Sonoran Native

What in the world is a cardoon?

Have you ever heard of a cardoon?

I certainly didn’t know what a cardoon was– (a kind of cartoon? dragoon? vinagaroon? baffoon?)— until plant expert Dena Cowan at Mission Garden explained it to me. I had been oooing and ahhing over what I thought was a gorgeous “ARTICHOKE” plant growing in the Mission Period huerta garden plot there. She explained that it was a CARDOON–first cousin of artichoke and differing only slightly. She told me that while artichokes are grown for their delectable flower buds, the cardoon is grown for its edible leaf petioles and giant leaf veins! Tia Marta here to share what I learned–and what YOU can learn at our lovely Mission Garden when you see cardoon in person!

Inquiring further, I learned from an amazing Mission Garden volunteer, Jerome West, that actually the artichoke is a domesticated variety of the wild cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), native to the Mediterranean region and brought to the Southwest by missionaries. He told me that Homer recorded cardoon in ancient gardens in the 8th century BCE and Pliny the Elder mentioned ‘carduus’ growing in Classical Carthage and Cordova. This plant has been feeding people for a long time!

So I took on the challenge of learning to cook cardoon. Each leaf can be enormous, like 12-18″ long or more and widely lobed. The leaf petiole–its attachment to the stem–and the fat vascular tissue that continues through the leaf are the parts that are not only edible but flavorful and nutritious –bigtime.

Some prep is needed before you fix any recipe. Be sure to slice away any tough fibers, the way you might do with mature celery. Then chop and soak in lemon juice. I discovered online some helpful instructions–here is the best I found: https://foodandstyle.com/prepping-and-blanching-cardoons/ .

I fixed a surprise soup with red onions and pine nuts (believe it or not). Here’s another sensational soup recipe for Zuppa di cardi found online: https://memoriediangelina.com/2019/02/23/zuppa-di-cardi-cardoon-soup/ .

As for nutrition, check this: Cardoon is rich in good electrolytes–potassium, magnesium, calcium, plus Vit.B-6.

Cardoon (and artichoke) thrive particularly in our Sonoran Desert winters because they are attuned to the Mediterranean regime of winter rainfall. (Hopefully we shall have a good season of equipatas).

We need to grow more cardoons. Come see Mission Garden’s cardoons which are sporting tall drying flower stalks right now. AND plan to attend the Mission Garden Plant Sale coming up soon on Saturday, September 28, 2021, 8am-12noon. There might be a cardoon for sale or seeds for growing your own. A cardoon in your landscape will provide glorious visual texture and rich gray-greenery in your view-shed –not to mention good food when it is time to trim!

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: | 3 Comments

Sonoran Fall Cobbler with Prickly Pear, Apples and Plums and a Mesquite Crust

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Apples and plums combine with prickly pear syrup and a mesquite oatmeal topping for the perfect fall dessert.

Traditional fall fruits like apple and plums are natural go-togethers with prickly pears and mesquite. It’s Carolyn this week bringing you this recipe that is a good way to introduce people to new flavors because it is a recognizable old standard with a new twist. And it doesn’t take a large amount of either the prickly pear syrup or the mesquite to make a statement. I took this to a last of summer potluck recently and it was the first dessert consumed as people bypassed the whipped cream cake and even the chocolate brownies to give it a try. “You didn’t make enough,” is what I heard. 

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Late summer country picnic perfect for Sonoran Fruit Cobbler.

To make the cobbler, you can use any kind of apples, but include at least one tart one, like Granny Smith, to give it a bit of brightness.

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Mix the chopped apple and plums with a little bit of prickly pear syrup.

The mesquite oatmeal topping crisps up because of the butter that you rub into it.

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Sprinkle the top with a mixture of oatmeal, mesquite meal, and butter.

Sonoran Fall Cobbler

4 apples, chopped, no need to peel

4 large plums or pluots, chopped

1/4 cup prickly pear syrup

1/2 teaspoon corn starch

Topping:

1 cup dry oatmeal

1/4 cup mesquite meal

2-4 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the chopped apples and peaches in casserole or pie plate or 8×8-inch pan. Stir the cornstarch into the prickly pear syrup and stir into the fruit mixture. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the topping. Chop the butter into little pieces and with your fingers, rub it into the dry ingredients. Spread over the chopped fruit. Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes until fruit is tender and topping is nicely browned.

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Sonoran Fruit Cobbler is delicious as is or add cream, whipped cream, or ice cream.

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Want more recipes for mesquite and delicious wild foods of the desert? Find them in my book “Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants.” And if you want to know why Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, I tell the whole 4,000-year story in my newest book “A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History.” Buy them from your local bookstore or order on-line.

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Hu:ñ Pasti:l — Pastel de Elote — muy saboroso as in yummy!

HU:Ñ PASTI:L aka PASTEL DE ELOTE — A most delectable treat inspired by corn-harvesting time (MABurgess photo)

So in case you are wondering…. Hu:ñ (pronounced HOOONya) is corn and Pasti:l (pronounced pasTEEEEra) is pie in O’odham language. The Spanish Pastel de Elote (passTELL day ay-LOW-tay) essentially means pie made of fresh corn. In English it goes by a more pedestrian name — sweet corn casserole–but it is just as delish.

It’s like a slightly sweet tamale pie or casserole–full of protein—easy to make! Tia Marta here to share a fun fast recipe using our local Native summer corn in its fresh and dried forms….

Heirloom O’odham 60-day corn ripe in the husk ready to harvest at San Xavier Coop Farm

This ancient and honorable 60-days-to-ripen corn was genetically selected long ago by the Desert People, and almost lost in the mid-20th Century due to agricultural “faddism.”  Thanks to a few traditional gardening families and to NativeSeedsSEARCH gardeners and seed-bankers, a handful of kernels were saved and multiplied through that bottleneck of time, so that now seeds are available for many farms to grow this amazing corn.  San Xavier Farm alone now has ACRES producing perhaps TONS of ears to feed a growing population–and a community also growing in appreciation of this amazingly nutritious and desert-adapted grain.  Imagine a protein-packed grain that can handle the heat of the Sonoran Desert summer and can ripen in 60 days!  In food production terms, that’s like zero to sixty in less than 10 seconds!

Mission Garden’s Garden Supervisor Emily Rockey cradles an armload of Tohono O’odham 60-day corn at San Xavier Coop Farm harvested for the community. (MABurgess photo)

A group of us volunteers from Mission Garden recently went to help hand-harvest traditional Tohono O’odham 60-day corn at a community picking in the productive fields of San Xavier Coop Farm. Harvesting this sacred corn together inspired me to prepare a dish to share with dear friends.

The recipe calls for fresh corn cut off the cob, but you can easily substitute canned corn.  Since our household is trying to “go local” as much as possible, I used flour milled from BKWFarms’ organic white Sonora wheat, eggs from the happy chickens at Mission Garden, and local naturally-grown corn and cornmeal. I used a sunny day and a solar oven!

Muff’s Hu:ñ Pasti:l or Pastel de Elote Recipe:

Preheat solar oven or conventional oven to 350F degrees–(solar may be less).

Grease and lightly flour one large (or 2 smaller) baking dish(es) or iron skillet.

Cream together: 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter. and ½ cup agave syrup “nectar” or sugar

Beat in 4 eggs.

Add and mix thoroughly into the moist mixture:

1 cup homemade salsa, OR 1 can Herdez Salsa Casera, OR 1 cup diced green chiles

1 pint fresh corn kernels cut off the cob (ca.3 ears), OR 1 16oz. canned corn (I use organic non-GMO)

1 cup shredded longhorn/cheddar cheese

Sift together, then stir into the corn/cheese mixture:

1 cup white Sonora wheat flour (or other whole grain flour)

1 cup cornmeal (non-GMO)

 4 tsp. baking powder

¼-1/2 tsp. sea salt

Pour mixture into greased and floured baking dish(es).

Reduce heat to 300F and Bake 50+ minutes in conventional or solar oven, or until “pie” tests done with toothpick. (Solar may take longer.)

This recipe serves 8 graciously, piping hot or chilled, for dinner, lunch or snack. Hu:ñ Pasti:l (Pastel de Elote) can be refrigerated for a week-plus, then sliced and re-zapped in microwave for quick easy servings.  Or, it can be sealed and frozen for longer storage.

You can find fabulous local cornmeals roasted or made as pinole (that work great in this recipe) at Ramona Farms online and NativeSeedsSEARCH online store.

White Sonora Wheat flour is available at NativeSeedsSEARCH, San Xavier Coop Farm, BKWFarms, and Barrio Bread. You can come soon to see O’odham 60-day corn in the field at Tucson’s Mission Garden, soon to be harvested. While there you can pick up fresh eggs from their heirloom chickens.

[Also check out a totally different dish of sweet mole cornbread–entirely different personality–made with many of these same maize ingredients by Savor-blog-Sister Amy in an earlier post.]

Enjoy these flavors and nutrition, and rejoice in a local monsoon desert crop!

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer Mocktails or Cocktails

Combine herbs and juices for delicious mocktails with a Southwest zing.

Today many of us have decided to cut back on alcoholic drinks or eliminate them entirely. But you don’t need to forego delicious, amusing refreshers during cocktail hour. It is Carolyn today, bringing you some ideas to get you started on delicious mocktails. Since I’ve given up having wine with dinner every night, my husband makes me a mocktail to drink while I cook. Every night it is a little different and always tasty.

An essential ingredient for a mocktail is a flavor element or two that elevates it above fruit punch. You want it to be strong enough that you sip rather than just glug it down. This can come from herbs, bitterness, or spiciness. Cilantro, mint, and ginger can always be relied on to jazz up a mocktail. And whenever a drink seems to need a little something extra, you can always rely on fresh lime juice. We go through lots of fresh limes. Soon you will be inventing tasty drinks on your own. Have fun naming them!

While fresh juices are always good, you can speed up preparation by using frozen limeade concentrate. It’s also good to have a bottle of homemade mint syrup on hand. Prickly pear syrup always adds a southwest flavor. People have been eating prickly pears in the Southwest for around 10,000 years and it has become part of our local heritage. I write more about this in my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage. It seemed we’d have few prickly pears this year because of drought early in the summer. But the rains have come. And come! Suddenly there are lots of prickly pears. But if you have some, you can find directions for making them into syrup here in a previous SavortheSouthwest post.

Of course, if you wish, you can always add alcohol of your choice to these tasty drinks.

Mint Syrup

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

No need to pluck the leaves off the stems. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let steep for an hour. Strain and store in a bottle. Refrigerate until needed.

Here are some easy drink recipes:

Herb Patch

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons frozen limeade concentrate

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons mint syrup

Tonic water (diet or regular)

Combine cilantro, limeade concentrate and water in blender and blend. Strain into glass over crushed ice. Stir in mint syrup and top with tonic.

Lime-Jalapeno Sizzle

2 tablespoons frozen limeade

1/4 inch fresh jalapeno

1/2 cup water

Blend limeade, jalapeno and water. Strain into a glass over crushed ice. Taste. If too spicy, add lime-flavored soda. Garnish with a lime slice.

Arizona Sunset

1/2 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons mint syrup

2 tablespoons tonic or ginger ale

2 tablespoons prickly pear syrup

Combine orange juice, mint syrup and tonic or ginger ale in a glass. Carefully add prickly pear syrup down the side of the glass. It will settle and make a layer under the orange. Add crushed ice, careful not to disturb the sunset.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cover-large-e1599764783974.jpg

Why was Tucson named the first US UNESCO City of Gastronomy? How about 8,000 years of food history, the first agriculture in what we now call the United States, the first irrigation, and the fact that people in the Santa Cruz Valley still eat some of the same foods that the Native population enjoyed all those years ago. You can read the whole fascinating story in my new book “A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage.” And find recipes for these foods in “Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants.” UN

Categories: Sonoran Native | 1 Comment

“Tepa-lites!”=Teparies + Quelites=Summer Beans and Greens

Quelites or Bledo in Spanish–Cuhuggia I:wagĭ in O’odham–These nutritious “weeds” of Amaranthus palmeri are springing up all around us after good warm-season rains, ready for harvesting. (MABurgess photo)

At last, summer monsoons have gifted the Sonoran Desert with a veritable explosion of delicious wild greens and a growing gardenful of traditional tepary beans! You don’t have to look far to see patches of what many people call “WEEDS” sprouting up. But you and I know better–and others will too after they taste those yummy greens.

Tia Marta here inviting you to appreciate show-time for many species of greens like Amaranth—”rain spinach”–our wild Amaranthus palmeri, and many varieties long cultivated by traditional farmers of Northwest Mexico and the American Southwest.  You can find seeds and info of locally adapted greens and tepary varieties at NativeSeedsSEARCH for planting your own. Come and see living, flowering examples of several Native varieties of greens and teparies right now at Tucson’s Mission Garden

Hopi Red Dye Amaranth is a quadruple-whammie for garden and kitchen: Its glorious flower makes an ornamental show, its leaves are tasty greens, its seeds are nutritous grain, and then it is used as a safe and pleasing red food dye–used in ceremonial piiki bread. (MABurgess photo)

If you can’t visit Mission Garden in person, you are invited to join us virtually at Mission Garden where will be presenting the “Tepa-lites” (short for teparies and quelites) workshop live next Saturday morning, August 7, 2021, 9-11a.m. (Tucson time) via Zoom or on Facebook Live. This community workshop—free, with no pre-registration necessary—is supported by grant funds through the University of Arizona Desert Lab at Tumamoc Hill.

Now is also show-time for verdulagas, that ground-hugging, tasty, succulent summer “weed” also known as “purslane” (Portulaca oleracea) which can be eaten fresh in salads or steamed as a nutritious veggie.  Learn some great purslane recipe ideas at the zoom workshop. (Note its small elongate succulent leaves.)

A confusing verdulaga look-alike known as “horse purslane”, is a low-growing succulent that can fool you. Some people might find this one palatable, but for others it has a taste of soap or an unpleasantly bitter after-taste. (Note its rounder leaves.)

Don’t let yourself be swayed by derogatory names like “pigweed” and “careless weed.”  (Those terms are shop-talk by the weed-killer salesperson or the yard guy that wants to eradicate your edible landscaping).  Far better to call good weeds by positive names, like “rain spinach” or cuhuggia i:wagĭ (“sleeping spinach” when they wilt),  as they are called by the Tohono O’odham, the Desert People who have eaten them in good health for hundreds of years.  

At the online workshop we will celebrate the nutritional combination of these monsoon greens and traditional teparies.  It’s a way to open eyes and tastebuds to the nutritious foods available right out the front door—Nature’s provender—and to encourage easy planting of the fastest beans known. 

When they are young, tepary plants look like miniature versions of common beans, with a three-some of pointed leaves that fold up to save water when the sun is strong at midday. It is the most arid-adapted bean alive, domesticated from wild teparies by early farmers right here in the desert possibly 6,000 years ago.

OK, admittedly tepary beans aren’t “fast food” per se (they do take a long time to soak and cook), but you can grow them to maturity in about 60 days—and that’s fast for a bean.  THIS WEEK is the last opportunity to get them into the ground for a harvest this fall.  My admired O’odham gardener-friends, Laura Kerman-bad, her brother, and Juanita Ahil-bad, always recommended that teparies (and other traditional summer crops) could be planted successfully through the first week in August.  So make it happen….get busy and dive into planting that little garden plot which is now soaked with Nature’s own irrigation!

Chilpotle red teparies–pasta faggioli Sonoran style with greens–will be introduced at the workshop….

Here is the link to join the Zoom “Tepa-lites” class: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85958074230?pwd=S1htT1JKVXNCN3g4NWhoWGRPdS9UZz09
Meeting ID: 859 5807 4230
Passcode: 2021

Hoping to see you virtually on August 7!

Additional info: For helpful greens identification and surprising recipes for greens and tepary beans, check Tia Marta’s earlier post “Blessed Monsoon Weeds”

also SavorSister Carolyn’s post on Sherman’s tepary recipe

SavorSisterAmy’s post for a fabulous tepary-with-veggie stew

and for more appreciation of ba:wĭ–tepary beans–Tia Marta’s “Tepary Time” post

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MoleVerde Sweetcorn Cornbread

Hello Friends, Amy here with summer sweet corn and tomatoes! I canned some tomatoes and froze some corn kernels for later.

I started with my favorite cornbread recipe. When I make Mano Y Metate mole powders I use masa harina, made from corn that has been treated with lime (as in limestone, not the citrus) and coarsely ground to make tamales. It is too coarsely ground to make mole but it is the only one I can get non-GMO in small quantities. I only need a couple 50 pound bags a year, not a pallet of 50 pound bags at once! So I sift it for the mole powders, leaving me with surplus of very coarse meal that certainly has a higher portion of the germ and bran. That makes it more nutritious but not at all starchy. For cornbread, I use three fourths cup of this coarse meal and one quarter cup wheat flour, even though the original recipe does not call for any wheat.

In lieu of yogurt or buttermilk, I used one and a half cups fresh milk with a one and a half tablespoons cider vinegar. Also a tablespoon mesquite honey from Sleeping Frog Farm, an egg, a quarter teaspoon each of salt and baking soda.

I like crust. So I start by preheating an eight inch skillet (or any baking pan, it does not have to be cast iron to be improved by preheating) at 425 degrees. When it is to temperature, I let 2 tablespoons oil or lard melt in the pan. Butter works too but it does get very toasty. My friend rendered this lard from a local pig.

For the best crust, I put the oiled pan back in the very hot oven. When the oil is to temperature, I pour the batter in the pan and it immediately bubbles and puffs!

Tucson CSA has not shared any green chile, yet, but hopefully it will very soon. Inspired by Mole Dulce dry sprinkled on brownies, I sprinkled the top of the cornbread with Mole Verde powder.

Also, fresh tomato slices, for color. It’s been a good year for tomatoes at Crooked Sky Farms, lots of heirlooms and Romas.

After 20 something minutes in the oven, it was golden. No need for a toothpick test here! Spicy crusty exterior and creamy sweet corn studded interior.

Breakfast outside on a steamy desert morning, watching the plants in the yard grow explosively with the summer rains.

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Syrian Salad for Fig Season

Asaf Hasan, a Palestinian from Kuwait and Jordan, and Raina Kanawati from Syria brought this delicious Syrian fig salad to share with Mission Garden volunteers. (Photo by Dena Cowan)

Fig trees, originally from the Middle East, have found a happy home in the Southwest, a similar climate. Mission Garden in Tucson  features historical gardens and  heritage fruit trees that produce an abundance of figs in late July and August. Asaf Hasan and Raina Kanawati brought a delicious Syrian fig salad to share with volunteers as they led us in making stuffed grape leaves. It is traditionally eaten with the fingers and since we had all washed our hands to make the grape leaves, we dug in happily.

The salad requires no cooking, just assembly, so it’s good to prepare on these hot summer days. Choose sweet white onions or red onions if those are not available.

Figs are ripe in deep summer. Originally from the Mediterranean, they grow well in the hot American desert.

 

When you slice the onion, do so pole to pole rather than through the equator.

Syrian Fig Salad

8 fresh figs, quartered

1 sweet onion, sliced thinly pole to pole

1 lemon, sliced as thinly as possible

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

Choose a bowl that holds at least a quart. Combine figs, onion, and lemon and toss until well mixed. Stir in the parsley and mint leaves. In a cup, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Pour over the fruit mixture. Refrigerate for an hour to meld flavors. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Completed Syrian Fig Salad is a fresh addition to a summer meal. 

My latest book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, discusses how Old World crops such as Mediterranean fruit trees were brought to Tucson by the Catholic missionaries in the early 1700s. I also discuss how local historians worked to recreate the Mission Gardens originally located at the Mission San Agustin.  Order the book from Amazon or  Native Seeds/SEARCH. The book is the the winner of three awards and was named Top Pick in the 2011 Southwest Books of the Year. 

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Brown butter pecan ice cream

Hello friends, happy summer. Amy here, sharing a dream come true: goat sitting! Friends that were home all last year became new goat parents during quarantine, but are finally traveling and busy again. Ten years ago I co-milked a huge mama goat in my neighborhood with three other families. Eventually the goats moved to the grassland southeast of Tucson but sharing the responsibilities of milking twice a day suits me well.

Lyric is a miniature milk goat that lives a mile from my house. Her baby Skunky was born in February completely black and white, like a spotted skunk. Twice a day they go on guided foraging excursions in their urban neighborhood. Lyric is easy going, but Skunky gets stir crazy without her walks.

While Lyric is the easiest going goat imaginable, it still takes all my concentration and both hands to milk. I’ll have more photos someday. Lyric provides two cups twice a day, so I’m freezing it, saving up to make cheese. But a batch of ice cream only takes a pint!

I didn’t want to buy cream and I didn’t want rock hard ice milk. Wondering if I could add enough butter to make it work, I found this recipe and adapted it to make butter pecan. I started with just over 2 cups milk, a scant 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (ground vanilla pods) and 1/8 teaspoon salt over low heat.

I separated 4 room temperature egg yolks and used the whites for another meal.

After mixing a small amount of the hot milk to the yolks, I added the mix to the pot. I stirred while heating slowly until the mixture was barely thickened. Then I strained the thin custard to remove any traces of egg white and cooled it somewhat in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, I made the flavor. A friend from Bisbee gave me pecans from her tree.

I browned 5 tablespoons unsalted butter! (Remember, this is making it like ice CREAM instead of ice MILK.) Then I added over half a cup of broken pecans to toast in the butter. Yes, it smelled as good as it looks.

I added the slightly cooled custard to the browned liquid butter.

and poured the whole into a little electric ice cream maker. Some butter did solidify into tiny bits, which remained in the finished product. But the nutty butter pieces combined with the nut pieces and it is actually a DELICIOUS result. Rich and flavorful.

Soon it firmed up to soft serve. After a time in the freezer, it made perfectly delicious, not too hard. ice cream.

Enjoy!

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

Mesquite Milling Mania–at Mission Garden

With the heat and winds of these few days before the Solstice in Tucson, native and introduced mesquite pods are ripening fast and blowing off the trees. NOW is the time for the first mesquite harvest! Tia Marta here, encouraging all loca-vores and wild-harvesters to head out in the “coolth” of early morning to collect nutritious mesquite pods, following the traditions of the Desert People!

Velvet mesquite pods dried on the tree, sweet, plump and ready to harvest! (JRMondt photo)

It is perfect timing to prep for a fun, educational–and productive–event coming up this next weekend at Mission Garden in Tucson: MESQUITE MILLING MANIA! –your chance to mill your harvested pods into wonderful flour for baking and cooking for the rest of the year. Make plans for this Saturday, June 26, 2021.

You can bring the whole family to this enjoyable outdoor event. While your pods are being milled you can take in the talks which begin at 8am. There will be mesquite recipe demonstrations at 9am by UA’s Garden Kitchen cooks, a hands-on ethnobotany presentation at 10am with Tia Marta, and a mesquite selection and propagation workshop for the future at 11am with the Desert Museum’s expert Jesus Garcia. This event is sponsored in part by an exciting project initiated at the UA Desert Lab, Tumamoc Hill, to explore resilient desert foods that might sustain us with climate change.

Kui Wihog — Velvet mesquite pods–and Kuwidculs Wihog— Screwbean mesquite pods — in a Tohono O”odham basket. These were like candy for children in traditonal earlier times. They can provide sweet treats today when ground into flour. Find fabulous recipes on this blog! Write “mesquite” in the search box and voila! you’ll have cookie recipes, delicious drink and cake recipes galore!

Kids and adults can try their hand at grinding Kui Wihog in a mortar and pestle then sifting it to separate out the flour. Actually grinding the pods ourselves can really make us appreciate the labor necessary to make a meal before hammermills or Vita-Mixes were invented!

At Mesquite Milling Mania there will be 3 different hammermills running to mill your mesquite pod harvest. If you have never harvested before, check out the detailed directions on the Desert Harvesters site. It is important to harvest directly from the tree–NOT from the ground–and only harvest the most brittle pods, to avoid contamination by fungi and aflatoxin. There will be an inspection table to inspect your cleaned beans before milling. A fee of $2 per gallon of pods, $10 for a full 5-gallon bucket, will be charged for milling to flour. Be sure to bring a ziplock or tupperware to carry home your newly-ground mesquite flour.

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

When you have your own mesquite flour, many recipes and cookbooks will inspire your cookery! This savorthesouthwest site has plenty of great instructions. Food author Carolyn Niethammer’s book Cooking the Wild Southwest is rich with ideas, and Desert Harvesters’ book Eat Mesquite and More is a must. Another great source of mesquite recipes in From I’itoi’s Garden published by TOCA Tohono O’odham Community Action.

Here’s a fast, sweet, delicious traditional drink you can make with a tablespoon of your mesquite flour. I learned this from an amazing Tohono O’odham Elder, admired mentor and friend Frances Manuel-bad:

Traditional Tohono O’odham MESQUITE PINOLE RECIPE:

For one glass of a refreshing summer drink…. in an 8oz. glass of cold water, or cold milk (or almond milk), stir in one tablespoon of mesquite meal (mesquite flour). You can add a tablespoon of pilkan cu’i (roasted white Sonora wheat flour). You can sweeten it with agave nectar if desired. Stir rapidly and enjoy before it settles!

See you at the Mesquite Milling Mania this Saturday– Happy harvesting!

Categories: Sonoran Native | 2 Comments

When Drought Led to Famine, What Did People Eat?

Here in the Southwest, we’re heading into our second year of severe drought after a few years of normal drought. Because we humans live in the Twenty-First Century, we can live on food grown and imported from rainier regions or grown with water pumped from deep in the earth. But what about the indigenous people who lived here centuries ago, how did they cope with drought? What did they eat when the rains didn’t come or were spotty?

It’s Carolyn here today, and I began to look for some answers in the new book Famine Foods: Plants We Eat to Survive (University of Arizona Press, 2021) by Paul E. Minnis, an archaeologist/ethnobotanist. Dr. Minnis writes: “Food shortages of various kinds and severities have been a part of humanity for as long as humans have existed.” Later, he writes, “Out of these experiences, humans have developed a range of responses to deal with these problems including the use of famine foods.”

Although Minnis looks at how people respond to food shortages world-wide, I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the Southwest. Because famines only occurred every so often, there was the chance that plants that weren’t eaten regularly, but could be eaten might be forgotten. The Zuni of New Mexico embedded ethnobotanical knowledge by making plants integral parts of ritual paraphernalia so people had to remember where to gather them and they also included knowledge of plants in ritual liturgy. So even if someone had not actually eaten a plant, they had heard of it.

People facing food shortages also changed their minds about what they considered proper food. During the Second Century in Greece, peasants facing food shortages would eat acorns they had stored to feed their pigs. However on the California Coast, centuries later, Native Americans subsisted to a great part on acorns and considered them a fine and preferred source of food.

Here are some wild foods that sustained desert dwellers in Southern Arizona for millenia even in droughtrs: saguaro, mesquite, barrel cactus, and both prickly pear pads and fruits (pictured above). My colleagues and I have written about all of these numerous times over the years, not as famine foods, but as ways to bring the desert into your life.

This years saguaros are blooming further down on the arms. Botanists believe this may be related to the drought. More fruit means more opportunity for baby saguaros. (Photo by Doug Kreutz)

Another way Native Americans faced food shortages is what Minnis calls “social banking.” In 1939, the town chief of Acoma, a New Mexico Pueblo said, “The people of Zuni are coming. They have no crops. They are coming to work for us. Some day we might have to go to them when our crops are small.” The Tohono O’odham when facing food shortages would sometimes go visit their cousins the Akimel O’odham who had an easier time growing crops with the Gila River water. Because there were no draft animals, it was easier to move the people to the food rather than try to transport large quantities of food.

To learn more about how people all over the world have survived food shortages and famine, get a copy of Famine Foods and learn about human resilience.

Want to know more about history of food in the Southwest? My new award-winning book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage covers more than 4,000 years of food history, from the hunter-gatherers, to the Early Agriculturalists to today’s farmers.

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

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