Monthly Archives: January 2019

Peeling Potatoes for Propagation and Provender

It’s happening in favorite grocery stores and pantries around Baja Arizona.  Potatoes are awakening!  Some are even turning green with chlorophyll showing in their skins.  They know. Time in the low desert to PLANT POTATOES–soon!!–while the weather is chilly and while we are enjoying fantastic soil moisture.

Yukon Gold potato beginning to sprout, skin turning green… This potato wants to be planted!  But wait–no waste here.  We must always be thinking SUSTAINABILITY, right?

Tia Marta here to share a neat trick taught to me by ace heirloom gardener Tom Swain.  Planting potatoes doesn’t have to be a big deal, not expensive nor time-consuming, nor does it require special “seed potatoes,”  no sacrificing luscious chunks of whole potatoes that you would rather eat.  With planting potatoes you can “have your potato cake and eat it too!”

Place potato peelings in a flat dish like this shallow plastic tub. Rinse and drain 1-2 times per day until little rootlets sprout out from under the tiny green leaf sprouts at the “eye.”

These active Yukon Gold peelings sprouted fast and are ready to plant in the garden!

The simple trick is to peel your potatoes to include an “eye” in each peel, the anatomical “action spots” where new life can generate (not hard to find eyes). Knife-peeling may work better for this than with a potato-peeler.  Compost the bad-looking peelings but save the healthy ones to a flat-bottom dish.  Keep the peelings fresh and damp to sprout by rinsing and draining daily, leaving a little water around them, until you have time to dig a garden trench for planting.

Potato plants (Solanum tuberosum) store their life-energy in starchy nodules–potatoes– that form at the tips of modified underground stems or rhizomes.  Green potato skins happen when potatoes are exposed to light–so store potatoes in a dark place.  Avoid eating any green skins of potatoes as they are very bitter and may become toxic.  Better to use green peelings for planting.

Planting my sprouted potato peels — Potato gardening in the desert is different from wetter or temperate regions where plants must be mounded up.  In deserts start them deep:  Dig a trench in good garden soil about a spade depth and place sprouted peels at the bottom…..

Close-up view of potato peels set at bottom of garden “trench”

As I began covering the potato peels on damp garden soil, worms came out to see what the action was. They will assist keeping the soil turned and loosened as I continue to bury the young growth this winter.

Keep a pile of good garden soil at the ready.  As your young plants emerge from the soil, gradually, gently, keep burying them, or top-dressing them with compost, over their days and weeks of growth to encourage the underground stems to continuously elongate, thereby adding space for more and more potatoes to form. Try never to let a little potato get exposed to the sun.  As your plants grow, and as you cover them, your trench will fill, then hopefully it will even become a linear mound full of small potatoes by late spring.  Don’t forget to water regularly as rains diminish.  They need cold or cool weather for best growth, so get them into the ground by end of January at the latest.  You could start them as soon as November’s cool weather sets in.  Plan ahead to protect your potatoes from excavating ground squirrels, rock squirrels or packrats.

 

Having our “taters and eating them too”– I’m making garlic-parsley-scalloped potatoes with red potatoes I peeled for planting.

Tia Marta’s Scalloped Potatoes Recipe with variations

Into a pyrex dish, slice 6-8 partly peeled potatoes (Skins are nutritious!).  Add 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese, 1+ tsp sea salt, garlic powder and/or black pepper to taste, and milk (soy or rice milk OK) 1-2cups to barely cover potatoes.  As additional seasoning options add 2 Tbsp Mano y Metate Mole mix, 1 Tbsp parsley, and/or 1 tsp paprika. Mix, Cover and Bake at 325 F for ca.45 minutes until all ingredients are happily melded.  [For solar-oven cooking use dark saucepan and dark lid.]. Don’t burn your tongue when you serve them piping hot–and do enjoy the fruits of your potato-labors!

No waste here… I’m using partly-peeled-for-planting red spuds in this delicious variation on scalloped potatoes–seasoned with Mano y Metate’s yummy Mole Verde!  (available at NativeSeedsSEARCH  and many specialty markets in Tucson, online at http://www.manoymetate.com)

 

Organic new red potatoes ready to peel for sprouting AND for cooking–  Now go for it–don’t waste those peelings!!  Make them work for you.  All it takes is a little bit of garden space and you will have new potatoes for potato salad by next summer.  Happy peeling and planting!

Tia Marta is an artist, ethnobotanist, and teacher about Baja Arizona’s gastronomic history and prehistory.  Her heirloom foods and/or “foodie” notecards can be found at NativeSeedsSEARCH, Tohono Chul Park, the Presidio Museum, Old Town Artisans, Arizona State Museum on UA Campus, Tucson Museum of Art, the UNICEF Store, and online at www.flordemayoarts.com.  Catch one of her Native Foods workshops at Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace’s Mission Garden, or join her downtown Gastronomy Tour at Tucson Presidio.  Coming up soon!–Join us to view her traditional foods artwork at the ArtTrails Open Studio Tour on Tucson’s West Side, Saturday and Sunday February 2-3, 10am-4pm both days.  For directions see the centerfold in Zocalo, the Desert Leaf calendar, or go to www.ArtTrails.org.  See you there!

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

Refugees Glean Citrus Abundance

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Citrus season in Southern Arizona.

It’s high citrus season in the desert Southwest. Oranges and grapefruits and lemons, oh my! Many people in Tucson have trees that produce so abundantly that they can’t use it all and even have trouble giving it all away. (Witness bags of grapefruits in break rooms all over town).  There’s an answer to finding good homes for all the citrus.

It’s Carolyn today, here to tell you about a wonderful local organization. Iskashitaa Refugee Network is a volunteer group of locals and refuges who have been settled here who go out to homes and farms where they have been invited to harvest extra produce. Barbara Eiswerth founded Iskashitaa in 2003 as a way to not only help acclimate United Nations refugees who had been resettled in Tucson, but also to find a way to rescue and make use of some of the unharvested and unused fruit that goes to waste in Tucson.  The first group Eiswerth worked with was from Somalia. The warm comradery the women developed led to the name of the group. Iskashitaa means “working cooperatively together” in a Bantu language spoken in Somalia.

Gleaning has a centuries old history. The Economist recently ran a fascinating article on gleaning in Europe and described it as harvesting “the good and usable fruit of human activity; they have not been discarded, merely overlooked, or thought not worth bothering with.” The article is worth a look.

Harvesting citrus

The Bible advises landowners to support gleaners. In Deuteronomy, a sheaf forgotten in the field was to be left “for the stranger, for the fatherless and the widow”; and “When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again.”

Each year 800 to 1200 refugees from more than twenty countries are resettled in Tucson, all of them forced by conflict to start a new life in the United States. Many of them were farmers in their native land. They understand plants, and they also have heritage recipes for cooking and preserving desert foods, many of which grew in their homelands.

Refugees harvest oranges from a tree a homeowner planted 40 years ago. There is more than he can use, so he called Iskashitaa.

The volunteers harvest a cumulative 100,000 pounds of vegetables and fruits including grapefruits, oranges, pomegranates, dates, mesquite pods, even desert berries—ninety different food items—all of which would have been discarded without their attention. “And still, it’s only the tip of the iceberg” Einsworth says

“U.N. refugees are challenged to become part of the society,” Eiswerth says. “Working with our American volunteers, they get to practice their English, develop job skills, and begin to feel part of the community.” It’s not only work, it’s a support network using the universal language of food. And it doesn’t go just one way. The refugees teach the Americans new and delicious ways to cook familiar desert foods. There make citrus jams, pickled garlic, date vinegar, and powered fruit seasonings. The products are available at Iskashitaa headquarters at 1406 E. Grant Road and at food fairs.

Some of the products produced by the volunteers and refugees.

Frequently, there is more food harvested than the refugee gleaners can use themselves. In that case, the extra produce is donated to other refugee families, the Community Food Bank, schools, and soup kitchens. With one in four Tucsonans suffering from food insecurity, the food always finds a welcome home.

Eiswerth sees this as a double positive. “The work is an opportunity for refugees to give back to the people of Tucson while also providing for their families,” she says.

Date Vinegar Salad Dressing

When there is lettuce in my garden in the winter, we have salad for lunch every day. When I add apples or pears to the lettuce (instead of tomatoes), I like to use a citrus dressing. This uses Iskashitaa’s wonderful date vinegar.

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Iskashitaa date vinegar

1/2 teaspoon mustard

juice of one orange

juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Put the olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk in the date vinegar and add the mustard to emulsify. Whisk in the juices and taste. If you want it sweeter, whisk in the honey.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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