Monthly Archives: October 2020

Whole Mesquite Pods–what to do?

My freezer was stuffed with mesquite pods waiting to be milled–but there’s no milling in sight with Covid19 still preventing group millings. So….Tia Marta of Flor de Mayo here to share some creative ideas for using these precious, laboriously-gathered, nutritious gifts from the desert.

First–Make an easy mesquite syrup. I filled a pot with cleaned pods and enough fresh water to cover, and cooked it down until pods were soft and the liquid was really sweet. Next I strained every bit of mesquite pulp from the softened pods, squeezing the gooey fibers by hand. It’s a process kids can get into! Then–I cooked the gallon of pulpy liquid down with 2C brown sugar, 1 C agave nectar, 1C of my Meyer lemon juice, 2 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp salt, and 4 tsp of fruit pectin. It took a couple of hours at a low simmer until it had lost enough moisture to becomes a syrup.

The resulting thick syrup was totally yummy on buckwheat cakes…

…and I used it as the perfect liquid sweetener in my mesquite pinyon-nut oatmeal cookies….

…then enjoyed it as a refreshing ginger ale and mesquite syrup punch over ice! The ginger gives the perfect counter-flavor for the mellow sweetness of mesquite.

My favorite invention of all with mesquite syrup is my “Mesquite Sitol Sour”–a fabulous sweet and sour libation. (Sitol means syrup in Tohono O’odham language.) Here is my special Mesquite Sitol Sour recipe:

2 oz mesquite syrup; 2 oz bootleg mescal like Bacanora; 2 oz aged tequila; 2 dropper-squirts of bitters (I do home-made bitters with local desert plants–but that’s another blog post!); 2+oz unsweetened tart cherry or cranberry juice; squeezed slices of fresh Meyer lemon or lime and orange; crushed ice. Swizzle and serve with cheers for our native plants! And, it’s a good way to toast and acknowledge, on Dia de los Muertos, those who have gone during this difficult year. Saludos to the departed! Salud to all!

The next step I’ll take with mesquite syrup is to join it with membrillo (quince fruit) in a delicious jam. Membrillo provides extra flavor and pectin. Attention--Come masked and safely distanced to visit Mission Garden this Saturday, Oct 31, 2020, for a festive celebration of the latest harvest of Membrillo (Quince).

Arizona Native Plant Society will be featuring a virtual pot luck with native foods at its December 10, 2020, zoom meeting. Become a member and share in the local festivities!

Note: If you don’t have mesquite pods you can buy mesquite meal via the NativeSeedsSEARCH catalog to create your own syrup to use in these above fun recipes. For a shortcut, try Cheri’s Desert Harvest Mesquite Syrup available also via NativeSeedsSEARCH.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: | 4 Comments

Green chile stew

Hello, Amy here, with a classic for cool fall evenings. A friend brought a baggie of roasted green chile back from New Mexico. That was the inspiration. Frankly, I had no idea yet how mild or spicy it was. As I peeled, seeded, stemmed and tore into strips, I starting thinking…

So I lightly browned some ground pork. Even lean pork has a richness that tames the spiciness of chile.

I added water and, cautiously, half of the chile. Then of course, onion and garlic.

I had some tomatillos from Tucson CSA that would be perfect! I skinned , rinsed and chopped them coarsely and slid them right in as is.

Wishing I had potatoes and brainstorming what to add for starch, I found some good dry while corn posole in the pantry. I covered it with salted water and brought to the boil.

Then I let the sun finish cooking the posole in the solar oven, which sometimes needs an hour or two to fully soften, while I shut off the rest of the stew and filled a few mole orders.

When it was soft, I mixed everything together and tasted. Very mild! So added the rest of the chile and some Mano Y Metate Mole Verde powder. It has jalapeno for heat, roasted green chile from Hatch for flavor, and a hint of black pepper. (Tia Ella always said to add black pepper to chile dishes.) Just right. !Buen provecho!

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Harvest-time Happenings at Mission Garden

Tohono O’odham ha:l–the traditional desert pumpkin with its corky attachment and rich orange center–is ripening in autumn heat at Mission Garden…..

A colorful harvest is happening at Tucson’s Mission Garden, and it’s time to celebrate!   Tia Marta here with an invitation:   Every Saturday for the weeks of autumn there will be foodie festivities to enjoy at Mission Garden. Come masked and socially-distanced for open-air learning, tasting, photography and fun.  There’s a big one this coming Saturday Oct.17, 2020 not to miss!

O’odham tepary beans hold the record for desert adaptation, high nutrition, rich flavor, and long sustainable cultivation right here in the Sonoran Desert.  Come get a taste of this rich heirloom Sat.Oct.17.

This colorful heirloom bean mix, known as Tom’s Mix, is like a multi-cultural metaphor–bringing the agricultural wisdom of 14 different Southwestern cultures together in one incredibly delectable soup. You can taste it Oct.17 at Mission Garden!

Tohono O’odham 60-day corn could be the fastest maturing and most desert-adapted corn known. It was domesticated by the Desert People long ago. Mission Garden’s volunteers are honoring it and helping to bring it into wider cultivation. Come taste a tortilla made with this ancient and nutritious desert crop!

Ancient Chapalote corn (known from 4100-year-old archaological sites in the Tucson area) and pre-Columbian Tohono O’odham 60-day corn are celebrated at Mission Garden. What a beautiful way to pay proper respect on Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Our mutual thanks to Native ancestors for these gifts from the past which can help us into an unsure future!

All of these Three Sisters–Corn, Beans and Squash–are grown together at Mission Garden in traditional ways, demonstrated in different “time-line” gardens.  Come observe and learn how you might plan your own garden next summer season.

As the evenings get cooler, it will be time to plant a winter/spring crop of ancient White Sonora Wheat, a golden, low-gluten wheat-berry introduced to our area by Padre Kino over 300 years ago. It will be packaged and available for sale at the Mission Garden’s Oct.17 gastronomy book launch event.

Tastes of the Southwestern heirloom bean Tom’s Mix soup and tastes of traditional O’odham Tepary Beans will be available at Mission Garden, Saturday, October 17, 10am-12noon.  Look for the Flor de Mayo table under the north ramada that day.  Also available will be packaged White Sonora Wheatberries with recipes for cooking them for pilaf or for marinated wheatberry salad.  For more wheatberry recipes check out this post.   A portion of the Oct.17 sale of these heirloom foods will go to support Mission Garden’s programs.

Author Carolyn Niethammer and her latest Southwestern foods book will be in the limelight this Saturday Oct.17 at Mission Garden. A DESERT FEAST describes in delicious detail a 4100-year history of foodways in Tucson, Arizona–named UNESCO’s first International City of Gastronomy!

All of Carolyn Niethammer’s books are gastronomic inspirations, but THIS one —A Desert Feast–bears the crown!  It is rich in history and recipes.  Come get your copy signed Oct.17 and discuss traditional foods–wild and domestic– with the author herself.

You can find many fantastic recipes for tepary beans, Tom’s Mix, and wheat berries in this SavortheSouthwest.blog archive using the search box.  Try some of the great recipes on the link SavortheSouthwest post written for healthy menus and specialized diets.  Tom’s Mix and Teparies make fabulously flavorful bean salads, dips, stews, and hummus.  These bean mixes and white Sonora Wheatberries are also available online at www.NativeSeeds.org and at www.flordemayoarts.com .  Also check Tohono Chul Park, Tucson Presidio and Old Town Artisans for Flor de Mayo heirloom foods.

For a full schedule of Mission Garden weekend events, the Membrillo Fest, 60-day corn tortillo demos etc, please see the website www.tucsonsbirthplace.org.

 

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“A Desert Feast” Tells Story of a Heritage Grain

In 2015 Tucson was named the first U.S. UNESCO City of Gastronomy. That word “gastronomy,” as defined by UNESCO, isn’t about fancy restaurants, but rather it refers to a region’s entire food system. A Desert Feast, Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History, my new book, draws on thousands of years of food history to explain the UNESCO designation. The book traces the influences of Native American, Mexican, mission-era Mediterranean, and ranch-style cowboy traditions. It is is a food pilgrimage, full of stories and recipes stretching back to the earliest residents of the Santa Cruz Valley. You’ll read how the earliest farmers first learned to grow corn beginning in 2100 BC, where the Hohokam built elaborate their elaborate irrigation canals, and how the arrival of the Spanish changed everything.

Like life, the big story is made up of many small stories. One of them is how in the late 1690s, Father Eusebio Kino brought winter wheat to Upper Sonora, filling an important food niche. Today we still eat this crop, ground into flour for delicious pastries or eaten whole as in this salad, in the photo below.

The volunteers at the Mission Garden in Tucson always grow a large field of Sonoran White Wheat to take us back to an earlier time when fields of this grain grew along the banks of the Santa Cruz River.

Volunteers harvest Sonoran winter wheat in the Mission Garden in the spring.

 Sonoran White Wheatberry Salad

Sonoran White Wheatberry Salad with dried fruit.

This is modified from a dish made by Chef Janos Wilder and served at Downtown Kitchen+Cocktails in Tucson. Chop all the fruit into pieces about the size of raisins. This takes well to a fruit flavored vinaigrette. If you have any fruit vinegars or olive oil, this is a good place to use them.

1 cup dry wheatberries

1/3 cup chopped dates (about 6)

1/3 cup chopped apricots or golden raisins

½ cup chopped apple

1 shredded carrot

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 cup shredded baby spinach

Dressing:

4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup

1 teaspoon mustard

2 tablespoons fruit vinegar

Cover wheatberries with 2 cups water, bring to a boil, cover and turn heat down to a simmer. Cook  45-60 minutes until tender but chewy.  Transfer to a medium bowl and add fruit, carrots and seeds. Make the dressing put the oil in a cup and stir in the honey and mustard. Dribble the vinegar in while whisking vigorously with a fork. Add to other ingredients and stir to combine.  Refrigerate. Just before serving stir in shredded spinach and top with crumbled goat cheese.

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A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage tells the history of how residents of the Santa Cruz Valley have fed themselves over thousands of years, why they are still eating some of the same foods over that time, and how that led to Tucson’s designation of the first American city to earn the coveted UNESCO City of Gastronomy. You can order the book from your favorite bookstore, on-line, or from the Native Seeds/SEARCH bookstore.

 

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

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