Posts Tagged With: Gardening With Soule

Southwestern Pintxos– Basque-style Tapas

 

On a recent trip to Spain we enjoyed an adventurous meal in a Basque tavern where we were introduced to Pintxos–the special Basque version of tapas–northwest Iberian finger-food.  These culinary mini-sculptures bring together the most unexpected combination of foods and flavors.  Each one is a creative work of edible art, visually and deliciously pleasing, handy for a pick-me-up meal or a many-course dinner.

Pintxos–traditional finger food of northwest Spain adapted for Baja Arizona! (MABurgess photo)

Tia Marta here to share ways I’ve adapted these traditional Basque food creations, incorporating our local Baja Arizona ingredients.  Pintxos (pronounced peent’shows) are fun to make.  They let your creativity take off.  The endearing individual servings make a pretty presentation.  Bringing a tray of pintxos to the dinner table makes for some drama too.  Your guests’ curiosity is piqued to find out what interesting delicacies make up each pintxo.  All eyes are focused, tastebuds on alert.  The eating pace slows down to savor-mode as each bite is tested—like sipping a new wine.  If being present matters to you, pintxos certainly makes it happen for everyone at the table.  [I can hardly wait to serve pintxos to adolescents to see what happens with their devices!]

A “shrimp boat” pintxo — a cool seafood “salad” for summertime, made with crab or tuna on a “boat” of tomato with “spinnaker sail” of chilled, cooked shrimp. (MABurgess photo)

Here’s a perfect summer pintxo—a little Sea of Cortes Seafood “Boat.” First find some ripe tomatoes from your garden or your favorite farmers’ market.  Next source some fresh, sustainably-harvested crab meat or tuna and Sea of Cortes shrimp.

Culinary oregano (Oreganum vulgare) with happy bee pollinating the flowers in my Tucson garden (MABurgess)

Harvest a few sprigs of fresh oregano from the garden (yours or a friend’s.  This fragrant herb grows so easily in low desert gardens.  See Savor-Sister Dr Jacqueline Soule’s post by searching August 28,2015 “Joy of the Mountains” on this blog for fantastic oregano info. They grow readily from cuttings.)

Pintxo actually means “toothpick” or “skewer,” so have a supply of long toothpicks or bamboo skewers ready.  You will also need:  1)  fresh tomato, cut in half so that each half can rest as a “boat” without tipping.  2)  crab or tuna salad, made with  boiled egg chopped, fresh chopped oregano leaf and a tad of mayonaise to taste; formed into a ball, 3) cooked, chilled shrimp.  Skewer a shrimp vertically from the top and then down thru the tomato (see photo) so that the shrimp becomes the “spinnaker sail” in your little sculpture.

Other neat pintxos can be made as layered, open-faced miniature sandwiches.

 

The perfect base for several styles of pintxos is Baja Arizona’s own Barrio Bread baguette, which can be cut in different shapes to suite each different pintxo. (MABurgess photo)

These baguette slices for other pintxos I cut flat then diagonally to make diamond bases for the Asparagus Spear Pintxos. (MABurgess photo)

I went to Don Guerra of Barrio Bread to find our best local equivalent of the bread the Basque are using in Spain for making pintxos.  Having been in Spain himself, he knew immediately and suggested his baguettes made with BKWFarms‘ heirloom organic Padre Kino White Sonora Wheat flour as our perfect pintxo bread.  Indeed it is! Barrio baguettes lend themselves to cutting in several different shapes, a distinct shape for each different pintxo style.

For the next pintxo–the Four-layer “Salmon in the Tropics” Pintxo–I cut the baguette at an angle to make elongate ovals as the pintxo base.

First step–to make the Four-layer “Salmon in the Tropics” Pintxo–spread avocado thinly on an oval of Barrio Bread baguette

Step 2–spread marinated, cooked salmon thinly on the avocado layer

Step 3–place a thin slice of avocado right on the salmon

Step4–place a thin slice of fresh mango on the top (MABurgess photos)

 

So there you have the Four-layer Salmon in the Tropics Pintxo–a taste combo that I personally would never have thought of, were it not for the creative Basques.

If you aren’t hooked or at least amazed yet, here’s another fun pintxo idea, this time using our local asparagus and chorizo!  Have you ever heard of such an unexpected combination of flavors?  Well it really works!

Asparagus-Spears-with-Chorizo Pintxo

Chorizo-wrapped Asparagas Pinto–cooked in the solar oven! (MABurgess photo)

For this pintxo, you will need:

1) sliced diamonds of Barrio Bread baguette,    2)  fresh farmers market asparagus spears, 3) Mexican-style chorizo OR sliced Spanish-chorizo (available at Trader Joe’s or other specialty grocers) to wrap the asparagus, 4) boiled egg sliced, 5) topping of plain yogurt mixed with your favorite mild chile powder or Spanish pimenton powder.ch

Wrap asparagus spears in chorizo.  If you have Mexican-style chorizo, fry the chorizo-wrapped spears until chorizo is barely done then place on bread to bake in oven or solar oven.  If sliced Spanish-style chorizo is used, bake entire bread/asparagus/chorizo stack in oven or solar oven.  Bake pintxos until asparagus is al-dente (not too long, 300degrees 12-15minutes, or roughly 20-25minutes in a preheated solar oven).  Top with sliced boiled egg and Chile-yogurt sauce.

These pintxos are only the tip of the iceberg of ideas you can create with silvers of your favorite veggies, fruits, fish, or sliced cheeses and meats!  Try thin slices of  Mexican queso asadero melted into your pintxo or Spanish manchego cheese.   Or try a combo of thinly sliced sweet cajeta de membrillo (Sonoran style quince conserve*) and asadero cheese baked gently on a Barrio Bread baguette oval!

*Tucson’s Mission Garden is the place to learn about membrillo fruit and the delicious traditional Hispanic recipes for it.  During the fall harvest you can sign up for workshops to learn how to make your own cajeta de membrillo.

Best-yet pintxo: local thin-sliced ham on manchego cheese on Barrio baguette topped with farmers market mushrooms–and baked to perfection in solar oven (MABurgess photo)

For easy pinxto baking, reaping the gifts of our intense sun, you can order a sleek, easy-to-use solar oven from Flor de Mayo.  Check out www.flordemayoarts.com for a how-to video.  Tia Marta here encouraging you to enjoy new combinations of our local Baja Arizona provender in your own pintxo creations!

 

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

Marvelous Mints

Mint is one of those plants that want to spread everywhere in the garden, and that can be a good thing if you use a lot of mint – like I like to.  Mint is useful for all manner of beverages, from mint tea to mint julep to crème de menthe, or you can use it to make jelly, various sauces, make tabouli, throw some in salad, in wine,,,, the list goes on, but you get the idea.  Oh, and mints are used medicinally and for bath and beauty products too.

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Mint gets a bad rap because it can spread in the garden and crowd out other, less aggressive, plants.  The solution is to grow your mint in pots – and make sure those pots are up off the ground so the mint can’t creep out the drainage hole.  I put my pots of mint up on bricks.

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There are over 100 species of mint, plus many hybrids, and more being bred all the time – to offer new flavors – like “berries and cream mint” I spotted the other day in Rillito Nursery in Tucson. Since we are here to savor the Southwest, today I will talk about using mint for culinary purposes.

Mint and Sweets

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Mint is an herb that offers a tangy counterpoint to foods, especially sweets. A slice of luscious chocolate torte offered with sprigs of mint is one good example. Several bites of rich creamy torte followed by a nibble of mint offers a refresher for your palate, allowing you to savor the chocolaty flavor all over again when you bite back into it.

 

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Mints work well with all manner of sweet things. Lime juice and chopped mint leaves combine to make a tangy and refreshing frosting on orange flavored cupcakes.

Mint and Fruit

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Mint pairs well with many fruits. Like savoring the torte, a few bites of strawberry followed with a nibble of mint offers a refreshing and more flavorful experience.

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Don’t limit your mint use to dessert, wake up your morning yogurt and granola with a sprig or two of mint. Mint is said to aid digestion.

Mint and Drinks

Summer is coming – perk up your lemon-aid and make it even more refreshing with some sprigs of mint.

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And last but not least, plan ahead for Kentucky Derby Day, and make some mint syrup to make mint julep with. Here is the recipe I got several decades ago from my friend Karen from Kentucky. Sorry that I don’t recall her last name, but I remember her sweet nature every year as we watch the Derby and sip minty drinks.

Mint syrup. In a mason jar, put one cup sugar, one cup compressed fresh mint leaves, and add one cup boiling water. Stir as needed to help dissolve the sugar. When cooled, store in the back of the fridge for up to a month. Mint syrup can be used for mint juleps but it’s also a dandy way to sweeten iced tea.

Mint julep. In a glass add 2 ounces of bourbon, ½ ounce mint syrup, sprigs of mint, and stir, bruising the mint leaves. Fill the glass with finely crushed ice. Optionally garnish with fresh mint. Sip and enjoy!

 

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, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).
© Article is 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 are courtesy of Pixabay and may not be used.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Flowers, fruit, herbs, Kino herb, Libations, medicinal plant | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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

Easy to Grow – Caraway

Jacqueline Soule (Gardening with Soule in the land of El Sol) this week to share a wonderful plant to raise this winter.

Caraway has a long history of use as both a culinary and medicinal plant. Evidence of the seed has been found among Mesolithic (middle stone age) food remains, indicating that it has been used by humans for over 10,000 years. Caraway is also mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medicinal manuscript from 1500 B.C.E. Caraway was used in Roman cooking, and Olde English cooking as well, since it is listed in the “Form of Curry,” a cookbook written by Richard the II’s cook in 1390 C.E.

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The entire caraway plant is useful. Leaves, roots, flowers, and seed are all edible. As a spice, primarily the seed is used; by Austrians in beef dishes; by Germans to season pork; by Hungarians in goulash; and by Swedes and Norwegians to flavor their bread. Caraway seed is also tasty in eggs, cheeses, baked goods, pastries, fish dishes, or with many types of steamed vegetables, in pickles, or in fruit dishes such as compote, apple sauce, or some chutneys. I mix caraway seed or leaves with tofu and stir-fry for a pleasantly different flavor. Others use the leaves raw in either green or fruit salads, or in soups and stews. The roots may be eaten raw, steamed, or added to soups and stews.

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With all these wonderful uses of the plant, you may wonder if caraway will grow in the southwest. The answer is a resounding yes! Start caraway seeds in October in your winter garden. Or plant the seedlings any month without a freeze. If you intend to harvest the roots, be sure that you keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season, otherwise they can be bitter. Caraway can be grown in the yard, in the oasis area of a xeriscape. It also does well in containers at least two feet deep.

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Ethnomedicinally, caraway is used to promote digestion, stimulate the appetite, and relieve cases of diarrhea. In most cases it is prepared as an infusion, and has a slightly sweetish taste to it. There is no known indication of toxicity, but all plants contain defensive compounds to deter pests, thus it is best consumed in small doses. People with food allergies to other members of the carrot family, such as dill or cilantro, should also avoid caraway.

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Caraway is easily grown, a prolific seed producer, and a delicious addition many dishes. Adding some caraway to your garden or yard is a green action. It will reduce, at least a little bit, importation of caraway seed from eastern Europe, the principle growers. It can also add a wonderful new flavor dimension to your food.

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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 courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Beekeeping, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Mexican Food, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Admirable Anise

anise-bloom-01

Jacqueline Soule here with another delightful herb you can plant now in your winter garden – anise.

The fragrant anise plant has a long history of use.  Pictures of it have been found in ancient Babylonian carvings, Egyptian tombs, and Roman ruins.  Ancient uses were perhaps medicinal as well as ornamental.  We know that by the Middle Ages anise was used in cooking, medicine and mouse traps.

anise-illustration_pimpinella_anisum

Anise seed and fresh leaves are used to promote digestion and to relieve stomach upsets.  An infusion (tea) of the seeds has been shown to increase glandular secretions, including gastric glands, sweat glands, and mammary glands.  Anise has mild expectorant qualities, thus it was once used in asthma powders, and is currently used in some cold remedies.  There is some indication that it is also helpful to alleviate menstrual cramps.  In aromatherapy, anise properties are: digestive, head-clearing, warming, clarifying, respiratory, and muscle relaxant.

anise-seedling

Much of the anise plant is useful.  Leaves, flowers, and seed are edible, and are often used as a flavoring agent.  Spice uses vary by ethnic origin, but generally the seed is used, as it is most flavorful and easily stored.  If you have access to fresh anise, enjoy leaves and the edible flowers in salads or sautéed with other greens.  And let us not forget anise is used to make liqueurs, including anisette.

In the 1970’s there was some concern that anise oil was carcinogenic.  Those fears have since been shown to be groundless.

star-anise_1

Star anise has a similar flavor but comes from the fruit pods of a tropical tree.

Planting and Care.  
Native to the dry rocky soils of the eastern Mediterranean, anise does well in our area.  Late September to November is the ideal time to plant seeds.  In its homeland, anise grows after the start of their winter rains (the only rain they get).

Due to its taproot, and dislike of being transplanted, anise is generally planted from seed and rarely found for sale as seedlings.  That said, if do you see seedlings -go ahead and buy some.  Much quicker results.

anise-in-nursery-gi

Plant seed in well drained (sandy) soil.  Keep evenly moist for the best flavor and highest seed production.  Plants require at least six hours of sun and can be grown in containers at least two feet deep.  Fertilizer is not necessary, but if you desire ample seeds, a flowering fertilizer, high in phosphorous, helps produce an ample seed crop.

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Anise seed cleaned and ready for cooking.

Harvesting and Use.
Use anise leaves fresh in salads or as a flavoring in cooking.
Leaves may be used fresh or dried for tea or use as a culinary herb.
Seeds are harvested for use and can be winnowed with a kitchen colander or strainer.

JAS avatar

About Jacqueline: If 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, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (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.

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

Fantastic Fennel

Jacqueline Soule here today to discuss an herb you can plant in your cool season Southwest garden any time in the next few weeks – fennel.

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Some varieties of fennel form tasty “bulbs” that can be eaten raw or cooked.

Fennel has a long history of use, and why not? The entire fennel plant is useful! Leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seed are all edible. As a spice, the seed is used in beef dishes, sausage, or in breads and cakes, depending on nationality. Leaves, stems, and flowers can be eaten raw, steamed, or added to soups and stews. Father Kino brought seed to our area over 325 years ago. He no doubt ate fennel as a boy, the seeds in sausage and the bulbs as a vegetable.

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Father Kino blessing food.  Art by Jose Cirilo Rios Ramos.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is so well-liked that there are a number of cultivars. First are varieties with an inflated leaf base which form a bulb-like structure popular as a vegetable, eaten either raw or cooked. This goes by the names: sweet fennel, Florence fennel, finocchio, and occasionally it is sold as “anise.” Another group of cultivars are grown for leaf and seed production and include the standard and bronze fennels. Note that “giant fennel” is a different species (Ferula communis) and is a large, coarse plant, with a pungent aroma, not feathery and fragrant like fennel.

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Leaves can be enjoyed well before bulbs are formed.

Planting and Care. 

Fennel is a tall herb, reaching four to six feet tall. Leaves can be over a foot long and are finely dissected into filiform (thread-like) segments a bare one-eighth inch wide. Foliage comes in a variety of hues, from the bronze fennels that may appear almost purple to sweet fennel in chartreuse green.

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Clusters of yellow flowers are attractive to pollinators.

In the Pimería Alta, start fennel in October in your winter garden. Local nurseries carry fennel seedlings, or you can start plants from seed. For eating, select sweet fennel, Florence fennel or finocchio, while for seed you can use any of the above or merely “fennel.”

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The Pimeria Alta was under Father Kino’s care.

Like most herbs, fennel grows best in a well-drained, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. It is also easy to grow in containers. Use a container at least one and a half feet deep. Potting soil with some added sand makes a good growing media.

Fennel needs six or more hours of winter sun to do well. It is also important to choose a planting site that is protected from high winds because towards the end of the season (in March) the tall hollow stalks can be easily blown over.

Sow seeds a quarter inch deep in rows around eighteen inches apart. When seedlings are two inches high, thin them to stand around a foot apart. Or they also look nice planted in a dense clump in a flower bed.

Keep the soil evenly moist during seed or seedling establishment. Once well established, you can let fennel dry a little between waterings. Some people believe this makes the flavor stronger.

Fennel should not require fertilizer. If you amended your soil at the start of the growing season, the plants should do fine. Plus, avoid fertilizing anything when frosts are a possibility. In late February you could apply a general purpose fertilizer at half strength.

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Harvesting and Use.

Fennel leaves are delicately flavored and can be harvested at any time. They taste quite refreshing in green salads or added to stir fry. I like to munch on them as I work in the garden.

Harvest fennel bulbs once they reach softball size. They make a crisp raw snack and individual leaf bases can be delightful used as a healthy dipper instead of potato chips. This vegetable can also be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled, or perhaps best of all – sliced and roasted with root crops such as potatoes, beets, and onion.

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The “bulb” has easily separated leaf bases that are perfect for scooping up dip.

Harvest seed of fennel by cutting stalks and tipping the entire mass into a paper bag. Let dry for several weeks before cleaning and storage. Store such herbs in airtight containers out of direct sunlight.

JAS avatar

If 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, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (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.

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Castor for Sonoran Summers

Riccinus in NC 8088

Developing seedpods on a castor plant are striking.

Jacqueline Soule here today to talk about a great plant for the summer herb garden, castor bean (Ricinus communis).  It is called ricio or higuerilla in Spanish, and called “blech” by small children dosed with it’s oil.  It is a member of the Euphorbiaceae, the spurge or poinsettia family, which is widely considered a plant family to avoid consuming, so who first figured the oil was a good laxative and spring tonic?!  Not only for internal use, but the oil was popular 3000 years ago for body lotion, hair dressing, and for lamp oil.

Riccinus in NC 8090

Yes, some highly effective medicines, insecticides, and uses of the oil come from the castor seeds (they are not botanically beans), but it is not a plant for home remedies.  All parts of the plant contain both useful and highly toxic compounds.  I mention the plant today because it was used in the Southwest starting in Father Kino’s time, indeed was planted in his mission gardens, plus it is a lovely ornamental plant.  I like to grow castor in my modern day garden as a link to such ancestral gardens.

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The seed pods dry to brown and easily release the seed.

Castor beans are toxic due to ricin, a chemical present in the flesh of the seeds, but not present in the oil.  Although the lethal dose in adults is considered to be four to eight seeds, reports of human poisoning are rare as the seed coat is quite durable and can pass intact through the human digestive system.  Poisoning occurs when animals ingest broken seeds or break the seed by chewing.

Planting and Care.

Castor plants are striking ornamentals.  They can vary greatly in growth habit and appearance. The variability has been increased by breeders who have selected a range of cultivars for leaf and flower colors, including scarlet, bronze, or maroon leaves, topped by large, decorative seed pods in shades of red, orange, or maroon.  Plants make an excellent temporary screen or exotic backdrop for the back of the border.

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In this North Carolina garden, the castor plants provide a backdrop to the annual beds.

Intolerant of frost, castor plants can be started indoors and planted out once the soils warm, or planted directly in the soil in spring.  For best results, soak seeds in water for 24 hours before planting. The large seeds should be buried about one inch deep. Castor plants prefer full sun and should be kept evenly moist to get growing.

Ricinus communis seeds

Harvesting and Use.

It is not recommended to attempt processing of castor oil at home.  But do save some seed of your plants, as there is some effort to outlaw their sale.

kino festival 2016

The 19th Annual Festival of Kino will be held throughout the town of Magdalena, in Sonora Mexico,  18 to 22 of May.  This year the celebration commemorates 50 years since finding Padre Kino’s bones.

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, Tumacacori Mission (founded by Father Kino), Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

© This article and photos are 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.

Categories: Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Beautiful Bay

Laurus_nobilis_leaves_004Jacqueline Soule this week, to discuss an herb you can plant now. This herb is a large shrub/small tree that can even be used as a houseplant! I am speaking of bay (Laurus nobilis), also called laurel, or bay laurel. (In Spanish it is called laurel.) Bay is used for Craft, Culinary, Ornamental and Pest Control purposes.

 

 

Laurel_paintingHistory.

In ancient Greece and Rome, the bay tree was considered sacred to Apollo, the sun deity. Leafy branches of bay were woven into wreaths to crown the heads of kings and queens, priests, priestesses, poets, bards, and the victors of battles and athletic or scholarly contests. At the first Olympics in 776 B.C.E., laurel garlands were presented to the champions of each contest. During the Renaissance, doctors, upon passing their final examinations, were decorated with berried branches of bay. From this ancient custom derives the French word baccalaureate (from “bacca,” a berry, and “laureus,” of laurel); this has been modified into the term “bachelor” in referring to one type of college degree.

 

 

 

Laurus_nobilis_driedUses

Bay has been used medicinally for centuries. It has a reputation for soothing the stomach and relieving flatulence. Bay has also been used as an astringent, diuretic, narcotic, or stimulant. An infusion (tea) is prepared for these purposes.

 

LaurusNobilisEssOilOil of Bay, extracted from the leaves, contains many components, including cineol, geraniol, and some eugenol. Studies of the purified essential oil have proven bactericidal and fungicidal properties. Use as a narcotic may be due to the eugenol found in bay (an oil also found in cloves), which has been shown to have sedative and narcotic effects in mice. Bay is used externally, and considered by some to be a healing agent for rheumatism. In such cases the essential oil is rubbed on the aching joints. A soothing bath soak is prepared from an infusion of the leaves, and added to the bath water. External use of bay may cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals. Always test a small patch of skin before widespread use.

 

Laurus_nobilis_landscape_01Planting and Care.
The bay laurel is an evergreen tree with glossy, deep green leaves. It grows well in arid climates such as Greece, Italy, southern France, and here in the Pimería Alta. Bay is a lovely tree for the yard or even poolside. Growing slowly to form a stately tree, in the very best conditions it will eventually reach 40 feet high (it takes decades). Like most herbs, soil with good drainage is required.

 

laurel-tree-5The only problem with bay is that young trees are frost tender, and must be protected much like a citrus tree. You can grow bay in a container when it is young and move it onto a protected porch for the winter. Plant it out once the plant has some size as it is less likely to freeze, or you can keep in a container for years.  Indeed, you can also grow bay indoors, if you have a well-lit space.

Be sure you buy true bay laurel. Landscape plants sold as “laurel” may be Prunus laurocerasus, also called the English or cherry laurel; a member of the rose family.

 

Laurus nobilis_lvs_01Harvesting and Use.
Bay as a flavoring herb is always used dried. There are several bitter tasting compounds which are lost with drying, leaving the flavorful and useful oils. Leaves are used whole and removed prior to serving as they leave a bitter taste if chewed. Add bay to your cooking, or prepare as an infusion base for soups.

Bay leaves are used as a pest repellent for flour weevils. Just add several leaves, ideally in a muslin bag, to your flour canisters. Change to fresh leaves every six months. Use the old leaves as organic mulch in the garden.

Bay leaves, either fresh or dried, can be used to create lovely long lasting herbal wreaths.

 

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, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

© All articles are 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.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, medicinal plant | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cool Time for the Carrot Family

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Fall is for planting! (From a mosaic in the Herb Garden at the Tucson Botanic Gardens)

Jacqueline Soule here to discuss some herbs to grow now that the Autumn Equinox has come and gone. Days are cooler and shorter, and that means it is time to plant the plants that will thrive in the cool season garden. This means a wide variety of leaf and root crops, most of them imported from the cooler areas of the Old World. Today let us look at a north temperate plant family that loves our winters – the Carrot Family.

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Caraway seeds for rye bread, sure, but have you tried them in a marinade for chicken? Yummy.

The Apiaceae or Umbelliferae, commonly known as the celery, carrot or parsley family, is a family of mostly aromatic plants with hollow stems.  The family is large, with more than 3,700 species spread across 434 genera; it is the 16th largest family of flowering plants. Included in this family are the well-known plants: angelica, anise, asafoetida, caraway, carrot, celery, chervil, sweet cicely, coriander (cilantro), culantro, cumin, dill, fennel, hemlock (used to kill Socrates), lovage, cow parsley, parsley, parsnip, cow parsnip, sea holly, and giant hogweed.  Note that some of these are also deadly poison so this is one family you should only collect in the wild if you know what you are doing.

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The Pima County Library has a seed library where you can check out seeds of many cool season vegetables. 5 varieties per month per library card.

 

Plants. All members of the Carrot Family are a tad fussy about growing conditions. They do not transplant well so either seed them in place or be very careful to not disturb their roots as you plant.

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Just when you think you know plants, seed people like Renee’s Garden come out with a new variety to try!

Soil. All carrot kin grow best in a well-drained, sandy, slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter. That makes them best grown in containers in our area. Use a pot one and a half feet deep. Potting soil with some added sand makes a good growing media.

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Seedlings from the nursery are also an option for many of the carrot family herbs. Just be careful not to harm the roots.

Light. Six or more hours of winter sun is needed to do well.

Water. Keep the soil relatively moist during establishment. You can let all of these dry a little more between water once the plants get larger. Some people believe this makes their flavors stronger.

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Another “new” Heirloom variety to try.

Fertilizer. These plants will get very lush and full with some fertilizer. However, if you amended your soil at the start you don’t need to purchase fertilizer. Plus, avoid fertilizing anything when frosts are a possibility. Come late February you could apply a half-strength general-purpose fertilizer.

Harvest and Storage. Carrots and parsnips are best harvested on based on the days to maturity on the seed package. Most of the herbs taste best when fresh but lose much flavor when dried. Freezing the leaves retains more flavor. Select healthy leaves, rinse, pat dry but leave some moisture. Chop into roughly quarter inch squares and freeze in a labeled plastic bag or yogurt container. This can be used directly from the freezer.

Seed is harvested after the plants “bolt” or flower in spring as it heats up and the days get longer. Pull up the entire plant once seeds start to dry and put it upside down in a paper bag in the shed or garage. They should be dry enough to store after 2 weeks.

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Cilantro seeds are the herb we call coriander. They ripen in plenty of time to use for making pickles this summer.

 

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 more. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

All photos (except where noted) and all text are copyright © 2015, Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. 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.

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, herbs, Southwest Food | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A Useful Desert Broom

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People complain that they want more green in their landscape. Desert broom is one option for bright green foliage.

Desert broom is called escoba amarga in Spanish, and also called a weed by many.  But I advocate you take a moment to consider this shrub more fully.

Desert broom (Baccharis sarothroides) is a vigorous plant – often the first plant to grow on a cleared stretch of desert (or over the septic tank).  It can be useful to have such a tough plant in your landscape palatte.  Along with landscaping it is useful in a number of other ways.

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Sad to say – some people think the only good desert broom is a dead one.

Uses.

Desert broom has a history of use as a medicinal plant.  A decoction made by cooking the twigs of desert broom is used to treat colds, sinus headache, and in general “sore aching” ailments. The Seri use this when other medicinal plants are not available. The same tea is also used as a rub for sore muscles.  (Perchance Father Kino used some after one of his epic rides.)

Studies done on plant extracts show that desert broom is rich in leutolin, a flavonoid that has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cholesterol-lowering capabilities. Desert broom also has quercetin, a proven antioxidant, and apigenin, a chemical which binds to the same brain receptor sites that Valium does. However, many members of the Sunflower family also contain compounds that cause negative side effects, thus caution is advised.

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Desert broom seedlings are often among the first plants to appear in a cleared area. The rabbits do not eat them.

As it’s name indicates, branches of desert broom do make a passable broom for sweeping the dirt floors of an adobe home.

Desert broom is so plentiful, and many of it’s seep willow cousins are used as dye, so I had to do the experiment. The result – yes! It does dye wool. Various mordants result in differing shades as seen below.  Other members of the Baccharis genus have excellent colorfastness.

baccharis dye on wool crop

Baccharis on wool with different mordants. I use the chemical symbols to mark my mordants. Al = alum, Cu = copper, FE = iron.

Desert broom can be used as filler in fresh and dried floral arrangements, with long lasting color and minimum mess since it has few leaves to lose.

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This plant gets chopped often for filler in my flower arrangements. Regular clipping helps keep it a dense and bushy.

Desert broom comes in separate male and female plants. The females release their tiny fluffy seeds at the same time a number of other plants release their pollen, thus the seeds of desert broom often get erroneously called an allergen. The pollen of the male plants is released in fall and can be allergenic.

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No, desert broom does not have yellow flowers. In this case a desert broom grew up through a Cassia.

Planting and Care.
Plants may be purchased at nurseries or can be grown from seed. Avoid over-watering in heavy soils as desert broom will drown.

Desert broom will accept shearing and can be trained into a decent, short-lived privacy hedge. Such a short lived hedge is helpful while the longer-lived, taller, non-allergenic, but slower growing Arizona rosewood (Vauquelinia californica) reaches hedge size. Desert broom can also be useful in the landscape since it grows in heavy clay or saline soils where few other plants thrive.

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These plants get sheared once a month by landscapers with power tools. Note that the native desert broom is growing more vigorously than the non-native cassia from Australia.

JAS avatar If 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 more. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

All photos and all text are copyright © 2015, Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. 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.

Categories: Dye, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Sonoran Crafts, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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