heirloom grains

Southwest Youth Plant the Seeds of Food Security

Young volunteers planting heirloom corn seedlings at Mission Garden, Tucson  (MABurgess photo)

It is so exciting and deeply inspiring to see how our Baja Arizona young people are taking to gardening!  From the looks of it, the future of our food will be in good hands!  Tia Marta of Flor de Mayo Arts here to let you know about just a few of the interesting projects several school programs have quietly begun.   Knowledge is growing out of the desert soil, along with delicious produce.

High school students at Youth Ag Day celebration at San Xavier Farm Coop learn how to de-spine and peel prickly pear fruit for making prickly pear lemonade.  It is not only delicious but also helps balance blood sugar and curb cholesterol! (MABurgess photo)

Our children are connecting with Nature, soil microorganisms, and living plants that can feed them–doing healthy activity that produces not only healthier bodies but also nutritional consciousness planted deep in the brain.  Funny how dirty garden fingers can make you smarter–What a neat link!

University of Arizona “Compost Cats” are on the go daily to “harvest” organic waste all over town. Here they are teaching students at Youth Ag Day how to turn kitchen and cafeteria waste into rich soil to feed the next crop. (MABurgess photo)

Who in the world would think a compost pile worthy of note?  Well this is a record-breaker.  The young Compost Cats have created a gift to the future of gardening and farming in Tucson by #1 changing peoples’ habits about recycling organic waste on a big scale. (There should be a better term than “waste” –perhaps “discards”–because….)   Then #2, these Cats have turned all that Tucson waste around to be a positive asset, a resource!

This mountain of compost is but a fraction of the “Sierra Madre of Super Soil” at San Xavier Coop Farm collected by the UA Compost Cats. They IMPROVE the soil with traditional composting, giving the crops a healthy nutrient boost. (MABurgess photo)

There’s nothing like being out there observing what happens in Nature! Here representatives from NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA) show students at Youth Ag Day how ground covers and different plantings help infiltration of rainwater into the soil. With no plant cover, rain sluices away as floodwater. (MABurgess photo)

Our local southwest seed-conservation organization NativeSeedsSEARCH is providing a priceless resource to groups who can apply for their Community Seed Grants. (For details check out www.nativeseeds.org).  Recently a number of Tucson schools are growing amazing vegetable gardens with the seeds donated by NativeSeedsSEARCH, including Ochoa Elementary, Nosotros Academy, Tully Elementary, Roskruge Bilingual K-8 Magnet School, and Pima Community College.  You can read about Seed Grant Superstars in the latest issue of Seedhead News available by calling 520-622-0380.  Become a member and support this program for the future!

Tohono O’odham Community College Agriculture interns clean mesquite beans they have harvested for milling into a sweet, nutritious flour. (MABurgess photo)

TOCC Agriculture Intern Joyce Miguel and Cooperative Extension Instructor Clifford Pablo prepare the mill for grinding dry mesquite pods into useful flour–a new method for an important traditional food! (MABurgess photo with permission)

 

Teachers, like Tohono O’odham Community College Professor Clifford Pablo in the Agriculture Program and through Cooperative Extension, have inspired a couple of generations of youth to learn modern ag methods along with a deep respect for traditional foods and foodways.  His interns have become teachers themselves, and their agricultural products–grown as crops and wild-harvested–are being used for celebration feasts, special ceremonies, and sometimes even appear in the TOCC cafeteria.

Let’s rejoice in the good work that these young people, in many schools and gardening programs throughout Baja Arizona, are doing!  In the words of Wendell Berry, one of the great voices of our time about the very sources of our food, “Slow Knowledge” is what we gain from gardening and farming.  For our youth, the connection of healthy soil, healthy work outside, the miracle of seeds sprouting into plants that eventually feed us–this slow knowledge cannot be learned any other way.  We now know that such “slow knowledge” gained from assisting Nature to grow our food actually grows healthy neurological pathways in young brains and makes them think more clearly, be less stressed, achieve better understanding in math and language, and develop better critical-thinking skills.  What better prep for being leaders than to play in the garden as a youth!!

Link to the latest UA Alumni Magazine (fall 2018) for a heartwarming article by our Blog-Sister Carolyn Niethammer about the University of Arizona’s partnerships with local school gardening programs.

Watch the Mission Garden’s website www.tucsonsbirthplace.org for many gardening activities, celebrations, and workshops coming up that are perfect for kids and elders alike.  You can contact me, Tia Marta, on my website www.flordemayoarts to learn of desert foods workshops where interested young people are welcome.

Young people know that food security will be in their hands.  Indigenous youth and some disadvantaged communities seem to realize that “the government” will probably not be there as a fall-back food provider.  Youth all across Arizona are learning the skills of growing food sustainably and may even begin re-teaching the elders–in time.

Categories: Gardening, heirloom beans, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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, Edible Flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom grains, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Mole buttered Corn on the Cob

Happy Solstice! Midsummer Greetings! By the time you read this, I’ll be in the mountains of New Mexico. Driving thought farming towns, hoping to see roadside stands with fresh sweet corn, tomatoes, stone fruit, who knows?!?!

Before I left home, I had an idea to test. (Thank you for the inspiration, Mom!) I wanted a way to share Mano Y Metate Moles with my travel companions camping. So I purchased one ear of organic bicolor sweet corn from the market. Then I let some butter come to room temperature.

I divided the butter into two tablespoon portions, and added about a two teaspoons Pipian Picante, Mole Dulce or Mole Verde powders in separate dishes.

After mixing, I popped the dishes into the freezer for a few minutes while the corn steamed.

All together, it looked promising.

Butter melting into kernels…WOW. Just try it!

Actually, I’ll be trying Mole Butter on many other things. !Buen provecho!

Categories: Cooking, heirloom grains, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pear Prickly Pear Desert Dessert

Hello, Amy here, preparing a dessert for some new friends completely new to the desert, passing through on their way to Costa Rica. A few pears that had seen some travel were sitting on the kitchen counter…

So I pared, sliced and put them in the oven with a few cubes of frozen prickly pear juice.

After baking and stirring, they looked like this!

Then I made a crumble topping, staring with plenty of desert seeds, from left to right: saguaro, amaranth, chia, barrel cactus.

The bulk of the mixture was mesquite meal, rolled oats, pecan meal, butter, sugar (evaporated cane juice). For seasoning, I used cinnamon, cardamon, dried rose petals and dried ocotillo flowers.

Once mixed, I crumbled the mixture over the pears and put back into the 350 degree F oven to bake until browned and crunchy.

It is best served warm, here with a little homemade goat yogurt, but cream or ice cream works, too!

The recipe can be found in the Desert Harvesters’ Cookbook:

This recipe is so forgiving. I was short on oats so increased the pecans. I doubled the cardamom, traded evaporated cane juice for the brown sugar, substituted water for milk, changed the orange/apple juice to prickly pear, and doubled the seeds. Coconut oil works fine instead of butter for this, too.

 

Amy’s Apple Crisp

2 pounds apples, local organic heirlooms if possible (Or pears. No need to weigh!)

2 tablespoons orange, apple or prickly pear juice (or more)

 

Topping:

1 cup mesquite meal

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup seeds, like amaranth, chia, barrel cactus, saguaro

1/3 cup evaporated cane juice or brown sugar (0r less)

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 pound (1 stick) butter

2 tablespoons milk or water

Slice the fruit into a baking dish, add juice, and bake at 350 degrees while preparing the topping. Mix all the topping ingredients in the food processor, distribute over sliced fruit, and bake at 350-375 degrees F until browned. Enjoy!

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, heirloom grains, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Gastronomy Tour thru Time–from Ancient to Now!

Bedrock mortar hole where ancient desert people milled mesquite, legume pods, and other seeds  (MABurgess photo)

All around us in the desert–in our own Tucson Basin and beyond–there is evidence in the rocks that people long ago were gathering, processing, growing and eating bountiful desert plant foods.  The same plants (mesquite beans, amaranth, chia, corn…) are providing us today with a smorgasbord of yummy ingredients for new culinary creativity.  The pre-history and history of our diverse food cultures–not to mention the amazing inventiveness of our local chefs, farmers and gardeners–led UNESCO to name Tucson the first International City of Gastronomy in the US!

Tia Marta here to tell you about upcoming GASTRONOMIC TOURS created to celebrate our diverse local food heritage.  Are you ready for total immersion in culinary bliss?  Tucson’s Presidio Museum is sponsoring tours of our food heritage in the heart of Old Town.  Look for announcements about The Presidio District Experience:  A Progressive Food Heritage and History Tour.

Tucson’s Presidio San Augustine Museum–a living-history treasure at the center of downtown where visitors can envision life of 18th century Spanish conquistadores and their families on the new frontier.

In the style of progressive dinners or “round-robins” the tour will begin at the Tucson Presidio Museum, developing a sense of Tucson’s setting and cultures over the recent 10,000 years.  Participants will enjoy samples of traditional wild-harvested desert foods, then surprising Spanish introductions.  Next tourers venture forth afoot to taste Hispanic and Anglo family traditions plus nouvelle cuisine desert-style at some of our one-of-a-kind historic restaurants.  Past meets present in a symphony of taste sensations with spirits, entree, bebidas or dessert at each new venue.

These tours are educational-plus!  Feeding not only body and satisfaction-center, knowing Tucson’s gastronomic history feeds the mind and soul as well.  Tours are scheduled for Sunday afternoon, March 25, April 8, 15 or 29, from 1pm-3:45pm.  Check out http://www.tucsonpresidio.com , go to the event calendar and click on Heritage Tour for details and registration for each date.

Seedlings of heirloom white Sonora wheat seed from NativeSeeds/SEARCH and BKWFarms, planted early Feb and gladly doused by mid-February rains, growing rapidly, to be harvested in May (MABurgess photo)

Now, with the goal of merging plant knowledge with many food cultures into one tasty recipe, I’d like to share a quick and easy idea to enhance a pot luck or dinner for a few:  Muff’s Multi-Heritage Biscuits. 

A traditional milling of amaranth with stone mano on a metate.  Today, hard amaranth seed can be easily ground in a grain mill or coffee mill.  Traditional Tohono O’odham gatherers ate “rain spinach” or juhuggia i:wagi (Amaranthus palmeri) when summer rains started, then harvested these ollas of small seeds from the spiny stalks later when the weeds dried.   Plan to harvest your wild amaranth (aka pigweed) seed next September if monsoon rains are good.  Amaranth grain is 15-18% protein and high in iron, fiber and phytonutrients!  (MABurgess photo)

One of many species of Sonoran Desert saltbush, traditionally used by Tohono O’odham.  It can be dried and pulverized as baking powder. (Atriplex hymenolytra) (MABurgess photo)

Bringing together Amaranth, Mesquite, and sea salt from Tohono O’odham traditional fare, and Hispanic White Sonora Wheat introduced by Missionary Padre Kino, in a very Anglo-style biscuit from my Southern background,  here is a fast, tasty, local and nutritious complement to any meal:

Muff’s Multi-Heritage Biscuits 

You will need:

1/2 cup mesquite flour [from NativeSeedsSEARCH or desert harvesters.org]

1/2 cup amaranth flour [home-milled from NativeSeedsSEARCH’s whole grain, or Bob’s Red Mill amaranth flour]

1 cup white Sonora wheat flour (or Pima Club wheat flour)  [from Ramona Farms, San Xavier Coop Association, or NativeSeedsSEARCH]

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp sea salt

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup milk (or sour milk, rice milk, soy milk)

Mixing organic white Sonora wheat flour from BKWFarms, plus amaranth flour, roasted mesquite flour, and butter for Muff’s Mixed Heritage Grain Biscuits (MABurgess photo)

Preheat oven to 450 degreesF.  [You can use a solar oven but it will not get quite that hot.  Solar biscuits come out harder–reminiscent of cowboy hard-tack.]. Sift together flours, baking powder, and sea salt.  Cut in the butter to small pellet size.  Add milk.  Stir until soft dough forms.  Either drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet for “bachelor biscuits” OR, turn the dough ball out onto a floured board.  Knead a few turns.  Pat or roll lightly to about 1/2-inch thickness.  Use any shape cookie cutter to form biscuits–small for bite-size, large for cowboys, initialed for kids.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 12-15 minutes until barely golden.  Serve hot, rejoicing in the diversity of heritage foods still available from local farmers or in nearby desert!

Rolling out mesquite, amaranth, white Sonora wheat biscuit dough with Mayo Indian palo chino rolling pin purchased from NativeSeedsSEARCH (MABurgess photo)

Muff’s Mixed Heritage Grain (Mesquite-Amaranth-White Sonora Wheat) Biscuits hot from the oven (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A landmark in the heart of Tucson’s Old Town, this restaurant, shops and music venue occupy the oldest existing structure in the neighborhood, across Court Street from Tucson Presidio Museum

Two heirloom wheat flours introduced by Missionaries (White Sonora “S-moik Pilkan” and Pima Club “Oras Pilkan”) grown by a traditional Piman farmer at Ramona Farms; also grown at San Xavier Coop Association and organically at BKWFarms Inc in Marana (available at NativeSeeds/SEARCH store)               (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find many traditional desert foods and artworks depicting these botanical and culinary treasures at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.   Flor de Mayo native heritage foods can be purchased at ArtHouse.Centro in Old Town Artisans at LaCocina Courtyard, NativeSeeds/SEARCH store and online catalog http://www.nativeseeds.org, at Tumacacori National Historic Site, Tucson Presidio Museum Shop, Saguaro National Park Bookstore, and Tohono Chul Park Museum Shop.  Join us at Mission Garden (http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org) Saturday, March 31, 2018 for a public tour by Herbalist Donna Chesner and ethnobotanist Martha Ames Burgess about Desert Foods as Medicine.

Hoping to see you in Old Town for a gastronomic tour this spring! Plan now for some of that immersion experience in local culinary bliss….

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blessed Monsoon Weeds!

Yikes–look what has happened all around us!

Verdulagas — purslane — exploding in the garden. (photo by ChadBorseth, NativeSeedsSEARCH store mgr.)

With our recent record-breaking rainfall in Baja Arizona, weeds continue to go rampant. Now, what to do with them? Tah-dah–Eat them before they eat up all your garden space!

Tia Marta here—admitting I actually don’t believe in weeds at all—Weeds are gifts to be used, relished gastronomically and nutritionally, admired as amazing strategists,… appreciated!  Weeds are much-maligned plants with a different way of surviving than our regular “garden variety” plant.  They know genetically how to hustle to “make hay while the sun shines.”  So if you need to deal with a bounty of weeds coming on like gang-busters in your garden or nearby in the desert, I’d like to share some fun ways to consume and internalize them.  If we are what we eat, perhaps their “energies” may be a form of speed on some ethereal plane.

Fresh young quelites  (Amaranthus palmeri), aka pigweed and carelessweed, popping up with summer rains–ready to pick!  (MABurgess photo)

Quelite, weed of many names– careless weed, pigweed, Amaranthus palmeri, known as “rain spinach” or Juhukia i:wagi to the Tohono O’odham–is popping up in great green swaths wherever rainwater has pooled. It grows faster than one can imagine. The scourge of cotton farmers, it is, on the flip side, a positive boon to traditional harvesters—Native, Hispanic, African or Asian. As climate change digs its teeth into desert environments, our native Amaranth “weed” holds great potential as a rapid-responder “dry-land” crop for the future.

When flower stalks of Amaranthus palmeri emerge, leaves toughen. Be sure to harvest only the tender leaves. (MABurgess photo)

Mature, drying Amaranthus palmeri image taken at Mission Garden. The seedhead is spiny but contains nutritious seeds! (MABurgess photo)

The nutrition of Amaranth, our rain spinach, is way up at the top of the chart. Consider that 100g of young shoots provides 42 calories packed with 3-4 grams of protein, 3mg iron, and 4-11 mg of available calcium.

If your Amaranth patch matures faster than your harvesting schedule allows, don’t fret–all is not lost. As long as there are soft, non-fibrous leaves to pick, they are fair game for steaming or stir-frying as greens or quelites. Later, when the arching spike of spiny seed capsules matures and dries, you can harvest seeds (carefully with gloves) and winnow the tiny grains in the breeze. THEY are fabulously nutritious too. Amaranth seed is 15-18% protein—far higher than most cereals. They can be cooked as hot cereal or ground into flour– full of healthy, gluten-free carbs and fiber. Amaranth weed seed baked into bread adds a pleasing and healthy crunch. If you want quantity and lack patience to harvest wild carelessweed, the NativeSeedsSEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, has grain-amaranth for cooking or milling, also popped amaranth for adding to baked goods or confections for Dia de Los Muertos. [More to come on that topic in early November.]

Caution:  Here’s a trick plant that may look like Amaranth but it is a perennial that leafs out with summer rains, especially in the Tucson Mtns area–Ambrosia cordifolia–not good for eating–better for soil stabilization. (MABurgess photo)

Delicious and healthy grain amaranth and popped amaranth, available at the NativeSeedsSEARCH store for cooking.

Another “weed” that is probably at this very minute creating mats of green in your garden is verdulaga. Traditional Tohono O’odham know it as ku’ukpulk, and some gardeners refer to the same puffy-leafed ground-sprawler as purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It can be added fresh to any salad for a juicy, succulent texture and tang. And check the nutrients, especially if your body needs available calcium. Every 100g (a little less than ½ cup) of verdulagas provides 0.3mg iron, 19mg calcium, high omega-3-fatty acids and lots of vitamins A&C. Rinse your verdulagas in a bowl of water, then toss the water back in the garden where the many teensy seeds that have dropped to the bottom can go for a “second round.”

Caution:  Another “trick plant” is this purslane- look-alike called “horse purslane”-Trianthema portulacastrum. It will taste a little soapy if you try it. (MABurgess photo)

Picked and washed true verdulaga/purslane, ready to make into pesto (MABurgess photo)

Here is an idea for Monsoon Pesto made with tasty weeds! Pestos of course can be made with almost any greens—e.g. with kale in the winter—so why not use what Nature provides locally and now?  Both amaranth or verdulaga can be used in your favorite pesto recipe for a healthy and tasty Southwest vacation from basil. [A word of caution: If you harvest from the wild, be sure to collect at least 50 feet from a roadway, or upstream from any road along an arroyo. Know your plants when harvesting!]

 

Here is a SUPER-NUTRITIOUS SONORAN DESERT MONSOON-WEED-PESTO RECIPE:

Ingredients:
2+ cups well-packed, fresh, washed Amaranth or Purslane greens
2-3 cloves heirloom garlic
¼ cup pinyones shelled (pine nuts), or any other fresh nutmeats, or soft seeds such as pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2/3 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt or ancient Utah salt, and ground pepper, to taste (all optional)
½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Directions:
In a food processor, combine wild weed greens (Amaranth or verdulaga), garlic, and pinyones, and process on the  “pulse” setting until finely chopped.
With processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the texture is smooth and fine.
Add the cheese and pulse briefly just to combine ingredients.
Taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed. (It may not need any.) Give one last pulse after seasoning.
(Pesto can be stored in frig or freezer.)
Serve on crackers with cream-cheese, in pasta, on pizza made with local white Sonora wheat flour for another local twist, or simply spread on good bread for a fantastic snack, as seen below!

Monsoon Weed Pestos–The top row is Purslane Pesto with Pine Nuts. The darker green is “Pigweed & Pepita Pesto” made with pumpkin seeds–(here served on harvest seed bread squares)–Both Weed Pestos are SO delicious (MABurgess photo)

As you taste either of these nutritious weed pestos with eyes closed, you can SAVOR the wild Southwest bouncing back into its burgeoning monsoon mode and relish the desert’s rhythms. This is Tia Marta’s wish for you– Happy weeding and eating your way through monsoon season!

Amaranthus palmeri seedheads growing too tall for a selfie –but soon ready to harvest for seed

(You can read about Winter/Spring Weeds in my blog from February 14, 2014. Interestingly, the weeds that flourish with our Sonoran Desert summer rains in the heat are totally different from the species that sprout in winter with cool/wet conditions here. The metabolism of winter vs. summer weeds involves totally different biochemical strategies—tho’ they are all similarly nutritious.)

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mexican Food, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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).

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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!

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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.

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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 | 2 Comments

Corn to posole

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Do you love posole? Amy here today making posole from dry, untreated corn. What corn to use for posole? Flour corn varieties are good, as they have a large starch content. Also dent corn varieties, which contain some starch, dry unevenly on the cob and form an indentation in the top of the kernel. The dent corn I’m using today is sometimes called field corn, and it may have been grown to feed to livestock. I sometimes get dry corn, purple or white, from the bulk bins at the Mexican store. Use what you can find or grow and see what happens! This corn was a gift of completely unknown origin from my friend Lori.

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The ratio is 1 cup dry corn, 3 cups water and 1 tablespoon lime. Not lime, the citrus fruit, it is specially treated limestone. The best source for culinary calcium hydroxide is called cal sold with Mexican spices, or called pickling lime sold with canning supplies to keep pickles crisp. It is becoming rare since modern pickle recipes are more cautious of botulism growing in the less acidic environment. If necessary, type S (slaked) construction lime for concrete and mortar works, but you have to add more of it.

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Place all in a non reactive pan, simmer for a few minutes and then remove from the heat. If you are making posole, it is not critical if the corn starts to cook a bit. If the corn will be ground into tamales or tortillas, it will be gummy and not stick together well if cooked.

As soon as the corn is in the lime water, it turns bright yellow!

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Then let it soak overnight. I decided to boil some corn in plain water to compare the results.

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The next morning: On the right, the limed corn is much darker yellow color than the corn boiled and soaked overnight in fresh water, on the left. On the right the lime water, formerly white, is now yellow from the seed coats of the corn. The water in the pot on the left remains clear.

Drain the lime water and send to the sewer, not your plants! It is very alkaline and will harm the soil and plants.

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The lime turns the seed coats into slime. Now rinse, rub, rinse, rub, rinse.

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Now the rinsed, limed treated corn in the colander is a lighter yellow than the plain water boiled corn in my hand.

This is called nixtamal, and can be ground into masa for tamales or tortillas, or cooked into posole. I will make masa in another post.

You can purchase nixtamal ready to rinse at most grocery stores. After rinsing, it freezes beautifully. I have purchased it dry, whole or ground, but never dried it myself. I use it dry in the Mano Y Metate Mole powders to give body to the sauce.

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When the corn rinsing water is clear, boil in fresh salted water. Add chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic. Cooking times vary wildly depending on the batch, but at least an hour, until tender and the kernels burst open.

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The same corn after identical soaking and cooking times: the treated corn on the right blossomed to toothsome tenderness and has the characteristic posole aroma. I see some residual seed coat, but I do not notice when eating. On the left, the fresh water soaked and cooked corn has a few kernels that blossomed some, but is overall texture is hard with seed coats remaining in my mouth after chewing. It does not smell like posole.

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This reason alone would justify the nixtamal-ization process, but it also makes it more nutritious. The niacin present in corn becomes more available, the amino acid balance improves and the lime adds a digestible source of calcium.

To the pot you can add little red chile, green chile, cubes of pork, beef tripe, pinto beans, or sliced carrots. I added Mano Y Metate Pipian Picante Powder. Garnish with shredded cabbage, sliced radishes, cilantro, white or green onion or lime wedges.

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Categories: Cooking, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Election Bread—Savoring an old Recipe

No matter who your candidate was this momentous month, by fixing this festive treat called “Election Bread,” we can at least toast the democratic process AND local heirloom foods all in one delicious slice!

Ames Family Election Bread served joyously as a dessert

Ames family traditional Election Bread served joyously as a dessert topped with natural vanilla ice cream

Tia Marta here to share an Election Bread recipe inspired from my own family tradition served around election time each November. On the internet you might find historical variations of it with the moniker “Election Cake.” Technically it is a fruity yeast bread—probably one of the precursors of holiday fruit cake, reminiscent of Italian panettone–a nice addition as weather cools and fruits ripen. In the “old days” they say this Election Bread was baked to attract people to the polls on Election Day and fortify them for the trip home.

I gleaned our Ames Family Election Bread recipe from a cherished little cook’s notebook which my 80-year-old great Aunt Rina wrote for me when I was just learning to cook—yikes, some decades ago. My new adaptation of it reflects our home turf in the flavor-filled Sonoran Desert.

Heirloom Sosa-Carrillo fig (a Padre Kino introduction) from Mission Garden now producing in my yard (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom Sosa-Carrillo fig (a Padre Kino introduction) from Mission Garden now producing in my yard (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom pomegranate from Mission Garden, Tucson (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom pomegranate from Mission Garden, Tucson (MABurgess photo)

But here in Baja Arizona, instead of waiting for fall, I had to begin prep a few months ago by harvesting ripe heirloom figs, pomegranates and apricots as they ripened.  Father Kino’s figs grace my yard and the other two yummy fruits, grown at Tucson’s Mission Garden at the base of A-Mountain, were purchased at the Thursday Santa Cruz farmers’ market.

Preserving them for later use, I dried the fruits in my solar oven with the lid slightly opened, allowing humid air to escape.

 

Fresh Mission figs cut ready for drying in the solar oven

Fresh Mission figs cut ready for drying in the solar oven

Sun-dried figs get even sweeter and more flavorful than when they are fresh!

Sun-dried figs get even sweeter and more flavorful than when they are fresh!

Celebrating our International City of Gastronomy, I rejoice in using flours grown and milled locally by BKWFarms in Marana, Arizona, to bake this rich bread.  Other ingredients I sourced close to home as well — Tucson’s precious mesquite-smoked Hamilton whiskey, homegrown heirloom fruit propagated at Mission Garden, agave nectar in place of sorghum molasses — from the bounty of Baja Arizona’s foodscape, its green thumbs, and its creative local “food-artists.”

Tucson's best whiskey from Hamilton Distillers--made with organic local malted grain dried using local mesquite.

Tucson’s best whiskey from Hamilton Distillers–made with organic local malted grain dried using local mesquite.

Bread teaches us patience.  It is a beautiful meditation so take time to enjoy the process. There are tasks for this recipe to be done on two consecutive days.  At the very least, in between texts and emails, radio news and phone calls, take time out to go to the kitchen, check the status of your “rehydrating” fruit, or check your yeast sponge, take a nip, etc.  Bread is a living gift and this Election Bread in particular brings many quite lively foods together.  Be not daunted–become one with the yeasts!

If you are already into sourdough baking and have live starter, take method A.  If you are beginning with dry yeast, take method B.  Both will give olfactory pleasure from the git-go.

 

RECIPE FOR AMES FAMILY ELECTION BREAD

Day 1—Making the Pre-ferment –method A–Using Sourdough Starter
1 cup whole milk, warmed to ~ 70º F
¼ cup active starter — fully hydrated
2 ¼ cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour *

OR Day 1 — Making the Pre-ferment — method B– Using Yeast
1 1/8 cup milk, warmed to ~70º F
1 tsp instant dry yeast
2 ¼ cups plus 2 Tbsp organic all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour *

Pre-ferment Instructions:  In a bowl, combine milk and sourdough starter or yeast. Mix thoroughly until starter or yeast is well dispersed in the milk mixture. Add flour and mix vigorously until the yeast mixture is smooth. Scrape the sides of your bowl to use all yeast. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Allow your sponge to rest and ferment 8-12 hours at room temperature. When ready to use, your pre-ferment will have bubbles covering the surface.

Also Day 1–Pre-Soaking Dried Fruits

1 cup dried fruits, coarsely diced in 3/8-inch or ½-inch pieces **
1-1 ½ cup whiskey, bourbon, brandy, or non-alcoholic fruit juice ***

Instructions for Pre-soaking Dried Fruit:  To prepare dried fruits for your bread, soak them overnight, or for several days beforehand, in a lidded jar. Measure your dried fruit then cover with liquor or liquid of choice. (To speed up the soaking process put diced fruit in a small sauce pan, warm over low heat for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and allow fruit to soak, covered, for several hours.) Until the fruit is totally softened, you may need to add more liquid to keep fruit submerged.

Before adding fruit to your dough, strain the liquid off of the fruit. Use this fruity liquid as a cordial, or to make a simple glaze after bread is baked.

Freshly mixed dough in greased and floured bunt pan

Freshly mixed dough in greased and floured bunt pan

Proofing Election Bread dough--after covering and allowing dough to rise to almost double size--fruit bites visible

Proofing Election Bread dough–after covering and allowing dough to rise to almost double size–fruit bites visible

*** My secret to this “fruit marinade” is the smokey flavor of local Whiskey del Bac!  Using spirits results in a fabulous liqueur “biproduct” to enjoy later.  But, remember the words to that song “Oh we never eat fruitcake because it has rum, and one little bite turns a man to a bum……..”  For the tea- totaler, any fruit juices will work for re-hydrating the dried fruit chunks:  try apple cider, prickly pear, pomegranate juice, cranberry.  Then save the liquid after decanting as it will have delicious new flavors added.

 

Day 2 –Preparing Dough, Proofing, Baking Election Bread

Ingredients:  
1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup unrefined organic sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup whole-milk yogurt
¼ cup sorghum molasses, agave nectar, or honey
Your Pre-ferment –yeast mixture or sourdough mixture from Day 1
2 ¼ cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour combination *
1-2 Tbsp mixed spice blend—your choice cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mace blend
¼ tsp ground coriander –optional
¼ tsp ground black pepper –optional
1-2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sherry or another spirit- optional
2 cups rehydrated local fruit from dried/preserved fruits, decanted

* Create your own combination of pastry flours. My Southwest pastry flour mix to total 2 ¼ cups is:
½ cup organic all-purpose flour
¼ cup mesquite pod milling dust
1 cup organic BKWFarms’ hard red wheat flour                                                                                                                                          ½ cup organic heirloom BKWFarms’ White Sonora Wheat flour  (heirloom flours available at NativeSeeds/SEARCH and http://www.flordemayoarts.com)

** My Election Bread fruit mix honors the Kino Heritage Fruit Tree Project. You can purchase heirloom fruit seasonally at Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market. For this recipe I used:
1/3 cup diced dry figs
1/3 cup diced dry apricots
1/6 cup dry pomegranate “arils”
1/6 cup dry cranberries (a bow to East Coast food)

You can test to see if dough is done thru using a wooden kabob skewer or cake tester. Listen to hear if bubbles are still popping in the dough.

You can test to see if dough is done through by using a wooden kabob skewer or cake tester. Listen to hear if bubbles are still popping in the dough.

Day 2–Instructions for Election Day Bread Baking

a) Cream the butter well; add sugar, mixing until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time with mixer (or spoon) on medium speed. Mix in the sorghum/honey and yogurt. If you have a dough hook mixer you can use it or good old elbow grease. Add the pre-ferment (starter or sponge) and mix slightly.
b) In a separate bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients. Mix as you add dry ingredients into liquid ingredients, being careful not to over-mix.
c) Gently fold in the rehydrated fruit (then optional sherry).
d) Grease (with butter) and flour a bundt pan or round cake pan. Divide the dough evenly into the cake pan. Proof (i.e. let the dough rise) covered in a warm place for 2-4 hours, until the dough has risen by about ⅓ of its volume.
e) Preheat oven to 375F. Bake at 375° F (190° C) for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F (177° C) and continue baking for about 25-35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before cutting and eating.         Enjoy this sweet bread either plain or topped with a simple glaze.

If you are new to yeast bread baking, it would be fun to connect with a friend to chop fruit or get hands gooey together, or to have one person read directions while the other mixes. We always do it as a family and it’s so much more fun to add humor and gossip to the mix–or even a little political emoting.

Sonoran Desert style Election Bread with local grains and local fruits--Ah the aromas!

Sonoran Desert style Election Bread with local grains and local fruits–Ahhhh, the aromas and rich history of Baja Arizona in a single slice!

During the coming holidays, you could try this easy bread for a great party treat, for breakfast, or for a colorful dessert topped with whipped cream or ice cream.
And feel free to play with the recipe, adding your own tastes, honoring your own family’s food culture and history and your own sense of place!
Buen provecho from Tia Marta!

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

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