Sonoran herb

Perennial Herbs for Honey

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

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

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

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

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

Perennial Herbs for the Southwest & Bees

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

Allium tuberosum AMAP 4590 web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAS avatarWant to learn more? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will sell and sign copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).

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

Featured image is slender poreleaf, Porophyllum gracile.

 

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

Pretty & Pretty Zesty – Oxalis

Oxalis 1102808_1280Jacqueline Soule here today, posting at the end of the month – in time to get ready for next month!  For  February, I wrote about the edible flowers called heartease (also called pansy and violet).  Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day it’s time to add another edible flower to your repertoire – oxalis (also called shamrock and wood sorrel).  Oxalis has a long history of use as human food, including here in the Southwest.

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Oxalis Overview
There are over around 600 species of Oxalis, plus numerous horticultural varieties, and all of them contain the same chemical that gives rhubarb it’s tart flavor, oxalic acid.  Don’t be put off by the “acid!”  Vinegar is acetic acid, and you’ve had that before.

Oxalis tuberosa wiki free

Most Oxalis species have tubers, some quite large, and those are sold for eating as “oca.” They can be tart and are generally mixed in stews, soups, or with other tubers.  In Michocan, Mexico, the vegetable vendor recommended mixing them with potatoes and turnips to add flavor.  I promptly bought some and grew them for many years, eating only the leaves and flowers and preserving the roots to grow more of these lovely plants.

oxalis wrap 1974 webEnjoy.
Oxalis commonly sold as “shamrocks” have tiny, scaly tubers, about the size of a mung bean, so the leaves and flowers will be the part you will use. Flowers and leaves can be added to salads and soups for a zesty, citrusy tang. Or capitalize upon this lemony flavor and puree leaves with fresh dill and a drizzle of olive oil to use on fish – delightful!  The flavor of oxalis also works well to make a “lemon” chicken.

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So far I have also mixed diced oxalis flowers and leaves into omelets, fritattas, potato salad, egg salad, and put it in “wraps” with cream cheese, turkey, or ham.  A friend chops oxalis and adds it along with fresh oregano her goat cheese.

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Grow.
Oxalis plants grow well in the Southwest, but they may go dormant is summer. Not to worry, they come back from tubers as the weather cools – as long as you keep the soil dry while they are dormant.

The pink flowered species found in Tucson barrios grows well in our alkaline soils, and there is much botanical discussion as to it’s true name (I won’t bore you with the details). I call mine barrio oxalis when I share tubers with friends. What ever the correct name may be – it adds zest to many of my meals.

Oxalis tetraphylla 04

Caution.
Don’t eat oxalis just purchased unless it is labeled “organic.” Ornamental plants such as oxalis 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 are not legally 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.  Featured image is courtesy of the Netherlands Bulb Information Center.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, edible flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom crops, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Black Bean Mole Negro

Hello, Amy here on a cool, rainy day in Tucson! For an upcoming potluck, my classmates have requested I bring a dish with “my spices”. For this group, it needs to be vegetarian, so I’m making my friend Barb’s black bean, sweet potato dish. She says it’s her mix of a couple recipes, a stew and a chili. It is always a hit and I know it will wait patiently in a slow cooker from morning until lunch break.

I started with a collection of veggies from my Tucson CSA share and a tin of Mano Y Metate Mole Negro.

In the fall Crooked Sky Farms sent us dry beans, and roasted chiles that I squirreled away in the freezer. Recently the shares have included Beauregard sweet potatoes, yellow onion, cilantro, I’itoi onion, and bountiful celery! Normally I love celery leaves, but I used very few today because these were so strong. I’ll dry them to use as a seasoning.

Once defrosted, I peeled, stemmed and seeded the chiles, saving all the juice.

I started by cooking the onion in oil. Then went in a clove of garlic and the celery, sweet potato, and chile. After all was soft and starting to brown, I added a tin of Mole Negro.

When all was smelling delicious, I added a can of tomatoes and some water.

Previously, I had sorted and soaked a pound of beans. I cooked them in a slow cooker until tender.

Then into the veggies with the cooked beans and all their broth. Simmer for a bit, salt to taste, and done! Garnish with cilantro and I’itois.

 

Categories: Cooking, heirloom beans, heirloom crops, herbs, Mexican Food, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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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

Huevos Rancheros with Mole

 

Hello, Amy here, full from a hardy brunch. Earlier this week my friend invited me to lunch at the Tucson Botanical Garden, where we enjoyed a lamb empanada, calabacitas tamal and huevos rancheros made with mole, black tepary beans and queso fresco. It was ALL soooo good, but I think you can guess my favorite!

Café Botanica is delicious, adorable (the old adobe Friends’ House, inside or on the patio) has really nice staff, and is open 8am-2pm daily. You do have to pay admission or be a member to get to the café, so we wandered, looking at plants in the shade and a gallery or two after our meal. Perfect afternoon.

I had never heard of huevos rancheros with mole, and I had to make it at home, often! Since I was only making brunch for two, I used dry corn tortilla meal I had on hand instead of buying or making a batch of highly perishable fresh masa. Maseca is a common brand name in Tucson grocery stores, or online.

Café Botanica used parsley in their masa for flavor and color, so I chopped a few leaves of quelites (young amaranth greens) raw and mixed them into the masa. This of course is optional, but quelites are so prolific this year with our above average rainfall this summer. Recently Carolyn used amaranth seed her in corn tortillas.

Add enough water to make a soft dough. Mix about a quarter cup meal to a few tablespoons water and adjust as necessary. If it is too dry, it will crack. If it is too wet, it will stick to your hands. Form into two balls, cover, and let rest for a few minutes. Then reassess the moisture.

Place the ball in a plastic bag and flatten with a tortilla press, a dinner plate or a rolling pin.

Thoroughly heat a comal (a dry cast iron griddle) over medium heat and put tortilla to cook. Flip a few times until both sides are covered with brown spots. No need to keep them hot, they’ll be fried!

Next I made a small amount of Mano y Metate Mole Dulce with oil and veggie broth. Other varieties of mole would work, and any broth you like. Since the dish was vegetarian, I decided to keep with the theme.

Café Botanica used black tepary beans, but I used a summer squash from the Tucson CSA. I had never heard of Tromboncino before this year, and we love the taste and its trombone shapes! As a mature, winter squash, it resembles its relative the butternut. Even as a baby, it is slightly yellow on the inside with tender skin and really nice flavor. I sautéed it with onion, salt and pepper.

Next fry the tortillas in a little bit of oil until beautiful brown and fragrant.

Fry eggs over medium, or to taste. These eggs were from a friend of a friend. The deep color of the yolk is due to the hen’s diet and I bet these birds eat plenty of fresh greenery and insects.

Assemble the dish: tortilla, squash, egg. You could melt some cheese over the tortilla if you want.

Finally, top with the Mole Dulce and I’itoi onion tops. My new favorite.

Categories: Cooking, Mexican Food, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Pleasing Poreleaf

porophyllum gracile calflora 1803Savor Sister Jacqueline Soule here today with native plant that is lovely in the landscape, never needs water, and can be used as an herb for cooking.  Can it get better than this?  Well yes, our native solitary bees use this as a food source in that time when spring wildflowers and cacti are done blooming and not much else is in flower.
porophyllum gracile calflora 1710
Slender poreleaf, also called hierba del venado, odora, (Spanish), xtisil (Seri), bears the scientific name of Porophyllum gracile.  If you like word origins you can just look at this scientific name and learn something about the plant.  The word gracile has the same root as graceful, poro tells us it has pores, and the one you may not know phyllum refers to leaves, but enough Latin for now.
porophyllum gracile calflora 1801
Slender poreleaf is a member of the Compositae or sunflower family and is good for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes.  A native, hardy, blue-green evergreen perennial, it grows 1 to 2 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide.  It can take full sun and even reflected sun, and also grows well in part shade.  It needs the alkaline desert soils, and does not tolerate over-watering.
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Use.
First, the taste is somewhere between arugula, cilantro and rue. I like it in salsa. I also crush the dried leaves and add them to hamburger.  Careful!  A little goes a long way.
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The Seri use a tea made from the stems of this native plant as a remedy for colds.   Roots are macerated and used to treat toothache.  In some Mexican markets fresh and dried material is available for sale.  People crumble dried leaves together with salt and rub it on meat for flavor and to help make it last in the absence of refrigeration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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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: workshops@desertharvesters.org or jaelle@lorenziniworks.com

 

 

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

Mercado San Agustín, 100 S. Avenido del Convento

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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.

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Nopalitos
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 beantreefarm@gmail.com or Jill jaelle@lorenziniworks.com To REGISTER for HANDS-ON SATURDAY WORKSHOPS, please contact workshops@desertharvesters.org

 

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: jaelle@lorenziniworks.com.

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YOU ARE HERE: SONORAN DESERT 101

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.

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YOU ARE HERE: UPLANDS-ARIZONA-SUBDIVISION NATIVE FOODS

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.

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BEAUTIFUL BENEFICIAL BEAN TREES

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

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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 www.dunbarspring.org.

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

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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 beantreefarm@gmail.com or Jill jaelle@lorenziniworks.com To REGISTER for HANDS-ON SATURDAY WORKSHOPS, please contact workshops@desertharvesters.org

 

 

Watershed Management Group’s Edible Shade Mesquite Pancake Breakfast

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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

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 (arboretum.arizona.edu/)

and the LEAF Network (Linking Edible Arizona Forests) (leafnetworkaz.org/)

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 ann.audrey.1@gmail.com

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

Beautiful Brittlebush

Brittlebush is one of the most common and conspicuous wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert; seasonally providing a glowing golden-yellow cloak for the desert.  Yes, the wood is brittle, hence the name.

encelia_farinosa_habitBrittlebush has a long history of native use.  The resin collected from the base of the plant is often yellowish to brown in color.  This resin can be heated and used as a glue.  The O’odham and Seri use it for hafting, to hold points on arrows and, in the case of the Seri, harpoons.  A different sort of resin is collected from the upper stems, is more gummy and generally a clear yellow.  The Seri use this to seal pottery vessels.  As a child, I learned from Sells area Tohono O’odham children that this upper stem resin makes a passable chewing gum.

kino-webEarly on the Spanish priests learned that brittlebush resin made a highly fragrant incense, akin to frankincense in odor.  In 1702, Father Kino wrote “. . . in this journey inland and on other occasions I have found various things – little trees, fruit, incense, etc. – all species which are peculiar to . . . [this area]  . . . alone, and samples of which I bring, to celebrate with the incense, by the favor of heaven, this Easter and Holy Week, and to place five good grains of incense in the Paschal candle.”

To harvest resin, use a sharp blade, like a single-edge razor blade, to make a shallow vertical slit about one inch long along the stem.  The resin will ooze out of this cut and dry on the plant.  Return in a day or two to collect the resin.  A healthy, well-maintained plant can have numerous cuts made all over it, just have care to not girdle the stem.

encelia-leaves-2825-webIn the 1960’s, I was taught by a longtime cowboy that a brittlebush stem makes a dandy toothbrush.  Simply select a largish branch and peal off the bitter bark, no need for toothpaste.  He had learned the trick years before from an old cowhand.  Whether this was self-taught or learned from natives, it is impossible to say, although the Seri use brittlebush to treat toothache.  For toothache the bark is removed, the branch heated in ashes, and placed in the mouth to “harden” a loose tooth.  Modern dentistry advocates using mildly alkaline solutions to help maintain oral hygiene, which makes me wonder about the pH of brittlebush sap.
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Some Southwestern folks will bundle the leaves and stems and use them to smudge with, much like smudging with white sage.

Flowers are long-lasting in bouquets but do leave some flowers on the plant, because the seeds of brittlebush are an important food source for native seed-eating birds.
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Planting and Care.  
Brittlebush is a lovely addition to any xeriscape.  The shrub generally reaches around three feet tall and naturally forms a symmetrical globular form.  The fragrant silvery leaves are soft and fuzzy, and work well in fresh floral arrangements.  The golden yellow flowers appear in early spring and cover the bush, but in an interesting array.  Flowers open first on the warm south-facing sides of the bushes and blooming gradually moves up and over the bush, ending with the north-facing branches.
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While it can take full sun, brittlebush does best in a location where it gets noon-time shade in summer.  Avoid planting the shrub near sources of reflected light, like pools or hot south-facing walls.

Brittlebush plants grow best with  rejuvenation pruning every three years.  Just pretend you are a hungry javalina and cut the plants to around six inches tall.  Do this in the fall.  Bloom will be sparse the following year unless you give them some extra water to help them recover.

The above was partially taken from my book, “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today.”

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: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran Crafts, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native | 2 Comments

Wild Rhubarb Rises Again!

Wild rhubarb is emerging again this month from its hidden storage roots, dotting arroyo-banks and sandy places with green rosettes of leaves and colorful raspberry-pink stalks (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb is emerging again this month from its hidden storage roots, dotting arroyo-banks and sandy places with green rosettes of leaves and colorful raspberry-pink stalks (MABurgess photo)

It’s an unusual winter season when Canaigre (also known by many other names:  Wild Rhubarb, Desert Dock,  Hiwidchuls in O’odham language, Latin name Rumex hymenosepalus) creeps up out of its sandy hiding places to bloom and seed before spring weather gets too warm.  When conditions are right, it can dot the desert floor in early spring with its floppy leathery leaves and pink stalks similar to domestic rhubarb.  This recent cool season Nov.2016-Jan.2017, with its period of penetrating rains, has been the right trigger for awakening canaigre.  Right now it’s time to attune our vision to finding it!  If the weather heats up rapidly, as happened in the last couple of springs, its tender leaf rosettes will dry and crinkle leaving a brown organic “shadow” of itself on the sand, its stored life safely underground in fat roots.  Tia Marta here to share some experiences with canaigre or wild rhubarb.

Wild rhubarb dug out of sandy soil showing multiple tuberous roots and young leaves (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb dug out of sandy soil showing multiple tuberous roots and young leaves (JRMondt photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb storage roots (JRMondt photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb storage roots (JRMondt photo)

Canaigre isn’t just everywhere in the desert.  It’s elusive.  It usually likes sandy loose soil, like the flood plains of our desert rivers in Baja Arizona and Sonora, along major arroyo banks, and on pockets of ancient sand dunes.  Where you see one you usually see many.

Wild rhubarb on sandy soil in Paradox Valley, western CO (JRMondt photo)

Wild rhubarb on sandy soil in Paradox Valley, western CO (JRMondt photo)

Wild rhubarb emerging in ancient dune soil, Avra Valley , southern AZ (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb emerging in ancient dune soil, Avra Valley , southern AZ (MABurgess photo)

My late friend and mentor, Tohono O’odham Elder Juanita Ahil, would take me to her favorite harvesting grounds at the right time each February and March to collect the rosy stalks–if they had emerged.  Over the last 40 years, with deep regret, frustration and anguish, I’ve seen her special “harvesting gardens” go under the blade as development turned wild rhubarb habitat into apartments, golf courses, and strip malls.  Hopefully our Arizona Native Plant Society (www.AZNPS.com) will be able to advocate for setting aside some remaining sites on public lands, similar to the BLM Chiltepin Reserve at Rock Corral Canyon in the Atascosa Mountains.  Where wild rhubarb was once super-plentiful, they and their habitats are now greatly diminished, even threatened.

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Botanical illustration of wild rhubarb from Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, U.NewMexico Press (drawing by Mimi Kamp)

Botanical illustration of wild rhubarb from Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, U.NewMexico Press (drawing by Mimi Kamp)

Details of the parts of the plant that Juanita traditionally harvested are shown in Mimi Kamp’s sketch.  Contrary to some ethnographic reports, Juanita did not use the leaf petioles for food; she harvested the flower stalks, i.e. the stems, leaving the leaves to make more food for the plants to store for the next season.  Traditional knowledge is so attuned to Nature.  Hers was an awareness of the plant’s needs balanced with her own appetite.  Other reports of traditional use of wild rhubarb mention cooking the leaves after leaching/steaming out the oxalic acid from them which is not healthy to eat.

Juanita would also dig deeply into the sandy soil directly under an unusually large, robust hiwidchuls to harvest one or more (up to maybe 1/4 of the tubers) to use as medicine.  I recall her digging a big purplish tuber the size of an oblong sweet potato at a depth of 2 1/2 feet on the floodplain of the Rio Santa Cruz where ball parks now prevent any hiwidchuls growth at all.  She would dry it and powder it to use later on scrapes to staunch bleeding.  Her hiwidchuls harvesting dress was dotted with rosy brown patches of color dyed from the juice splashed on the cloth when she cut the tubers into slices for drying. (See Jacqueline Soule’s post on this blog from 2014, also Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants books, for alternate uses.)

Wild rhubarb flower stalk close-up (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb flower stalk close-up  with buds and flowers  typical of buckwheats (MABurgess photo)

Canaigre/wild rhubarb is in the buckwheat family sporting clusters of little flowers that produce winged seeds.  Their papery membranes help catch the wind for flying to new planting grounds.  The green celery-like flower stalk or stem turns pink or raspberry-tinted as it matures.  That was when Juanita would cut the stem at its base to use for her hiwidchuls pas-tild, wild rhubarb pie!

Wild rhubarb stalk with colorful immature seeds forming (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk with colorful immature seeds forming (MABurgess photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb's membranous seeds (MABurgess photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb’s membranous seeds (MABurgess photo)

In a good year, Juanita would harvest literally bundles of hiwidchuls stalks and we would set to work baking.  Her pies were sweet and tangy.  Here is what she would roughly put together in her off the cuff recipe.  But almost any rhubarb pie recipe should work with the wild rhubarb.  You can find great info on Southwest Native uses of canaigre in Blog-Sister Carolyn Niethammer’s book American Indian Food and Lore.

Juanita’s approximate Hiwidchuls Pas-tird RECIPE

Ingredients:

ca 4-6 cups chopped young wild rhubarb stems

1/4-1/2 cup white Sonora wheat flour

2-3 Tbsp butter

ca 2 cups sugar

pie crust–2 layers for top and bottom, or bottom crust and top lattice crust (A good variation is mesquite flour added to your crusts)

Directions:  Prep stems ahead.  Preheat oven to 450 F.  Chop young rhubarb stems in 1/2 inch cuts.  Stems are full of vascular bundles and can become very fibrous as stems become fully mature, so youthful stems are best.  (Be warned:  One year we harvested a little too late and our pies were so “chewy” with fiber that we had to eat our pies outside in order to be able to easily “spit out the quids.”)  Cook hiwidchuls chopped pieces in a small amount of water until tender.  Add in sugar, butter and flour and cook until mixture is thickening.  Pour mixture into your pie crust.  Cover with top pie crust and pierce for steam escape, or cover with lattice crust.  Begin baking in hot oven (at 450F) then reduce heat to medium oven (350F) for 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice is bubbling through lattice or steam holes.  Enjoy it hot or cold!

 

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Now let’s head out into the desert washes to see if there are more stands of hiwidchuls popping up out of the ground, making solar food to keep themselves and other creatures alive and well!   Let’s get ready to be collecting their seeds (which also were used traditionally by Native People as food) in order to propagate and multiply them, adding them to our gardens for future late winter shows of color, good food and good medicine.  Happy gardening and eating from Tia Marta and traditional knowledge shared!

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Dye, dye plant, Edible Landscape Plant, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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