Monthly Archives: February 2017

Beautiful Brittlebush

Brittlebush is one of the most common and conspicuous wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert; seasonally providing a glowing golden-yellow cloak for the desert.  Yes, the wood is brittle, hence the name.

encelia_farinosa_habitBrittlebush has a long history of native use.  The resin collected from the base of the plant is often yellowish to brown in color.  This resin can be heated and used as a glue.  The O’odham and Seri use it for hafting, to hold points on arrows and, in the case of the Seri, harpoons.  A different sort of resin is collected from the upper stems, is more gummy and generally a clear yellow.  The Seri use this to seal pottery vessels.  As a child, I learned from Sells area Tohono O’odham children that this upper stem resin makes a passable chewing gum.

kino-webEarly on the Spanish priests learned that brittlebush resin made a highly fragrant incense, akin to frankincense in odor.  In 1702, Father Kino wrote “. . . in this journey inland and on other occasions I have found various things – little trees, fruit, incense, etc. – all species which are peculiar to . . . [this area]  . . . alone, and samples of which I bring, to celebrate with the incense, by the favor of heaven, this Easter and Holy Week, and to place five good grains of incense in the Paschal candle.”

To harvest resin, use a sharp blade, like a single-edge razor blade, to make a shallow vertical slit about one inch long along the stem.  The resin will ooze out of this cut and dry on the plant.  Return in a day or two to collect the resin.  A healthy, well-maintained plant can have numerous cuts made all over it, just have care to not girdle the stem.

encelia-leaves-2825-webIn the 1960’s, I was taught by a longtime cowboy that a brittlebush stem makes a dandy toothbrush.  Simply select a largish branch and peal off the bitter bark, no need for toothpaste.  He had learned the trick years before from an old cowhand.  Whether this was self-taught or learned from natives, it is impossible to say, although the Seri use brittlebush to treat toothache.  For toothache the bark is removed, the branch heated in ashes, and placed in the mouth to “harden” a loose tooth.  Modern dentistry advocates using mildly alkaline solutions to help maintain oral hygiene, which makes me wonder about the pH of brittlebush sap.
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Some Southwestern folks will bundle the leaves and stems and use them to smudge with, much like smudging with white sage.

Flowers are long-lasting in bouquets but do leave some flowers on the plant, because the seeds of brittlebush are an important food source for native seed-eating birds.
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Planting and Care.  
Brittlebush is a lovely addition to any xeriscape.  The shrub generally reaches around three feet tall and naturally forms a symmetrical globular form.  The fragrant silvery leaves are soft and fuzzy, and work well in fresh floral arrangements.  The golden yellow flowers appear in early spring and cover the bush, but in an interesting array.  Flowers open first on the warm south-facing sides of the bushes and blooming gradually moves up and over the bush, ending with the north-facing branches.
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While it can take full sun, brittlebush does best in a location where it gets noon-time shade in summer.  Avoid planting the shrub near sources of reflected light, like pools or hot south-facing walls.

Brittlebush plants grow best with  rejuvenation pruning every three years.  Just pretend you are a hungry javalina and cut the plants to around six inches tall.  Do this in the fall.  Bloom will be sparse the following year unless you give them some extra water to help them recover.

The above was partially taken from my book, “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today.”

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, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).

© Article 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 © Jacqueline A. Soule where marked and they may not be used.

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran Crafts, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native | 2 Comments

Fermented Citrus: Marmalade, Indian Pickle, Mole Pickle

20170122_133637_001Hello friends, Amy here with more fermentation experiments.

It’s a good year for citrus, and I’ve come across a few mystery specimens lately, all very tart. Lemons that look like sour oranges with a lumpy, thick zest. Kumquats that were maybe calamondins. Some called calamondins, but biger, with skin and pith as thick as an orange. Something labeled meyers that were orange and more sour than a regular lemon. Rather than attempt to decipher the cultivars, I’ve just been enjoying them!

Indian Lemon Pickle

A friend’s mom from India fed me some lemon pickle. Wow!!!! Sour!!!! Salty!!!! Spicy, too! It looked as if it was going to be killer spicy, but it was only medium heat. It can be served as a condiment on the table, like with rice and cooked greens. It’s good in a vinaigrette. Any leftover soup or stew suddenly becomes new and exciting! I’m going to try marinating some chicken in it before grilling.

To make Indian lemon pickle, cut sour citrus into small pieces (about 2 cups) and remove the seeds. Add juice to nearly cover the fruit.

20170124_13340720170124_133453Add salt (2 tablespoons) and turmeric (1/2 teaspoon). The spices can be omitted if desired, like classic Moroccan preserved lemons used in cooking or Vietnamese lemons used in lemonade. I’m sure many other cuisines ferment citrus also.

Cover and let ferment at room temperature for a week or two, stirring daily. When the fruit is soft, it is ready to enjoy or spice further.

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Dry toast fenugreek seed (1 tablespoon), cool and grind. Gently heat oil (3 tablespoons) and cook black mustard seeds (half teaspoon) until they sputter! Turn down the heat and add asafoetida powder (1 teaspoon) and the prepared fenugreek. Cook briefly while stirring.

 

 

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Add the cooled spicy oil mixture and the chile to the lemon and taste! It stores beautifully in the refrigerator for a long time, thanks to high salt content. Keep the citrus pieces submerged in the brine. The salt can be reduced, but it may not keep as well.

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Mole Pickle

On a creative streak, I decided to use Mano Y Metate Adobo powder in place of the other spices. tin4I cooked Adobo powder (half a tin) in oil (3 tablespoons, cooled and added to the same fermented lemons. Yummy! The fenugreek seed in the other batch has a slight bitter edge that the Adobo version did not have. The richness of the sesame tempered the sharpness of the lemon, but it is still very potent. Perfect for tacos!!!!

 

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Fermented Marmalade

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon has a recipe for a fermented Orange or Kumquat Marmalade, so I had to try.

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I chopped three heaping cups of sour citrus and added one tablespoon salt, half a cup filtered water, a quarter cup evaporated cane juice (granulated sugar would be fine) and one quarter cup whey (drained from yogurt) as a starter culture. Fruit normally has enough beneficial Lactobacillus cultures and the salt favors their growth over the harmful microorganisms. However, I followed the recipe since this jar had lower salt concentration and added sugar. (The sugar favors different beneficial cultures to grow.) After sitting for a couple weeks and stirring daily, it was slightly fizzy and delicious!

I made some with sliced fruit and some with fruit chopped in the food processor. The barely salty “brine” was less sour than the ferments in sour juice, slightly sweet, and tasty to sip! We ate the softened fruit on buttered toast, with or without additional evaporated cane juice sprinkled on top. Honey would be good, too.

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Enjoy, and happy experimenting!

 

 

Categories: Cooking, fruit, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Wake Up Make Chorizo

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Linda here celebrating a springlike day here in the Old Pueblo. I am sitting near an open window as I write;  warm springtime air feels great on my skin  – the sounds of birdsongs flood me with Spring Fever.

It is the Year of the Fire Rooster in Chinese Astrology.  Roosters have many characteristics; they strut about;  they are prone to power struggles; they are excellent sentinels. And they crow.  They actually crow throughout the day (and sometimes night) and for different reasons, but their signature trait is their morning crow. I am going to take artistic license here and say that Fire Rooster 2017 is crowing: “Time to Wake Up”.

Wake up?  To what? Ah, well I could get political … what with all the “waking up” going on, and not going on, in the US  right now. For our purposes here, however, let’ Wake Up to the fact that we are all “eaters.   Let’s “get” that as Eaters we both influence and are influenced by our  food Systems/Sources.

As a country and increasingly as a globe, we eat standardized, high yield hybrid crops for a variety of reasons. The cultivation of just a handful of crops is a subject that impacts our lives on a multiple of level – and for more in depth reading I HIGHLY recommend  Michael Pollan’s intelligent research and writings as well as investigative journalist Simran Sethi’s  Bread Wine Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love.

Today, lets adventure into a cross border food to highlight how fun food diversity is. Remember Biology 101:  we learned that biodiversity is the crucial strategy nature uses to ensure survival – whether it be plant, insect, animal, or human-animal.  Biodiversity also happens to taste good on the tongue and might as good for the planet as it is for your health. (And may even be good for your pocketbook)

Chorizo is really sausage.  It is a hearty, spice-filled food that is easy to make and  versatile.  Traditionally it was made with pork, but can be made with ground turkey, wild game, even tofu. You can vary the spices to your liking.

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We made this chorizo with Javelina meat just the other day.

 

Today we will explore two chorizo recipes from the same region in Sonora, Mexico.

Liby’s  Y  Carlos’s Chorizo Receta 

Liby was born in 1910 and was a fantastic “cocinera” (cook) all her life.  Her son Carlos learned her recipes and relayed her Chorizo Receta to me just today. Liby made it with ground pork. He has made it both pork, and also with ground turkey. I am going to start with this recipe as it is more user friendly for the modern Eater; the meats are readily available in stores and can be obtained already ground.

A few notes from Carlos:

  • Except for the garlic, which should be mashed (if you are not grinding the meat yourself) all the other spices should be dried; in chorizo the dried spices make it more flavorful.  Carlos uses the flat side of a knife to really mash the garlic cloves until they are “almost pasty”.  Then add it to the ground meat; “you really cannot add enough garlic”.
  • Add the spices one at a time to the ground meat. (versus mixing all the spices together and then adding them to the meat)
  • If you are using Turkey you might want to add more spices than the recipe amounts below to make sure it has a strong enough flavor.
  • Finding a good quality chile powder is fundamental to making great tasting chorizo. Ideally, he said,  the red chile powder is made from chile from the red chile ristras (wreaths) here in the southwest. If that is not an option, look for the best quality of red chile powder you can find.  “Quality chile is “Precious”!
  • Do not be afraid to make the chorizo a few times to really perfect it to YOUR liking.

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 lbs of ground pork or turkey

20 garlic cloves – (mashed) “Garlic makes it

2 Tablespoons white vinegar

one handful of dried mint

one handful of “cilantro de bole” (coriander seed) Crush it in a blender or molcajete

Salt and Pepper to taste

At least one handful of Red chile powder – added at the end- it will add a fantastic flavor as well as add a beautiful red color to the chorizo

Mix in each ingredient one at a time and then let it sit in the fridge over night.

Chorizo is great with eggs, potatoes, beans – and for the more urban or modern pallet put on top of pizzas, in quiches …. use your imagination!

Gracias Carlos!!! Y Gracias a Liby tambien!

Chorizo de Rancho: Chorizo de Javelina 

The recipe below is made essentially the same way – except that the Javelina meat was from the Campo (countryside) and we ground it ourselves. We used a hand grinder and added the garlic directly to the meat. No mint nor vinegar was used, but dried Mexican oregano and cilanto (crushed) were used.

Our ancestors were not squeamish. They new intimately where their food came from. Food was not taken for granted, and large amounts energy went into thinking about food and survival. They were actively engaged in hunting, foraging, planting, harvesting, preparing, and storing food. They knew exactly where their food came from as they were not just Eaters, but food producers  (or finders/foragers). You do not need to hunt your food or ingredients (although if you so I highly recommend Jesse Griffiths book Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish. 

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Add the meat little by little to the molino and grind.

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add the garlic one clove at a time and grind

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this gives you an idea of the texture

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once ground, add the handfuls of dried herbs: this is Mexican Oregano

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we grew this cilantro, which when it goes to seed is Coriander (Cilantro de Bola)

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the light is poor in the photo – but red chile was added here.

 

More ideas: Rooster Chorizo.

Backyard chicken keepers and poultry farmers alike know that in a typical batch of chicks will yield 50% males and 50% females – give or take. If you have too many roosters in one area and you will quickly find power struggles as well as a lot of crowing, so city ordinances do not allow them in most city limits. (Barking dogs are more socially acceptable). So “what to do” with roosters is a something backyard chicken keepers, who live in the city limits, have to deal with. I can’t tell you how many calls I have gotten from new chicken keepers about What to Do with their roosters. My answer: there is no Right Answer. You can find them new homes,  you can respectfully eat them. I don’t espouse one way over another way. I have done both and for differing reasons, as the years have progressed. If you decide to cull your birds, do it respectfully and skillfully (find someone to teach you if you don’t know) and consider making Rooster Chorizo – with the recipes above as your springboard.

A Few More Regional Foods:

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Fresh caught fish and “mountain oysters” being prepared for lunch

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Another version of ‘mountain oysters” cooked with lots of garlic.

 

Above I mentioned that eating in diverse ways may be good for your pocket book – it takes time and skill to catch the Fish or Javelina in the photos above (or to “gather” the mountain oysters!) but not much money.  It is also empowering to provide for oneself.

This idea of Waking Up to our food sources requires some real courage and honesty. Often because we have a lot tied up in food-lifestyle ideologies and identities. I know that my food choices have changes and evolved as I have lived and learned. I try to read and study broadly on the subject – and I fully expect some more editing in my choices as I Wake Up.

 

 

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, herbs, Javelina, foraging and hunting, Simran Sethi, Mexican ranch recipes, Michael Pollan, bio diversity, roosters "eaters", Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: | Leave a comment

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