Posts Tagged With: chia

Not All Sage Is

Salvia officinalis 281040_1280

Salvia officinalis, the sage now used for culinary purposes.

Jacqueline Soule here this week, offering apologies to my English teachers, but I hope I caught your attention with the title. I used it to call attention to the fact that many plants are called “sage,” but only some of them should be used for culinary purposes.

The culinary sage you purchase in the store is Salvia officinalis. This doesn’t mean it is the “official” sage, it means it is the medicinal sage. The word officinalis is Latin for “of or belonging to an officina.”  The officina was the storeroom of a monastery where medicines were kept.

Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor' 341933_1280

Tricolor sage – looks good in the garden and can be used for cooking.

Plant Nerd Note: Like iris (Iris), the scientific name and the common name for salvia (Salvia) are the same.

Salvia is a massive genus, with over 1500 named species and varieties of shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and annuals. Many of these salvia are used, often for cooking or medicinal purposes, in ritual (Salvia apiana, the white sage), and to simply bring us pleasure as cultivated garden ornamentals.

Salvia apiana and palo santo 1996155_1280

The white sage used in ritual, Salvia apiana.

Salvia officinalis once had many medicinal uses, including to help ward off bubonic plague (not a common ailment today). Studies done in recent years show that sage does have some medicinal value – including as a local anesthetic for the skin, as a hemostatic agent, and as a diuretic.* Sometimes savoring the Southwest includes savoring that “ahhh” of soaking your feet after a long hike.

Salvia officinalis foot bath 650874_1280

Salvia officinalis, the common culinary sage, is said to help reduce swelling in tissues.

In my garden I grow a slew of salvia.  Salvia officinalis or true sage is for the kitchen. Shrubby Salvia greggii (Gregg’s salvia, autumn sage) comes in vast array of colors (I have 7 different colors so far) and I keep it for the hummingbirds and for the edible flowers.

salvia greggii 1713347_1280

Greggs sage, Salvia greggii, is a lovely garden plant with edible flowers.

Salvia coccinia, the scarlet sage, is non-shrubby and blooms in winter when the autumn sage doesn’t. The scarlet flowers are edible by humans and the hummingbirds hover within millimeters of the ground to sip the nectar.

salvia coccinia 1332975_1280

Scarlet sage does best in our area with afternoon shade. (Edible flowers!)

I have killed several plants of Salvia leucantha, the Mexican bush sage because I do not cover my plants when it freezes and this semi-tropical Mexican native is not frost hardy.

salvia leu Mex sage 172407_1280

Tropical Mexican bush sage needs protection from frost.

To finish on a positive note, both species of chia, Salvia hispanica, and Salvia columbariae grow well in my Sonoran Desert yard.  Salvia hispanica likes containers with nice rich potting soil and some afternoon shade in summer. Salvia columbariae grows in the desert soil and comes back as a winter wildflower every year, especially if I sprinkle the soil with water once a week. More on chia in a future article.

Salvia columbariae by Las Pilatas nursery

Salvia columbariae, one of the species of “chia.” Photo courtesy of Las Pilatas nursery.

Salvia hispanica

Salvia hispanica, one of the species of “chia.”

 

 

 

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Fruit & Vegetable Gardening in the Southwest (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 may not be used.

* The information in this post is true to the best of our knowledge. It is offered without guarantees on the part of the author or any shareholders in this website, who disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information. Be aware that if herbs are misused, they can be harmful.

Categories: Cooking, edible flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom crops, herbs, Kino herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Pear Prickly Pear Desert Dessert

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

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

After baking and stirring, they looked like this!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Amy’s Apple Crisp

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

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

 

Topping:

1 cup mesquite meal

1 cup rolled oats

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

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

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 pound (1 stick) butter

2 tablespoons milk or water

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

 

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

The Charm of Desert Chia

A patch of desert chia (Salvia columbariae) inviting pollinators….

A patch of desert chia (Salvia columbariae) inviting pollinators….(MABurgess photo)

It is happening right now in desert gardens and up desert arroyo beds–the visual surprise of desert chia! But you have to look twice, as they can be elusive.

Tia Marta here to share some thoughts about a very important little desert ephemeral.  Salvia columbariae, brought on by winter rains, is spreading its lovely ground-hugging rosettes and beginning to send up its wand-like square flower stalks to greet pollinators with spherical clusters of deep blue flowerlets–almost appearing “ultraviolet” to our eyes.

Chia’s foliage itself is a wonder.  If you get down on hands and knees with a magnifier, you’ll see a most knobby green terrain-of-a-leaf.  Pinch the leaf and a luscious bouquet arises.  Oh if we could capture that scent!  It would make a lovely lotion.

A rosette of beautiful desert chia with its scented, intaglio foliage--Wishing this were a squeeze-and-sniff photo!

A rosette of beautiful desert chia with its scented, intaglio foliage–Wishing this were a squeeze-and-sniff photo! (MABurgess photo)

Humans are funny in that when we see wildflowers emerge in the spring, as they are now, we HAVE TO HAVE THEM in our gardens!  Well, if we want them now, we should have planted the seeds last fall!  Put it on your calendar right away–on the October page–to buy those chia seeds and plant them at the beginning of October when the nights turn cool.  Or, if you are into instant gratification, if you need a quick wildflower fix, there just might be a plant sale this weekend somewhere in Tucson, AZ, where they will have potted chia starts ready to put in the ground–to give you a show, and a harvest, before hot weather sets in.  If you like to gamble, you could rake in some seeds this month and chances are the seeds (which have built-in DNA smarts) will wait until fall rains come to germinate, as their germination-triggers are attuned to cool/wet conditions; amazingly, hot summer rains  won’t tempt them out of seed dormancy.

Balls of spiny seedheads climb the square stems of these mint-family wonders, as long as moisture lasts.

Balls of spiny seedheads climb the square stems of these mint-family wonders, as long as cool moisture lasts. (MABurgess photo)

 

Close-up of desert chia in flower--note the sphere of tiny flowers (JRMondt photo)

Close-up of desert chia in flower–note the sphere of tiny flowers (JRMondt photo)

Check out the Plant Sale THIS WEEKEND–March 11-13–at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, for starts of several spring ephemerals–maybe even chia.  There is still time to get them planted to enjoy their color and later their seeds.

And, take a walk up any arroyo–Yetman Trail or King Canyon in the Tucson Mountains, Pima Canyon or Finger Rock Canyon into the Catalinas, or trails in Catalina State Park–for a chance to see a patch of desert chia in bloom.

Double desert chia seedhead (JRMondt photo)

Double desert chia seedhead (JRMondt photo)

About April and May, when the days are getting hot and dry, return to your patch of chia to find straw-colored spiny balls dancing on slender dry stalks, usually calf-high, sometimes knee-high, or, after a wet winter/spring, perhaps thigh-high.  Try to find them just after they dry before the breeze has battered them and scattered their seed.  With a strong paper sack (or a canvas bag that you can wash later to soften the spiny bracts that will get stuck in the fabric), gather the seedheads and crush them.  Bare hands or soft-gloved hands BEWARE!  Best to use leather gloves for gathering seedheads.

 

Dry stalks and spiny seed heads of desert chia (MABurgess photo)

Dry stalks and spiny seedheads of desert chia (MABurgess photo)

In earlier times, Native Peoples may have used baskets shaped like combs to pass through patches of chia seedheads to gather many at a time.  There are records of Cocopa and Chemehuevi people of the Colorado Desert storing large ollas full of chia seed.  When you see how tiny the seeds are and realize how much work it is to harvest an olla of chia seed, the time and effort must have been astounding–but they KNEW how important this food is!  When chia was ready, the whole village had to be out there gathering, making the most of the short window of opportunity.

The nutrition of chia–both our native desert chia and the Aztec chia, Salvia hispanicum–is way up there among the super-foods.  Packed in the tiny seeds is a big percentage of omega-3 fatty acids.  In addition, chia contains complex carbs which give lots of sustained energy, like slow-release fertilizer–a great food for athletes.  These same carbs balance blood sugar, providing a gift to hypoglycemics or diabetics.

Taste the glorious nutrition of a chia-mesquite-berry smoothie! (MABurgess photo)

Taste the glorious nutrition of a chia-mesquite-berry smoothie! (MABurgess photo)

Chia Mesquite Berry Smoothie Recipe

1 Tbsp chia seed, and a pinch for garnish

1 cup apple or cranberry juice

2 tsp mesquite meal (optional, and delicious)

1 cup frozen blueberries or raspberries (or other favorite berry)

1 cup vanilla yogurt (or 1 cup plain yogurt and 2 tsp agave nectar)

ice optional

Soak 1 T chia seed in a cup of apple juice or other fruit juice for 5-10 minutes.  Then combine all other ingredients in a blender.  Pulse until all ingredients are mixed. Pour into 2 big glasses, sprinkle top with a pinch of chia seed, and enjoy with a pal!

 

Tarahumara Chia and Desert Chia are available in seed packets and seed mixtures from NativeSeeds/SEARCH.

Tarahumara Chia and Desert Chia are available in seed packets and seed mixtures from NativeSeeds/SEARCH.

You can visit the NativeSeeds/SEARCH online catalog or visit the one-of-a-kind store on North Campbell Avenue to find the right seeds for your garden.  They have Tarahumara chia, the one made famous by the Raramuri native runners of the Sierra Madre.  NSS also has every wildflower mix containing desert chia, for spring garden showiness or benefits to wildlife.  Come by the Flor de Mayo booth at StPhilips Farmers Market for ideas for using chia and a pinch to try for yourself.  For learning more about seed saving, try a class at NativeSeeds/SEARCH.

The gifts of chia–from the visual and olfactory, to the culinary and the medicinal–are many, and even magical.  We can participate in spreading their wealth of beauty and benefit by planting and harvesting, saving their seeds and passing them along with hope and intent….

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

In Praise of Seeds and Rebirth

Scarlet runner beans grown by ace gardener T.S.Swain–good nutrition and beauty besides (MABurgess photo)

Tia Marta here this beautiful Easter week, singing the praises of seeds, with stories of rebirth to share! When I hold seeds in my hand, I am blown away by their significance. These little lightweight packages of starch and protein, exine skins and genetic chains, are weighty with potential for what they can do in the future, and truly weighty with messages from the past—genetic wisdom selected by the many forces of Nature through time, and in the case of agricultural seed, by caring humans—all encased in a holding pattern, a portal where time stretches. Seeds are life in abeyance. Each seed is a nexus, connecting the ways of the past with hopes for the future. To see life spring again from a seed is a miracle every time it happens—even for elders who have seen it happen a zillion times, and one worth sharing with children for their first.

native chia (Salvia columbariae) in bloom at Mission Garden (MABurgess)

wild native chia seedheads (Salvia columbariae) ready to winnow (MABurgess photo)

wild native chia seedheads (Salvia columbariae) ready to winnow (MABurgess photo)

All of life celebrates spring re-energizing time with Nature’s renewal, Easter’s message of life out of death. In the Sonoran Desert we are celebrating not only new growth but also nourishment with the spring harvest, the results of winter rains. Here, our winter ephemerals (a totally different suite of plants than our hot-weather annuals) are completing their blooming and pollination cycles, their seedheads bulging and ready to be scattered, shattered, caught by wind, coyote legs, or human socks, to be spread to the next possible patch of desert soil in prep for this fall’s rainy season (or for feeding furry or feathered desert dwellers.) Chia seedheads will soon be ready to gather and winnow for their superfood nutrition. Don’t forget to thank the plant (and all the forces which brought those chia seeds to fruition) as you chow down on its high omega-3 fatty acids and its blood-sugar-balancing complex carbs in your smoothie or chia fruit salad!

 

Heirloom barley in flower at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom barley in flower at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom White Sonoran Wheat seedheads filling out at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom White Sonoran Wheat seedheads filling out at Mission Garden (MABurgess photo)

It is written that Passover (the roots of which began in a desert akin to our own with winter rainfall and grains grown as winter crops) cannot be celebrated until the barley is harvested. When Father Kino and other Padres brought Old World grains like wheat and barley to our corner of the Southwest, the same winter growing was observed. Now, at the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace Mission Garden (at the foot of A-Mountain) direct descendants of those original heirloom grains are topping out where you can see them “in action” any Saturday for a tour (see http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org).

Heirloom White Sonoran Wheat berries, local, organic, traditional, from BKWFarms (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom White Sonoran Wheat berries, local, organic, traditional, from BKWFarms (MABurgess photo)

Scroll thru our savorthesouthwest posts to check out Tia Marta’s January blog for some enjoyable insights on the ancient White Sonoran Wheat and great recipe ideas, and a nutshell history –introduced by Kino, found again by Native Seeds/SEARCH, and now being grown with soil-enriching organic methods by the Wong Family in Marana.

Wheat is rich with symbolism as well as nutrition—full of life-giving energy, complex carbohydrates when the whole grain is eaten, and good protein. Irish farmers weave complex seedhead sculptures and hangings for good luck, representing protection, provender, and plenty. For traditional Italians especially, wheat symbolizes renewal and rebirth and has become an important Easter food.

Tucson Foodie-par-excellence Vanda Gerhardt located a most marvelous recipe for an Italian traditional Easter pie (judysculinaria.wordpress.com) made with wholesome wheat grain. She has served samples to delighted farmers market visitors at the Flor de Mayo booth at St Phillips Sunday market (www.heirloomfarmersmarkets.com).  With her inspiration I have modified it for a totally local treat, made with our own Padre Kino White Sonoran Wheat berries from BKWFarms!

Luscious Easter Wheatberry pie, from judysculinaria.wordpress.com

Luscious Easter Wheatberry pie, from judysculinaria.wordpress.com

Here’s my version of this yummy custard Pastiera di Grano dessert for you to enjoy with its Sonoran Desert name:

Heirloom Wheat Berry Pie—Postre de TrigoEntero–Pastel Pascual de la Pimeria Alta!

Ingredients for pre-cooking wheat berries:
1 cup whole grain heirloom White Sonoran Wheat Berries (available from NSS or Flor de Mayo)
5 cups drinking water
2-4 narrow strips lemon peel, orange or tangerine peel
Pinch salt optional
Instructions for cooking wheat:
Rinse white Sonoran Wheat berries to remove chaff. (Overnight soak optional.)
In saucepan, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer an hour, then check doneness. Berries are best when they are al dente but done through. Allow more simmer time if need be.
[After wheat berries are cooked you can use them for many different delicious recipes.]

Sweet Pie Crust (Pasta Frolla)
(You can make this and the filling while your wheat berries are simmering!)
Ingredients for pie crust:
1 2/3 cups White Sonoran Wheat pastry flour or 00 (available from NSS, HaydenFlourMills)
1/3 cup organic sugar, OR ¼ cup sugar and 1 T mesquite pod flour
1 tsp lemon or orange zest (optional)
½ cup butter chilled and diced
1 large egg lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt (if unsalted butter)
Instructions for pie crust:
Combine flour, sugar, zest, and salt. Mix thoroughly (in food processor if available). Cut in butter until breadcrumb texture. Whisk in wet ingredients—egg and vanilla. If needed (as in dry climates) add 1-3 T of ice water and mix. Form mixture into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill at least an hour.

Ingredients for Pastry Cream Filling:
2 T organic sugar
1 T White Sonoran Wheat flour
½ cup milk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
Instructions for Pastry Cream:
Sift sugar, flour, salt together into saucepan. Whisk in egg and milk. Mix well. Cook on low heat stirring constantly until it boils and thickens (approx. 3 minutes). Place in bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on top of cream mixture eliminating all air bubbles, and set in frig to chill.

Ingredients for Ricotta Cheese Filling:
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup organic sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup finely chopped orange or tangerine peel candied (optional)
1 tsp orange flower water or rose water
½ tsp cinnamon
Instructions for making Ricotta Filling:
Preheat oven to 350 degreesF
In mixing bowl beat ricotta until creamy. Mix in sugar and eggs. Fold in candied citrus peel, flower water, and cinnamon. Next fold in the refrigerated pastry cream and 1 cup of the cooked White Sonoran Wheat berries. Mixture should feel thick.

Final steps–Cooking Wheat berry Custard Pie:
Roll out 2/3 of the pastry dough and spread on floor of 9-inch pie dish. Pour in the cream/ricotta/wheatberry mixture. For creating lattice top on pie, roll out remaining 1/3 dough. Cut in strips about ½ inch wide and place atop pie filling.
For a glistening egg wash, whisk 1 egg and pinch of salt and brush the pastry lattice.
Bake 50-60 minutes or until top and crust edges are golden brown and the custard filling is firm in the middle. Test with cake tester or toothpick in pie center. Cook additional minutes until tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Best chilled for a few hours before serving.
Buon Appotito –y buen provecho!

Note: you can find organic White Sonoran Wheat Berries at Native Seeds/SEARCH store or online http://www.nativeseeds.org, also at Flor de Mayo’s booth at Sunday St Phillips Farmers’ Market, Tucson, http://www.flordemayoarts.com or 520-907-9471. Orange blossom water is available at Mid-Eastern groceries.

 

Staghorn cholla bud about to open, with ants enjoying extra-floral nectaries (MABurgess photo)

Staghorn cholla bud about to open, with ants enjoying extra-floral nectaries (MABurgess photo)

 

Wheatberry salad with cholla buds--an April delight (MABurgess photo)

Wheatberry salad with cholla buds–an April delight (MABurgess photo)

With cholla bud season in full swing, it’s a great time to make a marinated wheatberry and cholla bud salad for a refreshingly cool hot-weather dish. Marinate cooked wheatberries in your favorite dressing, chop fresh veggies and add cooked cholla buds—and voila you have flavor, fun, and nutrition!

Giant Aztec white runner-beans, aka bordal and "mortgage lifter" (MABurgessphoto)

Giant Aztec white runner-beans, aka bordal and “mortgage lifter” (MABurgessphoto)

With the sap rising, and the gardening bug tugging at you, now is the perfect time to sew seeds of two very special long-season beans—the Tarahumara scarlet runner (see top of post) and the Aztec white runner (available at http://www.nativeseeds.org).   (Note: white runners looking like small Easter eggs are also referred to as “bordal” and, similar to the tomato by the same name, “mortgage lifter.”  If you can baby your young plants thru the heat and drought of May and June into monsoon growth, both of these beans will give you not only great food next fall but also glorious ornamental vines until then. Trellis them on the east side of your house or a wall for eastern light and protection from the blasting western sun. Hummingbirds will love you as they visit both the brilliant scarlet flowers and even the white flowers.

May your garden and your table be blessed with the fruits of the desert, bringing rebirth of good nutrition to the land and to our greater community of creatures and cultures!

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

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