Cooking

Cilantro

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

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

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Planting and Care.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvest and Use.

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

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Jacqueline-Soule

Jacqueline Soule

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

© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

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

Monica’s Fried Green Tomatoes

Many of us are Southwest at heart but arrived here from other parts of the country, or even the world. Personally, I (Monica King) dug my feet into the caliche twenty-five years ago. I was born in the south and enjoyed life as a migratory beekeeper’s daughter, thus I have been lucky to enjoy cuisine from many areas with different ethnic backgrounds. Fried green tomatoes has been one of my go-to southern favorites – or so I thought.

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I had friends visiting from Missouri, and as I started to make some fried green tomatoes they said, “No way can you out do Missouri Fried Green Tomatoes! We invented them!” I grabbed my heart! What?! No – this is a Southern dish! Could I have been wrong all these years?

History of Origin

Digging into the past is what I do (more about the Prehistoric Collector here). The upshot is that – sadly, yes – fried green tomatoes are NOT Southern! Apparently the first recipes for fried green tomatoes are in 19th century Northeastern and Midwestern cookbooks! The 1877 Buckeye Cookbook and the 1873 Presbyterian Cookbook. A recipe is also found in the 1919 International Jewish Cookbook. The first southern mention was dug up in a 1944 Alabama newspaper! Of course, the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was famous for them at the Whistle Stop Cafe but there is no documentation of this dish originating in the South.

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Variations on a Theme

I sampled fried green tomatoes from many families, including Mom’s version, and from cookbooks. Whenever I would taste something different, I’d get excited, “Oh! You used that in there!” Over time my recipe has turned into a hodge podge of this and that, and it may even change in the future. Perhaps you have your own twist to suggest? (Please share your comments!)

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I found that the Pennsylvania Dutch used flour, cornmeal is a more recent Southern twist, and using breadcrumbs was an idea from my mom. All I can tell you with certainly is that making any fried green tomatos recipe is – in my opinion – one of the best and easiest ways of using up green tomatoes picked when freezing temperatures hit…….but then I am also one that cannot resist the first green tomato off a new years planting. I guess I just love fried green tomatoes that much.

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Try Some!

If you have never tried them, I encourage you to do so. I cheated with this version and used Italian seasoned bread crumbs but add a few other ingredients as I like the heat of the red pepper flakes merging with the twang of the green tomato. The cornmeal gives them a lovely crunch. My husband unfortunately does not share my love for the dish – so I tend to make small batches – just for myself to savor as a snack.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

1/3 cup yellow or blue cornmeal
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp black pepper
egg
oil for frying

Mix all the dry ingredients together in one bowl, set aside. In a separate bowl, scramble the egg (or eggs depending on how many tomatoes you are using), set aside.  Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch thicknesses. Heat enough oil to coat a frying pan, I use avocado oil.  Dip each tomato slice first in egg, then in the dry ingredients, coating completely.  Then add to the hot oil. Turn when golden then drain on paper towels when done.

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Categories: Cooking, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Onion rings spiced with Adobo

Hello, Amy here on a crisp and sunny winter day, making crisp and sunny food. I wanted to make something spicy and different, and onion rings sounded fun to make.

I started with tempura batter: rice flour, egg yolk, salt and cold seltzer water.

For half a cup of rice flour, I added half an egg yolk, combining the other half of the yolk with the white to scramble for breakfast. Then a dash of salt and enough seltzer water to make a light batter. Then I added a tablespoon of Mano Y Metate Adobo powder.

I sliced an onion, but many other veggies could go into the same batter.

Through the batter went the rings…

…and into hot oil!

When the vigorous bubbling subsides, they are ready to flip. When golden on both sides, they are done. I skimmed the stray bits of batter and sprinkled over a crispy lettuce and radish salad.

Draining the rings on a wire cooling rack prevents any condensation they might get resting on paper towels, and the whole tray can go into a warm oven for holding.

For additional zip, I sprinkled with extra salt and Adobo powder. Eat as soon as they are cool enough to bite!

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

Peeling Potatoes for Propagation and Provender

It’s happening in favorite grocery stores and pantries around Baja Arizona.  Potatoes are awakening!  Some are even turning green with chlorophyll showing in their skins.  They know. Time in the low desert to PLANT POTATOES–soon!!–while the weather is chilly and while we are enjoying fantastic soil moisture.

Yukon Gold potato beginning to sprout, skin turning green… This potato wants to be planted!  But wait–no waste here.  We must always be thinking SUSTAINABILITY, right?

Tia Marta here to share a neat trick taught to me by ace heirloom gardener Tom Swain.  Planting potatoes doesn’t have to be a big deal, not expensive nor time-consuming, nor does it require special “seed potatoes,”  no sacrificing luscious chunks of whole potatoes that you would rather eat.  With planting potatoes you can “have your potato cake and eat it too!”

Place potato peelings in a flat dish like this shallow plastic tub. Rinse and drain 1-2 times per day until little rootlets sprout out from under the tiny green leaf sprouts at the “eye.”

These active Yukon Gold peelings sprouted fast and are ready to plant in the garden!

The simple trick is to peel your potatoes to include an “eye” in each peel, the anatomical “action spots” where new life can generate (not hard to find eyes). Knife-peeling may work better for this than with a potato-peeler.  Compost the bad-looking peelings but save the healthy ones to a flat-bottom dish.  Keep the peelings fresh and damp to sprout by rinsing and draining daily, leaving a little water around them, until you have time to dig a garden trench for planting.

Potato plants (Solanum tuberosum) store their life-energy in starchy nodules–potatoes– that form at the tips of modified underground stems or rhizomes.  Green potato skins happen when potatoes are exposed to light–so store potatoes in a dark place.  Avoid eating any green skins of potatoes as they are very bitter and may become toxic.  Better to use green peelings for planting.

Planting my sprouted potato peels — Potato gardening in the desert is different from wetter or temperate regions where plants must be mounded up.  In deserts start them deep:  Dig a trench in good garden soil about a spade depth and place sprouted peels at the bottom…..

Close-up view of potato peels set at bottom of garden “trench”

As I began covering the potato peels on damp garden soil, worms came out to see what the action was. They will assist keeping the soil turned and loosened as I continue to bury the young growth this winter.

Keep a pile of good garden soil at the ready.  As your young plants emerge from the soil, gradually, gently, keep burying them, or top-dressing them with compost, over their days and weeks of growth to encourage the underground stems to continuously elongate, thereby adding space for more and more potatoes to form. Try never to let a little potato get exposed to the sun.  As your plants grow, and as you cover them, your trench will fill, then hopefully it will even become a linear mound full of small potatoes by late spring.  Don’t forget to water regularly as rains diminish.  They need cold or cool weather for best growth, so get them into the ground by end of January at the latest.  You could start them as soon as November’s cool weather sets in.  Plan ahead to protect your potatoes from excavating ground squirrels, rock squirrels or packrats.

 

Having our “taters and eating them too”– I’m making garlic-parsley-scalloped potatoes with red potatoes I peeled for planting.

Tia Marta’s Scalloped Potatoes Recipe with variations

Into a pyrex dish, slice 6-8 partly peeled potatoes (Skins are nutritious!).  Add 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese, 1+ tsp sea salt, garlic powder and/or black pepper to taste, and milk (soy or rice milk OK) 1-2cups to barely cover potatoes.  As additional seasoning options add 2 Tbsp Mano y Metate Mole mix, 1 Tbsp parsley, and/or 1 tsp paprika. Mix, Cover and Bake at 325 F for ca.45 minutes until all ingredients are happily melded.  [For solar-oven cooking use dark saucepan and dark lid.]. Don’t burn your tongue when you serve them piping hot–and do enjoy the fruits of your potato-labors!

No waste here… I’m using partly-peeled-for-planting red spuds in this delicious variation on scalloped potatoes–seasoned with Mano y Metate’s yummy Mole Verde!  (available at NativeSeedsSEARCH  and many specialty markets in Tucson, online at http://www.manoymetate.com)

 

Organic new red potatoes ready to peel for sprouting AND for cooking–  Now go for it–don’t waste those peelings!!  Make them work for you.  All it takes is a little bit of garden space and you will have new potatoes for potato salad by next summer.  Happy peeling and planting!

Tia Marta is an artist, ethnobotanist, and teacher about Baja Arizona’s gastronomic history and prehistory.  Her heirloom foods and/or “foodie” notecards can be found at NativeSeedsSEARCH, Tohono Chul Park, the Presidio Museum, Old Town Artisans, Arizona State Museum on UA Campus, Tucson Museum of Art, the UNICEF Store, and online at www.flordemayoarts.com.  Catch one of her Native Foods workshops at Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace’s Mission Garden, or join her downtown Gastronomy Tour at Tucson Presidio.  Coming up soon!–Join us to view her traditional foods artwork at the ArtTrails Open Studio Tour on Tucson’s West Side, Saturday and Sunday February 2-3, 10am-4pm both days.  For directions see the centerfold in Zocalo, the Desert Leaf calendar, or go to www.ArtTrails.org.  See you there!

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Refugees Glean Citrus Abundance

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Citrus season in Southern Arizona.

It’s high citrus season in the desert Southwest. Oranges and grapefruits and lemons, oh my! Many people in Tucson have trees that produce so abundantly that they can’t use it all and even have trouble giving it all away. (Witness bags of grapefruits in break rooms all over town).  There’s an answer to finding good homes for all the citrus.

It’s Carolyn today, here to tell you about a wonderful local organization. Iskashitaa Refugee Network is a volunteer group of locals and refuges who have been settled here who go out to homes and farms where they have been invited to harvest extra produce. Barbara Eiswerth founded Iskashitaa in 2003 as a way to not only help acclimate United Nations refugees who had been resettled in Tucson, but also to find a way to rescue and make use of some of the unharvested and unused fruit that goes to waste in Tucson.  The first group Eiswerth worked with was from Somalia. The warm comradery the women developed led to the name of the group. Iskashitaa means “working cooperatively together” in a Bantu language spoken in Somalia.

Gleaning has a centuries old history. The Economist recently ran a fascinating article on gleaning in Europe and described it as harvesting “the good and usable fruit of human activity; they have not been discarded, merely overlooked, or thought not worth bothering with.” The article is worth a look.

Harvesting citrus

The Bible advises landowners to support gleaners. In Deuteronomy, a sheaf forgotten in the field was to be left “for the stranger, for the fatherless and the widow”; and “When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again.”

Each year 800 to 1200 refugees from more than twenty countries are resettled in Tucson, all of them forced by conflict to start a new life in the United States. Many of them were farmers in their native land. They understand plants, and they also have heritage recipes for cooking and preserving desert foods, many of which grew in their homelands.

Refugees harvest oranges from a tree a homeowner planted 40 years ago. There is more than he can use, so he called Iskashitaa.

The volunteers harvest a cumulative 100,000 pounds of vegetables and fruits including grapefruits, oranges, pomegranates, dates, mesquite pods, even desert berries—ninety different food items—all of which would have been discarded without their attention. “And still, it’s only the tip of the iceberg” Einsworth says

“U.N. refugees are challenged to become part of the society,” Eiswerth says. “Working with our American volunteers, they get to practice their English, develop job skills, and begin to feel part of the community.” It’s not only work, it’s a support network using the universal language of food. And it doesn’t go just one way. The refugees teach the Americans new and delicious ways to cook familiar desert foods. There make citrus jams, pickled garlic, date vinegar, and powered fruit seasonings. The products are available at Iskashitaa headquarters at 1406 E. Grant Road and at food fairs.

Some of the products produced by the volunteers and refugees.

Frequently, there is more food harvested than the refugee gleaners can use themselves. In that case, the extra produce is donated to other refugee families, the Community Food Bank, schools, and soup kitchens. With one in four Tucsonans suffering from food insecurity, the food always finds a welcome home.

Eiswerth sees this as a double positive. “The work is an opportunity for refugees to give back to the people of Tucson while also providing for their families,” she says.

Date Vinegar Salad Dressing

When there is lettuce in my garden in the winter, we have salad for lunch every day. When I add apples or pears to the lettuce (instead of tomatoes), I like to use a citrus dressing. This uses Iskashitaa’s wonderful date vinegar.

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Iskashitaa date vinegar

1/2 teaspoon mustard

juice of one orange

juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Put the olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk in the date vinegar and add the mustard to emulsify. Whisk in the juices and taste. If you want it sweeter, whisk in the honey.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Holiday Brunch: Enchiladas with Sweet Winter Squash and Mole Negro

Merry Christmas from Amy and family! We celebrated with a brunch of enchiladas with Mano Y Metate Mole Negro, filled with sweet winter squash, and served with beans and eggs. Hearty and healthful, to offset the cookies and sweets.

I started with a giant ha:l, a Tohono O’odham sweet orange fleshed winter squash. I got this one from Crooked Sky Farms via Tucson CSA. The safest way to open it is dropping it on the hard floor!

After prying it open, I removed the seeds, carefully removed the thick peel with a big knife, chopped it into bite sized pieces and simmered just until tender in vegetable broth.

Then I made the Mole Negro using a tin of Mano y Metate mole powder, oil and the squash cooking liquid.

Corn tortillas fried in oil until leathery are the backbone of rolled echiladas.

After dipping the tortillas in the mole, I filled with a squash and crumbled queso fresco.

These enchiladas are rolled and baked uncovered at 375 degrees F for maybe 20 minutes, or until heated though and bubbly.

Garnish with cilantro and more queso fresco. Perfect for brunch or any special meal of the day. Happy holidays!

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

Blue Corn Pancakes bedecked for the Holidays

Going local for a holiday breakfast! Gluten-free blue corn pancakes are bedecked with Tucson’s own Cheri’s Desert Harvest mesquite syrup and Coyote Pause’s prickly pear jam. (MABurgess photo)

For the wheat-sensitive, try a delicious gluten-free mix of flours for pancake batter–Navajo blue cornmeal, Bob’s Red Mill amaranth flour and tapioca flour,

First step for holiday pancake batter–Beautiful blue cornmeal mixed with boiling water and raw honey to mix and let corn’s bouquet permeate the air! (see recipe)

 

Tia Marta here to share one of our family’s traditional Christmas brunch favorites….

 

RECIPE–Tia Marta’s Gluten-free Holiday Blue Corn Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 Cup  blue cornmeal (available at NativeSeedsSEARCH)

1 tsp  sea salt

2 generous Tbsp  local raw honey

1 Cup  boiling water

1 large egg

1/3 Cup  milk (or soy or almond milk)

1 Tbsp  avocado oil (or melted butter)

1/4-1/2 Cup  plain non-fat yogurt (or sour cream)

1/2 Cup  total gluten-free flour mix (I use 1/4 C amaranth flour plus 1/4 C tapioca flour)

1 Tbsp  baking powder

Directions:  Measure blue cornmeal, sea salt, and honey into a bowl.  Stir in boiling water until honey is melted, and let mixture stand 5-10 minutes.  Meanwhile in a separate bowl beat together egg, milk and oil, then add to the cornmeal mixture.  Sift flour and baking powder together, then add flour mixture into the batter with a few strokes.  Stir enough yogurt into batter to desired liquidity.  Place batter on hot, greased skillet in 1/4-1/2 cup dollops.  Turn when bubbles in the batter begin to stay open (as shown in photo.)

Don’t wait! Serve hot bluecorn pancakes right away.  Have your toppings (found locally or home-made from desert cactus fruits or mesquite pods) on the table ready for guests to custom-decorate each pancake stack.  Then taste the joy and nutrition of farm and wild desert bounty!

After mixing wet ingredients, quick-beat in your gluten-free flour….

Pancakes on the hot griddle are getting done through and ready to turn when batter bubbles begin to stay open….

As Rod was helping me in the kitchen by whipping the cream he splashed a little libation into one batch.  I must admit the Kahlua cafe liqueur gives the whipped cream a festive kick.  For the hard-core among us we might go so far as lacing another batch of whipped cream with a crushed chiltepin pepper.

 

Home-made saguaro syrup tops whipped cream made with Kahlua liqueur on these blue corn pancakes.  Is this gilding the lily or what?    (Making saguaro syrup is another story, so stay tuned for next June’s blog.)

You can find fabulous local raw honey and precious saguaro syrup at San Xavier Farm Coop at 8100 S. Oidag Wog on the Tohono O’odham Nation near San Xavier Mission.  Honey from Fred Terry the Singing Beekeeper at Sunday’s Rillito Farmers Market is also superb, as is our SavorSister Monica King’s honey.   Native American-grown blue cornmeal is available at the NativeSeedsSEARCH store, 3061 N.Campbell Ave, Tucson, or online at www.nativeseeds.org (the perfect place for holiday shopping!)  Cheri’s Desert Harvest products (like her mesquite syrup in photo) are there at the NSS store and at several specialty shops in Arizona.  Great local foods–such as home-made prickly pear jam–are a part of the delectable menu at Coyote Pause Cafe near Tucson Estates.

Try topping your blue corn pancakes with whipped cream and fruit–Here I’ve used home-canned apricots purchased in the charming town of Bacoachi, Sonora (south of Cananea), on a recent Mission Garden tour. (MABurgess photo)

Dress up a holiday breakfast to delight the eye and tastebuds–fit for all at your table–with nutritious, LOCALLY-sourced Southwest gluten-free pancakes!   Ideas offered with cheers and holiday blessings from Tia Marta!

[Tia Marta is an Ethnobotanist and Artist dba Flor de Mayo Arts.  Many of her Southwestern heirloom bean and wheat-berry products, as well as her beautiful canvas art-totes, notecards and prints, are available at the NativeSeedsSEARCH store, at Tohono Chul Park Museum Shop, the UNICEF Store in Monterrey Village, Presidio Museum and Old Town Artisans in OldTown Tucson.  Hear her in person as lecturer/guide at several upcoming City of Gastronomy Tours in January-April 2019 sponsored by Tucson Presidio Museum.]

 

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

Pear and Arugula Salad

Happy Holidays and Happy National Pear Month! Jacqueline Soule here this first Friday of the month here to help you celebrate #PearMonth.

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Tis’ the season where there are pot lucks and holiday parties galore. Celebrate with this light, easy, and refreshing salad to take to a party or maybe just enjoy and home in the evening after over-indulging at lunch.

Pear and Arugula Salad

First of all, when it comes to traditional pear and cheese pairings – I skip the whole blue cheese (or Gorgonzola) thing. Some nice crumbly Sonoran white cheese for me – or maybe Feta if I have to.

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Second, the sweet juiciness of pears pairs nicely with a tangy salad green like arugula or maybe mizuna if you are growing some.

Third, to my mouth, a soft fruit is complimented nicely with the crunch of a nut. I often use pecans because they are a local nut, but walnuts work well too.

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Ingredients

5 to 6 cups tangy greens, like arugula, mizuna, spinach if you have to

2 pears – fresh or canned, slice thinly.
If fresh, squeeze some lemon juice over them to keep them from browning.

8 ounces soft crumbly cheese

1/2 cup toasted nuts, lightly crumbled

Dressing
olive or avocado oil
balsalmic vinegar
touch of salt if desired

Combine greens, pears and nuts in a bowl. Dress the salad, Top salad with cheese crumbles.

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Add some pickled beets too for color and taste!

JAS avatarWant to learn more? Like how to grow pears, arugula, and mizuna? 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 Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23) – a book that includes how to grow all of these plants.  Note – that link to my book will take you to Amazon and I will get a few pennies if you buy my book.  You can also go to Antigone Book Store on 4th Ave.
© 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, Gardening | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Spiced Pecans

Jacqueline Soule here today with a flavorful treat for the holidays – or anytime.

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Different varieties of pecans have different colors, flavors, and plumpness.

We harvested and shelled the new crop of pecans, I went to tuck them away and found a jar from 2017.  While not “bad” exactly, they were no where near as flavorful and succulent as the 2018 crop.  Like all foods, over time flavor is lost.  Some people say this is because the life force (chi) is going out of the product.  If you purchase your nuts in the store, they warn you about this, and recommend refrigeration.

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So what to do with these older pecans? My holiday favorite – spiced pecans.  The recipe came to me from a fellow Horticulture Therapy docent at Tucson Botanical Garden, Lucy Weber.  They are incredibly easy to make, and way too easy to eat! I make them in the microwave.

Ingredients
2 cups nuts
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons chili powder (your choice of how hot a variety to use)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of clove powder
2 teaspoons white sugar
½ teaspoon coarse salt

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1) Melt the butter in a broad, flat microwave dish, like a glass pie plate.

2) Add the nuts and stir to coat well with butter.

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3) Sprinkle on the chili powder, cinnamon, and pinch of clove, and stir to coat all nuts evenly.

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4) Microwave on high for 1 minute, remove, stir. Repeat once. What you are doing here is toasting the nuts. Depending on your microwave, and your nuts, 2 minutes might be enough, but you might need 2 and ½ minutes, or even 3. Keep your nose tuned, and if you smell scorching, stop! Tip them out of that hot dish ASAP to cool them quickly and stop the cooking.

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Discard any burned nuts. Lessen cooking time on your next batch.

5) When you remove the nuts from the microwave, sprinkle with white sugar and coarse salt and stir in.

6) Cool before storing.

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Use our “search” bar to find other ways of using pecans, like Amy’s Mole Pecan Crackers and Goat Cheese!

 

 

JAS avatarVisit my gardening website to learn how to grow pecans, or 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), a book that includes pecan varieties for our area. Note: the book link is an Amazon affiliate link and will take you there.  We will get a few pennies for your purchase.
© 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: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Southwest Food | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Thank a Farmer…for Garlic!

So far this month we’ve been talking about diabetes, but November is also Thank a Farmer Month.  My own garden has been very slow to come in this year and if not for farmers, I’d been eating mesquite and dried prickly pear. It’s Carolyn today and we’re going to focus on a small local farm in Tucson that specializes in garlic.   Come with me on a field trip.

Donald and Cristina Breckenfeld at their farm stand at the Santa Cruz Farmers Market.

November is garlic planting time at the Breckenfeld Family Growers farm. That’s Donald and Crystina Breckenfeld and they grow twelve different varieties of garlic.

Why twelve? “Some are sharp and hot, some come on slow and stay with you, others come on sharp and go quickly,” Donald Breckenfeld, the farmer explains. There’s a mild French garlic with a floral flavor, two Italian varieties with a buttery taste, and one out of Sonora with a peppery under taste. The garlic will grow all winter and be harvested in May.

Two kinds of garlic including a red heritage variety on the right.

Donald Breckenfeld also grows a dozen different kinds of peppers, four different varieties of kale and three kinds of beets including yellow beets. “I want people to see that there are other kinds of vegetables with better taste,” he says. Especially popular are their no-heat jalapenos.

Crystina keeps all the planting records, makes sure the crops are rotated in the fields, and starts all the tomato and chile plants from seed.

Customers at their stand at the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Market here in Tucson get an education along with their vegetables as both are willing to explain in detail the advantages of each vegetable. “It’s the teacher in both of us,” Donald says.

The Breckenfeld’s one and a quarter acre farm south of Irvington on Tucson’s southside  is in the ancestral floodplain of the Santa Cruz River, a back slough where water came in with sediment adding lots of organic carbon. The soil is rich enough that a casually discarded nectarine seed grew into a twelve-foot tree with little attention. A chiltipin seed dropped by a bird has grown six feet high and taken over the grape arbor.

As a retired University of Arizona soil scientist, Donald pays a great deal of attention to what’s going on underneath his plants. He rotates his small fields keeping one-third to one-half acre in production at a time.  He rototills the fallow plots, turning under the remains of whatever he was growing, letting it compost naturally in the ground.

Donald picks up a handful of the rich deep brown soil in a fallowed field and point out a tiny white speck about half the size of a grain of rice. “That’s the mycorrhizae,” he says.  Later he explains that the fungus helps by breaking down the organic matter in the soil, setting up a symbiotic relationship between the bioactivity and the plants’ roots.

Look closely at the tiny white strand between Donald’s fingers. That is the mycorrhizae that signals healthy soil.

“You know that sweet smell some soil has?” Donald asks. “That’s the bioactivity.”

Along with most other Tucson farmers now and in the past, Donald wishes he had more water. He supplements his 1800-gallon rain-collection tanks with city water and plans to add more tanks.

“I use a lot of techniques in order to conserve water,” he explains. “I plant the vegetables close together so they shade the ground. I’m also really careful not to over-irrigate. I try to have a twenty-four- to thirty-inch wetting profile in the soil so when the roots get down, they have something to tap into.”

A quick search of the Internet shows that garlic is considered to be effective against everything from brain tumors and high cholesterol to athlete’s foot. But every research project from institutions in China to the USA, suggest that to get medicinal benefits from garlic, you have to eat it raw as even short-term heating reduces its anti-inflammatory effect.

The smaller the pieces of garlic you use, the more pungent the flavor. The garlic press has elicited many opinions from food writers (good, bad, you’ll burn in hell if you use one) but no less an expert than Bon Appetit has said it’s a good and helpful utensil.

Using a garlic press to crush the garlic cloves. With newer presses, you don’t even need to peel the garlic.

So here is Crystina Breckenfeld’s great recipe for garlic dip using raw garlic. Because I always fiddle with recipes I couldn’t resist add some fresh thyme and oregano from my garden. For an even heavier garlic punch, you could add a few garlic chives. Jacqueline writes about those here. 

Crystina’s Garlic Dip

Best Garlic Dip Ever

16 ounces of unflavored Greek yogurt

5 to 7 garlic cloves (or to taste )

Salt and pepper to taste.

Press (do not chop) the cloves into the yogurt and mix well. Add salt and pepper. Place mixture in a covered container and refrigerate for about an hour and a half. Mixture can be for vegetables, chips, or as a topping on baked potatoes. It will last if refrigerated for about a week. You may substitute sour cream, cream cheese, or lebna.

What a great way to deliciously consume healthy raw garlic.

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Carolyn Niethammer has spent five decades writing about the food of Southern Arizona and the Greater Southwest. See her books at http://www.cniethammer.com. Buy them at the Native Seeds/SEARCH retail store at 3061 North Campbell in Tucson or through their on-line store here.   She is currently at work on a book on Tucson: UNESCO City of Gastronomy and is visiting many of the small farms ringing Tucson.

 

 

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