Monthly Archives: February 2019

Elderberry to Savor

I am quite sick after some airline flights this weekend and dosing myself with (among other things) elderberry syrup. So I am writing on this topic.


Various species of elderberry are found around the globe in the Northern Hemisphere, and here in the Southwest we are lucky enough to have two species of our very own! Both Southwestern species Mexican elderberry (Sambucus mexicanus) and Western elderberry (Sambucus cereulus) grow well in Arizona – depending on your location.

Sambucus cerulea - Blue Elderberry 003 calflora ccnc

Western elderberry – Sambucus cerula – in the Sierras in southern California. Photo courtesy of CalFlora.


Low, Middle, and High Desert can grow Sambucus mexicanus, a plant that is generally more tree-like. High Desert, Cool Highlands, and Cold Mountains can grow the more shrubby Sambucus cereulus. All of us in the SW should avoid planting the blue-berried Sambucus canadensis, a high-water user native to “Back East,” – also it does not thrive in our alkaline soils.

Sambucus cerula Utah 2006

Western elderberry – Sambucus cerula – photo taken in Utah.

Planting & Care

Planting and care will be posted this week on my Gardening With Soule blog and link to it here. (when it goes up – Wednesday).

Sambucus_mexicana_2_fruit by SS

Mexican elderberry – Sambucus mexicana. Photo courtesy of Stan Shebs.

Harvest & Storage

You can harvest elder flowers and dry them for later use. Fresh flowers are high in sugar and make a nice wine or champagne.


Elderberry flowers.

The most common use of elder is the berries. Harvest a wad of berries by cutting the stem below the cluster. Berries can be dried for later use or pressed for juice. (If you have a juice press, great.) The juice will last about two weeks under refrigeration.


Mexican elderberry fruit. Photo courtesy of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery.

Most commonly the berries are made into a syrup. Heat them gently with water to soften the flesh. Strain out the seeds and pulp as you would to make jelly. Add honey or sugar, generally in the ratio of two parts juice to one part sweetener. You can store this in the refrigerator for two to three months, or further preserve by canning.


Jacqueline Soule

Want to learn more? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, or at Tucson Festival of Books! After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press).  Note this link will take you to Amazon.  If you buy my book I get a few pennies.
© 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, Edible Flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Pollo Milanesa

Hello friends, Amy here today making a dish my mom imagined, and I’m so happy to report that it’s a keeper. Chicken Milanesa is a crunchy breaded cutlet of breast meat. Beef Milanesa in a torta (sandwich) is a Mexican favorite! My mom makes excellent Pollo Milanesa with panko, Japanese bread crumbs, which she plates as a main course. She had the idea to season the crumbs with Mano Y Metate Pipian Rojo powder. Another day I’ll try it with other varieties of mole powder. The flavor of the Pipian really came through in the finished dish.

Start with a whole chicken breast in a heavy duty plastic bag.

Then pound gently until the meat is very thin.

I cut the breast in a few pieces. This time, I forgot to dredge in flour first, which makes a thicker coating. Then dip the meat in a beaten egg.

I seasoned panko bread crumbs with Pipian Rojo powder. Salt to taste, if you like.

The seasoned crumbs stick to the egg coated chicken, but I pressed extra on to the meat.

Use one hand for the wet egg and the other for the dry crumbs, keeping your hands a little less messy…

Place the meat in a medium hot skillet with small amount of neutral frying oil.

It only takes a few minutes per side for the crumbs to brown and the inside to cook.

Spicy, juicy and tender. It would be perfect served with rice, beans and a salad, but I just ate them as quickly as I made them. Thanks for the idea Mom!

Update: Then I made a torta with homemade mayo, home pickled jalapenos, lettuce from Tucson CSA, tomato and avocado on a bolillo. YUM!



Categories: Cooking, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wild-Harvesting with Good Heart

Isn’t it true that Happy Valentines wishes become really significant when they touch the innermost reaches of our hearts–where their right-ness resonates?!

Tia Marta here sending heartfelt wishes to you blog-readers and appreciators of the desert’s wild foods, with hope and intent that we all may harvest honorably.  Here’s an idea for celebrating love for Mother Earth and indigenous people’s knowledge of Her….

Truly a “hymn of love to the world,” Braiding Sweetgrass by Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer is the most gently inspiring book I’ve read in a long time! It is a perfect Valentine’s gift to a harvester you love–or a gift for yourself for love of Nature.

In her Braiding Sweetgrass:  Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer weaves a tight yet graceful cord of truth that rings true.  There is strength when the three “strands of knowing” are braided as one.  In particular, her chapter on the Honorable Harvest strikes a resonant chord.  For a stirring verbal version, check out Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer‘s TED Talk about The Honorable Harvest.  You can view her video here.  It is well worth watching her 18 minute presentation over and over.  Her lessons taken to heart are a fitting and beautiful model how we might live WITH and WITHIN our beloved desert–sustainably–assuring that desert life can evolve and thrive into an unknown future.

Kimmerer’s books can be found locally at Antigone Books, 411 N.4th Ave. They are traditional knowledge and hard science expressed as intimate, personal stories.

And guess what!!  Coming Really SOON –this Monday, February 11, at 6pm,  Dr. Robin Kimmerer will be in Tucson!!  She will read at a public event to share some of her special writings–

at University of Arizona’s Desert Laboratory, Tumamoc Hill (W. Anklam Road near St.Mary’s Hospital), 6pm.   It is free — but space is limited so immediate registration is necessary by phoning 520-629-9455.  Plan to park your car along Anklam Road leaving time to walk up to the stone building for her presentation.  There is a chance that UA may provide van transport from the base of Tumamoc.  To scale the Hill may take 1/2 hour walking the newly paved road.


Inspired by her….Last August–in the desert’s extreme heat–I was harvesting bags of plentiful prickly pear tunas with great respect and gratitude, not to mention awe and incredulity, as honorably as I could, amazed that these succulent “creatures” can produce good food while enduring awesome heat and blasting sun.  Last weekend, after the squeezed juice had rested in my freezer some 5 months, I brought them out to serve at my ArtTrails Open Studio tour– an artistic opportunity to share the desert’s plenty.

A friend toasts the delicious prickly pear, admiration for Nature, and our shared love of art at the ArtTrails Open Studio–prickly pear providing sensational color, flavor, and goodness (MABurgess photo)

Sensational bright pink-purple prickly pear juice frozen in a round mould makes a festive”float” in a punchbowl for Valentine’s Day or any party punch.

At harvest, I had frozen the whole tunas in a paper sack, double-wrapped in plastic.  Later, to extract the sweet juice and pulp, I had thawed them, mashed them, whirled them to slush in the Cuisinart, then squeezed the slush through 4 layers of cheesecloth, into round plastic tubs or moulds to freeze indefinitely as ice-rings.  At serving time, I slipped a frozen round out of its mould–as an ice-block–into the punch bowl, then simply poured gingerale into the bowl to start the block melting. VOILA–we all enjoyed the colorful gifts of festivity, flavor and nutrition.  Nature graces the gathering!

You could embellish this prickly pear punch with spirits or wine, but hey that’s only adding to natural perfection–wild-harvested gifts from the desert!

Kimmerer’s  poetic expression of ancient wisdom resonates.  It strikes home–an inspiration to harvest our wild desert foods not only with immediate gratitude but also with the future of the desert ecosystem foremost in our hearts and actions!

So, Happy Valentine’s to you, and happy wild-harvesting this season with good heart!

[Please visit Tia Marta’s artwork and traditional heirloom foods on the website   You can join Tia Marta and Mano y Metate Molera Amy at our Cholla Buds, Nopalitos and Mole Workshop at the Mission Garden in April, or at one of the Tucson Presidio Museum’s  Gastronomy Tours in March and April.]


Categories: Sonoran Native | Leave a comment


Jacqueline Soule here – just back from visiting a nursery and delivering them some of my books for them to sell. Of course I couldn’t resist a few plants – especially some herbs, including some fine looking cilantros to plant and use in the coming weeks. (Stay tuned to this site!)

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Say “cilantro” here in the Southwest, and most folks think of salsa. And while cilantro can get along with the heat of chilies in salsa, it quickly dies with the heat of a summer day. Therefore you will want to grow this herb in the cool winter months – like right now.


Planting and Care.

As mentioned, cilantro is a cool season crop, and is best planted in our area in September. But go ahead and get some now!

Cilantro will grow through the winter and into April before starting to flower and set seed (called bolting). Once bolting begins, reconcile yourself to the fact that you will soon have some coriander seed, plus seed to plant next year. Harvest the seed if you want it, because otherwise the lesser goldfinch and doves will clean it all up.

Light. Cilantro does best with six or more hours of winter sun.

Temperature. Plants can take frost to around 20oF, so cover if a harder frost is expected.

Water. Let cilantro dry a little between watering once the plants get larger. Some people believe this makes their flavors stronger.

Fertilizer. Cilantro gets very lush and full with some fertilizer. However, if you amended your soil at the start you don’t need to add fertilizer. Avoid fertilizing anything when frosts are a possibility.

cilantro 3605453_1280

Pollinators. Cilantro could be justified as a garden plant if only for the job it does in attracting pollinators to the garden. Bees enjoy the nectar-rich flowers and the resulting coriander honey is prized for its flavor. (beekeeper Monica like this!)

Harvest and Use.

Cilantro tastes great fresh but loses flavor when dried. Freezing the leaves retains more flavor. Select healthy leaves, rinse, gently pat dry. Chop into roughly quarter inch squares and freeze in a labeled plastic bag or other container. Use directly from the freezer.

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Jacqueline Soule

Read more about growing cilantro in my book “Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening” (Cool Springs Press, $23).  Note – this is a link to Amazon, and if you use it to buy my book, I get a few pennies.

© 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, Cooking, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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