Posts Tagged With: flowers

Heartease

In a few short days it will be February – and it can be a dreary month, often rainy and cold, even in southern Arizona. All hearts need some easing in this upcoming shortest of months. Luckily, here in southern Arizona, February is the month we can easily grow one of the most hearteasing and cheerful flowers on the face of the earth. Heartease is the common name for Viola tricolor, best known as one of the mothers of the pansy. The simple beauty and delightfully friendly tricolored faces of heartease, pansies, and violets have long been admired by poets, artists, lovers, and cooks!

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Use.
Pansies and violets have a long history of human consumption. The flowers, fresh or candied, were a favorite edible decoration at medieval banquets. Tarts made from pansies or violets were a Victorian delicacy.

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Top a custard tart with berries and heartease.

Heartease flowers can be used to flavor and color salads, herbal butters, jams, jellies, syrups, desserts, herbal vinegars, and even wines. Studies indicate that flowers contain appreciable amounts of vitamins A and C, so along with adding color to the salad they are healthy for you.

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All of these are high in Vitamin C.

Ethnomedicinally, pansies and violets have been used to treat health problems ranging from epilepsy to depression. A tea made from the leaves was prescribed for quelling anger and inducing sleep. Roman revelers wore wreaths of violets in hopes of preventing hangovers.

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Smoked salmon salad with purple pansies – colorful and yummy.

 

Grow.
Heartease, pansies and violets grow well in Tucson from seed sown in October. At this time of year it is best to buy “seedlings” or already growing plants. Replant seedlings into the ground or containers in partial to full sun, and keep these temperate climate plants watered.

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Tiny Viola odorata is incredibly fragrant and grows well in our area.

I like planting pansies and violets in containers with potting soil for three reasons. First, Viola do best in rich, moist soil with good drainage. Second, I put the containers up on a table with metal legs so the critters can’t climb up and eat my plants. Third, these charmers are up where I can easily see them and enjoy their beauty. Harvest them too, when I’m making a dinner salad.

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Yogurt with chia, berries, and hearease. A great way to start the day.

Caution.
Ornamental plants from “big box” nurseries are very often treated with toxic insecticides and fungicides (biocides) that are systemic (throughout all plant tissues) and stay in the plants for around three months. Herbs and vegetable plants from a nursery are not treated with systemic biocides because they are edibles.

 

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 the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).
© 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 © Jacqueline A. Soule where marked and they may not be used.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, Kino herb, medicinal plant | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cholla Crepes with Hollandaise and Mulberry Compote Yogurt Crepes

 

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Spring in Tucson means cholla buds and mulberries! Amy here with two of our perennial favorites, wrapped in crepes.

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A found a budding Pencil Cholla Cactus in a friend’s yard, and I could pick in exchange for a harvesting lesson. See Tia Marta’s Cholla bud post to learn how to collect and process this favorite desert food. This wasn’t a stellar year in the wild, so I was glad to harvest from a few plants thriving with a bit of care. Pencil chollas, hard to find in the wild, have few spines for the size of the bud and fall off easily when brushed.

Mulberries are another cultivated cousin of a wild desert riparian food, and my grandfather planed a beautiful tree many years ago that produces enough fruit for birds, dogs and people, too.

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I cooked a bowlful of mulberries with a splash of rum and a squeeze of lemon. I added a bit of water while cooking, just to keep it from sticking.

Brainstorming how to show off these little treasures, I remembered crepes! My mom and aunt taught my family to make crepes with a special electric skillet designed to dunk into a wide shallow bowl of batter, making a delicate skin and browning it delicately.

Lacking the very wide, very shallow bowl and the electric crepe maker, I have been making them lately on a cast iron griddle. Start by whirling one cup flour (I used half whole wheat and half all purpose), one and a half cups half and half (milk or milk substitute works fine), 3 tablespoons butter melted completely (or oil), four eggs, and a dash of salt in the blender. Transfer to a quart jar or measuring cup for easy pouring.

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Heat a cast iron pan to medium, swirl the pan before the very first crepe with a small pat of butter, and take a relaxing breath. With one hand, pour batter on the griddle while quickly rotating the pan until the batter reaches the pan’s edges. Hopefully most of the batter is set by then, but if not, just use a little less batter next time and cook this crepe a little longer. If the batter gets too thick, thin with water so it is easier to swirl on the griddle.

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When the edges are papery and the bottom spotted with brown, flip the crepe with your fingertips and brown briefly on the other side.

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Stack the cooked crepes on a plate directly on top of each other. This batch of batter made about a dozen for me.

Cholla Bud in Crepes with Hollandaise

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Boil the de-spined cholla buds in water for 10 minutes, then drain. Heat a bit of olive oil, add a clove of minced garlic, a dash of salt and the buds.

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To make hollandaise, put one egg yolk, a tablespoon butter, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of salt in a double boiler. Whisk until creamy, adding a splash of hot water if necessary to thin the sauce. Incorporate one more tablespoon of butter and keep warm. The sauce can easily be doubled or quadrupled as necessary. Assemble, roll and enjoy!

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For Mulberry Crepes, you can add a pinch of sugar to the batter if you want. Spread a hot crepe with mulberry compote and a spoon of plain yogurt.

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Fold in quarters and garnish with pansies.

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Enjoy the last days of spring, and I’ll be back in summer. Love, Amy

 

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

Hearty Jojoba

jojoba green fruit

Green jojoba fruit dangle below the branches, slowly ripening in the desert sun.

posted by Jacqueline A. Soule

If you know how I title most of my blogs, you now have a hint on how to pronounce jojoba – it’s pronounced ho-ho-ba. (The “j” is an “h” sound in Spanish. Which reminds me of the time at the busy health clinic when “Hakalina” did not recognize her name called out by the nurse – but that’s another story.)

Jojoba is the O’odham name for the plant (Simmondsia chinensis) and it came into Spanish via the work of Father Kino. Indeed, Father Kino wrote in his journals about the plant. In Bolton’s 1919 translation of Kino’s journals, Kino writes of a visit with “Pima Indians” (pg. 93) and states that, among other items “. . . they also have bezoar, the medicinal fruit called jojoba, blankets, cotton fabrics, curious and very showy baskets or pitchers, macaws . . . and other conveniences.” Later, Kino describes the fruit as “. . . like the almond, and with a very salutary and effective remedy for different kinds of sickness.”

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Jojoba shrubs are either male or female. Here a male shrub offers it’s pollen filled flowers to passing pollinators.

Other common names for the plant include goat nut, deer nut, pignut, wild hazel, quinine nut, coffeeberry, and gray box bush. Although there are references to jojoba as nuts, they are, botanically speaking, a seed.

Jojoba was used in most areas where it is native. The uses varied with tribe. O’odham would crush the seeds to yield an oily paste useful for dry cracked skin, chapped lips, cuts, scrapes, and burns. Seeds were ground and pressed into cakes, and small portions were eaten in moderation as food. Too much jojoba has a laxative action. Seri used seeds as an emergency food, but more commonly as part of a shampoo process. Seeds can also be made into necklaces.

Jojoba-oil

You can purchase pressed jojoba “oil” in many stores. I use the oil in making lotion.

 

Currently, jojoba is grown commercially for its “oil,” in reality a liquid wax ester, expressed from the seed. This oil is rare in nature. Technically it is an extremely long straight-chain wax ester and not a triglyceride, making jojoba and its derivative jojoba esters more similar to human sebum (body oil) and sperm whale oil than to vegetable oils. Jojoba oil is easily refined to be odorless, colorless and oxidatively stable, and is often used in cosmetics as a moisturizer and as a carrier oil for specialty fragrances. It also has potential use as both a biodiesel fuel for cars and trucks, as well as a biodegradable lubricant. Plantations of jojoba have been established in a number of desert and semi-desert areas.

 

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Jojoba plantation in one of the semi-arid areas of India.

Jojoba is currently the Sonoran Desert’s second most economically valuable native plant (overshadowed only by the Washingtonia palms used in ornamental horticulture). Plant breeders are doing selective breeding to develop plants that produce more seeds, seeds with higher oil content, and characteristics that will facilitate mechanical harvesting.

A few interesting taxonomic notes. Jojoba is the only species in its plant family, making it quite unique among flowering plants. While there are around 400 monotypic genera, this is the only monotypic flowering plant family. The scientific name, Simmondsia chinensis, is an example of the need for good penmanship. Jojoba does not originate in China! Johann Link, the botanist naming the species, misread Nuttall’s collection label “Calif” as “China.”

Jojoba habit

Jojoba shrubs live well in the desert.

Harvesting and Use.
Jojoba seed on a single bush will ripen slowly over several months. This is one of the traits breeders are seeking to change. Seed is ready to be harvested when the hulls easily fall off and a slight tug releases it into your hand. If it resists, it isn’t ripe.

Store harvested seed in jars or even in the freezer. Grind jojoba seeds in a mortar and pestle for topical use. Alternatively toast the seeds and munch as an occasional snack.

If you have the technology, you can harvest seeds and press them for the oil. Or simply plant them in your native landscape and let the native wildlife use the seed.

Planting and Care will be covered in a future blog.

 

To learn more about jojoba and other native plants used as herbs, please come to my free presentation “Father Kino’s Native Herbs” at the Main Library on Saturday Sept 13 at 1:30. More at http://www.library.pima.gov/calendar/?ID=26635

Some of the information in this article is excerpted from my book “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today” (2011, Tierra del Sol Press, $15). I hope you will consider purchasing a copy locally at Antigone Books, Arizona Experience Store, Magic Garden, Mostly Books, or Rillito Nursery.

© 2014, Jacqueline Soule.  All rights reserved. I have received many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you are free to use a very short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact me if you have any questions. JAS avatar

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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