Monthly Archives: April 2017

Bean Flower Soup

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Jacqueline Soule here today to share a savory way to use the flowers of palo verde.
In case you wondered, palo verde flowers are slightly sweet and taste mildly like young garden peas.

In a handout I got back in the 1970’s, I learned that the O’odham name for this April-ish month is Uam Masad which roughly translates to “the yellow month.”  On the slopes of the the Tucson Mountains yellow is certainly the case – with palo verde, brittle bush, paperflower, and desert marigold all combining to cover the slopes in a cloak of glowing yellow.  On a still day, the sound of the various species of native bees working their way through this bounty is a many toned symphony of delight to my ears.
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The common name “palo verde” can refer to a number of species, including
Mexican paloverde (Parkinsonia aculeata)
blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida)
foothill palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla)
palo brea (Parkinsonia praecox)
Texas palo verde (Parkinsonia texana), and the
Desert Museum hybrid paloverde (Parkinsonia X ‘Desert Museum’).

I told you that so I could tell you this.  All of these New World species of palo verde have edible flowers.  The palatability of the flowers varies though – depending on species and on growing conditions.  Sample before harvest.  Some are tough and stringy, some are large and flavorful.  The flowers on the trees in the leach field were especially large and palatable.  After the initial sample thou, I left them for the busy digger bees (Centris species) moving among the blooms.

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Chop up herbs and flowers to an easily edible size.

Since palo verde flowers are relatively small, compared to other edible flowers like pansy and chrysanthemums, I wanted to find dishes where I could harvest many flowers in a single swipe along the branch then use them en mass.  With a big basket full of flowers, I started experimenting.
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The results – palo verde flowers are fine in salads.  They are good in a pancake-like fritters.  Lightly sauté the flowers with chard and I’itoi onions then pour eggs over them for scrambled breakfast – good.  The floral vinegar will have to wait about a month for my report.  But meanwhile there is my new favorite – bean flower soup.  Bean flower soup is especially good late in the season as flowers are intermixed with young developing palo verde beans.

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Remove bitter tasting petioles.

Many Americans are not used to the concept of soup before a meal, but it makes sense for three main reasons – even in summer.  Such home-made soups are high in trace minerals, helping replace the electrolytes lost to perspiration during the day (especially in our climate).  The American Institute of Health estimates that 1 out of 5 Americans is clinically dehydrated, in other words, dehydrated enough to interfere with our body’s ability to function properly.  Lastly, for folks trying to lose weight, the hormones signaling hunger take about 20 minutes to become canceled out by eating.  Soup first means that your hormones have more of a chance to tell you that you’ve had enough without overeating.

Palo Verde Flower Soup
1 cup fresh palo verde flowers
1 quart liquid of choice (water, vegetable stock, chicken stock)
1 tablespoon oil of choice (helps better develop the flavor)
herbs to taste (use mild to not overpower the delicate flower flavor)
sea salt to taste
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If it is late in the season, and you harvest beans with petioles, remove the tough and bitter petioles.  Give everything a good dicing to help release the flavor and make any potentially fibrous bits small and edible.  Optionally, sauté the herbs in the oil first to develop the flavor but avoid over-heating the flowers, they can become bitter. Add one quart liquid.  Bring to a boil and turn off and remove from the heat.  Let sit for 10 minutes to meld flavors together and finish cooking the soup.  Serve.  Enjoy!

Disclaimer: The authors of this blog have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods.  Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction.  In case of doubt please consult your doctor.

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 and they may not be used.

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, herbs, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cholla Crepes with Hollandaise and Mulberry Compote Yogurt Crepes

 

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Spring in Tucson means cholla buds and mulberries! Amy here with two of our perennial favorites, wrapped in crepes.

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A found a budding Pencil Cholla Cactus in a friend’s yard, and I could pick in exchange for a harvesting lesson. See Tia Marta’s Cholla bud post to learn how to collect and process this favorite desert food. This wasn’t a stellar year in the wild, so I was glad to harvest from a few plants thriving with a bit of care. Pencil chollas, hard to find in the wild, have few spines for the size of the bud and fall off easily when brushed.

Mulberries are another cultivated cousin of a wild desert riparian food, and my grandfather planed a beautiful tree many years ago that produces enough fruit for birds, dogs and people, too.

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I cooked a bowlful of mulberries with a splash of rum and a squeeze of lemon. I added a bit of water while cooking, just to keep it from sticking.

Brainstorming how to show off these little treasures, I remembered crepes! My mom and aunt taught my family to make crepes with a special electric skillet designed to dunk into a wide shallow bowl of batter, making a delicate skin and browning it delicately.

Lacking the very wide, very shallow bowl and the electric crepe maker, I have been making them lately on a cast iron griddle. Start by whirling one cup flour (I used half whole wheat and half all purpose), one and a half cups half and half (milk or milk substitute works fine), 3 tablespoons butter melted completely (or oil), four eggs, and a dash of salt in the blender. Transfer to a quart jar or measuring cup for easy pouring.

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Heat a cast iron pan to medium, swirl the pan before the very first crepe with a small pat of butter, and take a relaxing breath. With one hand, pour batter on the griddle while quickly rotating the pan until the batter reaches the pan’s edges. Hopefully most of the batter is set by then, but if not, just use a little less batter next time and cook this crepe a little longer. If the batter gets too thick, thin with water so it is easier to swirl on the griddle.

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When the edges are papery and the bottom spotted with brown, flip the crepe with your fingertips and brown briefly on the other side.

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Stack the cooked crepes on a plate directly on top of each other. This batch of batter made about a dozen for me.

Cholla Bud in Crepes with Hollandaise

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Boil the de-spined cholla buds in water for 10 minutes, then drain. Heat a bit of olive oil, add a clove of minced garlic, a dash of salt and the buds.

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To make hollandaise, put one egg yolk, a tablespoon butter, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of salt in a double boiler. Whisk until creamy, adding a splash of hot water if necessary to thin the sauce. Incorporate one more tablespoon of butter and keep warm. The sauce can easily be doubled or quadrupled as necessary. Assemble, roll and enjoy!

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For Mulberry Crepes, you can add a pinch of sugar to the batter if you want. Spread a hot crepe with mulberry compote and a spoon of plain yogurt.

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Fold in quarters and garnish with pansies.

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Enjoy the last days of spring, and I’ll be back in summer. Love, Amy

 

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

Pucker Up for Pickled Lemons

Jacqueline Soule here, on a lovely spring day, subbing for “Savor Sister” Martha who usually posts the second week of the month.   As I write this some people are celebrating Passover and others are getting ready for Easter Sunday.  Both holidays celebrating renewal and new life.  Very appropriate because the entire Northern Hemisphere is experiencing spring and new life.
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In my garden, the citrus trees are developing tiny young fruit from the fragrant flowers of last month.  The older lemons from last year are all fully ripe and ready for harvest.  I always wait to harvest my lemons at the point when they fall into my hand with the gentlest tug.  Now they are fully flavorful and astonishingly juicy.  Tart, yes, but barely acidic at all.

Since my lemon trees produced prodigiously this year I am working using all these lemons in new and fun ways.  In December 2016 I wrote about making lemony alcoholic drinks, In March 2017 Carolyn wrote about lemon pie.  Time to look at another lemon use – salted lemons.
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Salted lemon, also called lemon pickle, is a condiment common in South Asian and North African cuisine, including Moroccan tagines and Cambodian ngam nguv, a chicken soup.  Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of salt, lemon juice, and water.  Generally spices are included.

Create.
Lemon – you can do this with only one lemon, or with many.  Rinse off the lemons.
Salt – use canning, sea or kosher salt, not iodized.
Jars with lids – you can sterilize these, but no one in the rest of the world does so.  Your choice.

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Slice the lemons, making a criss-cross through the center, but not cutting all the way through. Just enough to open them up.  Put lemon in jar and add salt.  Plan on at least a 1/2 cup of salt for a quart jar.  Press the lemons down as you go, packing them in tight. Pressing helps release the juice that helps preserve them.

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Choose if you wish to add spices – or not.  Any combination of dried herbs and spices will do – get creative!  I experimented with coriander seed, cinnamon bark, bay leaf, peppercorn, cloves, cardamom pods and sumac.  If you use fresh herbs, use a full cup of salt per quart jar, to ensure the brine is strong enough to kill botulism bacteria.

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Shake the jar once a day for the first few days to help dissolve salt and get any air bubbles to the surface.  The jar should be at least 3/4 full of juice by day three.  If not, be sure to add liquid – either lemon juice or water.

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I add a layer of plastic wrap between salty mixture and the metal lid to help keep the lid from rusting.

Wait.  Lemons are best allowed to pickle at room temperature for at least a month. Longer is fine.
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Use. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (both zest and pith) that is most valued. The flavor is mildly tart but intensely lemony.  Pieces of lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness.
The lemons may be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish.  Slip some under the skin of a whole chicken for roasting, rub diced over a piece of fish prior to grilling, or coarsely chop and mix in a cold whole grain salad (a twist on taboli).  The rind may be used with or without the pulp.  But don’t throw away the pulp!  The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used.
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Notes:
Salt.  Use non-iodized salt.  This can be kosher salt, sea salt, or pickling salt.  The iodized salt experiment resulted in harsh flavor and a slippery texture.
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Label.  Always label what you have!  Include the date!  Sharpies write on glass and are easily erased with some rubbing alcohol.
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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 and they may not be used, borrowed, shared, etc.

Categories: Cooking, fruit, Kino herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

The Call of the Small

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“Savor Sister” Linda here with you today, celebrating small things.

There is a Hummingbird nest in the yard.  It is magic. The nest is small, the eggs are small. “Big” has its place in nature for sure.  But it can be overly admired.

I am in the mood these days to scale things back a bit – so it is the Call of the Small that I hear most loudly.

Small things speak in a different language.  Peer into a hummingbird nest.  Stand at the lip of a flower. Or hang out at the entrance of a bee hive. And take it all in. I feel a vast freedom as I get interested in what is in front of my nose. Other than my phone I mean.

Here are a few visuals of just some such “small” things this week. Then we’ll jump right into a fun, flourless, cookie recipe that features the tiny mighty chiltepin.

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To help with scale …. a dime above …

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… and coffee beans ….

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Standing at the lip of Mallow Flowers is always a treat for the native bee lover in me; there are two bees in this flower. Some bees even nap in Mallow flowers. Truly. Google it if you don’t believe me.

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… here you can see the under and over achievers in the pollen gathering tasks of a hive ….

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I’ll take this girl on my pollen gathering team for sure.

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This photo shows a different color of pollen from a differing pollen source.

Call of the Small (flourless) Cookie Recipe – featuring chiltepin

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Chiltepin may be tiny but they deliver a STRONG punch of heat directly to your tongue. Unlike most other chilies, these tiny wild chiles have a heat that flares hot and immediate on the tongue. It is not a subtle sensation. And the heat dies quickly.  (Most domesticated chiles run the opposite direction: the heat builds more slowly to a peak).

I remember the first time I tried one. It was a hot October day in the foot hills of the Sierra Madres, and I  was “set up” to be the butt of the chiltepin joke amongst a group of men.  A fresh, bright red chile was picked directly from the plant and handed to me.

I popped it in my mouth.  A good time was had by all as I coughed, sputtered and generally turned red. Now hardly a day goes by without me eating one. I even travel with them because I miss them. Their small size makes them super portable.

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It was on just such a chiltepin plant that I was “set up” ….

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chiltepin in various stages of drying

INGREDIENTS AND HOW TO: 

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I cup Sunflower Seed Butter

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1/3 Cup “as local as you can get it” Honey

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1 fresh egg – I used one turkey egg because they are known for being great in baking

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

COMBINE ALL THE ABOVE AND MAKE SURE BATTER IS SMOOTH

ADD  chocolate chips and  3-5 ground chiltepin seeds and all.  (I also added chia seeds, pepitas, and cranberries).

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Bake in preheated 350 degree oven until brown. Makes about a dozen cookies. 

Let me know what small things call to you. And how you like the bite of chile in this cookie.

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The small unglamorous moments never get their moment in the sun – so here are the recipe tools getting washed.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | 2 Comments

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