Sonoran Native

Arroz Verde with Sweet Potato Greens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Enjoy with beans.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom beans, herbs, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ornamental Medicinals–for Showy Color and Healing Gifts

Yellow trumpet flower–tronador (Tecoma stans)–is super-showy in a desert landscape. It will bloom multiple times through warm and hot seasons triggered by rainfall or watering. Its foliage and flowers have been used as a tea for treating blood sugar issues of insulin-resistant diabetes. (MABurgess photo)

Attention:  native-plant-lovers, desert gardeners, Southwest culture buffs, curanderas, survivalists, artists and the just plain curious!  Set your iPhone Calendar ready to mark right now for a long-awaited event:   the Grand Opening of the Michael Moore Memorial Medicinal Plant Garden, this coming Saturday, September 22, 2018, 8am-10am at Tucson’s Mission Garden.

Tia Marta here to give you a little “taste” of how you can incorporate what you learn about our native medicinal plants into your own landscaping–to add not only sensational seasonal beauty around you, but also to put their gifts of traditional medicine right at hand, in your own yard!

[A little knowledge can be dangerous, so DO use reputable reference books such as those by Michael Moore, Charles Kane, John Slattery, and DesertHarvesters.org  if you intend to use your desert landscape plants for medicine.]

This showy orange-flowered prickly pear, collected by Dr Mark Dimmitt in the Chihuahuan Desert (Opuntia lindheimeri), is now a favorite in desert gardens all over Baja Arizona. Plentiful young pads of all prickly pears (flat new stems called nopales in Spanish, nowh in Tohono O’odham)–are an important traditional source of blood-sugar-balancing mucilage plus available calcium for bones or lactation, when prepared properly. (MABurgess photo)

Prickly pear fruits (i:bhai in Tohono O’odham, tunas in Spanish, Opuntia engelmannii) add landscaping color and a feast for wildlife. They ALSO are important traditional medicine with their complex carbs used for sustained energy, blood-sugar balance and high available calcium for preventing and treating osteoporosis. (MABurgess photo)

Sweet catkin-like flowers of mesquite covers this handsome “Giving Tree” in spring, to mature into healthy sweet pods by late May and June. Its beauty is far more than bark-deep. Almost every part of mesquite can be used medicinally–leaf, sap, flower, bark, branchlets and bean pod! (JRMondt photo)

Native Mexican elderberry–sauco in Spanish (Sambucus mexicana)–makes an effective screen as a shrubby, dense tree. It bears cream colored flower nosegays that become clusters of dark berries (tasty but toxic unless cooked). Its flowers and foliage have been used also for curbing fever and as a diuretic. (MABurgess photo)

Two important books are burning on the presses  by our own Baja Arizona ethnobotany writer-philosopher Gary Paul Nabhan ,  entitled:

Mesquite, an Arboreal Love Affair and      Food from the Radical Center (Island Press)

available at upcoming events in Tucson.  Plus another new one– Eat Mesquite and More by Brad Lancaster’s DesertHarvesters.org, will be celebrated at the UA Desert Lab on Sept.19.  Mission Garden will also feature Nabhan’s latest Sept 29 sponsored by BorderlandsRestoration.

As the nights get cool, toss a handful of desert chia seed in your garden and scratch it into the soil for a sky-blue (and useful) addition to your wildflower mix. Medicinally, desert chia seed–da:pk in Tohono O’odham (Salvia columbariae)–has proven to be a cholesterol remover in addition to its traditional use for sustained energy and blood-sugar balancing.  Chia’s foliage has been used as a topical disinfectant and throat gargle tea. (MABurgess photo)

For a mound of glorious color in a rock garden, landscaped hillside or spring accent, our desert Goodding’s Verbena is perfect. And what a handy source at your fingertips for brewing up a soothing sedative tea that is even safe for children! (MABurgess photo)

You may find many of these showy medicinals like Verbena gooddinggii,  desert willow, Tecoma stans, native velvet mesquite, honey-mesquite and screwbean, or elderberry at upcoming fall plant sales at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Sept 29-30, Tohono Chul Park Oct.13-14, and at Desert Survivors Sept.25-29, 2018.

Beautiful flowers of desert willow (Chilopsis linearis)–known as ahhn in Tohono O’odham, in Spanish as mimbre–are an important addition to desert landscaping. Not only can it be brewed for a gentle, refreshing tea, but its anti-fungal properties can be a rescue when needed. (MABurgess photo)

I hope these photos have been an inspiration for you to delve deeper and to plant a medicinal!  Members of Tucson Herbalist Collective (better known as THC), including Tia Marta here, will be on hand at the Michael Moore Memorial Herbal Medicine Garden Opening, Tucson’s Mission Garden Sept 22, to introduce you to many gifts of our desert medicinals, share samples of herbal teas, tastes, and answer questions.  Please pass the word about these neat events by sharing this blog with potential followers.  See you there!

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mesquite Meal Becomes Your Secret Ingredient in Popular Cake

Mixture of delicious late summer stone fruits.

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

Add your secret ingredient

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

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

Pluots cut into large chunks.

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

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

Late Summer Fruit Torte

½ cup (1 stick) butter

¾ cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

¼ cup mesquite meal

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup fruit

½ cup sugar with cinnamon & spices to sprinkle on top

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

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

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

Spread thick batter in paper-lined pan.

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

Enjoy your delicious cake.

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


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

 

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

Sikil Pak – Yucatan Pumpkin Seed Dip

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

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

1 medium sweet onion

2 tablespoons butter

1 habanero chile

12oz tomatoes, canned or fresh

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

2 limes, juice and zest

1 bunch cilantro

salt and pepper

agave nectar

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

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

Read more use of pumpkin seeds here.

amy mole

Amy Valdez Schwemm

Amy Valdés Schwemm

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

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

Southwestern Pintxos– Basque-style Tapas

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Asparagus-Spears-with-Chorizo Pintxo

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

For this pintxo, you will need:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Awesome Amaranth

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

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

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

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

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

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Amaranth is related to quinoa.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAS avatarWant to learn more about growing amaranth? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will sell and sign copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).
© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos © Jacqueline A. Soule where marked and they may not be used.

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

Heirloom Cowpeas for a Summer Garden Surprise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mosaic of cowpeas created by NativeSeedsSEARCH aficionados (credit NSS)

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

Sweet Desert Nectars

We start July with guest blogger Monica King, a rancher near Tucson Arizona, here to tell us about the product of her littlest, and busiest, “livestock.”

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With help from our friend, the honeybee, we can explore the palate of desert flora riches in a different way. These pollinators are beneficial to agriculture and two out of three bites you take you owe to honeybees! There would be little to no melons, strawberries, almonds, coffee or chocolate, just to name a few, if it were not for these busy tiny creatures.

As a worker honeybee heads out foraging, at around twenty-one days of age, they are not only pollinating, but also gathering many different flowers nectars.  But not all at once!  A foraging bee will visit the same kind of flower repeatedly on each excursion. This behavior is called flower fidelity. This is how pure honey is produced. I will get back to this.

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A chunk of comb full of honey.

A worker bee’s tiny body can carry more than her own weight in nectar. As she is on her way home with her bounty the nectar is mixed inside her honey sac with an enzyme called invertase, which begins the nectar to honey transformation. Upon return to the hive she then transfers her load to her sisters which continue the process. These workers manipulate it in their mouthparts exposing it to try air and add even more enzymes. They then put it into a honey cell and the bees fan their wings producing a breeze, which mixed with the warm air of the hive, continues to reduce the water content. When it is dehydrated to 17-18% moisture it becomes pure honey. Our moisture content in Southern Arizona is more like 10% due to our arid environment. Once the bees fill a cell they cap it with wax for storage. It is at this time a beekeeper may harvest the excess.

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Honey bee on cat claw acacia.

 

When it comes to honey from Sonoran Desert plants – there are two, local, well known spring harvests – mesquite and cat claw acacia.  In general, most local beekeepers will wait until the honey box is full and extract all the honey from one bee yard in one trip.  This is the less labor intensive way, and thus more economical. This honey is correctly called a Sonoran Desert blend. With each season being slightly different, no two harvests will be the same.

honey Monica King 001

But sometimes, you can find a beekeeper that doesn’t do things the simple, economical way – and they may have a pure cat claw acacia honey.  Cat claw acacia honey has a very light to almost white color and exquisite sweetness. This honey also has a heavy, thick texture and it will naturally granulate quickly.  My favorite way to savor this honey is spread like butter on toast or slightly warmed served drizzled over vanilla ice cream with fresh chopped local pecans.  Honey that granulates has not gone bad, and is just fine to use.

mesquite Monica king 607

Honeybee on mesquite.

Another specialty honey is mesquite.   Honey from the light colored mesquite flowers is transformed into a dark rich honey, smooth on the tongue, and may remind you of brown sugar or maple syrup. This honey pairs nicely with cheeses, especially Gouda, and makes wonderful BBQ sauces. When drizzled on blue corn pancakes you will think you are in heaven.

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Many beekeepers have their bees near agricultural or residential neighborhoods where the bees just don’t forage on native plants. I like to call this honey a desert urban blend and again it is very unique. The taste varies as the honey from some locations may have more clover in the area and other locations may have more citrus, etc.. Honey contains over 600 volatile organic compounds or plant-based essential oils, and these make it possible to have honey tested for pureness and provide the botanical and geographical origin. But the best way to know if your honey is pure, is to buy it from a local, respected, beekeeper.  And then you can taste the sweet desert nectars.

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Monica King is a rancher near Tucson.

 

 

 

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

San Juan’s Day Invites the Monsoon at Native Seeds/SEARCH

San Juan’s Day, which fell this year on June 24, is the traditional beginning of the monsoon season when ambitious gardeners start planting their summer crops in anticipation of the summer rains.  Native Seeds/SEARCH, a nonprofit involved with collecting, growing and distributing heritage seeds, held an early morning party to celebrate this year. Members arrived at 6:30 a.m. to help get the garden at the Native Seeds Conservation Center ready and to process some seeds that were already grown. It’s Carolyn today, and as a board member of Native Seeds/SEARCH, I arrived early with a car full of food and serving ware for the post-work breakfast.  We began with a short ceremony recalling wise sayings on gardening. Here are a few:

A good gardener always plants 3 seeds – one for the bugs, one for the weather and one for himself.   — Leo Aikman

Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak! Bury a sheep, and nothing happens but decay.
–   George Bernard Shaw

And then to finish:

Gardens are not made beautiful by singing ‘Oh how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade. – Rudyard Kipling

And so everyone fanned out to the garden to get to work.

 

Sunflower seeds are beginning to ripen on these giant flowers. But the birds saw this as an invitation to help themselves. Volunteers added these bags to save some seed for the seedbank.

Earlier in the week, Native Seeds volunteers had contoured the garden area into traditional waffle form–depressions that can hold water with ridges between, like a…well…waffle. This is a good way to plant summer gardens. Heavy mulch, straw as seen below, helps retain moisture.

A volunteer plants heritage beans gathered in Mexico in a waffle garden.

 

Here a volunteer winnows beans by letting air from a fan blow away the dried bean pods.

There was also indoor work, doing final cleaning of seed and getting it ready for packaging.

Volunteers get instructions on cleaning acelgas seed, a green, in the Native Seeds/SEARCH seed lab.

While the volunteers were finishing up, Native Seeds staff were completing breakfast preparations. For the breakfast, I baked date bars (click for recipe here in a former post) and lemon muffins with saguaro seeds.

Chad Borseth, who usually manages the NS/S retail store, stirs scrambled eggs.

And everybody digs into a breakfast feast after some serious volunteer work.

One of the most popular dishes at the breakfast feast was the Rajas con Queso prepared by Native Seeds  Executive Director Joy Hought. Here is her recipe. No photo; honestly it isn’t very picturesque, but it is truly yummy.

Rajas con Queso

Ingredients

6 medium size poblano chiles

1 medium white onion

1 ear fresh sweet corn

2 T butter

salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 cup Mexican crema (alternatively creme fraiche or sour cream)

8 ounces crumbled queso fresco for garnish

Instructions

Roast the peppers: Wash the chiles well and pat dry. Place them on a baking tray and into an oven to broil at 500 degrees F. for 5-10 minutes, using tongs to flip them every couple of minutes until very blackened and blistered on all sides. Alternately, do this on a barbecue. Immediately transfer the blackened peppers into a container and seal it shut to steam (e.g. paper bag, or bowl with lid or plastic wrap). Leave the peppers to rest while you prepare the corn and onions.

Peel and slice the onion into thin slivers; shuck the corn and slice the kernels off.

Once the peppers have rested for 20 minutes, remove them from the container and, using rubber or latex gloves, rub the skin off and remove the stem, seeds and any inner stringy bits. If the skin doesn’t come off easily they’re not blackened enough. Running them under water helps. Coarsely cut the peppers into strips or bite-size pieces.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until it bubbles. Add the onions and sauté for 4-5 minutes until cooked through and just beginning to brown.

Add the fresh corn, chopped chiles, marjoram, salt and pepper, and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Stir in the crema and heat through for 3-5 minutes, then remove from heat.

If desired, serve with crumbled queso fresco.

BONUS: Vegan versions can be made with vegetable oil and coconut cream instead of dairy products.

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We now have a Savor the Southwest Facebook page. Please follow us as we add posts during the week. Follow me on Facebook at Carolyn Niethammer Author.

See more recipes for desert plants in Cooking the Wild Southwest available in the Native Seeds online store, other online outlets and your independent bookstore.

 

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

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!

yerba mansa 6276 web

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

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