Cooking

Arroz Verde with Sweet Potato Greens

Happy autumn! Amy here, wanting to make arroz verde to go with beans my friend made. But the summer amaranth greens are too mature and the winter greens aren’t ready to harvest. My new favorite vegetable the past few weeks is sweet potato vines. Mild and tender, and not at all bitter. I had some cooked in Asian food, but I’d never grown or cooked them myself. A couple cuttings turned into a large planter full in no time! I’ll report back if I ever get any edible sweet potato tubers…

To make the dish, I started with cilantro stems that would otherwise go to waste, onion, green chile, and the sweet potato leaves plucked from the vines.

I roasted the chile and let it cool as it sweated it in a covered container. Then I peeled, seeded and chopped it.

Then cilantro stems, onion and a handful of sweet potato leaves went in the blender with the amount of water needed to cook a cup of rice (The volume of water varies by variety of rice.) The chile can go in the blender, but opted to leave it coarse. Actually, it could all be coarsely chopped instead of blended.

The green slurry went into a dish to simmer with the chile, salt and some Mano Y Metate Mole Verde powder.

While that heated, I browned the rice in olive oil. For me, the trick is to keep from stirring it too often, so it gets some nice dark spots. I spooned the browned rice into the green liquid, covered and simmered on very low heat.

Once the rice was tender and the liquid absorbed, I added some chopped sweet potato greens sauted with onion and garlic and folded all together.

 Enjoy with beans.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom beans, herbs, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | 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: , , , | 5 Comments

Mesquite Meal Becomes Your Secret Ingredient in Popular Cake

Mixture of delicious late summer stone fruits.

Hello all, it’s Carolyn today waxing about one of my favorite subjects: baking with mesquite meal. Today’s recipe was orginally written by cookbook author Marian Burros, and it was so popular that the New York Times food section published it every year between 1983 and 1989. Finally the food editor drew the line and told readers to cut the recipe out, laminate it and save it because that was the end of that recipe for the Times. Since then it has been republished by every major food blog from Epicurious to the Smitten Kitchen to The Splendid Table. And the Times. Again. People just love this recipe.

Add your secret ingredient

So why does it need to show up here? Because we can add a secret ingredient to make the original even better: mesquite meal. The sweet, fruity taste of mesquite goes well with late summer fruits, especially when enhanced by the warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger which were not part of the original recipe. If you happen to have some White Sonoran wheat flour and are saving it for something special, this is perfect. The popular heritage flour works best in pastries like this. Blog reports say that people have had good luck with gluten free baking mixes and that the recipe doubles easily.

The orginal recipe called for plums, but any late summer fruit works well. I used pluots because I needed something ripe and the plums and peaches at my store were still a little hard.  Cut the fruit in fairly large chunks.

Pluots cut into large chunks.

This cake is not overly sweet so it makes a good dish for a fancy brunch. Add a side of ice cream or whipped cream if you are serving it for dessert.

Since it is practically foolproof, feel free to experiment with fruit and spices. It’s up to you if you want to reveal the secret ingredient.

Late Summer Fruit Torte

½ cup (1 stick) butter

¾ cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

¼ cup mesquite meal

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup fruit

½ cup sugar with cinnamon & spices to sprinkle on top

Grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan or springform pan. To ensure the cake comes out in one piece, go the extra step of cutting a round of parchment paper and grease and flour that as well.

Prepare the fruit. If using plums, pit and quarter. If using peaches, slice in large pieces. Set aside.  Heat oven to 350 F.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla. Add flour, mesquite meal, baking powder and salt and beat until just combined. Mixture will be thick.  Spread in prepared pan.

Spread thick batter in paper-lined pan.

Press in fruit making a nice design.  Sprinkle with sugar spice mixture. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.  Since oven temperatures vary, check after 45 minutes to see how your cake is coming along.

Enjoy your delicious cake.

If you have time, drizzle a little frosting on the cake and decorate with fresh fruit.


For more recipes, check out my cookbooks. The Prickly Pear Cookbook and Cooking the Wild Southwest.  are available from Native Seeds/SEARCH or your favorite brick or on-line bookstore. Follow me at Carolyn Niethammer-author on Facebook for updates on my writing and cooking life.

 

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

Sikil Pak – Yucatan Pumpkin Seed Dip

Hello, Amy here eating something totally new to me that my sister Laura just made. Sikil Pak is a Yucatan condiment made with pumpkin seeds.

She recently had this dip at our uncle’s house and fell in love immediately with this bright and rich mixture. She didn’t have his recipe but took a guess at the general proportions and ingredients he used and came up with a close version. It’s a blend of cooked and raw elements plus lots of citrus. Make sure to cool before blending in the herbs at the end to keep it fresh.

1 medium sweet onion

2 tablespoons butter

1 habanero chile

12oz tomatoes, canned or fresh

2 cups toasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds. Or start with raw, then toast and cool

2 limes, juice and zest

1 bunch cilantro

salt and pepper

agave nectar

Sauté diced onion and habanero in butter until golden brown, let cool. Sauté tomato until liquid slightly reduces, let cool. Place onion, pumpkin seeds and tomato in food processor, add lime juice and zest, and pulse together.

Add coarse chopped cilantro into processor and pulse until the texture is like wet sand, do not over mix. Adjust seasonings; add agave drizzle to balance the acidity of the lime juice. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro. Serve with corn chips. Maybe jicama would be good, too. Thanks, Laura!

Read more use of pumpkin seeds here.

amy mole

Amy Valdez Schwemm

Amy Valdés Schwemm

With her family’s love of cooking as her inspiration, Amy founded Mano Y Metate, offering freshly ground mole powders for people to make and serve mole at home. She inspires Tucsonans to become Desert Harvesters, to plant and harvest native foods in their yards. At Tucson Community Supported Agriculture, she advocates for underappreciated veggies and celebrates food’s seasons. She loves to hike the deserts and forests, make plant remedios, and feed people.

Categories: Cooking, herbs, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Southwestern Pintxos– Basque-style Tapas

 

On a recent trip to Spain we enjoyed an adventurous meal in a Basque tavern where we were introduced to Pintxos–the special Basque version of tapas–northwest Iberian finger-food.  These culinary mini-sculptures bring together the most unexpected combination of foods and flavors.  Each one is a creative work of edible art, visually and deliciously pleasing, handy for a pick-me-up meal or a many-course dinner.

Pintxos–traditional finger food of northwest Spain adapted for Baja Arizona! (MABurgess photo)

Tia Marta here to share ways I’ve adapted these traditional Basque food creations, incorporating our local Baja Arizona ingredients.  Pintxos (pronounced peent’shows) are fun to make.  They let your creativity take off.  The endearing individual servings make a pretty presentation.  Bringing a tray of pintxos to the dinner table makes for some drama too.  Your guests’ curiosity is piqued to find out what interesting delicacies make up each pintxo.  All eyes are focused, tastebuds on alert.  The eating pace slows down to savor-mode as each bite is tested—like sipping a new wine.  If being present matters to you, pintxos certainly makes it happen for everyone at the table.  [I can hardly wait to serve pintxos to adolescents to see what happens with their devices!]

A “shrimp boat” pintxo — a cool seafood “salad” for summertime, made with crab or tuna on a “boat” of tomato with “spinnaker sail” of chilled, cooked shrimp. (MABurgess photo)

Here’s a perfect summer pintxo—a little Sea of Cortes Seafood “Boat.” First find some ripe tomatoes from your garden or your favorite farmers’ market.  Next source some fresh, sustainably-harvested crab meat or tuna and Sea of Cortes shrimp.

Culinary oregano (Oreganum vulgare) with happy bee pollinating the flowers in my Tucson garden (MABurgess)

Harvest a few sprigs of fresh oregano from the garden (yours or a friend’s.  This fragrant herb grows so easily in low desert gardens.  See Savor-Sister Dr Jacqueline Soule’s post by searching August 28,2015 “Joy of the Mountains” on this blog for fantastic oregano info. They grow readily from cuttings.)

Pintxo actually means “toothpick” or “skewer,” so have a supply of long toothpicks or bamboo skewers ready.  You will also need:  1)  fresh tomato, cut in half so that each half can rest as a “boat” without tipping.  2)  crab or tuna salad, made with  boiled egg chopped, fresh chopped oregano leaf and a tad of mayonaise to taste; formed into a ball, 3) cooked, chilled shrimp.  Skewer a shrimp vertically from the top and then down thru the tomato (see photo) so that the shrimp becomes the “spinnaker sail” in your little sculpture.

Other neat pintxos can be made as layered, open-faced miniature sandwiches.

 

The perfect base for several styles of pintxos is Baja Arizona’s own Barrio Bread baguette, which can be cut in different shapes to suite each different pintxo. (MABurgess photo)

These baguette slices for other pintxos I cut flat then diagonally to make diamond bases for the Asparagus Spear Pintxos. (MABurgess photo)

I went to Don Guerra of Barrio Bread to find our best local equivalent of the bread the Basque are using in Spain for making pintxos.  Having been in Spain himself, he knew immediately and suggested his baguettes made with BKWFarms‘ heirloom organic Padre Kino White Sonora Wheat flour as our perfect pintxo bread.  Indeed it is! Barrio baguettes lend themselves to cutting in several different shapes, a distinct shape for each different pintxo style.

For the next pintxo–the Four-layer “Salmon in the Tropics” Pintxo–I cut the baguette at an angle to make elongate ovals as the pintxo base.

First step–to make the Four-layer “Salmon in the Tropics” Pintxo–spread avocado thinly on an oval of Barrio Bread baguette

Step 2–spread marinated, cooked salmon thinly on the avocado layer

Step 3–place a thin slice of avocado right on the salmon

Step4–place a thin slice of fresh mango on the top (MABurgess photos)

 

So there you have the Four-layer Salmon in the Tropics Pintxo–a taste combo that I personally would never have thought of, were it not for the creative Basques.

If you aren’t hooked or at least amazed yet, here’s another fun pintxo idea, this time using our local asparagus and chorizo!  Have you ever heard of such an unexpected combination of flavors?  Well it really works!

Asparagus-Spears-with-Chorizo Pintxo

Chorizo-wrapped Asparagas Pinto–cooked in the solar oven! (MABurgess photo)

For this pintxo, you will need:

1) sliced diamonds of Barrio Bread baguette,    2)  fresh farmers market asparagus spears, 3) Mexican-style chorizo OR sliced Spanish-chorizo (available at Trader Joe’s or other specialty grocers) to wrap the asparagus, 4) boiled egg sliced, 5) topping of plain yogurt mixed with your favorite mild chile powder or Spanish pimenton powder.ch

Wrap asparagus spears in chorizo.  If you have Mexican-style chorizo, fry the chorizo-wrapped spears until chorizo is barely done then place on bread to bake in oven or solar oven.  If sliced Spanish-style chorizo is used, bake entire bread/asparagus/chorizo stack in oven or solar oven.  Bake pintxos until asparagus is al-dente (not too long, 300degrees 12-15minutes, or roughly 20-25minutes in a preheated solar oven).  Top with sliced boiled egg and Chile-yogurt sauce.

These pintxos are only the tip of the iceberg of ideas you can create with silvers of your favorite veggies, fruits, fish, or sliced cheeses and meats!  Try thin slices of  Mexican queso asadero melted into your pintxo or Spanish manchego cheese.   Or try a combo of thinly sliced sweet cajeta de membrillo (Sonoran style quince conserve*) and asadero cheese baked gently on a Barrio Bread baguette oval!

*Tucson’s Mission Garden is the place to learn about membrillo fruit and the delicious traditional Hispanic recipes for it.  During the fall harvest you can sign up for workshops to learn how to make your own cajeta de membrillo.

Best-yet pintxo: local thin-sliced ham on manchego cheese on Barrio baguette topped with farmers market mushrooms–and baked to perfection in solar oven (MABurgess photo)

For easy pinxto baking, reaping the gifts of our intense sun, you can order a sleek, easy-to-use solar oven from Flor de Mayo.  Check out www.flordemayoarts.com for a how-to video.  Tia Marta here encouraging you to enjoy new combinations of our local Baja Arizona provender in your own pintxo creations!

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preserving the Harvest

cook pot 1804760_1280Back in the day, the only way to preserve a harvest was to dry it. This is why grains, seeds, and nuts are popular crops and so entrenched cultures around the world for thousands of years. Meat could be dried or salted, but was most often eaten fresh.  Then, roughly 200 years ago, preserving food through canning began to be developed. We think of canning as a pioneer tradition, but it only became common in homes roughly 150 years ago.

jam 2091026_1280I am lucky enough to have learned canning from my grandmother (back in the last century). She was extra careful to follow the Extension Service guidelines for how long to process the food she canned because a childhood friend of hers got botulism from improperly canned food (we are talking about back in 1911 here).

pressure canning book

Jump to this century and the book – Modern Pressure Canning by Amelia Jeanroy (Voyageur Press $24.99). This volume is a shining gem of how to can – especially if you did not have someone’s elbow to learn at. If you already know how to can, this book is still useful to help you improve your technique, plus offer some tantalizing recipes to try. The beautiful photographs of the food, done by the talented photographer Kerry Michaels don’t hurt either.

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The chapter “Storage, Troubleshooting and Other Considerations” elevate this book from a “how to” to a “must have.” Among other tips, Amelia urges you to keep records. She shares the fact that with the help of such written records she determined what her family uses the most, and now she concentrates on that.

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I have resisted canning with a pressure cooker, because I was concerned about adjusting for altitude correctly. Amelia has solved this problem by including (on page 29) exactly what pressures to use at what elevation. That chart, plus the recipes, have me eyeballing the garden and dreaming of home-grown and home-canned harvest – months after the harvest.

Pickled sweet peppers with onion & garlic in an anise, peppercorn, and coriander brine M King web

Pickled sweet peppers with onion and garlic in an anise, peppercorn, and coriander brine, made by Monica King

Jacqueline Soule business portrait. Tucson, AZ. © 2012 Mark Turner

Jacqueline Soule

Want to learn more about growing your own food? 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 may not be used.

Categories: Cooking, fruit, Gardening | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Awesome Amaranth

Jacqueline here with a confession. I confess I am not a fussy gardener. I prefer plants that I can plant and forget about until harvest time.  Likewise, in the kitchen, I prefer foods that are easy to prepare, needing few steps to provide a satisfying meal. Lucky for me the Sonoran Desert abounds in such plants, and amaranth is just one of them – great in both the garden and kitchen.

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There are over 60 species of amaranth, and while several species are considered weeds, many people around the world value amaranths as vegetables, for the seeds, for dye, and as ornamentals. Amaranth grows best in the heat of summer, and it is not too late to plant some.

Some species of amaranth are eaten as greens – and are anything but green! Foliage ranges in hue from crimson, to red, to vivid magenta, all due to natural pigments called betalains. Whatever their color, they are a very good source of vitamins including vitamin A, B3, B6, C, vitamin K, and folate, along with dietary minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and especially manganese.

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The root of mature amaranth is a palatable parsnip-like vegetable. It is fine added to stews or cooked and mashed.

Amaranth seeds, like quinoa, teff, and buckwheat, contain “complete protein” (a complete set of the amino acids needed by humans). These examples are called “pseudograins” because of their flavor and cooking is similar to grains, but unlike grain, they do not contain gluten. (By the way, “true” grains are in the grass family.) As with rice and other grains, use two cups liquid to one cup seeds.

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Amaranth is related to quinoa.

 

Amaranth greens and seed are used as a tonic in Chinese medicine for their richness in minerals and vitamins – to help the body recover from a variety of ills, including infections, rashes, and migraines.

In India, amaranth is recommended for people with low red blood cell count. Several studies have shown that amaranth seed and amaranth seed oil may be of benefit for those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease; regular consumption reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while improving antioxidant status and some immune parameters.

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Young amaranth leaves are tasty right off the plant, in salads, or they can be steamed as a potherb. In Greece, their native green amaranth (Amaranthus viridis) is used in a popular dish called “vleeta.” Leaves are boiled, then served with olive oil and lemon, usually alongside fried fish.

Amaranth grows very rapidly and their large seed heads can weigh several pounds and contain a half-million seeds. Mature seed heads of amaranth are ideally harvested while still somewhat green, before the bracts open to release the seed. Thus seed will drop where you can more easily capture it, like within a paper bag.

These seeds can be boiled, parched or even toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey, molasses or chocolate to make a Mexican treat called alegría, which will have to be a topic for the future, or see the chapter Using Father Kino’s Herbs for a recipe.

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A quick dinner when you don’t want to heat the kitchen too much is steamed amaranth greens and scrambled eggs.

JAS avatarWant to learn more about growing amaranth? 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.

Categories: Cooking, Dye, dye plant, edible flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom grains, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Summer fruit: pickled figs, grape salad

Hi, Amy here today, giddy with a pile of fresh figs and fresh grapes! The Black Mission figs are from a very old tree in my mom’s yard.

My mom dries them in a hot car and freezes them to preserve. This year I decided to try pickling some. I poured about one cup red wine vinegar into a pan, along with two tablespoons sugar and a teaspoon salt. Then I tossed in about a dozen fresh but firm figs and brought them to a simmer. I’m sure honey instead of sugar is fine, and any vinegar would work as well. You could add more or less sweet or salt to suit your taste. Quick pickles are as forgiving as they are delicious.

After simmering for a few minutes, I let them cool in the liquid. I refrigerated the figs and brine together, where they softened and darkened a little more. Perfect.

A few days later, a friend shared some seedless grapes from her garden. Amazing!!!! You can see some turning to raisins on the vine.

For a fresh, light meal, I put stemmed grapes with some tart Greek yogurt.

I sprinkled some sea salt thyme blend and called it a salad. Of course, any salt and herbs would be wonderful here.

For a sandwich, I spread Black Mesa Ranch goat cheese with herbs on a slice of Barrio Bread whole wheat levain (both from Tucson CSA) and topped with halved figs. Dinner to eat while watching the clouds and sunset.

Here’s to hoping for more summer rains in the desert!

Categories: Cooking, fruit, heirloom crops, herbs, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Heirloom Cowpeas for a Summer Garden Surprise

You are in for a treat this summer–don’t wait until New Year’s Day feasting.  If you have “black-eye-pea prejudice,” or if you have never tasted a FRESH black-eye-pea, read on!  Black-eyes will be a reward for your palate–and positive reinforcement for the novice gardener.  First, action is needed:  With monsoon moisture it is time to get those seeds in the ground!  Tia Marta here to share some hot-weather garden advice, recipe inspiration, with some historical spice, about the sweet and nutritious black-eye “pea” Vigna unguiculata.

Lovely foliage, flowers, and pods of Tohono O’odham native black-eye pea U’us Mu:n maturing in a monsoon timeline garden at Mission Garden, Tucson (MABurgess photo)

A rose by any other name…..Really it’s not a pea at all!  (Here in Baja Arizona, true peas, English peas, Pisum sativum, must be planted in the cool season.)  Nor is black-eye a common bean either.  Other monikers for this frijol-like legume are cowpea (it used to be cow forage), and crowder pea (its fat seeds are packed against each other in the pod.)  Spanish called them frijoles de carete.  Cowpea varieties that became part of Chinese cuisine are called long beans.   The generic term for edible legumes including cowpeas is pulses, a term that nutritionists tend to use.

An amazing relative of cowpea– Chinese long bean–growing at Mission Garden in the new Chinese Timeline Garden, a Wong Family heirloom planted by Nancy Tom (DenaCowan photo)

Cowpeas were first domesticated in sub-Saharan Africa a few thousand years ago and made it on their agricultural-culinary odyssey to Spain during the Middle Ages, according to historian William Dunmire.  Cowpea came to the New World with Spanish explorers and arrived in the American Southwest with Padre Kino around 1706  (according to Bolton’s 1948 translation of Kino’s journals.)  Native People of what is now northwest Mexico and the US Borderlands quickly adopted this sweet, nutritious food.  It dovetailed perfectly into their traditional summer temporal gardens, their bean staples, and their taste buds.

Over years of selection for color, flavor, and adaptation to arid agriculture, the Mayo, Pima Bajo, Tarahumara and other Native farmers shaped this Old World gift into different colorfully-patterned landraces.  The Tohono O’odham, with selection, altered their adopted variety into a spotted vivid black and white bean, naming it U’us Mu:n or “sticks-bean” because the pods are long, straight or curvy, and clustered.  The Guarijio and Mountain Pima (now of Sonora) named theirs Yori Muni meaning “foreigner’s bean” as yori is slang for something akin to “gringo.”  (Names can reveal alot.)  Mexican and Anglo pioneers and later African-Americans continued to bring “new” varieties of black-eye peas into the Baja Arizona borderlands–which all thrive in our humid hot summers.

A rich harvest of Tohono O’odham U’us Mu:n grown at Mission Garden from seed saved by NativeSeedsSEARCH (MABurgess photo)

Your monsoon garden is bound for success choosing from NativeSeedsSEARCH’s many heirloom cowpea varieties –known success stories in the Southwest.  The seeds will be up in no time and flowering, great for gardening with kids.  Down below soil level cowpea roots will be feeding the earth with nitrogen.  Above ground they feed us well.  When pods are plump with seed, before they dry, harvest and cook the seeds fresh.  When you taste fresh black-eyes your eyes will roll back in ecstasy as your tummy goes “whoopee!”  After they dry, they can be kept for months, even years, but New Year’s is a good time to share them for good luck.

A prolific producer is pioneer heirloom Bisbee cowpea saved by NativeSeeds/SEARCH, available at the NSS Store (NativeSeeds/SEARCH photo)

My favorite dish is a simple compote of cowpeas with garden vegetables.  As cooking beans goes, cowpeas are much speedier than common beans, as they do not need to be presoaked, although soaking an hour before cooking does reduce cooking time.  I quick-sauté my onions, garlic, carrots and celery in a little olive oil, add them to cowpeas and soak-water in a dark lidded saucepan, and put them in the solar oven.  They will be done and smelling delightful in 2-3 hours, depending on the summer or winter sun during the brighter time of day.  You can also make a hummus with black-eyes for a cool summertime dip.

Black-eye pea compote with garden vegetables –cooked in the solar oven! (MABurgess photo)

We grew a red cowpea heirloom from NativeSeedsSEARCH one summer that had foot-long straight pods.  The refreshing green mass of foliage, flowers and pods sprawled across the garden and kept producing for weeks.

For a rainbow of cowpea ideas for your garden, go to www.nativeseeds.org, click on shop then enter cowpeas in the search box, or go directly to the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell and browse for instant gratification.  Prep your soil, pop seeds in the ground, add water and get ready for botanical action.  By late August you will be pleasing palates with your own home-grown cowpeas, black-eyes, crowders, u’us mu:n–fabulous food by whatever name you want to give them!  Savor Sister Jacqueline Soule discusses growing beans in our area on her site, Gardening With Soule here.

The colorful and reliable Tohono O’odham cowpea in the NSS Conservation Garden–U’us Mu:n (NativeSeeds/SEARCH photo)

Can you hardly wait to have such greenery and goodness in your garden?  All it takes is some seeds in the ground!  You can find even more detailed info about cowpeas at the NativeSeedsSEARCH blog and scroll down to May 14, 2018 post.  Tia Marta wishing you happy and prolific gardening with the monsoons!

Mosaic of cowpeas created by NativeSeedsSEARCH aficionados (credit NSS)

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, heirloom beans, heirloom crops, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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