“Tepa-lites!”=Teparies + Quelites=Summer Beans and Greens

Quelites or Bledo in Spanish–Cuhuggia I:wagĭ in O’odham–These nutritious “weeds” of Amaranthus palmeri are springing up all around us after good warm-season rains, ready for harvesting. (MABurgess photo)

At last, summer monsoons have gifted the Sonoran Desert with a veritable explosion of delicious wild greens and a growing gardenful of traditional tepary beans! You don’t have to look far to see patches of what many people call “WEEDS” sprouting up. But you and I know better–and others will too after they taste those yummy greens.

Tia Marta here inviting you to appreciate show-time for many species of greens like Amaranth—”rain spinach”–our wild Amaranthus palmeri, and many varieties long cultivated by traditional farmers of Northwest Mexico and the American Southwest.  You can find seeds and info of locally adapted greens and tepary varieties at NativeSeedsSEARCH for planting your own. Come and see living, flowering examples of several Native varieties of greens and teparies right now at Tucson’s Mission Garden

Hopi Red Dye Amaranth is a quadruple-whammie for garden and kitchen: Its glorious flower makes an ornamental show, its leaves are tasty greens, its seeds are nutritous grain, and then it is used as a safe and pleasing red food dye–used in ceremonial piiki bread. (MABurgess photo)

If you can’t visit Mission Garden in person, you are invited to join us virtually at Mission Garden where will be presenting the “Tepa-lites” (short for teparies and quelites) workshop live next Saturday morning, August 7, 2021, 9-11a.m. (Tucson time) via Zoom or on Facebook Live. This community workshop—free, with no pre-registration necessary—is supported by grant funds through the University of Arizona Desert Lab at Tumamoc Hill.

Now is also show-time for verdulagas, that ground-hugging, tasty, succulent summer “weed” also known as “purslane” (Portulaca oleracea) which can be eaten fresh in salads or steamed as a nutritious veggie.  Learn some great purslane recipe ideas at the zoom workshop. (Note its small elongate succulent leaves.)

A confusing verdulaga look-alike known as “horse purslane”, is a low-growing succulent that can fool you. Some people might find this one palatable, but for others it has a taste of soap or an unpleasantly bitter after-taste. (Note its rounder leaves.)

Don’t let yourself be swayed by derogatory names like “pigweed” and “careless weed.”  (Those terms are shop-talk by the weed-killer salesperson or the yard guy that wants to eradicate your edible landscaping).  Far better to call good weeds by positive names, like “rain spinach” or cuhuggia i:wagĭ (“sleeping spinach” when they wilt),  as they are called by the Tohono O’odham, the Desert People who have eaten them in good health for hundreds of years.  

At the online workshop we will celebrate the nutritional combination of these monsoon greens and traditional teparies.  It’s a way to open eyes and tastebuds to the nutritious foods available right out the front door—Nature’s provender—and to encourage easy planting of the fastest beans known. 

When they are young, tepary plants look like miniature versions of common beans, with a three-some of pointed leaves that fold up to save water when the sun is strong at midday. It is the most arid-adapted bean alive, domesticated from wild teparies by early farmers right here in the desert possibly 6,000 years ago.

OK, admittedly tepary beans aren’t “fast food” per se (they do take a long time to soak and cook), but you can grow them to maturity in about 60 days—and that’s fast for a bean.  THIS WEEK is the last opportunity to get them into the ground for a harvest this fall.  My admired O’odham gardener-friends, Laura Kerman-bad, her brother, and Juanita Ahil-bad, always recommended that teparies (and other traditional summer crops) could be planted successfully through the first week in August.  So make it happen….get busy and dive into planting that little garden plot which is now soaked with Nature’s own irrigation!

Chilpotle red teparies–pasta faggioli Sonoran style with greens–will be introduced at the workshop….

Here is the link to join the Zoom “Tepa-lites” class: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85958074230?pwd=S1htT1JKVXNCN3g4NWhoWGRPdS9UZz09
Meeting ID: 859 5807 4230
Passcode: 2021

Hoping to see you virtually on August 7!

Additional info: For helpful greens identification and surprising recipes for greens and tepary beans, check Tia Marta’s earlier post “Blessed Monsoon Weeds”

also SavorSister Carolyn’s post on Sherman’s tepary recipe

SavorSisterAmy’s post for a fabulous tepary-with-veggie stew

and for more appreciation of ba:wĭ–tepary beans–Tia Marta’s “Tepary Time” post

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on ““Tepa-lites!”=Teparies + Quelites=Summer Beans and Greens

  1. Amaranth is one that I am not sold on. It became a major fad here. Weed forms of it had always been available, but were ignored. Once it became popular, it was suddenly too popular. I do not doubt its attributes, but there are plenty of other vegetables out there. Kale became the next big fad, which is why I am still none too keen on it. I suppose I would not mind growing amaranth now, but only if it is passe.

    Like

  2. Cristina Breckenfeld

    Thank you so much for the great
    Pictures and descriptions of the difference between horse verdolaga and people verdolaga!

    Like

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