Monthly Archives: February 2016

Beautiful Bay

Laurus_nobilis_leaves_004Jacqueline Soule this week, to discuss an herb you can plant now. This herb is a large shrub/small tree that can even be used as a houseplant! I am speaking of bay (Laurus nobilis), also called laurel, or bay laurel. (In Spanish it is called laurel.) Bay is used for Craft, Culinary, Ornamental and Pest Control purposes.




In ancient Greece and Rome, the bay tree was considered sacred to Apollo, the sun deity. Leafy branches of bay were woven into wreaths to crown the heads of kings and queens, priests, priestesses, poets, bards, and the victors of battles and athletic or scholarly contests. At the first Olympics in 776 B.C.E., laurel garlands were presented to the champions of each contest. During the Renaissance, doctors, upon passing their final examinations, were decorated with berried branches of bay. From this ancient custom derives the French word baccalaureate (from “bacca,” a berry, and “laureus,” of laurel); this has been modified into the term “bachelor” in referring to one type of college degree.





Bay has been used medicinally for centuries. It has a reputation for soothing the stomach and relieving flatulence. Bay has also been used as an astringent, diuretic, narcotic, or stimulant. An infusion (tea) is prepared for these purposes.


LaurusNobilisEssOilOil of Bay, extracted from the leaves, contains many components, including cineol, geraniol, and some eugenol. Studies of the purified essential oil have proven bactericidal and fungicidal properties. Use as a narcotic may be due to the eugenol found in bay (an oil also found in cloves), which has been shown to have sedative and narcotic effects in mice. Bay is used externally, and considered by some to be a healing agent for rheumatism. In such cases the essential oil is rubbed on the aching joints. A soothing bath soak is prepared from an infusion of the leaves, and added to the bath water. External use of bay may cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Always test a small patch of skin before widespread use.


Laurus_nobilis_landscape_01Planting and Care.
The bay laurel is an evergreen tree with glossy, deep green leaves. It grows well in arid climates such as Greece, Italy, southern France, and here in the Pimería Alta. Bay is a lovely tree for the yard or even poolside. Growing slowly to form a stately tree, in the very best conditions it will eventually reach 40 feet high (it takes decades). Like most herbs, soil with good drainage is required.


laurel-tree-5The only problem with bay is that young trees are frost tender, and must be protected much like a citrus tree. You can grow bay in a container when it is young and move it onto a protected porch for the winter. Plant it out once the plant has some size as it is less likely to freeze, or you can keep in a container for years.  Indeed, you can also grow bay indoors, if you have a well-lit space.

Be sure you buy true bay laurel. Landscape plants sold as “laurel” may be Prunus laurocerasus, also called the English or cherry laurel; a member of the rose family.


Laurus nobilis_lvs_01Harvesting and Use.
Bay as a flavoring herb is always used dried. There are several bitter tasting compounds which are lost with drying, leaving the flavorful and useful oils. Leaves are used whole and removed prior to serving as they leave a bitter taste if chewed. Add bay to your cooking, or prepare as an infusion base for soups.

Bay leaves are used as a pest repellent for flour weevils. Just add several leaves, ideally in a muslin bag, to your flour canisters. Change to fresh leaves every six months. Use the old leaves as organic mulch in the garden.

Bay leaves, either fresh or dried, can be used to create lovely long lasting herbal wreaths.


JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

© All articles are copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, medicinal plant | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sweet and Savory Valentines–with lovely local grains

Happy Valentine's expressed with the happiest of ingredients--heirloom barley, white Sonora wheat, organic hard red wheat and mesquite!

Happy Valentine’s expressed with the happiest of ingredients–heirloom purple barley, white Sonora wheat, organic hard red wheat and mesquite!

I admit it–I have a “thing” about barley. I’ll take it in any form–in stews, Scottish soups, marinated grain salads, mesquite/barley biscuits, barley banana bread…..and yes, my personal favorite, beeeer! (Your’s too? OK that will be another good post….)

Tia Marta here to share some fun recipes fit for a happy Valentine’s Day or beyond–made with heirloom grains including barley–one recipe with whole-kernel grain, one with milled whole grain flour.  These amazing grains are some of the reasons Tucson is now an International City of Gastronomy!

Arizona-grown heirloom Purple Prairie Barley grain in its healthy hulls

Arizona-grown heirloom Purple Prairie Barley grain with its healthy bran intact

It seems very few people in recent times know much about barley except perhaps as an ingredient in grape-nuts cereal or Campbell’s Scotch Broth. When you look into the nutrition of barley you find that it has the lowest glycemic index of all the grains, that is, it is the best of all for keeping blood-sugar in balance, especially when used in whole kernel form, either cooked whole, or milled from whole kernels.

There is an ancient barley now being grown in Arizona that has a delicious flavor, colorful nature, antioxidant properties, and versatility which have captivated me. It hails originally from Tibet (some say by way of the Nile) and is known as Purple Prairie Barley.


Keep the faith while cooking whole kernel purple prairie barley--Let the grains re-absorb all the liquid, 4:1 that is water:grain

Keep the faith while cooking whole kernel purple prairie barley–Let the grains re-absorb all the liquid,  water:grain ratio is 4:1.

Basic cooking for whole Purple Prairie Barley is super-simple.  It just takes a little time.  Once you have them cooked you can freeze them for future culinary creativity.  Stove-top method:  bring to boil 4 cups drinking water and 1 cup whole grain barley, and simmer until ALL the purple liquid is absorbed.  In a crockpot, the same process may take 3-5 hours–no watching necessary.  The glorious purple liquid which rises in the cooking water is chucky-jam-full of anthocyanins, those wondrous antioxidants, so don’t let a drop get away!

When fully cooked, purple prairie barley is plump, almost round, and still retains its lovely color.

When fully cooked, purple prairie barley is plump, almost round, and still retains its lovely color.







Hot, whole purple barley-berries taste great as a chewy cereal for a chilly morning, delicious with cream or yogurt and a dollop of agave nectar.  It also makes a delectable pilaf (see photo idea below) or marinated whole-kernel salad.  [You can substitute barley in recipes for White Sonora Wheat-berries–to find them enter “wheat” in this blog’s search box.]


Ingredients for baking Valentine cookies--L to R rolled oats, dry cranberries, White Sonora wheat-berries and flour, Purple Prairie grain and lavender flour, local hard red wheat kernels and flour

Ingredients for baking Valentine cookies–L to R rolled oats, dry cranberries, White Sonora wheat-berries and its golden flour, Purple Prairie grain and its lavender flour, local hard-red wheat kernels paired with its beige flour

Rolling out dough for heirloom barley hearts--Valentine treats to celebrate Tucson's LIVING culinary history

Rolling out dough for heirloom barley hearts–Valentine treats to celebrate Tucson’s LIVING culinary history






This cookie recipe is really easy–two bowls, sifter, rolling pin or bottle, teaspoon measure, and only one half-cup measuring cup are needed.

Very Sonoran Valentine Cookies

1 c purple prairie barley flour
1/2 c organic white Sonora wheat flour
1/2 c organic hard red wheat flour
1/2 c local mesquite flour
1/2 tsp sea salt or real salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c (one stick) organic butter
1/2 c organic cane sugar
2 lg or 3 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla
optional topping on cookie dough: dry cranberries or cherries
Directions: Preheat oven to 375degreesF. Sift all dry ingredients into one bowl. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar; stir in vanilla; beat in eggs.  Add dry ingredients into wet mixture, mixing thoroughly. Pat dough out on a board heavily dusted with more barley flour. Roll dough to a ca. 3/8 inch thickness–(consistent thickness is more important than an exact measure.) Cookie-cutter your favorite shapes out of the rolled dough and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until barely browning. Crunchily enjoy the pinkness of your purple barley cookies!

Rolling out cookie dough for Purple Prairie Barley cookies

Cutting cookie dough for Purple Prairie Barley cookies















Purple barley Valentine cookies with cranberry decoration

Purple barley Valentine cookies with cranberry decoration– a pinky-purple hue, yummy flavor & crunch!

You can make delightful variations on these Purple Barley Cookies by substituting the above ingredients in an oatmeal cookie recipe or in a Scottish shortbread recipe.


Preparing heirloom purple prairie barley pilaf

Preparing heirloom purple prairie barley pilaf

For a savory dish, try your cooked whole-grain purple barley in a delicious pilaf prepared in a way similar to a quinoa or rice pilaf.  Stir-fry an assortment of 2-3 cups of your favorite veggies in olive oil (try any chopped heirloom squash, scallions, carrots, colorful sweet peppers, mushrooms, kohlrabi, etc from local farmers’ markets).  Finish the stir-fry adding 1 cup of cooked purple prairie barley.  Season to taste with Asian sauce, spike or Cavender’s.  Pine nuts or cashews might add another flavor dimension.



Magdalena heirloom barley grown at Mission Garden, Tucson

Magdalena heirloom barley grown at Mission Garden, Tucson

Packaged rare Magdalena Barley seed grown at Mission Garden--our own local treasure.

Packaged rare Magdalena Barley seed grown at Mission Garden–our own local treasure.









Want to find these heirlooms for cooking or to grow them?  Here are some local sources of whole-kernel grains–also, where you can get them freshly milled if you don’t have your own grinder.  Find several of these grains growing at the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace’s Mission Garden living history gardens, open every Saturday for tours.  Hayden Flour Mills’ heirloom Purple Prairie Barley  is now available at our Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday’s St.Philips Farmers’ Market in various size packets ready to cook or mill.  The Wong family at BKWFarms Inc., now in their fifth generation of local farming in Marana, are the organic growers of Padre Kino’s heirloom White Sonora Wheat which NativeSeeds/SEARCH helped to resurrect from near-loss.  BKWFarms also produces organic hard red wheat-berries, which make a rich, higher gluten flour perfect for breads and cakes, and which I quite successfully used in the Valentine cookie recipe above.  Other heirloom wheat-berries grown by Ramona Farms and San Xavier Coop Association are available at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, 3061 N.Campbell Ave, Tucson.  Local mesquite flour for the Valentine cookie recipe is available at the NSS store and at our Flor de Mayo booth, St Philips Farmers’ Market.  Come visit us this Sunday for a little taste!  And, have us mill these organic grains fresh for you on-site!  Check out for re-sourcing these grains online.  For a great grain brew, ask at Dragoon and our other local micro-breweries for their latest creation.  Here’s to your health–using our local, organic, heirloom grains!

I invite you also to join me, Tia Marta, next Saturday, February 20, at Tucson Presidio Museum’s community lecture at the Dusty Monk Salon and Saloon, Old Town Artisans downtown Tucson.  I’ll be speaking about the Presidio Period’s Edible Plants, and there just might be a few tastes of these heirloom grain treasures for accompaniment….

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simple Home Remedy for a Cold


Aunt Linda here. I am keeping it very simple today. The “little grey cells” are not at their best while my body fights off a cold, and so I have shelved what I had planned for today’s post.   We are going with the “less is more” approach to colds – and life.

Honey bees give us so much – lemons and honey are just two.

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So todays recipe is simple:  heat water to almost boiling. Find a favorite cup. Squeeze in as much lemon juice as you would like. Add honey. This is soothing for the throat – and the raw honey and lemon juice seem to have alkalizing properties for the body. Interestingly, I have read that processed honey will make your body more acidic.

IMG_2274 (1)

I added some honey comb, but that is just because I had it on hand. Use whatever honey you have. It occurred to me that the wax just might “exfoliate” the throat. But that is nothing more than a hunch.

In that vein, I added some salted pistachios to further “exfoliate” my throat – I felt like the magic of honey and lemon might work better.

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Until Next time!



Categories: Sonoran Native | 2 Comments

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