heirloom crops

Sprouted White Sonora Wheat-berry Mesquite Brunch-cake

White Sonora wheat-berry sprouts in a mesquite coffee cake makes a festive local brunch treat–and celebrates May-June harvests in the Sonoran Desert!

With the local Baja Arizona heirloom wheat harvest of White Sonora completed at Mission Garden at the living history San Ysidro Fiesta (May 22, 2021), and with the organic White Sonora wheat harvest still happening at BKW Farms in Marana–AND with the mesquite pods beginning to ripen all over the desert– now is a great time to celebrate both harvests in one delightful coffee cake!

Tia Marta here with a fun recipe that heralds the upcoming Mesquite Milling event Saturday, June 26, 2021, at Mission Garden. Mark your calendar for this special morning to bring your fresh-picked, dry, cleaned pods to be milled by one of possibly three hammer-millers into wonderful flour to freeze and use all year long. Check www.missiongarden.org for details and instructions for harvesting. (While you are in your calendar be sure to note mid-May of 2022 for the next year’s San Ysidro Fiesta–not to miss.)

Head over to Mission Garden or order online from NativeSeedsSEARCH to purchase whole white Sonora wheat-berries. (They, of course, are not really berries–they are kernels of the ancient low-gluten wheat that Padre Kino and other early missionaries brought to the Southwest, conserved by NativeSeedsSEARCH.)

To sprout wheat-berries, soak them overnight, then sprout for 2 more days by running fresh water over them and draining them about 3 times per day until tiny roots or white grass blades begin to emerge. Don’t wait–This white-tendril stage is the sweetest you will ever taste!! (Note–Plan your baking day ahead. If the emerging tendrils begin to turn green they will toughen rapidly. You can slow the sprouting process somewhat by refrigeration.)

BRUNCH CAKE RECIPE:

Blender 1/2-2/3 cup of sprouted wheat-berries with 3/4 cup milk (or buttermilk, or sour milk).

In a mixing bowl, cream together 1/4-1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter. Beat in 1 egg, then mix in the blendered sprouted wheat-berries and milk.

In a separate bowl, sift together 1 cup flour (I use white Sonora wheat flour but any flour will work), 1/4 tsp. sea salt, 2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/3 cup mesquite meal or flour.

(I’m using up my last year’s mesquite flour anticipating next month’s harvest and the milling event…)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Optional add-ons: Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp of grated lemon, tangerine, or other citrus rind.

Beat dry ingredients into liquid ingredient mixture to make batter….

Pour batter into a 9″ baking pan. Top with sliced fruit or your favorite desert delicacies (hackberries, chia, barrel cactus fruit slices and/or barrel cactus seeds….). Sliced bananas, apples, kiwi will all work fine.

Bake at 375F for 25 minutes or until cake tests done….

How delectable can it get…. when you savor ancient wheat sprouted to its most vibrant, life-giving potential, then you add the sweetness of nutritous mesquite flour from the desert’s back-40, celebrating it all in a fun coffee-cake? Tia Marta here hoping you can share this with favorite friends outside on a shady patio together!

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mesquite, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweet Squash Crisp

Hello Friends, Amy here with my new favorite way to enjoy winter squash. Some years I find myself with manageable butternuts or stringy cushaws that I only want to puree for soups or sweet dishes. But this year Tucson CSA had Fairytale, Cinderella, Red kuri, and various hubbards all sweet and smooth textured! Also, this fall the apples were so crisp and flavorful that I never got around to making apple crisp. To make up for this, I decided to give winter squash the apple crisp treatment.

I started by dropping a hard shelled winter squash on the patio floor. Crack!

I then scooped out the seeds, cut the skin off, and trimmed the ragged portions that bordered the central cavity. (The inner trimmings simmered in a small amount of water until tender and ended up pureed for another project.) I made the tidy pieces of raw squash into cubes and placed them in a buttered baking dish. I gave those a head start in a 350 degree F oven while I made the topping.

I never use a recipe for the topping but it works. It is different every time but still totally delicious. In the food processor I pulse together about 2 cups of oatmeal, 6 tablespoons butter, a handful of walnuts, brown sugar to taste and a dash of salt and cinnamon. If the mixture seems very dry, I add more butter or a bit of liquid (maybe some mesquite broth). Anything from wet sand to drop biscuit dough will be fine. I like to leave it coarse, but it can be blitzed if you prefer. Coconut oil works in place of the butter beautifully. Basically this is granola, which makes a great substitute for all the other ingredients. In the past I’ve added mesquite meal and different sweeteners and spices. Seriously, just go for it. It is not expected to rise or stay together anyway. Who says baking is not improvisational!

I spread this over the not quite tender squash and put in back in the oven. When the top is browned and the squash tender, it is ready. Serve hot or room temperature for dessert or breakfast. Vegetables in every course, YUM!

Categories: heirloom crops, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Atole, a mug of warm comfort

Hi friends, Amy here with a hot drink way more satisfying and nourishing than hot cocoa for a quiet, cold night. Atole is a drinkable porridge that can be flavored to suit your taste and whim. Of course, fond family memories of making and enjoying it this time of year make it all the sweeter.

The ingredients are flexible and it is a great way to showcase a small amount of wild harvested or specialty food items.

Corn tortilla meal, in this case from a very starchy blue corn, was treated with lime, dried and ground for making tortillas or tamales. Of course it also comes in white and yellow varieties, but all colors are much starchier than grocery store corn meal. There are also toasted starchy corn meals specifically for making atole. If you don’t have of these on hand, you can substitute corn starch or a mix of corn starch and regular corn meal.

I used water but milk of any sort (cow, coconut, almond, rice) is great. Local honey is delicious, but any sweetener, including granulated sugar, is fine. Or the drink can be left unsweetened.

I shelled and ground acorns from Emory Oak trees (Quercus emoryi), that are mild and edible as is. Other species of acorns are more bitter but can be leached by putting the shelled acorns, whole or ground, in cold water for a few minutes and draining. Repeat the leaching of tannins this way until they are not bitter, to your taste. Mesquite meal is excellent in place of, or in addition to, the acorn meal.

Atole is great with or without chocolate. Cocoa powder works perfectly, but instead I toasted raw cacao nibs in a dry pan until shiny and fragrant, then ground them. For spice, I added a chiltepin to the molcajete with the nibs. A coffee grinder is also a excellent way to grind the acorns and nibs.

I also added a spoon of Mano Y Metate Mole Negro powder for spice. Cinnamon or vanilla would also be welcome additions. Everything goes together cold in a pan and thickens as it comes to a simmer.

Due to ingredient variation, more liquid may be needed to make drinkable. Adjust the seasonings and add a pinch of salt to taste.

Enjoy, stirring often to keep everything suspended. Mmmmm… Stay safe and warm!

Atole de bellota
From Amy Valdés Schwemm of Mano Y Metate

Per serving:

1 cup water or milk (cow, coconut, nut, grain, etc)
1 tablespoon corn masa meal (or corn starch)
1 tablespoon acorn meal (or mesquite meal or more corn)

To taste:
1 tablespoon cacao nibs (or cocoa powder)
1 tablespoon Mano Y Metate Mole Negro powder (see ManoYMetate.com)
1 tablespoon honey
1 chiltepin
A dash of salt

If stating from whole acorns, shell and grind. If bitter, cover with water, soak for 30 minutes and drain. Repeat as necessary for your taste.

Toast the cacao nibs until shiny and fragrant, then grind with the chiltepin.

Put the water in a small pan and whisk in the acorn and corn meals. Heat, stirring often, until slightly thick. Add the rest of the seasonings and stir until well combined. Drink in mugs, stirring with a spoon to suspend the coarser parts as you enjoy.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, herbs, Libations, Mesquite, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yellow squash blossoms with blue corn

 

Hello all, Amy here with my two little summer squash plants growing in the garden. 

They’ve been flowering beautifully, but I’ve only eaten one patty pan. 

Each squash plant produces flowers that make pollen (male flowers) and flowers that make fruit (female flowers). Each flower only opens for one day. On that day insects (or a human with a tiny paint brush) pollinate from one flower to the next, from the same or different plants, resulting in the famous swelling summer squash. Without pollination, the little fruit withers and dries. Looking at the stem below the flower is the fastest way to determine a fruit or pollen producing flower. Since I don’t plan to save seed and both plants are of the same species, I’m mingling pollen from the pale green patty pans and the yellow patty pans. I won’t see the difference in this year’s crop. Often pollen producing flowers bloom days before any fruit bearing flowers appear, so those are fair game to eat. Unfortunately, I also had many days with only female flowers and no pollen! I did not have any cheese on hand to stuff them like Carolyn used in this recipe, but I did have some lovely heirloom blue corn meal.

 

 

After dipping in beaten egg, I dusted the blossoms (a few male flowers from my Tucson CSA share and the females from my garden) in the salted cornmeal.

I also sliced a yellow crookneck from the share and treated it the same.

Then into hot oil…

While that was going, I RAN out to find something fresh to garnish this crispy little dish.

 I found garlic chives, flat leaf parsley and a volunteer “wild” tomato I’ve been babying in a pot since last summer.

After a final sprinkling of sea salt, I ate it immediately, very hot! 

A delicate treat from the garden. There’s plenty of summer left to eat giant green baseball bats. 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Flowers, Gardening, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Backyard Wolfberry Salsa

I planted a one gallon container wolfberry bush in a water harvesting basin on a dry corner of the yard in 2015. That first summer I watered it sporadically, then after that I left it alone to compete with the grass and weeds. Five years later, it’s a seven foot tall by seven foot wide bird sanctuary. Wolfberry certainly once grew wild on this land, in the floodplain of the Santa Cruz River, about a third of a mile from the current channel.

Actually I planted several species of wolfberry, and a Baja species has only lavender flowers now, but has a very long fruiting season.

This Tucson native Fremont wolfberry, however, has a short bountiful spring fruiting in years with good winter rains. If you look closely, you’ll see a few white flowers among the red berries.

The North American wolfberries are close relatives of the gojiberry from China and distant relatives of tomatoes. Wolfberries are slightly sweet but taste and look somewhat like little tomatoes, so are also called tomatillos.

Harvesting in the thorny branches is meditative to me, unlike for the flitting verdins working the other side of the bush.

In the absence of fresh tomatoes, I decided to make a salsa. Also in the yard are I’itoi’s bunching onion.

Our Tucson wild oregano, oreganillo, is also known as Aloysia wrightii or Wright’s beebrush. It tastes somewhat like Mediterranean Mint family oregano, somewhat like other Verbena family Mexican oregano species. It definitely has a lemony scent that I sometimes catch in the breeze before I spot the scraggly plants hiding in plain sight in the wild. The leaves never get much larger than this.

Putting all this together, I broke out last year’s stash of backyard grown chiltepin and the salt I collected a few years ago near the Sea of Cortez.

In the molcajete, I started with the chiltepin and salt.

The diced I’itoi’s onions

And the fresh wolfberries and oreganillo

When making Mano Y Metate mole powders, I sift the largest particles from the lime treated masa meal. I’ve been making this leftover coarse meal into a mush and frying it. From frozen to crispy in the time it took to make the salsa.

I ate in the yard, contemplating the bounty of the desert.

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, herbs, Kino herb, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Wonderful Winter-Squash!

It may not be intuitive that WINTER Squash refers to a number of fantastic SUMMER crops!  Many winter squashes (or pumpkins) are in the same genus Cucurbita.  They can be eaten fresh in their youthful softness in summertime.  If left on the vine to mature into autumn, the same bulbous fruit develops a sturdy, tough skin, “shell” or “rind” which  makes them into great “keepers” through the winter.  You can save one whole, without refrigeration, until a feast or potluck occasion calls you to open it up to serve a crowd.

A volunteer at Tucson’s Mission Garden at a fall harvest. Two of the “Three Sisters” (Chapalote corn and Magdalena Big Cheese Squash) were dry and ready to harvest.(MABurgess photo)

Tia Marta here to share some creative ideas for serving winter squash–aka pumpkins.   The harvest of heirloom pumpkins at Tucson’s Mission Garden last fall was sumptuous and I purchased one of my favorites, Magdalena Big Cheese Squash.  It is so named because NativeSeedsSEARCH plant explorers were given it many decades ago by a farmer in Magdalena, Sonora, and its shape resembles an old-fashioned cheese-wheel.

A fresh Magdalena big cheese squash cut open, ready to seed–Visually savor the glorious orange flesh full of beta-carotenes.  Even better to savor its taste!
 (MABurgess photo)

Exercise care in cutting this huge pumpkin. It can be tough and requires a hefty knife. You can clean the seed to dry and save for next summer’s monsoon garden, or to share with the Pima County Public Library’s Seed Library. There are enough seeds inside to use some to toast with garlic oil and salt for a healthy, zinc-filled snack (especially good to eat for boosting the immune system in flu season).

It took two of us to cut wedges of it, one to stabilize the fat fruit keeping hands out of the way.  We shared chunks with several friends and relatives, and, unbeknownst to each other, each sent an email exclaiming how it was “truly the best squash I have EVER tasted!”  There couldn’t be better recommendations.

Simply steamed, chunks of Magdalena Big Cheese are a totally blissful experience. Here I dusted it with Spike spice-blend –but it really needs nothing –just eating!

For a down-home easy dish, try stir-frying slices of Magdalena Big Cheese with marinated tofu and other veggies, and serve over rice.

Stir-fried sliced Magdalena Big Cheese pumpkin with soy-sauce-marinated tofu, onion, and pea pods. Delish! Serve over rice. (MABurgess photo)

If you have leftovers, or if you want to serve a more exotic dish, you can curry your steamed or roasted squash, mashing with curry powder, salt and pepper to taste, then serving it with side “boys” to complement the curry.  I place little bowls of crystalized ginger, TJ’s blistered peanuts, dried currants, grated coconut, and banana slices for guests to bedeck their curry with.

Curried Magdalena Big Cheese squash with garnishes of peanut, mint leaf, crystal ginger, raisins, and banana. (MABurgess photo)

I don’t just cook winter squashes.  They are so sculptural that I have to document them–to paint them!  You are cordially invited to see my squash and gourd watercolors displayed next weekend at our Flor de Mayo StudioSaturday and Sunday, February 8 and 9, 2020–at our ArtTrails.org OPEN STUDIO TOUR on Tucson’s West Side.  See the ArtTrails website for a map to Flor de Mayo Studio (also showing photographer Rod Mondt’s nature images).

Shapely Dine Cushaw –a big-as-life watercolor by MA Burgess–Join us for the ArtTrails.org OPEN STUDIO TOUR Sat-Sun Feb.8-9 to see more!

Categories: Cooking, heirloom crops, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rosie Bravo’s Chimichangas

Hello, Amy here. Once I lived next door to Rosie, who made food that her husband Arturo peddled in the neighborhood. She made Sonoran classics including tamales de res, THE BEST tamales de elote, Mexican interpretations of Chinese food (for parties), and her own creations. One of Rosie’s creations was a spicy bean burrito, wrapped in bacon and fried, served with her own salsa roja.

Inspired by Sonoran Hot Dogs wrapped in bacon, she had no name for this delicious lunch, but it seems to me to classify as a chimichanga. The chimichanga has a few often sited origin stories, but it is a logical thing to fry stuffed flour tortillas just like you do corn tortillas!

 

To replicate Rosie’s dish, I started with Mano y Metate Adobo Powder. I cooked a couple tablespoons of powder in a splash of grape seed oil until it got bubbly and slightly brown.

 

Then I added a couple cups of cooked pinto beans and their cooking liquid. (Yes, these were from the freezer.) Of course, any bean would be delicious.

I let them defrost and reduced the liquid until it was almost dry. Then I mashed the beans by hand.

I heated a big wheat flour tortilla in by biggest pan JUST until pliable, an important step in making any burrito. Skipping this step makes for cracked, loosely rolled burritos. That is never good, but for this project would be a disaster.

The beans have to be spread pretty thinly, because these are only rolled without folding the ends, and because they have to be sturdy enough to fry.

Then a strip of bacon (or two) are wrapped around the burrito and fastened with toothpicks. (Yes, you could totally just fry the burrito without the bacon!)

Fry until golden and crispy. I had to add a little splash of oil to the pan, but by no means was it deep fried. Simply roll the chimichanga to brown on all sides. The bacon shrinks and attaches firmly to the tortilla as it cooks. If you started with a good flour tortilla, it might shed flakes of crispy dough, so handle gently.

I suggest eating immediately. (Yes, before you cook the next one.) Rosie used to pack each in small brown paper bag, to keep them crispy. But they are still wonderful at room temperature. ¡Buen Provecho!

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, heirloom beans, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Agave Fest!

Every year in late April and early May, Tucson residents and visitors celebrate the agave plant in all its glory with dinners, cocktail demos, mescal and bacanora tastings, demonstrations and fiestas. It’s Carolyn today and for the third year, I’ve taken part in the agave roasting at Mission Garden.  The agave plant is a succulent that thrives in arid conditions and when roasted becomes very sweet. It is the defining ingredient in mescal and tequila. It has also been used for thousands of years by the Native Americans as food. The Hohokam even planted agave fields stretching over 1,200  acres in the north end of the Santa Cruz basin. It was a crop that needed little tending and propagated on it’s own by sending out pups. Anthroplogist Suzanne Fish estimates that the Hohokam in the area could have harvested up to 10,000 agave plants annually.

There are many species of agave. We’re not sure how many kinds were used by the Native Americans. (MABurgess photo)

Historically, the stiff and thorny leaves were cut from the agave and the hearts are baked in an earth oven. The people just chewed the pulp from the fibers. Then there was a step up in technology when the hearts were steamed and roasted, crushed and used to make tequila, mescal and bacanora. Here is a link to a demonstration of a old-fashioned bacanora “factory” in Mexico. Of course, today the big commercial mescal and tequila makers use industrial ovens.

But during Agave Fest, we like to celebrate the oldest traditions, so Jesus Garcia demonstrates baking agave in an earth oven.

Jesus Garcia placing an agave heart in an earth oven on the grounds of Mission Garden. (CNiethammer photo)

Because we don’t all have earth ovens, I am in charge of the home-baking demonstration. I wrap the hearts securely in heavy foil and bake them for about 10 hours at 350 degrees F. (If you try this, be sure to put a foil-lined pan under the agaves because even the most securely wrapped hearts leak sugary juice.)

Agave heart split in two so it could fit in my home oven.

This is what the roasted heart looked like after 10 hours. The core on the right is where I removed some of the leaves.

The next challenge is to get enough pulp from the fibers to actually make something. The Native Americans just chewed on the baked leaves and discarded the fibers. Distillers and people who make agave syrup crush the juice from the fibers. To further soften the leaves, I tried boiling them for a while. I also put them in my food processor which did a good job of separating fiber from pulp.

You can also tease out the pulp with a knife.

(We are all constantly experimenting to try to find what works best. A woman who attended my presentation said she has cut up a small agave heart and cooked it in her large slow cooker for three days.)

So once you’ve gone to the trouble of getting pulp, what do you do with it? Here’s where the experimenting comes in. I’ve combined it with water to make a murky homemade agave syrup. You can use it to season anything you want to sweeten a little. For the Agave Fest demonstrations, I’ve made a mixed squash, nopalito, and onion saute and added some of the agave pulp. It adds a subtle sweetness and everybody loves it. I also used the pulp to mix with some ground popped amaranth and ground chia. Added a little commercial agave syrup. Formed little balls, firmed up in the fridge, then dipped in melted chocolate. Yum!

Amaranth, chia, agave balls with chocolate coating.

Of course, by the time I served the food, it was nearing 7:30 or 8 p.m. and everybody was starved so it all tasted especially good!

_____________________________________

Want to learn more about wild desert foods and how to prepare them? My book American Indian Cooking: Recipes from the Southwest tells how the Native Americans used the wild plants for food. Cooking the Wild Southwest gives modern recipes for 23 delicious Sonoran Desert plants. There are all available at Native Seeds/SEARCH, online or in the retail store.

 

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

Chile poblano and pomegranate season: Chiles Rellenos en Nogada

Hello all, Amy here. Every year in the late summer or early fall, I end up with pomegranates and fresh green poblano chiles at the same moment, and need to make Chiles en Nogada. The huge, green (but this time blushing red!) poblano chiles were from Tucson CSA/Crooked Sky Farms and a CSA member brought in the pomegranates from their bush at home.

There are many filling options for chiles rellenos (singular: chile relleno) but I love a traditional picadillo for this dish. I started by cooking ground pork with onion, garlic, and whole cumin. But beef, or a mix of the two, is good, too.

Then I spiced the meat with ground coriander seed, cinnamon, Mexican oregano, tomato, raisins, slivered almonds and green olives.

Charring fresh chiles over an open flame smells so wonderful! After evenly blackening the chiles, place them in a paper bag or saucepan with a lid as they cool and sweat off their skins. Peel without rinsing, as few pieces of skin are not worth watering down the chile’s flavor. While I was already making a mess on the stove top, I roasted a few chiles for other projects. Of course any chile or bell pepper could be used with this filling, so use what you have. Chile poblano, to some people at least, is the fresh version of chile ancho. I always add a disclaimer since chile nomenclature varies, and different chiles get different names and some names are used for different chiles!

Slit each chile and remove the core and seeds while keeping the stem and the rest of the chile as intact as possible. Stuff the chile with the meat.

For the sauce, soak about one cup walnuts in water.

Then drain and liquify in a blender with about one cup Mexican crema or sour cream and half a pound of queso fresco.

Salt to taste and adjust with a little water or more cheese or nuts to taste. Make plenty of this cooling sauce in case one of the chiles is very spicy! Top with sauce immediately before eating and garnish with plenty of pomegranate arils (seeds).

Unlike the fried version, this dish is great served hot, warm or room temperature, which it makes is good to serve a crowd. Another time I’ll post my great grandmother’s battered and fried version that is famous for a reason, but they need to be eaten as they are made. Also, when you have pomegranates, make this one. !Buen provecho!

 

 

Categories: Cooking, fruit, heirloom crops, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Southwest Youth Plant the Seeds of Food Security

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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