced red onion

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 crisp Anaheim Chiles, diced, skinned, and de-seeded

1 Tbsp crushed garlic

1 Tbsp Tony Chacere’s Original Creole Seasoning (to taste)

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp black pepper ground

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl.  Chill in refrigerator for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.  Stir again before serving.  Buen provecho, George (Be advised that this one serves 6 hungry folks including teenage boys.)

[His Sonoran Caviar will get rave reviews at any pot luck or picnic.]

Flor de Mayo beans in Mayo palm basket (beans and baskets from Sunday St Phillips market)

Flor de Mayo beans in Mayo palm basket (beans and baskets from Sunday St Phillips market)

In the realm of cool summer dishes, I can always count on Heirloom Flor de Mayo Mixed Bean Salad (my namesake!).  When I was in college, Mother sent me a little book by Barbara Goodfellow, Make it Now Bake it Later from the ’60s.  It has inspired my hostessing ever since, especially my adaptation for this sweet recipe which delights in everything from your garden:

Marinated Mixed Bean Salad with Flor de Mayo heirlooms (MABurgess photo)

Marinated Mixed Bean Salad with Flor de Mayo heirlooms (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom Flor de Mayo Mixed Bean Salad Recipe:

(Fool-proof for picnics and barbeques–and it keeps well for days in the frig)

1 cup (or more) cooked heirloom Flor de Mayo beans for bright color (or another SW heirloom such as Ojo de Cabra, Rio Zape, Bolita, Cannellini–all taste wonderful in this marinated salad)

1 cup cooked green beans or snap beans from your garden (or organic canned)

1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (organic canned garbanzos/chickpeas) from your winter garden

1 cup cooked GMO-free corn kernels (off the cob or canned)

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1 Tbsp chopped shallots, chives,  sweet onion, or I’itoi’s onion from the garden

1/2 cup organic sugar or agave nectar

1 cup organic cider vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

Drain cooked beans.  In mixing bowl dissolve sweetener and spices in liquid.  Add beans, chopped green pepper and onion, then mix.  Let stand in refrigerator overnight, mix again.  When serving, reserve liquid for other marinades.  Serves 6 generously.

Mortgage Lifter burrito in whole wheat tortilla--first step for making heirloom bean roll-up appetizers

Anasazi Bean burrito in whole wheat tortilla–preliminary for making heirloom bean roll-up appetizers

Another fun way to get your complex carbs and vegetable protein is to make heirloom bean dips– then to get fancier using the dip, the next step is Easy Heirloom Bean Roll-ups.  For the fastest, most crowd-pleasing bean-spread, I use either Mortgage Lifter beans or Anasazi beans–both great.  Mortgage Lifter is a giant white runner bean, also known as Aztec white runner or Bordal.  Grown in your garden, it will vine over itself and its neighbor plants with big white flowers that attract hummingbirds.

Easy Heirloom Bean Roll-up Appetizers Recipe:


2 cups cooked Mortgage Lifter beans, or purple & white Anasazi beans

4 oz low-fat cream cheese (1/2 block of neuchatel)

1 Tbsp Red Devil hot sauce

1 tsp ground cumin seed

pinches of sea salt, to taste

3 or 4 medium whole wheat tortillas

Drain cooked beans (reserving liquid if you need to make a thinner texture after mashing).  Mash beans and cream cheese together with pastry cutter or bean masher.  Mash in all other ingredients. [You can sometimes find traditional Tarahumara madrone-wood bean mashers at NativeSeeds/SEARCH or at Flor de Mayo.]  At this point you have the best dip ever, and also the filling for instant burritos ready to feed to drop-in visitors.  Read on for further Roll-up directions…..

Heirloom bean "roll-ups" Step 1--with Anasazi beans

Heirloom bean “roll-ups” Step 1–with Anasazi beans

Rolling up heirloom bean hors d'oeuvres--Step 2 before cutting

Rolling up heirloom bean hors d’oeuvres–Step 2 before cutting

To finish these festive heirloom bean appetizers…spread the bean mixture onto 3/4 of one tortilla leaving a chord of the circle uncovered.  You will see why when you roll it up.  Begin rolling the tortilla tightly from the bean-covered edge and continue to roll snugly.  The bean spread will squeeze toward the unrolled edge, filling it.  The rolled tortilla will be held together by the bean spread.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and dip.

Place tortilla rolls on wax paper and chill in freezer or frig long enough to become firm for cutting.  Place chilled rolled tortillas on cutting board one at a time.  Slice in 1/2-inch rounds and place the disc-shaped spirals on a serving tray.  Chill until served.  Bedeck each Heirloom Bean Roll-up with a sprinkle of paprika or a cilantro leaf.  Each tortilla should produce about 6-8 roll-ups.  (With any leftover bean mixture, enjoy it as dip or in a burrito.)  These appetizers are a tasty celebration–and a tacit bow to Southwestern farming traditions.

Heirloom Bean Roll-up Appetizers and yellow pear tomatoes in chicken hors d'oeuvre tray (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom Bean Roll-up Appetizers and yellow pear tomatoes in chicken hors d’oeuvre tray (MABurgess photo)

By the way, you can find all of the wonderful Southwest heirloom beans to use in these recipes either at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, or at our Flor de Mayo booth at the charming St Phillips farmers market on Sundays in the shade of spreading sycamores and mesquites.

Traditional Native tepary beans--colorful mix available at Tohono Chul Park gift shop, NativeSeeds/SEARCH and Flor de Mayo booth at farmers market

Traditional Native tepary beans–colorful mix available at Tohono Chul Park gift shop, NativeSeeds/SEARCH and Flor de Mayo booth at farmers market

For the experienced or the novice desert gardener, now is the time to do the last planting in your monsoon garden.  One of my Tohono O’odham mentors taught me that the second week in August is really the last opportunity to put bean, corn, melon, or squash seed in the ground.  Even better to give your garden a jump-start by planting starts!  Right now at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store you will find a variety of healthy seedlings hungry to be in the soil–and on sale.  Come give them a future–and a delectable future for your palette in the months to come….

Happily planted--seedling Magdalena Big Cheese Squash seedling from NativeSeeds/SEARCH monsoon plant sale still on!

Happily planted–Magdalena Big Cheese Squash seedling from NativeSeeds/SEARCH monsoon plant sale (still going)

Happy gardening–and healthy eating to you from Tia Marta!

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

Foes or Friends ? and Foes as Friends Fudge !

Aunt Linda here:

Walking home this humid evening, and exactly as I was gazing up at the gorgeous, dark grey, monsoon clouds, a tiny insect flew right into my eye. Ironically, I had been admiring the bats just above me, swooping and eating insects with both efficiency and drama.  The tiny bug now in my eye, had somehow escaped their skill, yet flew right into my moist eye, where it became stuck, wriggled a bit, and then met its end in involuntary blinking of eyelids.

Which got me thinking about life and death in the worlds of insects.


Over the past few days I have been watching one particular spider. Hiding itself under a similarly colored part of the plant, it is quite the hunter.  Strategically situated above the birdbath designated as a primary water sources for honeybees, it has cast its web, and quite efficiently catches and eat bees.

Now, if you find that you are a bit squeamish about these photos you are not alone.

Many in this culture have lives and palates and plates, very much disassociated from their food sources.   Much of our food had become de-animalized and is often unrecognizable from its original source. Insects have no distance between themselves and their sources of nourishment. This is perhaps one reason that we wince a bit when we see such raw feasting before us.


I suspect that there may be more going on for us than that, however.  It is possible that we are rooting for the sweet bee. After all, it is a HONEY bee. It is fuzzy, and cute, and provides it’s own species (as well as ours)  with delicious honey!  It may be the one insect on the planet  — , (but I am not an entomologist, so please chime in with corrections or tweaks if you are one)  —   that actually enhances the flowers/plants from which it “takes” its food. It does not take a life as some insects do.  It does not harm one leaf or petal. It leaves plants “stronger” than they were before it’s visit to gather pollen and nectar.

So, perhaps, when we wince at scenes like the ones in this post, some part of us feels a metaphorical, or archetypal, pinging somewhere inside us. That of the Monster. Eating the Hero, or in this case, the Heroine.  Myths, children’s stories, and movies, are full of Monsters. And here, right in our own back yards, we find this multi-legged, relatively ugly (to all but the most arachnida-loving predator or human), weird eyed monster eating our Sweet Honey Bee.


Ah.  But things in Life, and in stories/movies, are not always what they seem. The sweet honey bee has a sting and powerful venom that is not subtle. And spiders are amazing allies, weird appearances aside, as their diets keep overpopulation, and therefore disease, in check.  Even inside our homes, where we generally do not welcome spiders nor monsters, they are powerful allies for humans.  For several years now, I have allowed spiders to live and hunt in the corners and crannies of our old adobe home. (Being selective is obviously important; I don’t welcome black widows for example.)   Co-habitation with them is mutually beneficial. Our home provides them with a happy hunting ground with few predators, while they rid the house of SIGNIFICANT numbers of mosquitoes and flies. Getting a good night sleep without that incessant mosquito whine, is but one benefit.  For me, they are the equivalent of having a cat that is a skilled “mouser”.  Home spiders also eat fleas and flies and cockroaches.; some even eat black widows.


I wish I had a black widow-eating -spider in one of my hives.   In nearly 20 years of being in and out of hives, this is the only one in which I have a problem. (see photo above).  But for two consecutive years,  beginning about this time of year, when I open up the hives there they are. Black bodies, egg sacks, and bees all tied up in webs.  I admit to smooshing these red-8 abdominal spiders and their egg sacs with my hive tool. Yuck. Having a spider to do Black Widow Patrol for me would be so much nicer.

So, sometimes foes are foes; and friends are friends.  Othertimes, who/what we think of as foes are actually friends. When we can adjust our focus to include that possibility, now that is when the world can open up.


Foes as Friends Fudge: 

(makes five thick fudge rounds or 9 thin ones)

This fudge, I have to say, may be a Super Food.  It’s ingredients that are so healthy, that this fudge might even be considered medicinal.


The Must Have ingredients

– 1/2  cup refined coconut oil, melted

– 1/3 cup of (local) honey (healthier than sugar; and honors insects)

– 1/2 cup cacao (unsweetened)

– 2 tablespoons almond butter (play around with this; try peanut butter)

–  a few tablespoons of fresh mint and a few mint flower (leave the lion share of flowers on the plant for bees)

Optional Ingredients:

– 3 Tablespoons Goji berry powder or berries (Goji Berries are also Wolf Berries, which grow right here in the South West and are considered a power food)

– 3 Tablespoons Cacao nibs

How to:

– Put all the ingredients (except the nibs) in an electric mixer (I used as Cuisinart but am sure you could use one of those submersible mixers and mix it al right together in a bowl) and blend.

– Place parchment paper in a cupcake or muffin pan; or if you want squares, place parchment in a pan. Pour mixture into the parchment/pan and freeze for 15 minutes for thinner rounds and 20 for thicker.

– Refrigerate.  Left at room temperature these will melt a bit.



Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Gardening, Sonoran Native | 4 Comments

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