Posts Tagged With: Dia de los Muertos

Blessed Monsoon Weeds!

Yikes–look what has happened all around us!

Verdulagas — purslane — exploding in the garden. (photo by ChadBorseth, NativeSeedsSEARCH store mgr.)

With our recent record-breaking rainfall in Baja Arizona, weeds continue to go rampant. Now, what to do with them? Tah-dah–Eat them before they eat up all your garden space!

Tia Marta here—admitting I actually don’t believe in weeds at all—Weeds are gifts to be used, relished gastronomically and nutritionally, admired as amazing strategists,… appreciated!  Weeds are much-maligned plants with a different way of surviving than our regular “garden variety” plant.  They know genetically how to hustle to “make hay while the sun shines.”  So if you need to deal with a bounty of weeds coming on like gang-busters in your garden or nearby in the desert, I’d like to share some fun ways to consume and internalize them.  If we are what we eat, perhaps their “energies” may be a form of speed on some ethereal plane.

Fresh young quelites  (Amaranthus palmeri), aka pigweed and carelessweed, popping up with summer rains–ready to pick!  (MABurgess photo)

Quelite, weed of many names– careless weed, pigweed, Amaranthus palmeri, known as “rain spinach” or Juhukia i:wagi to the Tohono O’odham–is popping up in great green swaths wherever rainwater has pooled. It grows faster than one can imagine. The scourge of cotton farmers, it is, on the flip side, a positive boon to traditional harvesters—Native, Hispanic, African or Asian. As climate change digs its teeth into desert environments, our native Amaranth “weed” holds great potential as a rapid-responder “dry-land” crop for the future.

When flower stalks of Amaranthus palmeri emerge, leaves toughen. Be sure to harvest only the tender leaves. (MABurgess photo)

Mature, drying Amaranthus palmeri image taken at Mission Garden. The seedhead is spiny but contains nutritious seeds! (MABurgess photo)

The nutrition of Amaranth, our rain spinach, is way up at the top of the chart. Consider that 100g of young shoots provides 42 calories packed with 3-4 grams of protein, 3mg iron, and 4-11 mg of available calcium.

If your Amaranth patch matures faster than your harvesting schedule allows, don’t fret–all is not lost. As long as there are soft, non-fibrous leaves to pick, they are fair game for steaming or stir-frying as greens or quelites. Later, when the arching spike of spiny seed capsules matures and dries, you can harvest seeds (carefully with gloves) and winnow the tiny grains in the breeze. THEY are fabulously nutritious too. Amaranth seed is 15-18% protein—far higher than most cereals. They can be cooked as hot cereal or ground into flour– full of healthy, gluten-free carbs and fiber. Amaranth weed seed baked into bread adds a pleasing and healthy crunch. If you want quantity and lack patience to harvest wild carelessweed, the NativeSeedsSEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, has grain-amaranth for cooking or milling, also popped amaranth for adding to baked goods or confections for Dia de Los Muertos. [More to come on that topic in early November.]

Caution:  Here’s a trick plant that may look like Amaranth but it is a perennial that leafs out with summer rains, especially in the Tucson Mtns area–Ambrosia cordifolia–not good for eating–better for soil stabilization. (MABurgess photo)

Delicious and healthy grain amaranth and popped amaranth, available at the NativeSeedsSEARCH store for cooking.

Another “weed” that is probably at this very minute creating mats of green in your garden is verdulaga. Traditional Tohono O’odham know it as ku’ukpulk, and some gardeners refer to the same puffy-leafed ground-sprawler as purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It can be added fresh to any salad for a juicy, succulent texture and tang. And check the nutrients, especially if your body needs available calcium. Every 100g (a little less than ½ cup) of verdulagas provides 0.3mg iron, 19mg calcium, high omega-3-fatty acids and lots of vitamins A&C. Rinse your verdulagas in a bowl of water, then toss the water back in the garden where the many teensy seeds that have dropped to the bottom can go for a “second round.”

Caution:  Another “trick plant” is this purslane- look-alike called “horse purslane”-Trianthema portulacastrum. It will taste a little soapy if you try it. (MABurgess photo)

Picked and washed true verdulaga/purslane, ready to make into pesto (MABurgess photo)

Here is an idea for Monsoon Pesto made with tasty weeds! Pestos of course can be made with almost any greens—e.g. with kale in the winter—so why not use what Nature provides locally and now?  Both amaranth or verdulaga can be used in your favorite pesto recipe for a healthy and tasty Southwest vacation from basil. [A word of caution: If you harvest from the wild, be sure to collect at least 50 feet from a roadway, or upstream from any road along an arroyo. Know your plants when harvesting!]

 

Here is a SUPER-NUTRITIOUS SONORAN DESERT MONSOON-WEED-PESTO RECIPE:

Ingredients:
2+ cups well-packed, fresh, washed Amaranth or Purslane greens
2-3 cloves heirloom garlic
¼ cup pinyones shelled (pine nuts), or any other fresh nutmeats, or soft seeds such as pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2/3 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt or ancient Utah salt, and ground pepper, to taste (all optional)
½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Directions:
In a food processor, combine wild weed greens (Amaranth or verdulaga), garlic, and pinyones, and process on the  “pulse” setting until finely chopped.
With processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the texture is smooth and fine.
Add the cheese and pulse briefly just to combine ingredients.
Taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed. (It may not need any.) Give one last pulse after seasoning.
(Pesto can be stored in frig or freezer.)
Serve on crackers with cream-cheese, in pasta, on pizza made with local white Sonora wheat flour for another local twist, or simply spread on good bread for a fantastic snack, as seen below!

Monsoon Weed Pestos–The top row is Purslane Pesto with Pine Nuts. The darker green is “Pigweed & Pepita Pesto” made with pumpkin seeds–(here served on harvest seed bread squares)–Both Weed Pestos are SO delicious (MABurgess photo)

As you taste either of these nutritious weed pestos with eyes closed, you can SAVOR the wild Southwest bouncing back into its burgeoning monsoon mode and relish the desert’s rhythms. This is Tia Marta’s wish for you– Happy weeding and eating your way through monsoon season!

Amaranthus palmeri seedheads growing too tall for a selfie –but soon ready to harvest for seed

(You can read about Winter/Spring Weeds in my blog from February 14, 2014. Interestingly, the weeds that flourish with our Sonoran Desert summer rains in the heat are totally different from the species that sprout in winter with cool/wet conditions here. The metabolism of winter vs. summer weeds involves totally different biochemical strategies—tho’ they are all similarly nutritious.)

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mexican Food, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wild Greens and Mole Enchiladas

blog1Hello, this is Amy Valdés Schwem, and I’m honored to be here with such esteemed plant and cooking women!

I love harvesting wild greens, but my day job is making mole as Mano Y Metate. Today I’m going to make enchiladas made with Mole Dulce and fill them with wild greens and summer squash. It won’t heat up the house, if you take the toaster oven outside! Enchiladas made with tomato sauce instead of chile are called entomatados, and those made with mole are enmoladas. So the menu can read: Enmoladas de Mole Dulce con Quelites y Calabacitas.

Quelites can refer to several unrelated wild greens, but to me they are wild amaranth greens, Amaranthus palmeri, also known as pigweed.

I grew up eating quelites with my maternal grandfather, and he knew no shame jumping fences to pick weeds. They make a few tiny black seeds, unlike its Mexican domesticated relatives that make enough blond seed to fill bulk bins at the health food store.

It is native to the southwest US and northwest Mexico, and its wild and domesticated relatives are enjoyed around the world both as a green and for its grain-like seed. It easily out-competes summer garden and field crops and is becoming resistant to glyposphate (Roundup). But you wouldn’t want to harvest from those over fertilized fields anyway, since it can absorb too much nitrate, making it unsafe for humans and animals. However, grown in native desert soil, they are safe and nutritious, high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate, among other vitamins and valuable minerals.

Some species and cultivars available at Native Seeds/SEARCH are used for dye and have red leaves, and some make a huge red inflorescence pretty enough to grow as an ornamental, even if the birds eat all the seed. I’ve never had much luck popping the seed I grew, but you can buy commercially popped seed, like miniature popped corn.

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I just visited my closest community garden, Las Milpitas de Cottonwood, and found these beauties in the irrigated beds already in flower. If this was all I had, I would pick the smallest leaves from the stalks and use those.

blog5Hopefully you find quelites before flowering, shorter than a foot tall. I found a few plants in my yard where other things get watered. Many more will sprout with the summer rains.

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Last year I had so many from my Tucson Community Supported Agriculture share that I dried some, just like my great aunt Tia Lucy told me they used to do. I just plucked leaves from the stems and air dried them in the house. To use, I soaked in water overnight, then sauteed with the others. I’ll dry more this summer, for sure.

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To prepare the fresh quelites, wash, chop tender stems and all, and saute with a little onion and garlic in oil. My grandfather always used bacon grease, so that’s what I did.

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It’s also prime season for calabacitas, so use them if you don’t have any fresh or dried quelites. My grandfather also collected and cooked verdolagas for us, which would work here, too.

 

 

 

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Calabacitas, sauteed with onion and garlic. This filling with mushrooms and queso fresco, inside mole dulce enchiladas, is my brother’s signature dish. Well, one of his signature dishes.

 

 

 

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Now for the mole! For a half dozen enchiladas, to serve two people, I used about half of a tin of Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder, cooked in mild olive oil to make paste.

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Then I added about half a cup homemade chicken stock and a dash of salt, but veggie stock is great, too. Water doesn’t quite do it. Simmer until you have a nice sauce, adding more broth as necessary. There will be steam and good smells.

 

 

 

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The secret to enchiladas: start with thin corn tortillas and fry briefly in oil hot enough to sizzle, but not hot enough to make them crispy!!! DO NOT skip this step!

If the tortilla cooks too much, or if it breaks, just turn up the heat and make that one into a corn chip.

Dip the flexible tortilla in the mole dulce.

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Put quelites or calabacitas in the tortilla and roll.

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Top with homemade queso fresco and bake until heated though. My grandfather used the toaster oven outside on the patio in the summer to make enchiladas. No need to heat the house!

Depending on your oven, you may need to cover them with foil, but I didn’t. I like crispy edges. Serve with a cucumber, tomato salad dressed with a squeeze of lime, beans, and prickly pear grapefruit-ade.

Leftovers are best fried in a cast iron pan until crispy.

Mano Y Metate moles can be purchased from Martha Burgess of Flor de Mayo Arts at the Sunday Heirloom Farmers’ Market at St. Philip’s Plaza, Native Seeds/SEARCH, and ManoYMetate.com.

 

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome to Savor the Southwest ! Savoring Honeycomb

Blog Post # 1

This is Tia Linda, one of several “food friends” who will be collaborating on this blog, and the lucky soul who gets to welcome you to Savor the Southwest, a blog Savoring the wild plants, herbs, and animals that grow here in the Southwest.  The focus for my part of the blog is to converse with you about the animals and insects that we live among.  You might already be raising animals, or may flirting with the idea.  Some of my posts may be “notes from the hive”. Some will come from the corrals;  some from the coops. And all will have an offering of some relevant food or recipe.

This week we greet Halloween,  Dia de los Muertos, and less well known, from the Celts Countries, Samhain.   Samhain  means the “End of Summer” and is considered the years third and final harvest. It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st.  Originally a “Feast of the Dead” it was celebrated by leaving food offerings on altars and lighting candles. Extra chairs were set out as an invite to the spirits of loved ones to come home while the veil between worlds thinned.   Symbols at Samhain included apples, Jack-o-lanterns, and gourds, among others.

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“Apis Mellifera Becomes Apis Calavera”  (a quilt by me).  On display at Raices Taller 222 Art Gallery here in Tucson; proceeds will be split equally between Raices (to support one of our best local art venues) and Xerces Society (for quality bee research and protection)

Dia de los Muertos, whose roots are traced back to an Aztec Festival, is celebrated throughout modern Mexico as well as the Southwest.  Favorite foods and beverages of departed loved ones are placed at private alters or gravesides. In the spirit of both Dia de los Muertos and Samhain (and Asian and Afirican cultures have similar rituals)  my offering this year extends beyond the human family to the insect world. Because of my love of bees, and because they are so crucial to our food supply, I am Remembering the vast number of honeybees colonies that have died in the past few years of Colony Collapse Disorder. By setting out honeycomb at my beehive alter, I am both welcoming them home and acknowledging their place – very significant place – in the interconnectedness of all things.

Image                                             So the first food offering to you from this blog is:  Honeycomb.  I offer it both as a food of interest,  as well as to the departed bees that may visit my alter. If you have never eaten honey straight from the honeycomb,  you have a real treat in store.  It is the purest form of honey that we can eat. It is not processed by human hands at all. In fact, the last “hands” to touch it were those of the worker bees, as they placed the wax capping over hexagonal cells holding the honey.

What do you do with the wax? You can swallow it;it will pass right through your system. Or just spit it out. Some people like to chew it like gum. Find a local beekeeper and taste honey from the plants/trees that live in your environment. Mainstream markets will be unlikely to have comb honey, so visit your farmers markets and local health food stores. And consider getting to know the local beekeepers around you.  More than that,  consider becoming a beekeeper yourself!  It will  transform you from being “just” a food consumer, into being a food producer – even if you keep just one hive. Small scale beekeepers play a powerful role these days … but that is for a future post!

Bye for now.

Categories: Beekeeping, Gardening, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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