What makes Tucson an International City of Gastronomy? It is not only that we are blessed with amazingly creative chefs–like the ones showcased at the Mission Garden Picnic feast. It’s also the availability of rare and wonderful heirloom foods that are adapted to our particular Baja Arizona climate, soil, and cultures! Few other places have the flavorful and nutritious diversity of crops that have been part of our Baja Arizona agricultural landscape for about 4000 years.
Tia Marta here to share ideas for finding the raw materials for some great slow-food feasting this Winter Solstice season.
Ignored, more than maligned, by present-day dominant cultures, the squash is a gift to menu-inventors. It can be prepared as a savory dish with good old salt/pepper/butter, or fancied up with moles. Or it can be made into fabulous desserts. Use it in place of sweet potato for a genteel variation. My favorite is to make it into a festive “Kentucky Pudding”.
Muff’s “Kentucky Pudding” Dessert Recipe
4 cups steamed or baked heirloom Navajo banana squash (or other heirloom) mashed or pureed
2-4 Tbsp mesquite honey or agave nectar (to taste)
2-3 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger root (I found it at Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans or pine nuts
1/4 cup good bourbon whiskey
Steam or bake squash ahead. (You can freeze it for using later in a variety of recipes–it’s so convenient!0 In a saucepan, heat mashed squash on medium. Add honey, ginger, nutmeats. When hot and steamy, stir in the bourbon quickly and serve with a flair. You could even try flambé. Serves 4-6.
These luscious heirloom squashes, grown at NativeSeeds/SEARCH’s Seed Conservation Farm in Patagonia, are available now at our Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday’s St Philips Farmers’ Market. Come see the size of them–one of them could feed the whole extended family or a small tribe! We will be selling them by the smaller family-sized chunk as well. Start salivating… If you are seeking Vitamin A in glorious beta-carotenes, this is the food to find.
And don’t forget those giant seeds inside! They can be roasted easily with a little olive oil and sea salt and voila you have a healthy snack full of zinc to ward off colds in this chilly season. You can save a handful of those seeds to plant next summer in your garden and keep the gift growing.
And here are some ideas about baking with local heirloom grains…. Get out your VitaMix or your hand-mill and get ready for a real treat–home-baked goodies made with fresh-milled flour from whole heirloom grains. Find these precious ancient grains at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store (3061 N Campbell near Prep and Pastry) and at the Flor de Mayo booth–Sunday St Philips Food-In-Root Market.
If you don’t want to take the time, or if you don’t have milling equipment, no problem! Just come by our Flor de Mayo farmers market booth and see your special grain being fresh-milled before your very eyes. It is especially neat for kids to see where flour comes from. Surprisingly, many an adult has difficulty making the connection with grain and flour. The beauty and significance of keeping the grain whole until milling is that the grain is ALIVE! When used fresh-milled within a few days of milling, the beneficial enzymes–the “life force” in the whole kernel–are still active in the flour. And the taste of freshly-milled flour is a whole new flavor-ballgame.
Come actually touch our good organic grains! Feel their liveliness. We have recipe ideas to share, like our Baja Arizona White Sonora Wheat flour and Mesquite pie crust. In addition we can recommend lots delicious whole wheat-berry recipes for Padre Kino’s white Sonora wheat grown locally by BKWFarms or the Pima club wheat grown by San Xavier Farm Coop and Ramona Farms.
For a completely new experience, try baking with a purple grain!–our heirloom Purple Prairie Barley. Barley flour has the lowest glycemic index of all the grain flours hence helping to balance blood sugar. It has a rich flavor that can enhance any bread or biscuit recipe. The purple color indicates a high anthocyanin content– an important antioxidant. When you cook the purple barley as a whole grain, you can use it in pilafs and marinated grain salads the way you might use rice or quinoa. Combined with rice it makes a colorful high-contrast pilaf. (I’d be happy to elaborate in another post.)
Tis the season also to rejoice in the indigenous beans that have supported Native cultures for unknown centuries.
Heirloom beans are full of protein, full of flavor, and so versatile. I like to cook up a big pot of these golden Solstice beans and then freeze them in serving sizes to prepare later in a variety of fun ways–as chile beans, as dips, in burritos, as hummus, and of course heart-warming bean soup–the list goes on… Come get inspired at our Flor de Mayo table when you see the biodiversity of beans spread before you!
The most festive heirloom bean of the holiday season is the colorful Christmas Lima (AKA Chestnut Lima) so called because of the timing when it is harvested. (Check out past blog posts for some great recipes.) We have even had jewelry-makers buy this bean to string as fetish-style necklaces.
Calling creative gift-givers! Join us at the Sunday St Philips Farmers Market for some meaningful, local, healthful and tasty gifts that say “Baja Arizona” in the most delightful way.
May you have happiness, health, peace in your hearts, and good cheer this holiday season –greetings from Rod and Tia Marta at Flor de Mayo!