Barrel Cactus Seeds Make Irresistible Appetizers

♦Want more information on wild food and herbs in a live situation? Carolyn and Jacqueline will be speaking and demonstrating on March 25 at 1 p.m. at Singing Winds Bookstore in Benson for an Organic Food Fiesta. What’s more organic that a prickly pear or barrel cactus fruit direct from the wild? Join us. There will be tastings. Now, on to today’s post.♦

It’s Carolyn today bringing you a simple recipe to help you shine in a social situation. We’ve all had the experience of  politely asking what you can bring when invited to a dinner party. “How about an appetizer?” the hostess (or host) suggests. Oh oh, now what? We know the perfect appetizer should be both delicious and amusing. Chips and dip? Way too trite. A vegetable tray? Healthy, but nobody eats them.

These Wild Seed Cheese Appetizers are the perfect solution.  They are a good conversation starter and you can star as a savvy wild-food expert. The appetizers come together very quickly if you already have a stash of seeds; not too bad even if you have to hunt up some barrel cactus fruit.  Barrel cactus are one of the easiest wild foods to gather: they are usually about knee-level, the plants have vicious thorns but the fruit is free of spines, and as Savor Sister Jacqueline told us in an earlier Savor post, they can bloom up to three times a year, making ample fruit available.  If you happen to have some saguaro seeds, they will work as well. And like all seeds, they bring great nutrition. After all, in that tiny package they contain all the nutrition necessary for starting another whole plant.

This is what you are looking for is a cactus that looks like the one in the top photo. No need to use tongs to gather. When you get home, first wash the fruit and cut each in half and this is what you’ll see:

Halved barrel cactus seeds showing the nutritious seeds.

You can dry the seeds in the fruit or scoop them out and spread them on a cookie sheet.  If you are trying to rush the process, toast them for a few minutes in a dry frying pan. When dry, the seeds will have a little white material. Shake the seeds in a bowl and the white matter will rise to the top and you can blow it off.  If you are including the seeds in something like cake or muffins, just ignore the white and it will disappear into the batter.  You can find a recipe for gluten-free cake using barrel cactus seeds here.

The appetizer recipe is basically a cheese-butter-flour mixture most easily made in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can combine the ingredients with a heavy spoon and some elbow grease. Chile powder adds a delicious zip to the cheese balls.  I used chipotle powder,  but you can use chiltepine or another flavoring of your choice.

Now here’s a use for that melon-baller that’s been bouncing around in your drawer unused for years.  Using it to scoop up the dough made perfect sized appetizers.

Scoop out small balls of cheese dough with a melon-baller. I you don’t  have one, use a spoon and roll dough into balls.

Put about a half cup of seeds in a small dish and press each ball of cheese dough into the seeds. Then line them up on a cookie sheet to bake.

Appetizers ready to go in the oven.

And the finished appetizers, ready to serve.

A plate of cheese appetizers topped with crunchy and nutritious barrel cactus seeds.

There is a necessary warning before I go further. These little devils are so delicious you will be tempted to just take a bottle of wine to the party and keep these at home, all for yourself. Rich, spicy. So yum.  Here’s the recipe:

Cactus Seed Cheese Appetizers

½ pound shredded cheddar cheese

½  pound (2 sticks) soft butter

2 ½ cups flour (can use part whole wheat or non-wheat flour)

1 teaspoon salt

½ to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder or cayenne

¼ cup barrel cactus or saguaro seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients except the seeds. This is most easily done in a food processor, but can also be done with a heavy spoon and some elbow grease. Roll small balls using a melon-baller if you have one. Put seeds in a shallow bowl. Press each cheese ball into the seeds deeply enough so that they adhere. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 350 degrees F. for 13-15 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.


Carolyn Niethammer writes cookbooks showcasing the use of edible wild plants of the arid Southwest. They include The Prickly Pear Cookbook, Cooking the Wild Southwest, and American Indian Cooking, Recipes from the Southwest. You can buy them through Native Seeds/SEARCH, Amazon, or ask your independent bookstore to order them for you.



Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Cordial Tribute to Time Itself–Valentine’s Dessert Toasts

Time–to be exact, good timing, plus duration and patience–are necessary ingredients in making most good dishes.  All of these are enlisted in creating festive cordials. Here, a native fan palm cordial made with tiny wild dates (in bowl), harvested & put up in the fall…after months later… produced a luscious cordial for a sweet Valentine surprise.  Time to celebrate! (MABurgess photo)

Let’s tip a toast to Father Time who allows magic to be wrought upon our local desert fruits.  The joyous results of his temporal magic can be festive and delightful cordials.  With a little industry, when our desert fruits are ripe in late summer or fall, there can be heartwarming dessert drinks to help celebrate chilly winter evenings–and especially fine for your favorite Valentine.

Tia Marta here, with an additional toast, this one to the father of Slow Knowledge, agricultural philosopher/author Wendell Berry.  His “slow knowledge”–yea wisdom–comes with growing one’s own food (or wild-harvesting), watching the near-imperceptable progress played by Nature and Father Time on leafing, flowering, fruiting, fermentation, decay of individual plants, small or tall, in garden, farm, wild desert, forest.  Being present is a key to “slow knowledge,” something sorely missed if one is always absorbed in a device.  Lack of slow knowledge may lead to atrophy of human brain neurons. There is evidence that practicing slow knowledge, being out in Nature, in fact enhances brain function and development, broadens associative thinking, deductive and inductive reasoning, adds serenity, promotes compassion….Hey what’s not to like about it?

We had left our Meyer lemons on the tree past the holidays to fully sweeten up. When frost was predicted, we quick-harvested 52 giant juicy fruits from one little tree! (MABurgess photo)

Meyer lemon does well in a low desert garden. It’s juice is so sweet and even its thin rind is edible!  All parts of Meyer lemon are used in creating limoncello.  Juice and thinly sliced rind all go into the mix to mull. (MABurgess photo)

Time and tequila produced the finest limoncello ever with Meyer lemon!  (MABurgess photo)

I’d like to share four of my favorite ways–four cordials– to celebrate time, with fruits that our Southwest gardens, orchards, and even prickly desert can supply in plenty:  1) Native fan palm “Desert Oasis Cordial” depicted above made with the seedy dates of our ubiquitous Washingtonia filifera (Read more by searching Jan.20, 2015’s post in this blog archive), 2) special Meyer Limoncello, 3) Prickly Pear Cordial, and 4) Colorado Cherry Cordial.  They are really so easy to make with speedy prep-time– a good investment in one’s spare minutes when there is a bumper crop of fruits shouting for attention.

General Cordial Instructions:  In order for all four cordials to “make,” i.e. to sit and mull, you will need a sanitized sealable crock or large canning jar.  Wash and cut your fruits (no need to cut the teensy native palm dates), measure equal quantities of:

a) fruit,

b) spirits (I use good 100% agave tequila or mescal, but vodka also works fine), and

c) a natural sweetener (I use agave nectar but my mother used sugar successfully).

Pack fruit into jars, add sweetener, cover with spirits, seal, and set aside in a cool, dark place for as many weeks or months as possible, checking periodically for progress or problems.

After mulling for months in tequila, the halved prickly pear tunas have lost their bright purple color but have lost none of their great flavor! Mash to free up their juices.

Decant by filtering prickly pear fruit&juice mix, separating fruit, seed, and remaining spines using a masher and coffee filter set in a funnel over a bowl or measuring cup to capture the precious cordial.

Several folded layers of cheesecloth set in a funnel can be used in decanting the prickly pear cordial.

Essentially, with the help of Time, you are making a sweet herbal tincture. Decanting is the next step.  Remember those gorgeous rosey red prickly pear tunas gathered carefully in August?  (Yes, planning ahead is paramount.  Put it on your calendar now for next August.)  At harvest, I washed and removed as many spines as possible, cut them in half, and set them in the canning jar, seeds and all, with the other ingredients.  Now at decanting time I must make sure to filter out all solid parts to clarify the cordial.  Coffee filters or layered cheesecloth resting in a funnel over your catcher-cup or bottle will work perfectly.  After filtering, store your cordial in glass indefinitely–to enjoy on special occasions.

Prickly Pear Cordial sits next to its drought-stressed provider, Engelmann’s prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii) the winter after a grand August harvest. What gifts these plants provide!  Given rain, they bounce back to give more next year.  (MABurgess)

Colorado Cherry Cordial with delicious “marinated” cherries to be used for topping on ice cream. (MABurgess photo)

You can view native fan palms on the University of Arizona campus, lemon trees at the Tucson Botanical Garden, and Engelmann’s prickly pear close up at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and at Tucson’s Mission Garden.  Find more traditional foods at and  And watch for upcoming City of Gastronomy tours in Tucson beginning in March at Tucson’s Presidio Museum–Stay tuned at

Now a cordial toast to you, dear Savor Blog Follower!  May you delight in these spirited fruits of the desert and delight in the time they take to bring us this cheer!

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Libations, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


In a few short days it will be February – and it can be a dreary month, often rainy and cold, even in southern Arizona. All hearts need some easing in this upcoming shortest of months. Luckily, here in southern Arizona, February is the month we can easily grow one of the most hearteasing and cheerful flowers on the face of the earth. Heartease is the common name for Viola tricolor, best known as one of the mothers of the pansy. The simple beauty and delightfully friendly tricolored faces of heartease, pansies, and violets have long been admired by poets, artists, lovers, and cooks!

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Pansies and violets have a long history of human consumption. The flowers, fresh or candied, were a favorite edible decoration at medieval banquets. Tarts made from pansies or violets were a Victorian delicacy.

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Top a custard tart with berries and heartease.

Heartease flowers can be used to flavor and color salads, herbal butters, jams, jellies, syrups, desserts, herbal vinegars, and even wines. Studies indicate that flowers contain appreciable amounts of vitamins A and C, so along with adding color to the salad they are healthy for you.

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All of these are high in Vitamin C.

Ethnomedicinally, pansies and violets have been used to treat health problems ranging from epilepsy to depression. A tea made from the leaves was prescribed for quelling anger and inducing sleep. Roman revelers wore wreaths of violets in hopes of preventing hangovers.

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Smoked salmon salad with purple pansies – colorful and yummy.


Heartease, pansies and violets grow well in Tucson from seed sown in October. At this time of year it is best to buy “seedlings” or already growing plants. Replant seedlings into the ground or containers in partial to full sun, and keep these temperate climate plants watered.

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Tiny Viola odorata is incredibly fragrant and grows well in our area.

I like planting pansies and violets in containers with potting soil for three reasons. First, Viola do best in rich, moist soil with good drainage. Second, I put the containers up on a table with metal legs so the critters can’t climb up and eat my plants. Third, these charmers are up where I can easily see them and enjoy their beauty. Harvest them too, when I’m making a dinner salad.

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Yogurt with chia, berries, and hearease. A great way to start the day.

Ornamental plants from “big box” nurseries are very often treated with toxic insecticides and fungicides (biocides) that are systemic (throughout all plant tissues) and stay in the plants for around three months. Herbs and vegetable plants from a nursery are not treated with systemic biocides because they are edibles.


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: Cooking, edible flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, Kino herb, medicinal plant | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Celebrate Seasons

Jacqueline Soule here, busy in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, getting baskets of garden goodies ready for gifting.  Many of the topics we Savor Sister have discussed over the years are finding their way into those baskets.

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Some of the topics I featured in the last twelve months that are great for gifts:
* lemon cordial – December 2016
* pomegranate (made into jelly) – January 2017
* seeds (some used as herbs) – March 2017
* lemon pickle – April 2017
* turmeric root (chopped and dried) – June 2017
* sunflower (dried heads for friends with birds) July 2017


All of these gifts from your Southwest garden require planning ahead.  Harvesting, drying, preserving the bounty of the earth takes time and effort at the time that the bounty is offered.  Sharing the bounty is – in so many ways – the entire point of this season, no matter what religion or non-religion you embrace.

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As the solar year cycles through, the days get shorter and shorter, the darkness of night gets longer and deeper, until, on one specific day, the days start getting longer again, and darkness decreases.  We humans now living with artificial light may miss the point of just how tremendous this turning back the dark is.


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To celebrate this season of renewed light we give gifts that were generated by light! Solar light that is – light that shines down on the earth, ripening the grain so we can make flour, ripening the cane so we can make sugar, growing the trees for cinnamon and cloves, causing the flowers that grow into vanilla beans, and then we combine them in many tasty ways.

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We would not be here, nor have any gifts to give, without the bounty of the earth and sun.  Even if you give gifts made of plastic and metal, the plastic comes originally from plants, and metal came up out of the earth.  Points to ponder as the sun cycle continues and the days grow longer once again.

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However you celebrate the season, I wish you joy and peace and bounty in the year ahead.

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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 may not be used.  Some photos in this post are courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, Sonoran herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sweet New Ideas for the honorable old Sweet-lime

Surprisingly aromatic and gracefully sweet despite its continued green, the heirloom Mexican Sweet Lime is ready to harvest at Mission Garden. This ancient and honorable citrus was brought to Tucson by the Padres and is a proven producer in our desert kitchen-gardens and orchards. Note the characteristic “nipple” on the base of the fruit which distinguishes it from other citrus.  (photos by MABurgess)

Boughs are hanging heavy with fruit in the Mission Garden’s living history orchard at the foot of A-Mountain!  With chilly nights at last descending upon us, it is time for all of us in low desert country to harvest citrus for the holidays.  The heirloom SWEET-LIME, brought by Father Kino to the Pimeria Alta more than 3 centuries ago, is a living, lasting gift to us, conserved and propagated now by ethnobotanist Jesus Garcia of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Kino Mission Fruit-tree Project.

Citrus time again in Baja Arizona! I’ve harvested Meyer Lemon, Mexican lime, and tangerine from my trees, and I hope to buy an heirloom sweet-lime from Mission Garden to plant in mi huertita–my mini-orchard.

Tia Marta here, wanting so much to share this amazinging sweet-lime with you–and doggone technology has not caught up with my wish to have you just scratch and sniff it right now!  (When will techno-dudes ever perfect the digital transmission of olfactory joys?).   For the time being you will just have to visit the Community Food Bank booth at Thursday’s Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market, or come in person to visit the Mission Garden any Saturday 10am-2pm (within the adobe wall off S.Grande Ave.  See for directions.)

Mexican sweet-limes –sliced and ready to eat– There is NO puckering up with THESE limes; their gentle sweetness and bouquet will thrill your tastebuds! (And note gladly: the seeds are small and few.)

It’s easy to juice sweet-limes in a manual squeezer.

Ideas for sweet-lime juice:  Amazing what baby-boomers are getting rid of these days.  I found a manual juicer at a yard sale which is perfect for citrus halves and even for sections of pomegranate.

With sweet-lime juice you can wax creative.  For a festive punch, try it mixed with prickly pear juice that you have saved frozen from your August harvest.  Or, for more colorful punches, mix sweet-lime juice with grenadine, or your home-squoze pomegranate juice, or jamaica tea.  It also tastes great with mango.  Another admired Tucson ethnobotanist, Dr Letitia McCune, ( is an expert in cherry nutrition so of course I had to try sweet-lime with tart cherry.  Yum!

Sweet-lime juice and tart cherry punch–a glass full of flavor and colorful cheer for the holidays!

Here are more ideas for sliced or diced sweet-lime fruit:

Sweet-lime, sweet sliced tomato, and rosemary Garni, topped with pine nuts and drizzled with olive oil.

Peeled and diced sweet-lime fruit makes an incomparable aromatic addition to a fruit salad. Here sweet-lime chunks are tossed with sliced red grapes and bananas, dressed with chia seed and agave nectar.

No need to throw away these fragrant sweet-lime rinds! Everything has a use.

Crytallized sweet-lime and tangerine rinds make a marvelous home-made holiday candy.

SWEET-LIME CANDY RECIPE:  For a simple-to-make holiday treat of sweet-lime and other citrus rinds, boil sweet-lime rinds for 5-10 minutes to denature some bitter oils, drain completely, add equivalent amount of organic sugar (i.e. if you have 2 cups of sliced rinds then add 2 cups of sugar).  Do not add ANY liquid.  In saucepan, cook on medium heat until a thick syrup forms (at the hard-ball stage).  With tongs, remove each syrup-coated slice and place to dry and harden on a cookie sheet or waxed paper.  Each will crystallize into a crunchy piece of aromatic candy to excite both the youthful and mature palette.

AN EVEN BETTER SERVING SUGGESTION:  (Ah-hah!–You have already thought of this!)  “Enhance” your punch into a fabulous SWEET-LIME MARGARITA by adding a jigger of your favorite local Bacanora, Sotol or mescal spirits to your sweet-lime punch.  Then pow!!–taste that “nutrition”!  If you happen to add prickly pear juice, you even have a built-in hangover helper.  Happiest holiday wishes to all!  Wassail wassail as we hail the heirlooms!

(All photos by the author, copyright 2017)

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

Wild Satisfaction: A Simple Sandia (Watermelon)-Pomegranate Margarita; (and for the Intrepid Sipper, Chiltepin)



Savor Sister Linda here on this beautiful, lightly drizzling, evening in the Old Pueblo. It is nearly time for the Wild Chile harvest in the mountains in Sonora. The rains have brought life back to the very parched land. I have to admit that I had begun to loose faith that it would ever rain, even though I am generally friendly with cycles in life and seasons.  It is so hard to watch the land get so dry that even it shows it’s ribs;  and not just the hoofed creatures that depend upon it.  Now,  because of all the reconditioning and regenerating brought by the rains, we’ll soon be harvesting chiltepin.  I’ll be be musing and meandering in this blog about the rare Wild Chiles,  and how they are harvested, dried, and used – and likely about how darned transformative it is to simply be in their midst. Today I am in the mood for something simple and satisfying to kick off the season. I look around my kitchen at the red, ripe fruits of late summer/early fall and have decided to craft an adult beverage. And because I always have chiltepin on hand, I added it to the mix of ingredients as well.

I am not at all sure how smart it is to write after sampling a few versions of this Sandia Margarita, but here goes. This Recipe is for 2 people and served in smallish glasses. It takes about five minutes to prepare.

Combine the follow ingredients:
1 cup fresh watermelon
2 Tablespoons fresh pomegranates
Juice of one fresh lime – or two if you like lime flavor.
1.5 OZ Tequila Silver (this amount is a starter amount – wax and wane as you desire. Use good quality tequila, you’ll feel better in the morning)
1 chiltepin
Blend, and blend it well.  Otherwise you’ll have glumps of sandia/watermelon which is distracting; and the seeds of pomegranate will stick in your teeth. Instead: blend it all until satisfyingly smooth. 
Put into beautiful glass and garnish as you would like. I garnished one glass with just pomegranate seeds. Another with Pomegranate and one crushed chiltepin on top.

Natures Beauty ….



Scoop put one cups worth of watermelon …


…. place watermelon in blender.


Add 2 Tablespoons of pomegranate seeds and juice of one fresh lime.


1.5 Silver Tequila. 



Blend and Garnish as you would like; pomegranate seeds add color and a nice crunch.


Add one crushed chiltepin for a surprisingly satisfying “heat”  that  balances out the cooling property of the watermelon.


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

Fig Pecan Mole Dulce Chutney

Hello, Amy here excited about figs and sweet corn this steamy Tucson summer.

We’ve cooked figs before, and I’m going to make Carolyn’s fig bars next. But normally my preference is for savory food, so today I made a savory, sweet, sour, spicy chutney. I started with gooey ripe black mission figs from my Mom’s tree.

This young fig tree at the community garden is making fruit this year, but with the water harvesting earthworks you can see in the background of this photo, I can’t wait to see what it does next year…

After a rinse, I trimmed the stems from the figs and chopped them. Then I chopped a bit of onion and garlic.

I softened the onion and garlic in butter, then added the figs and a splash of water only as needed to keep it from burning.

Apple cider vinegar and a dash of salt and black pepper wasn’t enough spice, so I added Mole Dulce powder.

Staying indoors in the heat of the day, I’ve been organizing my pantry, removing the stems from dried herbs and shelling nuts.

A sprinkle of pecans gave the chutney a contrasting texture. (By the way, it is gone by now. No need to process jars.)


Spicy Corn and Tomatoes

I had a few ears of sweet corn and a basket of cherry tomatoes from Tucson CSA/Crooked Sky Farms. First I grilled the shucked ears to give them a toasty flavor and color. On this rainy day, I used a cast iron grill pan on my indoor stove, but it would be better outside, of course. I cut the kernels from the cobs and froze the cobs for making soup stock.

In a frying pan, I sizzled up some cumin seeds in oil, followed by onion and garlic. Corn, halved tomatoes, turmeric, red chile and salt went in the pan and came together quickly over high heat. You can never go wrong with fried corn.

A pork chop in the grill pan completed the meal.

Fig Chutney with Pecans and Mole Dulce

1 cup (packed) chopped ripe figs

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon butter

Dash of salt

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder, available here

2 tablespoons pecans pieces

Soften the onion and garlic in butter. Add the figs and cook until softened, adding a tablespoon of water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt, vinegar and Mole Dulce. Finish with pecans.


Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, heirloom crops, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pucker Up for Pickled Lemons

Jacqueline Soule here, on a lovely spring day, subbing for “Savor Sister” Martha who usually posts the second week of the month.   As I write this some people are celebrating Passover and others are getting ready for Easter Sunday.  Both holidays celebrating renewal and new life.  Very appropriate because the entire Northern Hemisphere is experiencing spring and new life.
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In my garden, the citrus trees are developing tiny young fruit from the fragrant flowers of last month.  The older lemons from last year are all fully ripe and ready for harvest.  I always wait to harvest my lemons at the point when they fall into my hand with the gentlest tug.  Now they are fully flavorful and astonishingly juicy.  Tart, yes, but barely acidic at all.

Since my lemon trees produced prodigiously this year I am working using all these lemons in new and fun ways.  In December 2016 I wrote about making lemony alcoholic drinks, In March 2017 Carolyn wrote about lemon pie.  Time to look at another lemon use – salted lemons.
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Salted lemon, also called lemon pickle, is a condiment common in South Asian and North African cuisine, including Moroccan tagines and Cambodian ngam nguv, a chicken soup.  Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of salt, lemon juice, and water.  Generally spices are included.

Lemon – you can do this with only one lemon, or with many.  Rinse off the lemons.
Salt – use canning, sea or kosher salt, not iodized.
Jars with lids – you can sterilize these, but no one in the rest of the world does so.  Your choice.

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Slice the lemons, making a criss-cross through the center, but not cutting all the way through. Just enough to open them up.  Put lemon in jar and add salt.  Plan on at least a 1/2 cup of salt for a quart jar.  Press the lemons down as you go, packing them in tight. Pressing helps release the juice that helps preserve them.

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Choose if you wish to add spices – or not.  Any combination of dried herbs and spices will do – get creative!  I experimented with coriander seed, cinnamon bark, bay leaf, peppercorn, cloves, cardamom pods and sumac.  If you use fresh herbs, use a full cup of salt per quart jar, to ensure the brine is strong enough to kill botulism bacteria.

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Shake the jar once a day for the first few days to help dissolve salt and get any air bubbles to the surface.  The jar should be at least 3/4 full of juice by day three.  If not, be sure to add liquid – either lemon juice or water.

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I add a layer of plastic wrap between salty mixture and the metal lid to help keep the lid from rusting.

Wait.  Lemons are best allowed to pickle at room temperature for at least a month. Longer is fine.
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Use. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (both zest and pith) that is most valued. The flavor is mildly tart but intensely lemony.  Pieces of lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness.
The lemons may be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish.  Slip some under the skin of a whole chicken for roasting, rub diced over a piece of fish prior to grilling, or coarsely chop and mix in a cold whole grain salad (a twist on taboli).  The rind may be used with or without the pulp.  But don’t throw away the pulp!  The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used.
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Salt.  Use non-iodized salt.  This can be kosher salt, sea salt, or pickling salt.  The iodized salt experiment resulted in harsh flavor and a slippery texture.
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Label.  Always label what you have!  Include the date!  Sharpies write on glass and are easily erased with some rubbing alcohol.
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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 and they may not be used, borrowed, shared, etc.

Categories: Cooking, fruit, Kino herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Savor the Seeds

Savor Sister Jacqueline Soule here this week to discuss seeds.  Seeds to eat and seeds to plant.

March has been a month of seeds for me.  I got out my boxes of seed for spring planting, All American Selections sent me some seed to try, I harvested bags of barrel cactus fruit for the seed, and I spent 2 long days at the Tucson Festival of Books, in the Science of Food tent, handing out samples of gluten-free mesquite muffins, and talking about the Desert Legume Program (DELEP).


Mesquite pods are easy to harvest and grind (with the seeds inside) to make a flour or meal that is a good source of protein.  (recipe below) We were handing out samples to spread the word about DELEP’s mission, which is to acquire and preserve seed of legumes native to the arid and semiarid lands of the world; to learn more about the nature and utility of these unique species; to share legume germplasm; and to aid in the preservation and conservation of desert legume biodiversity.  Volunteers meet once a month, September through May on every 2nd Wednesday from 9 to noon.  The cadre of volunteers assists with seed processing and storage, and we welcome new volunteers!

ferocactus fruit 1107

Barrel cactus seed processing and use were discussed in earlier Savor the Southwest blogs.

seed library

Did you know that there is a Seed Library in the Pima County Public Library?  The Seed Library is a collection of open-pollinated and heirloom seeds that you can borrow from the Library and grow at home (or in a community garden!).  All you do is check the seeds out of the library using your library card.  They would appreciate if you would later share the seed of what you grew, but it isn’t a requirement.  The idea behind this seed bank is that the best seed to grow in our area is the offspring of whatever grew and thrived in our area.

04 seed harvesting 1508572 (c) JASoule one time use only to CSP

Seed of epazote, canagria, and garlic chives.

Save Seed
It is easy to save seed of annuals, wildflower, vegetables, and herbs. The key is to  collect the seed just as it matures and before it starts to drop. You especially want to keep an eye on seed in pods that dry and shatter to disperse seed.

Stalks of Pods – snip off the stalks and invert them into large paper bags. Fold the bags shut. Now when seedpods shatter, the seeds are trapped in the bag for next year’s sowing.

Seedheads – often these seedheads simply break off in your hand. Hold a container below them as you break them off.

For future sowing, you don’t need to clean the seed, although purists like to.  At DELEP we clean seed for long-term storage.  For seeds you use as a herb (like coriander or dill seed), you will need to clean the seed. Kitchen colanders and sieves are useful.

Label your seeds!  Penstemon seed and poppy seed look remarkably similar in a paper bag 2 years later.

04 seed save of penstemon 0800451 (c) JASoule one time use only to CSP

Looking Ahead
In my book Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico I mention that now is the time for USDA zones 10, 9 and 8 gardeners to sow seed of hot-season greens like amaranth, New Zealand spinach, purslane, and Malabar spinach (a perennial vine).  Don’t forget the heat-loving herbs basil, epazote, and perilla. For Zones 7 and 6 gardeners, this is the time to plant cool-season vegetables from seed, like radish, arugula, and European spinach. Plant slow-growing members of carrot family, including parsnip, carrot, fennel, parsley, and dill. In zones 5 and 4, you will plant these in May.

Bailyea multiradiata_4341

Gluten-free Mesquite Muffin
1/8 cup mesquite flour
1/8 cup flax seed meal
1/2 teaspoon alum-free baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sweetening – to taste (stevia, honey, molasses, sugar)
1 teaspoon oil – choice (olive oil, butter, coconut)
1 egg

Use a microwave safe mug or pyrex measuring cup, sprayed with cooking spray.
Mix the dry ingredients.
Add the wet ones, stir well.
Microwave for 1 minute.
Remove from the cooking dish right away.
Note: You can quadruple this recipe and cook it in a loaf pan for a loaf cake (but cook for 3½ minutes).

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: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, heirloom beans, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Kino herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | 1 Comment

Workshops, walks and events celebrate growing, harvesting and preparing desert foods this spring

Happy Spring, Tucson! Amy here to tell you about opportunities to learn about growing and harvesting desert foods in our neighborhoods. Urban desert explorations allow us to track the seasons and harvests…will it be a fruitful year for barrel cactus? An early or late harvest? What desert edible plants are the neighbors using in the landscape? How are the birds and squirrels faring?

Check Desert Haresters or other sponsoring organizations for further dates and topics in each of these series!

Desert Harvesters La Cocina Walks

Tuesdays March 21, April 11, May 23 and June 20, 2017.  201 N Court, north entrance. $5 donation to support Desert Harvesters education programs.

jill crop

Desert Harvesters will lead casual walks from La Cocina through historic El Presidio Neighborhood to identify native perennial food-bearing plants and other edibles. Walks start in spring, and continue monthly thereafter, into the oncoming heat of summer. Desert Harvesters is partnering with LaCo to incorporate native food ingredients into the menu during our Tuesdays-for-Tucson fundraiser nights, including prickly pear, cholla buds, nopalitos, desert herbs, mesquite, and more.

Desert Harvesters is interested in seeing what wild ingredients might be in the LaCo neighborhood that could be sampled, harvested, and potentially used at LaCo. LaCo Walks are scheduled on Tuesday evenings so that after the walk, folks can support both LaCo and the organization that Tuesdays-for-Tucson benefits that evening; a percentage of LaCo’s night is donated to the organization. Desert Harvesters’ Tuesdays-for-Tucson fundraiser at LaCo is May 16—save the date!


photo:Barbara Rose

BRING: Drinking water, sun protection, camera, notebook, and anything else to make you comfortable.

For further information and to sign up, please contact: or



Desert Harvesters and Community Food Bank Series at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market

Mercado San Agustín, 100 S. Avenido del Convento


Cholla Buds
with Desert Harvesters’/Mano Y Metate‘s Amy Valdés Schwemm
Thursday, March 23, 3-6 pm (Saturday hands-on workshop on March 25)
Celebrate one of the first native foods of Spring: cholla-cactus flower buds! Learn how to safely harvest and cook with these calcium-rich, tasty buds. Sample cholla buds with spicy-savory mole sauces.

Spring Bounty! NEW
with Desert Harvesters’/Bean Tree Farm‘s Barbara Rose
Thursday, April 6, 3-6 pm
The desert is abloom at this time, and many plants offer edible flowers and foliage to use in teas, garnish, and as flavoring. See what can be made from these and other desert ingredients like Spring greens and herbs, green palo-verde beans, cholla buds, stored foods, and other seasonal surprises.


with Desert Harvesters’/Mano Y Metate‘s Amy Valdes-Schwemm
Thursday, May 11, 3-6 pm
(Saturday hands-on workshop on May 13)

Learn how easy it is to collect these nutritious cactus pads from your own yard or neighborhood, and how to prepare them in tasty recipes everyone will love.

All THURSDAY DEMOS are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. For more information, contact the Food Bank at (520) 882-3313.

*For further INFORMATION about follow-up HANDS-ON SATURDAY WORKSHOPS, please contact: Barbara or Jill To REGISTER for HANDS-ON SATURDAY WORKSHOPS, please contact


Sonoran Desert Series at the Food Conspiracy Coop, facilitated by Desert Harvesters’ Jill Lorenzini and friends.

REGISTER via THIS LINK. All classes will be held in the Hoff building on the NE corner of 7th St & Hoff Ave, behind the Food Conspiracy Co-op. Class fee $10. Desert Harvesters volunteer, member, and partner discounts offered. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, please contact:



Monday, MARCH 27, 6–8 pm Interactive exercises about where we are and where we come from using maps, info, and stories to build place-based awareness. We’ll explore from macro to micro, from global to regional to local, from the Southwest to the Sonoran Desert, and to the Uplands Arizona subdivision of the Sonoran Desert we experience here in Tucson. This is one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet! Welcome to the desert and the amazing plant life here! Sample prickly-pear lemonade.



Monday, APRIL 24, 6–8 pm Use the Sonoran Desert Foods Calendar, Wild Foods Calendar, and Native Seeds/SEARCH‘s 5-seasons calendar wheel to understand seasonal cycles and to see the wealth of delicious native perennial plant foods available throughout the year. These nutritious foods—and the many other benefits they provide—will be discussed in detail in subsequent classes. Get familiar with the dynamics of winter and summer monsoon seasons; meet Sky Island mountain ranges, river and riparian areas; explore long-term climate change and ongoing drought cycles. Sample desert-flowers iced tea.



Monday, MAY 22, 6–8 pm Meet the native mesquite, ironwood, and palo verde trees that anchor the Uplands Arizona plant palette. These trees act as nurse plants for other desert flora, and create rich environments under their canopies where both plants and animals survive and thrive. Desert legume trees provide bountiful harvests of protein-packed beans and tasty pods year after year. The “Be Like a Bean Tree” poster encapsulates many of their attributes. Taste mesquite flour and pods, and shell and taste green palo verde beans.

Dunbar/Spring Walks Sponsored by Desert Harvesters and Partners


The Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood has a long history of community action, most recently through the work of Brad Lancaster and a network of like-minded neighbors and friends of the Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood who’ve planted native perennial food-bearing trees there, established rainwater- and greywater-harvesting earthworks, pioneered curb cuts and cores, thereby bringing multiple benefits to the neighborhood, including shade and cooler temperatures, more native animals and pollinators, enhanced beauty, tree-planting and -pruning workshops, mulching services, interaction with neighbors, less stormwater lost to storm drains, community art and services, and more.

Monthly weekend walks through the Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood are a fantastic opportunity to see these green-infrastructure strategies in action, as well as to become acquainted with and impressed by common but amazing native (and other) food plants in the area, as they change and grow, flower and bear fruit, shed leaves, and endure seasonal extremes, throughout the year. Learn about native desert foods by watching, harvesting, touching, listening, tasting, smelling, feeling. Additional opportunities include foodshed mapping and return photography. See walk schedule below. See also

Saturday MARCH 4, 10–11:30 am (optional: meet early, at 9:30, to get food/drink and socialize) Meet at EXO Roast Coffee, NW corner of 7th St & 6th Ave

Saturday, APRIL 15, 2–3:30 pm Meet at Dunbar/Spring Community Garden, NW corner of University Blvd & 11th Ave


Hands-on Homesteading

Santa Cruz River Farmers Market
100 South Avenida del Convento

RAINWATER HARVESTING CONCEPTS & DESIGN with Desert Harvesters’ Jill Lorenzini and friends

Thursday, April 20, 3–6 pm (Saturday workshop* April 22)

Food security depends on water security. Learn the basic concepts and the many benefits of rainwater-harvesting design, so you can begin implementing simple strategies at home. Based on award-winning books by Brad Lancaster, local author of the Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond series.

SOLAR OVENS with Desert Harvesters’ Jill Lorenzini

Thursday, May 25, 4–7 pm

In ultra-sunny Arizona, it makes a lot of sense to cook with the sun. Learn basic solar-oven concepts and design principles, then watch various solar ovens in action and sample delicious solar-cooked foods. Place-based cooking.

All THURSDAY DEMOS are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. For more information, contact the Food Bank at (520) 882-3313.

*For further INFORMATION about follow-up HANDS-ON SATURDAY WORKSHOPS, please contact: Barbara or Jill To REGISTER for HANDS-ON SATURDAY WORKSHOPS, please contact



Watershed Management Group’s Edible Shade Mesquite Pancake Breakfast


Sunday, March 26, 9am – noon
1137 N Dodge Blvd

It’s that time again! Come join us for a fun-filled morning as we celebrate the delicious shade of mesquite, pomegranate, olive and other edible native and desert-adapted trees. Enjoy an artisan market and hands-on learning activities as you explore sustainability practices in action at WMG’s Living Lab and Learning Center. And come hungry—we’ll be serving up local mesquite pancakes, fresh off the griddle!

Only 500 tickets are available, so purchase early or risk missing out. Notice: Unlike previous years, tickets will NOT be available at the door if we sell out in advance!

For tickets and information, contact WMG.



Edible Tree Celebration in Honor of the UA Campus Arboretum’s 15th Anniversary

April 1, 11am-2pm

In front of the State Museum Building at the UA, NE corner of Park Avenue and University Blvd

Co-Sponsored by the UA Campus Arboretum (

and the LEAF Network (Linking Edible Arizona Forests) (

Please join us to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the wonderful UA Campus Arboretum and highlight the value of “edible trees” in the campus and urban environment. (LEAF Network uses the term edible trees to refer to those native and nonnative trees that produce edible fruits, nuts, seeds and pods.)

Activities will include:

11:30 presentation to mark the 15th Anniversary of the UA Campus Arboretum

12:00 commence 30-minute tours of edible trees at the UA Campus Arboretum leaving every half hour

Potted edible trees on display including native and nonnative trees

Free raffle every 15 minutes for potted edible trees, arboretum materials, tree related t-shirts, and other items

Entertaining table displays about the UA Campus Arboretum, edible trees, the LEAF Network and other NGO and educational groups (and more activities to come…)

Collaborators include the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, Arizona Community Tree Council, Iskashitaa, Trees for Tucson, Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace, Bean Tree Farm, Desert Harvesters and more.

For more information about the event and to reserve a table, contact Ann Audrey

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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