Monthly Archives: September 2018

Amaranth for Alegría

Special for Savor the Southwest, Sept 2018

Jacqueline Soule here to close National Honey Month with a sweet way to use honey plus a summer growing plant – amaranth.  This article also tells how to make a treat for Dia de Muertos.
Amaranthus flowers by hardyplants wiki CfreeAmaranth is famed as one of the staple foodstuffs of the Incas, but it was used by many other people around the globe, including here in the Pimería Alta. Amaranth was and still is popular throughout Mexico for a number of drinks and foods. The greens can be used in a number of ways (as the Backyard Forager mentions), and so can the seeds.  To this day, amaranth seeds are popped much like popcorn and mixed with honey, molasses or other syrup to make a treat called alegría, which means joy in Spanish.

amaranth 1112988_1280

Popping Amaranth for Alegría
Easiest is to purchase puffed amaranth cereal, but if you’ve grown your own seed, or foraged for wild seed, you will have to pop your own.
* The trick to popping amaranth seed is a cast iron skillet or wok with a tight-fitting lid.
* Heat the lightly oiled pan nice and hot.
* When you think the pan is hot enough, add one single tablespoon of amaranth and close the lid immediately. If it doesn’t start popping, your pan wasn’t hot enough.
* Within a minute of adding the tiny amaranth seeds, the popping will slow down. Swirl the pan a little to pop any un-popped seeds.
* Once the popping dies down, quickly shake the puffed amaranth into a bowl, and then make more.
* Oil the pan as needed, and repeat this process until you have enough popped seeds (2 cups for this recipe).  Don’t be tempted to add too much seed at one time, or you’ll end up with too many un-popped seeds.

cast iron pan 2202193_1280

Traditional Alegría
A very enjoyable gluten-free treat.
2 cups popped amaranth
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons light molasses or dark corn syrup (or more honey)
3 tablespoons butter

honey 1970592_1280

* Combine honey, molasses and butter in a large saucepan or skillet; bring slowly to a boil.

* Cook over medium heat five to seven minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture turns golden brown and becomes thick and sticky. I have never used a candy thermometer, but I estimate this mixture will be 325 degrees or more.

* Remove from heat and add the popped amaranth. Stir until amaranth is coated with the syrup.

* Transfer to 9 X 9 or 9 X 13 inch pan that has been lined with parchment or waxed paper. Or just pour it out on a cooled marble slab (not wood, it will stick). Gently push mixture into corners of pan – NOT with your fingers, it is hot! use a spatula or wooden spoon.

* Let cool, then cut into bars.

* Alternatively, when it is cooled but not set, place in sugar skull molds to make the ancient Dia de Muertos skulls.

Amaranth Día de muertos by A Yang Wiki CC3.0

Somewhat traditional Dia de Muertos skulls. Photo by A. Yang.

To learn more about Dia de Muertos, come by my free lecture at the Main Library at noon on October 30.

JAS avatarWant to learn more? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol, $14.95).
© 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 may not be used.

 

 

Categories: Beekeeping, heirloom crops, Kino herb, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: | 1 Comment

Arroz Verde with Sweet Potato Greens

Happy autumn! Amy here, wanting to make arroz verde to go with beans my friend made. But the summer amaranth greens are too mature and the winter greens aren’t ready to harvest. My new favorite vegetable the past few weeks is sweet potato vines. Mild and tender, and not at all bitter. I had some cooked in Asian food, but I’d never grown or cooked them myself. A couple cuttings turned into a large planter full in no time! I’ll report back if I ever get any edible sweet potato tubers…

To make the dish, I started with cilantro stems that would otherwise go to waste, onion, green chile, and the sweet potato leaves plucked from the vines.

I roasted the chile and let it cool as it sweated it in a covered container. Then I peeled, seeded and chopped it.

Then cilantro stems, onion and a handful of sweet potato leaves went in the blender with the amount of water needed to cook a cup of rice (The volume of water varies by variety of rice.) The chile can go in the blender, but opted to leave it coarse. Actually, it could all be coarsely chopped instead of blended.

The green slurry went into a dish to simmer with the chile, salt and some Mano Y Metate Mole Verde powder.

While that heated, I browned the rice in olive oil. For me, the trick is to keep from stirring it too often, so it gets some nice dark spots. I spooned the browned rice into the green liquid, covered and simmered on very low heat.

Once the rice was tender and the liquid absorbed, I added some chopped sweet potato greens sauted with onion and garlic and folded all together.

 Enjoy with beans.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom beans, herbs, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ornamental Medicinals–for Showy Color and Healing Gifts

Yellow trumpet flower–tronador (Tecoma stans)–is super-showy in a desert landscape. It will bloom multiple times through warm and hot seasons triggered by rainfall or watering. Its foliage and flowers have been used as a tea for treating blood sugar issues of insulin-resistant diabetes. (MABurgess photo)

Attention:  native-plant-lovers, desert gardeners, Southwest culture buffs, curanderas, survivalists, artists and the just plain curious!  Set your iPhone Calendar ready to mark right now for a long-awaited event:   the Grand Opening of the Michael Moore Memorial Medicinal Plant Garden, this coming Saturday, September 22, 2018, 8am-10am at Tucson’s Mission Garden.

Tia Marta here to give you a little “taste” of how you can incorporate what you learn about our native medicinal plants into your own landscaping–to add not only sensational seasonal beauty around you, but also to put their gifts of traditional medicine right at hand, in your own yard!

[A little knowledge can be dangerous, so DO use reputable reference books such as those by Michael Moore, Charles Kane, John Slattery, and DesertHarvesters.org  if you intend to use your desert landscape plants for medicine.]

This showy orange-flowered prickly pear, collected by Dr Mark Dimmitt in the Chihuahuan Desert (Opuntia lindheimeri), is now a favorite in desert gardens all over Baja Arizona. Plentiful young pads of all prickly pears (flat new stems called nopales in Spanish, nowh in Tohono O’odham)–are an important traditional source of blood-sugar-balancing mucilage plus available calcium for bones or lactation, when prepared properly. (MABurgess photo)

Prickly pear fruits (i:bhai in Tohono O’odham, tunas in Spanish, Opuntia engelmannii) add landscaping color and a feast for wildlife. They ALSO are important traditional medicine with their complex carbs used for sustained energy, blood-sugar balance and high available calcium for preventing and treating osteoporosis. (MABurgess photo)

Sweet catkin-like flowers of mesquite covers this handsome “Giving Tree” in spring, to mature into healthy sweet pods by late May and June. Its beauty is far more than bark-deep. Almost every part of mesquite can be used medicinally–leaf, sap, flower, bark, branchlets and bean pod! (JRMondt photo)

Native Mexican elderberry–sauco in Spanish (Sambucus mexicana)–makes an effective screen as a shrubby, dense tree. It bears cream colored flower nosegays that become clusters of dark berries (tasty but toxic unless cooked). Its flowers and foliage have been used also for curbing fever and as a diuretic. (MABurgess photo)

Two important books are burning on the presses  by our own Baja Arizona ethnobotany writer-philosopher Gary Paul Nabhan ,  entitled:

Mesquite, an Arboreal Love Affair and      Food from the Radical Center (Island Press)

available at upcoming events in Tucson.  Plus another new one– Eat Mesquite and More by Brad Lancaster’s DesertHarvesters.org, will be celebrated at the UA Desert Lab on Sept.19.  Mission Garden will also feature Nabhan’s latest Sept 29 sponsored by BorderlandsRestoration.

As the nights get cool, toss a handful of desert chia seed in your garden and scratch it into the soil for a sky-blue (and useful) addition to your wildflower mix. Medicinally, desert chia seed–da:pk in Tohono O’odham (Salvia columbariae)–has proven to be a cholesterol remover in addition to its traditional use for sustained energy and blood-sugar balancing.  Chia’s foliage has been used as a topical disinfectant and throat gargle tea. (MABurgess photo)

For a mound of glorious color in a rock garden, landscaped hillside or spring accent, our desert Goodding’s Verbena is perfect. And what a handy source at your fingertips for brewing up a soothing sedative tea that is even safe for children! (MABurgess photo)

You may find many of these showy medicinals like Verbena gooddinggii,  desert willow, Tecoma stans, native velvet mesquite, honey-mesquite and screwbean, or elderberry at upcoming fall plant sales at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Sept 29-30, Tohono Chul Park Oct.13-14, and at Desert Survivors Sept.25-29, 2018.

Beautiful flowers of desert willow (Chilopsis linearis)–known as ahhn in Tohono O’odham, in Spanish as mimbre–are an important addition to desert landscaping. Not only can it be brewed for a gentle, refreshing tea, but its anti-fungal properties can be a rescue when needed. (MABurgess photo)

I hope these photos have been an inspiration for you to delve deeper and to plant a medicinal!  Members of Tucson Herbalist Collective (better known as THC), including Tia Marta here, will be on hand at the Michael Moore Memorial Herbal Medicine Garden Opening, Tucson’s Mission Garden Sept 22, to introduce you to many gifts of our desert medicinals, share samples of herbal teas, tastes, and answer questions.  Please pass the word about these neat events by sharing this blog with potential followers.  See you there!

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bees: Tears of the Sun God Re

honey 352205_1280.jpgMonica King here to kick off National Honey Month since I’m a beekeeper.  This awareness month was initiated by the National Honey Board in 1989 to promote American beekeepers and honey. But just how long have humans recognized the importance of honeybees? Archaeological evidence says 8,000 years. The bond between humans and bee is documented on cave paintings in Spain that depict a man harvesting honey from a wild colony.

Over 2000 years ago in Egypt, they not only worshiped cats, but also the honeybee. They believed bees were the tears of the Sun God Re. On a papyrus written around 300 BCE, it reads, “The God Re wept, and the tears from his eyes fell on the ground and turned into a bee. The bee made his honeycomb and busied himself the the flowers of plants and so wax was made and also honey out of the tears of Re.”

honey bee 831843_1280

Temples kept bees in order to satisfy the desire of the gods (and people) for honey. In medical papyri, 900 odd prescriptions were found and close to 500 of those listed honey as an ingredient. Not everyone in Ancient Egypt was allowed honey! Evidence suggests only those that worked with the Kings were allowed a ration of honey, while regular laborers were not privy to such a delicacy.

jar of honey with honeycomb

Titles such as “Keeper of the Bees” and “Sealer of the Honey” are found on ancient hieroglyphics. Honey, stored in earthen clay jars was stamped with this important information, including location of where the honey was harvested. With such detailed records, the quality of the honey had accountability. No evidence has yet to be found suggesting what may have happened to the “Keeper” or the “Sealer” should something have gone wrong with the precious, sacred commodity. King Tut’s tomb included several containers of honey, thousands of years old, yet still preserved, a remarkable testament to the eternal shelf-life of honey.

milk 518067_1280

One pharoah, Cleopatra, used honey in her beauty regime. One of Cleopatra’s secrets, and her most famous, was her ritual bathing in milk and honey. Both of these ingredients naturally soften the skin, exfoliate, and leave a fresh, sweet scent. You can do this yourself by adding two cups milk and half cup honey to your bath water.

Personally, it is Cleopatra’s sweet tooth that I can relate to. Cleopatra’s favorite treat was a sweet honey ball called “Dulcis Coccora” also known as “Tiger Nut Sweets.” A recipe was reported to have been found on a broken piece of Egyptian pottery dating from 1600 BCE. This recipe was adapted from www.antiquitynow.org:

“Dulcis Coccora”
1 pound pitted dates
water
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon fresh ground cardamon
4 tablespoons chopped walnuts
honey – to coat
ground almonds and/or pomegranate seeds

Mash dates with enough water to form a rough paste.
Add cinnamon, cardamon, and walnuts.
Blend well.
Roll into walnut sized balls.
Coat in honey.
Then roll in finely chopped almonds and/or pomegranate seeds.
Set on a parchment paper to air dry for several hours before sealing in a container.

dates 3324097_1280

Why not put a local spin on Cleopatra’s recipe and make a Southwestern Dulcis Coccora with other variations such as:

saguaro seeds
barrel cactus seeds
chia seeds
chopped dried prickly pear fruit
wolfberries (related to gogi berries)
hackberries
or how about a hot kick with a touch of crushed chiltepin?

Don’t forget, using different honeys such as mesquite or a catclaw acacia will also give different flavor to the honey ball.

About the author: This is Monica King’s second blog on Savor the Southwest.  She introduced us to her bees in July (read more here), and we hope to hear more from her in the future!

Monica King 001

Monica King is a rancher near Tucson.

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Mesquite Meal Becomes Your Secret Ingredient in Popular Cake

Mixture of delicious late summer stone fruits.

Hello all, it’s Carolyn today waxing about one of my favorite subjects: baking with mesquite meal. Today’s recipe was orginally written by cookbook author Marian Burros, and it was so popular that the New York Times food section published it every year between 1983 and 1989. Finally the food editor drew the line and told readers to cut the recipe out, laminate it and save it because that was the end of that recipe for the Times. Since then it has been republished by every major food blog from Epicurious to the Smitten Kitchen to The Splendid Table. And the Times. Again. People just love this recipe.

Add your secret ingredient

So why does it need to show up here? Because we can add a secret ingredient to make the original even better: mesquite meal. The sweet, fruity taste of mesquite goes well with late summer fruits, especially when enhanced by the warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger which were not part of the original recipe. If you happen to have some White Sonoran wheat flour and are saving it for something special, this is perfect. The popular heritage flour works best in pastries like this. Blog reports say that people have had good luck with gluten free baking mixes and that the recipe doubles easily.

The orginal recipe called for plums, but any late summer fruit works well. I used pluots because I needed something ripe and the plums and peaches at my store were still a little hard.  Cut the fruit in fairly large chunks.

Pluots cut into large chunks.

This cake is not overly sweet so it makes a good dish for a fancy brunch. Add a side of ice cream or whipped cream if you are serving it for dessert.

Since it is practically foolproof, feel free to experiment with fruit and spices. It’s up to you if you want to reveal the secret ingredient.

Late Summer Fruit Torte

½ cup (1 stick) butter

¾ cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

¼ cup mesquite meal

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup fruit

½ cup sugar with cinnamon & spices to sprinkle on top

Grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan or springform pan. To ensure the cake comes out in one piece, go the extra step of cutting a round of parchment paper and grease and flour that as well.

Prepare the fruit. If using plums, pit and quarter. If using peaches, slice in large pieces. Set aside.  Heat oven to 350 F.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla. Add flour, mesquite meal, baking powder and salt and beat until just combined. Mixture will be thick.  Spread in prepared pan.

Spread thick batter in paper-lined pan.

Press in fruit making a nice design.  Sprinkle with sugar spice mixture. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.  Since oven temperatures vary, check after 45 minutes to see how your cake is coming along.

Enjoy your delicious cake.

If you have time, drizzle a little frosting on the cake and decorate with fresh fruit.


For more recipes, check out my cookbooks. The Prickly Pear Cookbook and Cooking the Wild Southwest.  are available from Native Seeds/SEARCH or your favorite brick or on-line bookstore. Follow me at Carolyn Niethammer-author on Facebook for updates on my writing and cooking life.

 

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.