Posts Tagged With: desert gardening

Harvest-time Happenings at Mission Garden

Tohono O’odham ha:l–the traditional desert pumpkin with its corky attachment and rich orange center–is ripening in autumn heat at Mission Garden…..

A colorful harvest is happening at Tucson’s Mission Garden, and it’s time to celebrate!   Tia Marta here with an invitation:   Every Saturday for the weeks of autumn there will be foodie festivities to enjoy at Mission Garden. Come masked and socially-distanced for open-air learning, tasting, photography and fun.  There’s a big one this coming Saturday Oct.17, 2020 not to miss!

O’odham tepary beans hold the record for desert adaptation, high nutrition, rich flavor, and long sustainable cultivation right here in the Sonoran Desert.  Come get a taste of this rich heirloom Sat.Oct.17.

This colorful heirloom bean mix, known as Tom’s Mix, is like a multi-cultural metaphor–bringing the agricultural wisdom of 14 different Southwestern cultures together in one incredibly delectable soup. You can taste it Oct.17 at Mission Garden!

Tohono O’odham 60-day corn could be the fastest maturing and most desert-adapted corn known. It was domesticated by the Desert People long ago. Mission Garden’s volunteers are honoring it and helping to bring it into wider cultivation. Come taste a tortilla made with this ancient and nutritious desert crop!

Ancient Chapalote corn (known from 4100-year-old archaological sites in the Tucson area) and pre-Columbian Tohono O’odham 60-day corn are celebrated at Mission Garden. What a beautiful way to pay proper respect on Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Our mutual thanks to Native ancestors for these gifts from the past which can help us into an unsure future!

All of these Three Sisters–Corn, Beans and Squash–are grown together at Mission Garden in traditional ways, demonstrated in different “time-line” gardens.  Come observe and learn how you might plan your own garden next summer season.

As the evenings get cooler, it will be time to plant a winter/spring crop of ancient White Sonora Wheat, a golden, low-gluten wheat-berry introduced to our area by Padre Kino over 300 years ago. It will be packaged and available for sale at the Mission Garden’s Oct.17 gastronomy book launch event.

Tastes of the Southwestern heirloom bean Tom’s Mix soup and tastes of traditional O’odham Tepary Beans will be available at Mission Garden, Saturday, October 17, 10am-12noon.  Look for the Flor de Mayo table under the north ramada that day.  Also available will be packaged White Sonora Wheatberries with recipes for cooking them for pilaf or for marinated wheatberry salad.  For more wheatberry recipes check out this post.   A portion of the Oct.17 sale of these heirloom foods will go to support Mission Garden’s programs.

Author Carolyn Niethammer and her latest Southwestern foods book will be in the limelight this Saturday Oct.17 at Mission Garden. A DESERT FEAST describes in delicious detail a 4100-year history of foodways in Tucson, Arizona–named UNESCO’s first International City of Gastronomy!

All of Carolyn Niethammer’s books are gastronomic inspirations, but THIS one —A Desert Feast–bears the crown!  It is rich in history and recipes.  Come get your copy signed Oct.17 and discuss traditional foods–wild and domestic– with the author herself.

You can find many fantastic recipes for tepary beans, Tom’s Mix, and wheat berries in this SavortheSouthwest.blog archive using the search box.  Try some of the great recipes on the link SavortheSouthwest post written for healthy menus and specialized diets.  Tom’s Mix and Teparies make fabulously flavorful bean salads, dips, stews, and hummus.  These bean mixes and white Sonora Wheatberries are also available online at www.NativeSeeds.org and at www.flordemayoarts.com .  Also check Tohono Chul Park, Tucson Presidio and Old Town Artisans for Flor de Mayo heirloom foods.

For a full schedule of Mission Garden weekend events, the Membrillo Fest, 60-day corn tortillo demos etc, please see the website www.tucsonsbirthplace.org.

 

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

Delicious Desert Sweets: Pindo Palm Fruit

These days I find myself looking for comfort from sweets. It’s Carolyn here today and what I hear from others, I’m not alone in my cravings. Mother Nature must have anticipated our longings, because she has provided us with some natural sweets. There are many species of palms and the fruits are usually sweet. Some like dates are really succulent; others are rather dry.

I was cooling off in a friend’s swimming pool, when round orange fruits were bouncing off a beautiful palm tree next to the pool. I couldn’t resist biting into one and found it fibrous with a large seed but really sweet. It had some of the tropical flavor of a mango, a touch of lemon, and another element, sort of dusky, all its own. My friend said it was a Pindo palm. I gathered a bag full.

The Pindo Palm fruits sometimes hide inside the tree.

At home, I felt the same excitement of discovery I felt years ago when I first started playing with unusual plants and fruits. It turns out lots of people have been using Pindo palm fruits and sometimes it is even called the Jelly Palm. For my jam, I decided to combine the Pindo juice with some peach and mango. And since everything was already so sweet, I decided to use Pomona’s Pectin so I could use way less sugar. I discussed Pomona’s Pectin in a previous post here.

Here are the palm fruits in my kitchen. I started experimenting.

Pindo Palm Jam

For palm juice

2-4 cups of Pindo  palm fruits

Water to cover

Using a large saucepan, simmer the palm fruits in the water until soft, about 15 minutes. Cool. Then plunge in your hands and squish, squish, squish until the fruit is separated from the seeds. It will be very soft and sort of dissolve into the water. Place a strainer over a large bowl and strain the liquid. Return the residue to the saucepan, add some water, and swish the fruit residue around to get the rest of the fruit. This second rinsing will recover a lot more juice. You can use a cup of the juice for the jam.  Use the rest for a drink, straight or with sparkling water or combined in a cocktail.

This is what it will look like when you squish the fruits into the cooking water.

For jam

1 soft ripe mango

1 soft ripe peach

Approximately 1 cup palm juice

2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice

2 teaspoons calcium water

½ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons Pomona’s pectin powder

Cut the mango flesh from the seed and chop finely. Do the same with the peach. Put chopped fruit in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and add palm juice to bring it up to 2 cups. Transfer fruit and juice to a saucepan. Add lemon juice and calcium water.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and pectin powder and stir well.

Bring fruit mixture to a full boil over high heat, stirring well. Slowly add sugar-pectin mixture, stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve sugar. When jam is at a full boil, turn off the heat.

Ladle into 3 half-pint sterilized jars. Refrigerate or cover with water and boil for 10 minutes. If you are new to canning, you can find full instructions for how to do this many places on-line.

Here are two jars of jam and a center pint of Pindo Palm juice that we’ll use in cocktails. I had three jars of jam but gave one away before I took the photo.

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If you are interested in edible wild plants of the Southwest and Southwest food, check out my books Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, The New Southwest Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the Southwest’s top chefs, and The Prickly Pear Cookbook, with great recipes for both pads and fruits. And remember Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods. In September, I’ll have a new title: A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage. There is more information about my books at www.cniethammer.com.

Buy copies on line or order from your favorite local bookstore. They will love you for it.

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

Tomatillo Mustard Seed Chutney

 

Hello there, Amy here with too many tomatillos! I had eaten plenty of salsa this season and was ready for something different from the bounty of my Tucson Community Supported Agriculture share.

 

I remembered my friend making an East Indian tomato chutney with mustard seeds and curry leaves, and a hint of tamarind for tartness. Tomatillos are already more tart than tomatoes, so this seemed perfect.

 

I collected the ingredients, including urad dahl, a dry black lentil, spilt and peeled. Feel free to omit. Also asafetida, a strong smelling spice that is totally optional, and curry leaves, which I grow in a pot. 

 

After washing the tomatillos, I prepared everything else.

I fried the urad dahl in coconut oil until golden brown.

Then I added chopped onion, garlic, jalapeno and a pinch of salt, and cooked until soft.

I cooked and smashed the tomatilos to a paste and transferred to a blender, but it would be just as good chunky.

In more coconut oil, I fried the mustard seeds until they were popped, followed by curry leaves and a pinch of asafetida.

In went the puree and I simmered it with the water that rinsed out the blender. After it thickened a bit, it was ready. One batch I made included mostly ripe tomatillos and suited my taste perfectly. The second batch was very firm, green tomatillos, so in went a pinch of sugar and another spoon of coconut oil.  I enjoyed with mung beans and rice. Happy summer!

 

1 teaspoon urad dahl

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped or dried red chiles, or chile powder (to taste)

1 basket (or 2) tomatillos, well rinsed and chopped

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

Curry leaves (leaflets from 2 leaves stripped from the mid-vein)

A pinch of asafetida

Coconut oil

Salt to taste

Fry the urad dahl in coconut oil until well browned. Add onion, garlic, and jalapenos and cook until soft. Add tomatillos and salt to taste. Simmer until saucy then puree in a blender.

In more coconut oil, fry the mustard seeds until they mostly finish popping. Add curry leaves and fry until crisp. Add asafetida and stir for few seconds before adding puree. Rinse out the blender with a few tablespoons water and add to the pot. Cook for a few minutes to thicken and for flavors to combine. Cool and enjoy.

 

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

An Exultation of Figs!

Fig alert!–They are ripening all over Baja Arizona!  Salivating allowed– Figs provide much more than yummy fruit and blessed shade.  Come learn more about their super nutrition, their lore and history, and their gentle medicine traditions at Tucson’s Mission Garden–read on!

Find your favorite fig in Tucson’s most productive orchard, perhaps have a taste, and if you crave to grow one of your own edible tree, visit TODAY and TOMORROW, July 17 and 18, at Mission Garden for the Monsoon Plant Sale!  It’s right at the base of A-Mountain on Mission Road from 8am-noon.  (Come masked, social-distanced, and honoring each other’s safety.)

Tia Marta here inviting you to also join me by Zoom next Tuesday July 21, 2020, for an online Fig Workshop.   Take a deep dive into the gifts that figs have provided for people here in the Sonoran Desert for centuries, and in the Old World for millennia.  Fig traditions are so rich.  A diversity of recipes abound for the domestic fig (Ficus carica), not only for the sweet fruits but also for leaves.  And do you know how many ailments can be alleviated with the versatile fig?  We will learn to identify the 7 heirloom varieties of figs growing productively at Mission Garden, discuss their heritage and share amazing recipes.

Figs ripen fast and action is needed to preserve their goodness for later.

It’s like the legendary zucchini drops in Vermont at the height of zucchini season.  When your neighbor drops a bushel of figs on your doorstep, preserving them any way you can is in order.  Try sun-drying them under insect protection such as this picnic net “umbrella”  or in a solar oven with the lid propped open 1/2 inch to let moisture escape.

For a fancy and fast dessert, wash & chill fresh figs with stems on, dip in fudge sauce then in your favorite crushed nutmeats. Set on a platter in frig until celebration time!

 

When Padre Kino introduced the fig, higo, and higuera (fig tree in Spanish), to the O’odham of the Pimeria Alta, it was adopted right away and given the name su:na. Su:na je’e (fig tree) was planted in many Native gardens.

At our Zoom Fig Workshop we will present Hispanic, Anglo and nouvelle recipes for making delicious entrees, preserves, compotes, cookies, and even your own fig “mead elixir”!  We’ll discuss fig anatomy, insect relationships, cultivation, culture….

This is a tantalizing taste of things to come in our Fig Workshop– Agave-Caramelized Figs with Yogurt!

Muff’s Agave-caramelized Figs with Yogurt

Directions:

“Poach” halved figs in 2-3 Tbsp agave nectar with sprigs of rosemary for ca 5 minutes each side.

On a serving of plain yogurt, sprinkle chia seed, then spoon caramelized figs and sauce over yogurt.  Serve warm or chilled.  Enjoy the fig bounty!

For lots of ideas go also to other archived posts on this www.savorthesouthwest.blog such as Carolyn’s Fig Jam or Amy’s pickled fig recipes or enter “figs” on the search box.

Full, illustrated recipe instructions for many of our Mission Garden heirloom figs will be shared at the Zoom Workshop July 21, 2020.   Tia Marta hopes to see you at the Zoom Workshop or at the Mission Garden Monsoon Plant Sale SOON!

[For complete instructions on the planting and care of your new fig tree, or other edible trees in your landscape, check out the instructional video at the SWAAN website Southwest Agroforestry Action Network, a good resource.]

Note:  There are many amazing fig (Ficus) species in warm parts of our Sonoran Desert in Sonora and Baja California, and in other parts of the New World, which were used and appreciated by Indigenous People–but that is another story in itself for later….!

 

 

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, medicinal plant, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Herb-y Salad Dressing for Spring

Herbs, citrus, and a little onion and jalapeno make a sprightly dressing for spring greens.

It’s Carolyn here today to share with you what’s going on at my house. The lettuce in my salad garden is doing very well this year and we are eating at least one or two big salads every day. The homegrown greens are full of vitamins and flavor.

  Garden lettuce is full of flavor and vitamins.

I usually make a simple vinegar & oil dressing, but that’s getting a little boring. I remembered that The New Southwest Cookbook has a great recipe for salad dressing from La Cocina de Luz, a popular restaurant in Telluride, Colorado.  La Cocina de Luz makes the dressing with cilantro and lime and a hint of jalapeno, all distinctively Southwest flavors.

                                     Dill

                                Cilantro

I have abundant cilantro in my garden, although with the warming weather it is beginning to flower and make the little balls known as coriander which I will harvest in a few weeks. I know that there are cilantro-haters out there who think the herb tastes soapy, so I tried substituting dill in the dressing recipe. I also have lots of dill in the garden. It makes a dressing that is just as delicious in a very different way.

Herb Lime Dressing

¼ teaspoon minced jalapeno chile

3 tablespoons minced white or yellow onion

¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice

½ cup canola or neutral-flavored oil

2-3 tablespoons white sugar or agave syrup

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup cilantro leaves or dill fronds

Combine all ingredients except herbs in a blender and process until creamy. Taste and correct the salt/sugar/lime relationship to your taste if necessary. Add herbs and pulse until the cilantro is in small flakes and evenly distributed. Do not over blend or you lose contrast. Serve within 24 hours over torn lettuce.

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Ready to expand your Southwest recipe repertoire beyond the basic enchiladas and tacos? The New Southwest Cookbook can help you up your game with easy but innovative recipes. The dishes originated with top chefs using familiar Southwest ingredients in delicious new ways. These chefs were well-trained and knew how to layer flavors to come up with either new spins on the old favorites or entirely unique ways of blending the iconic chiles, corn, beans, and citrus.  The New Southwest Cookbook can be ordered from your favorite bookstore or ordered from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or the publisher.

 

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mole Negro Sourdough Pizza

Hello, Amy here with a results of a fun project. My Uncle Bob recently gave my mom a sourdough culture, and she sent the whole thing home with me.

The pancakes and multigrain crepes were delicious! But now that I have this culture going, what I really wanted was pizza. After a few days in the refrigerator, it was sluggish. So, I fed it and fed it, every 12 hours for a week, until it was as almost as active as when it came from my uncle. The gift came with these instructions. Before each feeding, it looked like a flour and water paste, as expected. But after bubbling on the counter for 12 hours, it was shiny, stretchy, over twice the volume, and ready to make into bread!

I added water, salt and more flour to make a dough. Mostly white flour with a handful of whole wheat.

After the first rise, the dough was irresistible to fold down, and I forgot to take a photo. But the after the second rising (below), it was airy and smelled sour and yeasty.

Flattened into a round on a cornmeal lined surface, I let it rise again.

For sauce I used leftover Mano Y Metate Mole Negro with turkey!

Then I topped it with grated jack cheese (because that’s what I already had on hand) and thoroughly preheated the oven to blasting (500 degrees F).

After carefully sliding it onto a preheated cast iron griddle in the oven and baking for about 15 minutes…

The smell was unbelievable!!!!!

To restrain myself from burning my mouth, I focused on garnishing it. Cilantro from the garden is just barely ready to harvest.

I also sliced some white onion and cut the pie to hasten the cooling.

The crust was puffy with bubbles, sour and delicious, and the crust so crisp the slice did not flop. Plus the coarse cornmeal gave additional crunch and taste.

Thanks for the inspiration, Uncle Bob!

 

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Savor–with your Sniffin’ Sense!

I was down on hands and knees in olfactory ecstasy, to sniff my lonesome but persistent hyacinth’s sweet bouquet.  Each February it appears in my little orchard’s undergrowth to remind me that spring is on the way. (MABurgess)

I was out on a trail and caught a whiff of what seemed like Avon perfume ahead. Surprised to find that it was blooming mistletoe in the palo verde tree!

You know spring is springing when a waft of sweet scent catches you unaware.  What a great way to SAVOR THE SOUTHWEST!  Tia Marta here to share some olfactory sensations and some ideas for carrying them to your breakfast table or teatime in an aromatic cup.

Mescalbean is a favorite ornamental from the Chihuahuan Desert planted in my Southern Arizona garden. Last night, walking from the driveway I was hit by the scent of grape Kool-aid. Finally traced it to the nocturnally-active flowers of this beautiful “Texas mountain laurel.”

I first met lemongrass on an adventurous trip in central Sonora.  As we walked by a kitchen garden in the lovely Rio Sonora town of Banamichi, an elderly gardener hailed us, inviting us in for a cup of the most refreshing tea–té de limón.  Inspired by her, I’ve been growing it in my own kitchen garden ever since.  I love to snip it to steep and serve as a quick pick-me-up tea on a cool day.  With a few sprigs bundled and cooked in a pot of whole chicken soup, it makes the best lemon-chicken you ever tasted!  Lemongrass is the gift that keeps on giving; it multiplies, and plants can be gladly shared.

My lemongrass made it through the winter freezes and is rich with concentrated lemon essence.

 

Te de limon has a blast of lemon flavor and is full of nutrition–no need to even add sweet.  It is packed with vitamins A, C, and B complex, plus calcium, magnesium, potassium and other important trace minerals.

Scratch the rind of a lemon–especially a Meyer–and your sniff sense will soar into heaven. Add a wedge of lemon rind or tangerine rind to hot tea. Or harvest a couple of young leaves for a simply fine herbal tea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steep 3-5 fresh young leaves of a lemon tree, tangerine or lime tree for a gentle no-caffein tea. Its aroma is a soothing gift….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Magdalena Mahieux, at her family’s farm west of Hermosillo, who introduced me to té de oja.  For breakfast she instructed me how to go harvest my own fresh leaves for morning tea from their lime tree.  Come to find out it is not only refreshing, it is a traditional medicine for calming nervousness and insomnia when made in concentration.

Flowers of our native Goodding’s verbena are sending out their sweetness into the desert air. Soon they will form round mounds of lavender in arroyos and along the highway.

Harvest the fragrant flower stalks of Goodding’s verbena for a calming tea. It can a soothing “slow-down” for active children or adults!

 

 

 

 

Goodding’s verbena is a delightful addition to your garden–and to your olfactory enjoyment.  It is a native (not related at all to lemon verbena) that will re-seed itself to return year after year with its glorious long-lasting lavender color and sweet scent.

Happy sniffing into spring as you savor the Southwest with all your senses!

Tia Marta’ artwork and heirloom foods can be found at www.flordemayoarts.com.  For native desert plants go to Desert Survivors Nursery , www.desertsurvivors.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , | 5 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: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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