Beekeeping

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.

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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.

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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

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* 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

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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

September is National Honey Month

In a few short days it will be September – which is “National Honey Month.” Even if you never eat honey, you still enjoy how hard honey bees work. Bees pollinate an amazing number of crops that we use, including food, fodder, fiber, and oil crops. USDA reports that roughly one third of our daily diet relies on honey bees.

Honey bees are not native to North America. They were brought over from Europe early in the colonization phase, promptly escaped, and spread across the New World at a rapid clip. There is no way of knowing if they caused the extinction of native bee species, but indications are that there was more than enough nectar and pollen for all species, native and introduced.

When bees make honey, they take the nectar that the plants create through photosynthesis and remove most of the water (creating a super saturated solution). Since the plants link carbon dioxide and water together to form glucose and fructose, that’s mostly what honey is.  There are also traces of amino acids, vitamins, and specific phytochemicals that plants put into their nectar to reward pollinators.

Honey and human metabolism. Yes, glucose and fructose are sugars, and blending them into honey doesn’t change that. The glycemic index of honey is lower than refined white table sugar but glycemic response to honey is highly individualistic. The American Diabetes Association has a cautiously worded stance that honey might be preferred over sucrose. In general, honey has clear advantages over table sugar when it comes to traces of amino acids, essential proteins and immune boosting capabilities.

Honey and teeth. Honey contains only small amounts of sucrose, the sugar that causes plaque to adhere to teeth. Honey also contains phytochemicals which appear to have some antimicrobial action against oral pathogens. Thus honey is a better sweetener than table sugar, at least as far as the daily health of your teeth are concerned. The wound healing and antimicrobial properties of honey may be valuable in the treatment of periodontal problems, and in treating tissues after oral surgery, two topics currently being investigated.

Honey and energy. Honey is a concentrated source of fructose, glucose, and other di-, tri-, and oligosaccharides, as well as amino acids human bodies need for energy. Studies show that honey is an economical alternative to carbohydrate gels for athletes.

Honey and food. There are numerous ways to savor honey in cooking and meal preparation, not to mention creating alcoholic beverages. A simple salad dressing of honey, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil is delightful, and quick to make.

For more ways to use honey in this coming National Honey Month, search our posts for “honey,” read the guest blog by Monica King, or visit https://www.honey.com/


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 sell and sign copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).
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 copyright Jacqueline A. Soule where marked and they may not be used.

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Gardening | Leave a comment

Sweet Desert Nectars

We start July with guest blogger Monica King, a rancher near Tucson Arizona, here to tell us about the product of her littlest, and busiest, “livestock.”

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With help from our friend, the honeybee, we can explore the palate of desert flora riches in a different way. These pollinators are beneficial to agriculture and two out of three bites you take you owe to honeybees! There would be little to no melons, strawberries, almonds, coffee or chocolate, just to name a few, if it were not for these busy tiny creatures.

As a worker honeybee heads out foraging, at around twenty-one days of age, they are not only pollinating, but also gathering many different flowers nectars.  But not all at once!  A foraging bee will visit the same kind of flower repeatedly on each excursion. This behavior is called flower fidelity. This is how pure honey is produced. I will get back to this.

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A chunk of comb full of honey.

A worker bee’s tiny body can carry more than her own weight in nectar. As she is on her way home with her bounty the nectar is mixed inside her honey sac with an enzyme called invertase, which begins the nectar to honey transformation. Upon return to the hive she then transfers her load to her sisters which continue the process. These workers manipulate it in their mouthparts exposing it to try air and add even more enzymes. They then put it into a honey cell and the bees fan their wings producing a breeze, which mixed with the warm air of the hive, continues to reduce the water content. When it is dehydrated to 17-18% moisture it becomes pure honey. Our moisture content in Southern Arizona is more like 10% due to our arid environment. Once the bees fill a cell they cap it with wax for storage. It is at this time a beekeeper may harvest the excess.

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Honey bee on cat claw acacia.

 

When it comes to honey from Sonoran Desert plants – there are two, local, well known spring harvests – mesquite and cat claw acacia.  In general, most local beekeepers will wait until the honey box is full and extract all the honey from one bee yard in one trip.  This is the less labor intensive way, and thus more economical. This honey is correctly called a Sonoran Desert blend. With each season being slightly different, no two harvests will be the same.

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But sometimes, you can find a beekeeper that doesn’t do things the simple, economical way – and they may have a pure cat claw acacia honey.  Cat claw acacia honey has a very light to almost white color and exquisite sweetness. This honey also has a heavy, thick texture and it will naturally granulate quickly.  My favorite way to savor this honey is spread like butter on toast or slightly warmed served drizzled over vanilla ice cream with fresh chopped local pecans.  Honey that granulates has not gone bad, and is just fine to use.

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Honeybee on mesquite.

Another specialty honey is mesquite.   Honey from the light colored mesquite flowers is transformed into a dark rich honey, smooth on the tongue, and may remind you of brown sugar or maple syrup. This honey pairs nicely with cheeses, especially Gouda, and makes wonderful BBQ sauces. When drizzled on blue corn pancakes you will think you are in heaven.

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Many beekeepers have their bees near agricultural or residential neighborhoods where the bees just don’t forage on native plants. I like to call this honey a desert urban blend and again it is very unique. The taste varies as the honey from some locations may have more clover in the area and other locations may have more citrus, etc.. Honey contains over 600 volatile organic compounds or plant-based essential oils, and these make it possible to have honey tested for pureness and provide the botanical and geographical origin. But the best way to know if your honey is pure, is to buy it from a local, respected, beekeeper.  And then you can taste the sweet desert nectars.

Monica King 001

Monica King is a rancher near Tucson.

 

 

 

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Perennial Herbs for Honey

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Thyme is tasty in the kitchen and a great herb for honey bees.

Jacqueline Soule here to discuss perennial herbs that can be grown in Sonoran home landscapes. Herbs that both honey bees and our native solitary bees – not to mention us humans – all use and enjoy.  I have been thinking about this topic a great deal as we celebrate National Pollinator Week the third week of June each year, plus June is National Perennial Plant Month.  (National Honey Month is September, so look for the honey recipes then!)

Yes, honey bees and native bees are disappearing.  Intense scientific research into the problem has led to the conclusion that there are many factors.  One culprit is pesticides, another is genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in crops (Ecotoxicol. Environ. Saf. 2008. 70(2):327-33).  Air pollution makes it harder for honey bees to navigate and they get lost and die.  Habitat destruction threatens native species. All these factors point to one more reason to support organic farmers.  Plus grow some bee food in our own yards.

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Sweet marigold comes to us from the mountains of Sonora, and can be used in cooking anywhere it calls for tarragon.

I realize that a list of plants can be boring to read, but lists are very handy when you want to think about plants for your yard. We five Savor Sisters have written about many of these herbs over the years (since we started this blog in 2013) and I have inserted links where I could.

Perennial Herbs for the Southwest & Bees

yarrow (Achillea milifolium) – afternoon shade in summer
wild hyssop (Agastache species) – Sononran mountain natives
garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) – full sun to part shade

Allium tuberosum AMAP 4590 web

Garlic chives do just fine in alkaline desert soils. Harvest some leaves anytime you want a mild garlic flavor.

yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica) – best in a water garden
Arizona wormwood (Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. mexicana) – Sononran native
golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria) – afternoon shade in summer
chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) – afternoon shade in summer
chiltepin (Capsicum annuum var. aviculare) – Sononran native, found under trees (Sorry folks – too many links!  We use this a lot!)
brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) – full sun, Sononran native
hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) – afternoon shade in summer
French lavender (Lavendula dentata) – afternoon shade in summer
horehound (Marrubium vulgare) – afternoon shade in summer

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Oregano is a charming plant for pollinators, and for cooking.

bee balm (Monarda species) – some species Sonoran mountain natives
marjorum (Originum majorana) – part shade
oregano (Originum vulgare) – part shade to full sun
slender poreleaf (Porophyllum gracile) – full sun, Sonoran native
rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – sun to shade
wild rhubarb (Rumex hymenosepalus) – blooms in winter, dies back to storage root
rue (Ruta graveolens) – sun to shade
sage (Salvia officinalis) – part shade in summer
sweet marigold (Tagetes lucida) – great in a water garden or part shade
tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) – afternoon shade in summer
thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – afternoon shade in summer
valerian (Valerian officinalis) – afternoon shade, dies back to storage root
violet, heartease (Viola odorata) – full shade in summer

There you have it – 25 herbs I have successfully grown in my Sonoran Desert yard – with little tips for keeping them going. There are other herbs I could put on this list – but we haven’t covered them yet, so stay tuned for updates!

Wishing you, and your bees, a sweet Sonoran Summer!

yerba mansa 6276 web

Yerba mansa is a California native plant that has strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

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 sell and sign copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).

© 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 © Jacqueline A. Soule where marked and they may not be used.

Featured image is slender poreleaf, Porophyllum gracile.

 

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Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Easy to Grow – Caraway

Jacqueline Soule (Gardening with Soule in the land of El Sol) this week to share a wonderful plant to raise this winter.

Caraway has a long history of use as both a culinary and medicinal plant. Evidence of the seed has been found among Mesolithic (middle stone age) food remains, indicating that it has been used by humans for over 10,000 years. Caraway is also mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medicinal manuscript from 1500 B.C.E. Caraway was used in Roman cooking, and Olde English cooking as well, since it is listed in the “Form of Curry,” a cookbook written by Richard the II’s cook in 1390 C.E.

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The entire caraway plant is useful. Leaves, roots, flowers, and seed are all edible. As a spice, primarily the seed is used; by Austrians in beef dishes; by Germans to season pork; by Hungarians in goulash; and by Swedes and Norwegians to flavor their bread. Caraway seed is also tasty in eggs, cheeses, baked goods, pastries, fish dishes, or with many types of steamed vegetables, in pickles, or in fruit dishes such as compote, apple sauce, or some chutneys. I mix caraway seed or leaves with tofu and stir-fry for a pleasantly different flavor. Others use the leaves raw in either green or fruit salads, or in soups and stews. The roots may be eaten raw, steamed, or added to soups and stews.

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With all these wonderful uses of the plant, you may wonder if caraway will grow in the southwest. The answer is a resounding yes! Start caraway seeds in October in your winter garden. Or plant the seedlings any month without a freeze. If you intend to harvest the roots, be sure that you keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season, otherwise they can be bitter. Caraway can be grown in the yard, in the oasis area of a xeriscape. It also does well in containers at least two feet deep.

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Ethnomedicinally, caraway is used to promote digestion, stimulate the appetite, and relieve cases of diarrhea. In most cases it is prepared as an infusion, and has a slightly sweetish taste to it. There is no known indication of toxicity, but all plants contain defensive compounds to deter pests, thus it is best consumed in small doses. People with food allergies to other members of the carrot family, such as dill or cilantro, should also avoid caraway.

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Caraway is easily grown, a prolific seed producer, and a delicious addition many dishes. Adding some caraway to your garden or yard is a green action. It will reduce, at least a little bit, importation of caraway seed from eastern Europe, the principle growers. It can also add a wonderful new flavor dimension to your food.

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JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).
© 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 courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Beekeeping, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Mexican Food, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Glorious Germander

Teucrium chamaedrys 008Believe it or not, autumn has officially arrived.  Once it no longer gets into the triple digits, it is time to think about planting perennial plants.  Get them in the ground in fall – and then they will have a fighting chance to become well established before the heat of next summer hits.

Teucrium chamaedrys and Chrysactinia mexicanaA list of landscape herbs can go on extensively, but I do want to mention one that is often overlooked – germander.  Originally brought here in Father Kino’s time, germander was originally used as a medicinal, but it can also be used in cooking.  Like so many other herbs that come to us from the eastern edge of the Mediterranean (along with bay laurel, sage, rosemary, thyme, and more).  On their native rocky hillsides of Greece and Turkey, these herbs receive rain only in the winter, and are thus excellently drought adapted for our region.

 

There are around 100 species of germander, but most commonly used is the wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys).  This species has tiny, bright green, rounded leaves. The creeping germander is the same species, but has been selected over time to be a low ground cover (Teucrium chamaedrys var. prostratum).

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When it comes to landscaping, I favor germander over rosemary because it does add a graceful note of bright, foresty kind of green while rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has bluish green and needle-like leaves.  When it comes to fragrance – I appreciate both species.  Both germander and rosemary have many oil glands in their leaves.

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But then there are the flowers!  Germander flowers are far more fragrant, almost honey scented, like sweet alyssium.  And yes they are bee pollinated, by both European honey bees and by our native solitary bees.

Both rosemary and germander can be used in roasting potatoes or to add flavor to meat dishes.  I use either one to scrub down the grill prior to cooking – depends on which needs pruning.  In ancient Greece, hunters would field dress their meat with germander, often found growing wild in the hills.  (It may have anti-microbial properties.)  Germander is often found in abundance in the wild since, like most herbs, the essential oils render it unpalatable to wildlife.  I won’t promise it is rabbit proof, but those “wascally wabbits” don’t bother mine.

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There are many herbs that can be used to create a beautiful, low-water-using, edible, Southwest landscape.  Stay tuned to Savor the Southwest and I will keep discussing them here.  I hope to have my own blog up and running soon as well.

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Month by Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico,” (Cool Springs Press, $26).

© This article is 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 are courtesy of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, Calflora, and Pixabay, and may not be used.

 

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Flowers of the Sun

My niece, who gets married this week, chose the sunflower as her wedding flower.  I decided this is a great topic for a Savor the Southwest article, because in our corner of the world, monsoon season is a great time to plant sunflowers.

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Sunflowers are all-American. Seriously, they first occurred only in the New World, but once “discovered” were rapidly spread by humans and planted around the world. There are over 70 different species of sunflower (Helianthus) – and while the annual garden sunflower is best known, the number of perennial species (such as the “Jerusalem” artichoke or sunchoke) far outnumber the annuals.

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Interestingly, the perennials appear to be one of the first semi-domesticated plants on this continent. Early tribes in North America were hunter-gatherers and had regular migration routes. Roots of the perennial sunflowers were dug for food as the clan hiked along, and smaller rootlets were replanted further along the path, helping ensure that there would be food to harvest next year. (Women are fairly smart that way.)

 

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Natives didn’t ignore the annual species, especially once they started cultivating other crops, such as corn, beans, and squash. Sunflower isn’t one of these Three Sisters because unlike corn, sunflower doesn’t like beans climbing its tall stalks, and it makes a tad too much shade for squash to grow around its base. Guess you could say it doesn’t play well with others, although it does grow quite well with other sunflowers.

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Sunflower seeds rich in protein and contain roughly 30 percent oil, a substance once hard to come by in Native diets, thus their popularity. The Hopi prized tceqa – a variety they selected over time for a striking blue-black hull color. This coloring was used as a dye for baskets and later wool. The Tarahumara cultivate a variety with all white hulls. The Havasupai sunflower has black seeds that are much smaller than most other sunflowers, but it has many flowers per plant.

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Grow Annual Sunflowers

Plant seeds of the annuals (Helanthus annus) in the spring or with the summer rains. Plant them1 inch deep and 12 inches apart. Plants can grow 6 to 8 feet tall so if you live in a windy area, plan on staking them. I favor planting in large blocks rather than single rows. Site them in full sun to afternoon shade. Keep seeds moist while sprouting, but encourage deep roots by deep, infrequent watering once they have 6 to 10 true leaves.

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Harvest
It’s best to allow seeds to dry in the flower heads. Cut the heads off the plants and bring them inside to dry (out of reach of the birds). Once dry, rub out seeds and winnow off chaff.

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Enjoy
Seeds can be eaten raw or roasted. I enjoy them on long drives, cracking them in my teeth and spitting the hulls into a handy “hull cup” carried for the purpose. The hulls are a bit tough for my compost, but gradually become detritus when placed under shrubs in the landscape.

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Seeds (sans hulls) are wonderful ground and mixed with chickpeas for a sunflower humus. (Incidentally the Pima County Seed Library is featuring chickpeas as their seed of the year. Look for several Savor Sister presentations at your local library this fall.) Seeds can also be mixed into various cookie and bread recipes. Due to their high oil content, sunflower seeds do not make a good “flour.”

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Seeds make delicious and nutritious sunflower sprouts that can be used in salads, especially welcome when greens are in short supply in the garden.

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Some more about the name (because I love playing with words). Helianthus is from the Greek helios or sun. The Spanish common name, mirasol, comes from their habit of following the sun with their massive shining flowers (the better to entice pollinators to visit). And finally, in case you didn’t know, Soule is pronounced like sol, which is why I adopted “Gardening with Soule, in the land of El Sol” as my motto – honoring that powerful orb in the sky we rely on for life.

Helianthus pixabay 012

 

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).

© 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 in this article courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Dye, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native | 1 Comment

Pleasing Poreleaf

porophyllum gracile calflora 1803Savor Sister Jacqueline Soule here today with native plant that is lovely in the landscape, never needs water, and can be used as an herb for cooking.  Can it get better than this?  Well yes, our native solitary bees use this as a food source in that time when spring wildflowers and cacti are done blooming and not much else is in flower.
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Slender poreleaf, also called hierba del venado, odora, (Spanish), xtisil (Seri), bears the scientific name of Porophyllum gracile.  If you like word origins you can just look at this scientific name and learn something about the plant.  The word gracile has the same root as graceful, poro tells us it has pores, and the one you may not know phyllum refers to leaves, but enough Latin for now.
porophyllum gracile calflora 1801
Slender poreleaf is a member of the Compositae or sunflower family and is good for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes.  A native, hardy, blue-green evergreen perennial, it grows 1 to 2 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide.  It can take full sun and even reflected sun, and also grows well in part shade.  It needs the alkaline desert soils, and does not tolerate over-watering.
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Use.
First, the taste is somewhere between arugula, cilantro and rue. I like it in salsa. I also crush the dried leaves and add them to hamburger.  Careful!  A little goes a long way.
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The Seri use a tea made from the stems of this native plant as a remedy for colds.   Roots are macerated and used to treat toothache.  In some Mexican markets fresh and dried material is available for sale.  People crumble dried leaves together with salt and rub it on meat for flavor and to help make it last in the absence of refrigeration.

These medicinal uses may have scientific validity since many related species in the Tageteae tribe contain thiophenes, sulfur compounds with proven bactericidal properties, good as cold remedies.  The thiophenes may also help preserve the meat while the other secondary compounds flavor the meat.
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Slender poreleaf appears to be unpalatable to rabbit, javalina, rodents, and deer.  Since it is distasteful to deer it is puzzling why it is called “hierba del venado” which translates as “herb of the deer.”  Perhaps because it is found in remote areas where deer roam, or perhaps it is good for field dressing deer meat.

Planting and Care.
You won’t find this delicate fragrant perennial blue green shrub in nurseries, but if you find seed while you are out hiking, bring some back and plant it about a quarter inch deep in an unused corner of your yard.  Protect it from seed eating birds, and with a little water and you will be rewarded with a durable desert plant that needs no care and produces lovely white to pinkish flowers with attractive red highlights.

Porophyllum gracile Benth., "odora" -9
If you are not a hiker, head over to the Pima County Seed Library – online or in any branch library.  I donated a bag of seed to them, and smaller packets should be available for check out.  All they ask is that you return some seed to them in coming seasons.
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Harvesting and Use.
Harvest fresh material of the slender poreleaf as needed for salads and salsas, or harvest and dry for use later.
porophyllum ruderale glands wiki free
Sister Species.
Porophyllum ruderale is commonly grown throughout the New World and used as a condiment, especially in salsas.  Since it is used by many cultures, common names, include Bolivian coriander, quillquiña, yerba porosa, killi, pápalo, tepegua, mampuritu, and pápaloquelite.  It needs more water than our native species, and shade in summer, but taste is much the same.

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JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).

© 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 © Jacqueline A. Soule where marked and they may not be used.

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bean Flower Soup

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Jacqueline Soule here today to share a savory way to use the flowers of palo verde.
In case you wondered, palo verde flowers are slightly sweet and taste mildly like young garden peas.

In a handout I got back in the 1970’s, I learned that the O’odham name for this April-ish month is Uam Masad which roughly translates to “the yellow month.”  On the slopes of the the Tucson Mountains yellow is certainly the case – with palo verde, brittle bush, paperflower, and desert marigold all combining to cover the slopes in a cloak of glowing yellow.  On a still day, the sound of the various species of native bees working their way through this bounty is a many toned symphony of delight to my ears.
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The common name “palo verde” can refer to a number of species, including
Mexican paloverde (Parkinsonia aculeata)
blue palo verde (Parkinsonia florida)
foothill palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla)
palo brea (Parkinsonia praecox)
Texas palo verde (Parkinsonia texana), and the
Desert Museum hybrid paloverde (Parkinsonia X ‘Desert Museum’).

I told you that so I could tell you this.  All of these New World species of palo verde have edible flowers.  The palatability of the flowers varies though – depending on species and on growing conditions.  Sample before harvest.  Some are tough and stringy, some are large and flavorful.  The flowers on the trees in the leach field were especially large and palatable.  After the initial sample thou, I left them for the busy digger bees (Centris species) moving among the blooms.

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Chop up herbs and flowers to an easily edible size.

Since palo verde flowers are relatively small, compared to other edible flowers like pansy and chrysanthemums, I wanted to find dishes where I could harvest many flowers in a single swipe along the branch then use them en mass.  With a big basket full of flowers, I started experimenting.
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The results – palo verde flowers are fine in salads.  They are good in a pancake-like fritters.  Lightly sauté the flowers with chard and I’itoi onions then pour eggs over them for scrambled breakfast – good.  The floral vinegar will have to wait about a month for my report.  But meanwhile there is my new favorite – bean flower soup.  Bean flower soup is especially good late in the season as flowers are intermixed with young developing palo verde beans.

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Remove bitter tasting petioles.

Many Americans are not used to the concept of soup before a meal, but it makes sense for three main reasons – even in summer.  Such home-made soups are high in trace minerals, helping replace the electrolytes lost to perspiration during the day (especially in our climate).  The American Institute of Health estimates that 1 out of 5 Americans is clinically dehydrated, in other words, dehydrated enough to interfere with our body’s ability to function properly.  Lastly, for folks trying to lose weight, the hormones signaling hunger take about 20 minutes to become canceled out by eating.  Soup first means that your hormones have more of a chance to tell you that you’ve had enough without overeating.

Palo Verde Flower Soup
1 cup fresh palo verde flowers
1 quart liquid of choice (water, vegetable stock, chicken stock)
1 tablespoon oil of choice (helps better develop the flavor)
herbs to taste (use mild to not overpower the delicate flower flavor)
sea salt to taste
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If it is late in the season, and you harvest beans with petioles, remove the tough and bitter petioles.  Give everything a good dicing to help release the flavor and make any potentially fibrous bits small and edible.  Optionally, sauté the herbs in the oil first to develop the flavor but avoid over-heating the flowers, they can become bitter. Add one quart liquid.  Bring to a boil and turn off and remove from the heat.  Let sit for 10 minutes to meld flavors together and finish cooking the soup.  Serve.  Enjoy!

Disclaimer: The authors of this blog have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods.  Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction.  In case of doubt please consult your doctor.

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).
© 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 © Jacqueline A. Soule and they may not be used.

Categories: Beekeeping, Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, herbs, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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