Posts Tagged With: Janos Wilder’s Downtown Kitchen

“Succulent” Events with Succulent Tastes–and Invitations….

It’s show time in the desert–S’oo’ahm masad or “yellow moon” for the Tohono O’odham–the month in which seemingly everything in the Sonoran Desert blooms a glorious yellow, arroyos lined with blooming blue palo verde and mesquite, hillsides covered with paper flower, palo verde and cactus blossoms.

Staghorn cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor) flower, bud and ant protector

Staghorn cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor) flower, bud and ant-protector (MABurgess photo)

These spiny, possibly-threatening desert plants have amazing nutritious gifts to pollinators and other hungry creatures, including ants, packrats… and humans.

Tia Marta here with an invitation to learn lots more about our many species of Sonoran Desert chollas, how they fit into the fabric of desert life, and how they have been used by traditional people for generations.  Come join  Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society’s SONORA XI gathering next weekend Friday-Sunday, April 15-17, 2016, for a rich opportunity to enjoy demos, tastes, lectures, and exhibits.  You can learn more about this downtown Tucson event (held at HotelTucsonInnSuites) and register at http://www.tucsoncactus.org.  On Saturday, April 16, I invite you to attend one of my ethnobotany demonstrations at the open conference.  I’ll guide you through careful “hands-on experiences” with edible and useful succulents, complete with some surprising and yummy bites!

De-spining cholla buds at Mission Garden Workshop (MABurgess)

De-spining cholla buds at Mission Garden Workshop (MABurgess)

Cross-section of staghorn cholla flower bud showing stamens and ovules (MABurgess)

Cross-section of staghorn cholla flower bud showing stamens, stigma, and ovules (MABurgess)

Delicious Marinated White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad with Cholla Buds at Mission Garden workshop (MABurgess)

Delicious Marinated White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad with Cholla Buds at Mission Garden workshop (MABurgess)

 

 

Last weekend we celebrated the beginning of the cholla harvest at Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace’s Mission Garden in a workshop led by Flor de Mayo’s Tia Marta (www.tucsonsbirthplace.org/archives).   We explored its ecology, taxonomy, traditional preparation, its culture and archaeological evidence.  The class was topped with a feast using cholla buds in several innovative and delectable dishes–one with heirloom White Sonora Wheat.  For great cholla recipe ideas, scroll back to an earlier Savor blog post   https://savorthesouthwest.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/heres-to-the-budding-desert/.   For additional interesting cholla information and dried cholla buds for purchase, check out  www.flordemayoarts.com.

Young new-growth stem of prickly pear in leaf (Opuntia engelmannii) ready for harvesting (MABurgess)

Young new-growth stem of prickly pear in leaf (Opuntia engelmannii) ready for harvesting (MABurgess)

Another desert food staple–worthy of being considered a medicine as it is so effective in balancing bloodsugar–is our own   prickly pear.  With de-spining and preparation you can enjoy its tangy taste as nopalitos, pickled, stir-fried, or in salads.  Enjoy nopal dishes at some of Tucson’s favorite restaurants like Janos’ Downtown Kitchen or Teresa’s Mosaic.  Attend the demo nopal preparation and tastes at the SONORA XI Conference….(www.tucsoncactus.org).

White Sonora Wheat with swelling seed heads at FOTB's Mission Garden (MABurgess)

White Sonora Wheat with swelling seed heads at FOTB’s Mission Garden–to mature in May (MABurgess)

 

 

 

Seeing the heirloom winter White Sonora Wheat growing tall and green at Mission Garden, its swelling kernels in the “milk-stage,” I’m envisioning the harvest to come, and to plans for La Fiesta de San Ysidro Labrador, when the wheat, first introduced to S-chuk-Shon by Padre Kino, will be maturing and ready to thresh.  My mother’s wonderful caregiver Rosa has introduced us to a delectable recipe she created celebrating both White Sonora Wheat and the fresh vegetables currently available at farmers’ markets.  Her recipe for Market Veggie Omelette with White Sonora Wheat follows–light as a souflee.

Rosa serving her Market Veggie Omelette with White Sonora flour (MABurgess)

Rosa serving her Market Veggie Omelette with White Sonora flour (MABurgess)

 

Rosa's delicious Market Veggie Omelette with White Sonora flour

Rosa’s delicious Market Veggie Omelette with White Sonora flour (MABurgess)

ROSA’S MARKET VEGGIE OMELETTE w/ WHITE SONORA WHEAT FLOUR

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp heirloom White Sonora Wheat flour

1 lg egg or 2 small eggs

1 cup market vegetables, sautéed in olive oil (shaved carrots, chopped fresh spinach, minced I’itoi’s onions bulb and tops…)

2+ Tbsp org. broth, veg or chicken

salt to taste; butter for curing skillet

Directions: 

Saute chopped vegetables in olive oil, then simmer with broth until soft.   Allow to cool. Beat eggs with White Sonora Wheat flour.  Mix with vegetables. Pre-heat small iron skillet, melt butter, pour in mixture.  Let omelette puff.  Turn when slightly brown on bottom, then gently brown on reverse.  Serve w/salsa fresca or sliced avocados. (Another wonderful variation on her omelette is to add prepared cholla buds!)

Find dry cholla buds at the Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday’s St Philips farmers’ market, at NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, at the San Xavier Farm Coop booth at Thursday’s Santa Cruz market at the Mercado, or at the Tucson Cactus&Succulent Society’s SONORA XI conference next weekend.  You can find the freshest greens for Rosa’s Veggie Omelette, including local baby spinach, onions, etc at our many Tucson farmers markets, especially at Tom’s Marana-farm booth at Sunday St Philips market (www.foodinroot.com), or at the Community Food Bank booth at Thursday’s Santa Cruz market at the Mercado.  Easily grow your own shallots for the omelette with NativeSeeds/SEARCH’s I’itoi’s onions–the snappy little spreading onion that keeps on giving.

Come witness ever-growing inspirations for your own garden by visiting Mission Garden at the foot of A-Mountain, Tucson–it’s a must!  There are wonderful docents there to guide you every Saturday morning now that the weather is warming.  In Mission Garden we see examples of cultivated food and native medicine plants that have fed and helped humans in this valley for over 4000 years!  With that track record for desert living, chances are these same plants can help support us into an unsure future of hotter and drier weather–with assurance and nurture.  We owe inexpressible thanks to those farmers and gardeners who have preceded us!

[For more info about succulent events, tours, happenings, and products, check out http://www.tucsoncactus.org; http://www.flordemayoarts.com; http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org; http://www.nativeseeds.org, http://www.sanxaviercoop.org]

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

Taste Buds Ready to “Rejoice in Local”–at Mission Garden!

Gluten-free black tepary brownie-cockaigne for a desert dessert!

Yum!–Gluten-free Akimel O’odham Black Tepary Bean brownies with pinyones — a truly desert dessert served at the Farm-to-Table Picnic Feast at Mission Garden

Indeed, there is no doubt Tucson should be given the designation as an International City of Gastronomy!  Where else in the world could we enjoy a finer, more diverse, perfectly indigenous, more delectable and nutritious PICNIC-FEAST than here in Tucson?  Delicious dishes were the pieces de resistance by some of Tucson’s most renowned chefs for……the first-ever Farm-to-Table Picnic at Tucson’s Mission Garden.

Picking heirloom figs at the Mission Garden for the Farm to Table Feast.

Native-foods cook and author Carolyn Niethammer picking heirloom figs at the Mission Garden for the Farm to Table Feast for her gone-to-heaven fig-bar postre.

At the base of our landmark A-Mountain–the very birthplace of Schuuck-shon–set in a scene of verdant orchard trees heavy with fruit, and heirloom vegetables bearing their colorful autumn harvest, we feasted this past Sunday, October 18, on the tried and true fruits of our desert land.    The community registered for this edible fundraiser via the two hosts of the Farm-to-Table Picnic Feast–our Tucson-born-and-bred organizations– Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace and NativeSeeds/SEARCH.   The cost of $75 covered a magnificent repast–not just a dainty little taste of hors d’oeuvres but a sumptuous serving of at least 7 gourmet entrees, plus a variety of hand-made desserts and some locally fermented beverages!  Either website can guide you to ways of supporting or volunteering for these worthy outfits–http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org or http://www.nativeseeds.org.

At our special outdoor feast, we learned and appreciated where every single bite comes from!  Every ingredient was LOCAL–grown on our own Baja Arizona soil, bathed by our own Arizona sun, watered by our own Pleistocene aquifer, tended by our own neighbors’ hands not to mention those of Mission Garden and NSS volunteers and staff.

To recognize them from the source….the beautiful Native Tohono O’odham Ha:l squashes, grown at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Conservation Farm, in combo with I’itoi’s Onions and other heirloom veggies, morphed into betacarotene-rich chile with Loew’s Ventana Canyon‘s Chef Ken Harvey’s magic.   Mission Garden’s heirloom pumpkins and greens transformed by Chef Doug Levy at Feast Tucson to a superb salad-supreme.

Traditional and delicious--Tohono O'odham Ha:l winter squash with magic inside--and curry pumpkins (MABphoto)

Traditional and delicious–Tohono O’odham Ha:l winter squash with magic inside of them–with curry pumpkins (MABphoto)

Akimel O’odham pearly black teparies from Pima farmer Ramona Button‘s fields  and locally-harvested cholla buds transformed with culinary sorcery by Chef Janos Wilder’s Downtown Kitchen into the most gourmet vegetarian delight.

S-Chuuk Bavi from Ramona Farms

Padre Kino’s White Sonora Wheat from BKWFarms‘ organic fields became the most flavorful and delicately marinated wheat-berry salad by the hand of Chef Rebecca Ramey at Blue Willow Restaurant.  And speaking of transformation, BKWFarms’ organic white Sonora wheat, with the magic of friendly microbes at Dragoon Brewery, became a festive brew with an amazing back-story to delight all samplers.

Ripened seed heads of organic heirloom Padre Kino White Sonora Wheat from BKWFarms in Marana (MABurgess photo)

Ripened seed heads of organic heirloom Padre Kino White Sonora Wheat from BKWFarms in Marana (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farmer Frank’s Crooked Sky Farms‘ GMO-free fresh corn expressed itself in a fresh-from-the garden casserole by Proper’s Chef Kris Vrolijk.    Tohono O’odham traditional melon with other fresh corn and tomato, evolved into a gourmet gazpacho created by the Chef at Desert Diamond Casino, our major event sponsor.

 

Tia Marta here thanking ALL who came to the Table–the Farm-to-Table outdoor Picnic Feast at Mission Garden–to enjoy this enriching experience of Tucson’s traditional foods, cultivated with love in our own “desert terroir.”*  THANKS TO ALL our local–yet world-famous–culinary talent who prepared these sacred foods with care and dedication!  THANKS ALSO to the supporters and volunteers who made this event such a success!   Was it a sign of its significance at that moving moment culminating the feast when the heavens blessed us with a glorious sunset?

The public is invited to visit the ever-changing setting of this feast–the very garden and orchard where many of the heirloom foods are still hanging on fruit-tree boughs or ripening on the vine.  The Mission Garden is open for tours every Saturday with knowledgeable guides to take you through this special desert oasis–a living agricultural history museum.  (For info see http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org).

For your own table, you too can source the heirloom foods served at the Picnic Feast, at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store, 3061 N Campbell, Tucson, http://www.nativeseeds.org, or at the Flor de Mayo booth (online at http://www.flordemayoarts.com) and other farm booths at Sunday’s St Philips Farmers’ Market (www.foodinroot.com).

Native Black Tepary Beans from Flor de Mayo at St Philips farmers market Sundays

Native Black Tepary Beans from Flor de Mayo at St Philips farmers market Sundays

Join NativeSeeds/SEARCH as a member and stay in touch with seed-savers, gardeners, and cooks as we keep these desert-adapted foods alive and well into an unknown future.

Yours truly, Tia Marta, have also honored these heirloom foods artistically by documenting them from my garden in their harvest splendor as watercolor images.  I invite you to view them firsthand at two upcoming OPEN STUDIO eventsART TRAILS on Saturday, Oct 24, and the TPAC OPEN STUDIO weekend Nov.14-15 at Carolyn Leigh Studio.  Search by my studio name, Flor de Mayo Studio, or by artist’s name, Martha Ames Burgess, at  http://www.ArtTrails.org , and at http://www.tucsonpimaopenstudiotour.org  for directions, and do come by for a visit.  You can also check out some of my Southwest Native heirloom food images on my website gallery http://www.flordemayoarts.com — enjoy!

NativeSeeds/SEARCH heirloom Navajo Cushaw Squash watercolor by artist Martha Ames Burgess

NativeSeeds/SEARCH heirloom Navajo Cushaw watercolor by artist Martha Ames Burgess

 

What will Tucson's top chefs cook for the Heritage Picnic?

Tucson’s top chefs cook for the Farm-to-Table Heritage Foods Picnic Feast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Desert Terroir,  by renowned author and co-founder of NativeSeeds/SEARCH, available at the NSS store, is a great read about the deep significance of LOCAL.  We can “internalize” his messages by shopping at farmers’ markets,  growing our own, and honoring long-successful desert traditions, seeds, and foods.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Black Teparies Make a Come-Back!

Rich black teary beans dried, ready to hydrate for cooking

Rich black tepary beans dried, ready to hydrate for cooking

In some light they are a dull charcoal difficult to spot if the pods shatter onto the ground. Sometimes they appear shiny black or opalescent. Somehow black teparies appear to have an antiquity about them–mysteriously harking back to a time rich in prehistory. Tia Marta here to tell you a little about the black tepary bean’s odyssey back into cultivation and into the cooking pots of Southwesterners once again.

Shiny black teparies close up

Shiny black teparies close up

Back in 1912, before WWI and the rapid plunge the “remote” Southwest unavoidably took into East-Coast food fads, there was a crop survey done of the many types of tepary beans being grown and used by different Native American families and communities throughout the Borderlands. The diversity at that time was astounding—some 40+ different colors, forms, sizes, speckles, of tepary beans were reported. Within about a decade there remained only a couple of dominant tepary colors—“red” (an orangy-brown) and white. [For more history, check out Volume 5, No.1 of Desert Plants Journal published by the University of Arizona CALS. Specifically this issue is devoted to tepary beans, and includes an article by yours truly.]

The neat thing about cultivars that are still genetically close to their wild ancestors is that they still contain a diversity of genes that can “pop out” occasionally as visibly different seeds. In the case of the teparies, every so often in a harvest of white teparies, for example, there may turn up a few coral pink, or blue speckled, or even black beans. At the University of Arizona’s Maricopa Experimental Farm, an amazing crop researcher, Mike Sheedy, was, for several years growing teparies to isolate some of these genetic “sports”. He used assistance from his kids (In farming, child labor rules just can’t apply) to help pick out the odd-ball seeds from hundreds of pounds of harvested teparies. Over the years, he grew the separated colors in isolation from each other to preserve color purity. Before research funds ran out he had “re-created” an ancient lineage of black teparies—i.e. he has assisted the ancient genes to come again to the fore, to bring the “invisible” genotype back into the “visible” phenotypes. At termination of his research project he generously donated the black tepary collection to the traditional Pima farming family of Ramona and Terry Button.

Native Black Tepary Beans & Flor de Mayo 1-lb pkg

Native Black Tepary Beans & Flor de Mayo 1-lb pkg

Now—tah-dah!—at last black teparies are in agricultural production on ancestral lands! The public can purchase these little food gems of antiquity now at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store (3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson) www.nativeseeds.org , at the Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday St Philips Farmers Market www.flordemayoarts.com , or online via www.ramonafarms.com.

S-Chuuk Bavi from Ramona Farms

Black teparies are very different in taste from the red or white teparies—although all teparies are much richer than their more distant cousins like the common bean, lima or black-eye pea. Black tepary, schkug ba:wĭ of the Tohono and Akimel O’odham, is the deepest, nuttiest of all, with an earthy bouquet and a slightly bitter after-note reminiscent of coffee. Well, you will just have to try your own taste buds on them!

The public will have an exciting opportunity to taste black teparies prepared by none other than our beloved Tucson Chef Janos Wilder (of Downtown Kitchen fame) at the upcoming Farm to Table Picnic feast at Mission Garden, Sunday afternoon, October 18, 4-6:30pm. Janos is not letting on what his special black tepary recipe will be, but we can be sure it’ll be sensational. [The picnic is by pre-registration only so buy your tickets soon! Online purchase is via the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace site www.tucsonsbirthplace.org.]

Potted blooming chiltepin plant for edible landscaping

Potted blooming chiltepin plant for edible landscaping

All of the heirloom foods served at the Farm to Table Picnic are being grown (even as I write) locally in Baja Arizona, either at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Conservation Farm in Patagonia, or at the Mission Garden itself, or by sponsoring farmers and ranchers such as BKWFarmsInc, the 47-Ranch, and Ramona Farms. Some of Tucson’s best chefs are donating their skill and time to prepare different dishes for us. It will be a great opportunity to put the fun in fundraising for two worthy local non-profits, to share the delicious tastes of our heirloom foods of the Borderlands, and to share community joy in what we are able to produce together locally.

For adventuresome cooks, dessert addicts, and chocoholics, I would like to share two variations on brownies made with—yes, you guessed it—black tepary beans! You will not believe how yummy these are.

Gluten-free Black Tepary Brownie-Cockaigne on cooling rack

Gluten-free Black Tepary Brownie-Cockaigne on cooling rack

 

First, cooking black teparies (as with all teparies) takes some time—and premeditation.  The day before you want to use them, sort, wash, and pre-soak your black teparies. I hit them with a quick boil and let them sit overnight to hydrate slowly. Change the water the next day, adding fresh drinking water. Simmer until soft (it may take 2-3 hours on stovetop or 4-6 in crockpot). You want them beyond al dente in order to puree them in a blender or CuisinArt for the following recipes.

 

Muff’s Gluten-free Black Tepary Bean Brownies-Cockaigne

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked and pureed black tepary beans

1 stick butter= ¼ lb= ½ cup butter

5 Tbsp dark 100% cocoa powder, unsweetened (1 oz.)

¼ tsp sea salt

1 cup organic cane sugar

1 cup loose organic brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs well-beaten

¼- ½ cup nutmeats (I use pinyon nuts to keep the Southwest theme)

Directions for Muff’s Gluten-free Black Tepary Brownie-Cockaigne:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8” baking dish and place a wax paper cut to fit the bottom of pan. Melt butter (preferably in top of double boiler). Stir in thoroughly 5 Tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder. Let the mixture cool. Add sugars and sea salt to mixture and beat until creamy. Add vanilla. Beat 4 eggs and add to mixture stirring until uniform in color. Add 1 cup pureed black teparies and hand-mix. Pour batter into greased bake pan. Sprinkle top of batter with pinyones or other nutmeats. Bake 45-50 minutes until it tests done with toothpick.   Cool pan on a rack. Cut in small squares to serve because it is so rich and moist. Enjoy their delicious flavors AND the healthy qualities of high protein/high complex carb teparies, protein-rich eggs, and the benefits of dark chocolate!

Gluten-free black tepary brownie-cockaigne ready to eat

Gluten-free Black Tepary Brownie-Cockaigne ready to eat–wheat-free, light, nutritious and delicious!

My next black tepary brownie recipe was first inspired by food-writer and “Blog-sister” Carolyn Niethammer’s recipe found in her book Cooking the Wild Southwest (p.133)–a must-have in every SW cook’s kitchen shelf. Here I’ve made some interesting gastronomic additions…including the use of our fantastic local heirloom White Sonora Wheat flour, crushed wild chiltepines, and Mano y Metate’s fresh-ground Mole Dulce powder produced by our local Molera herself, Amy Valdes Schwemm.

 

“Hot-Dam”* Black Tepary Brownie Bars [*in the best sense of the expression]

Ingredients:

5 Tbsp unsweetened 100% cocoa powder

½ stick (1/4 cup) melted butter

¾ cup organic cane sugar

¾ cup org brown sugar, not-packed

2 eggs, beaten

2 tsp vanilla extract

¾ cup pureed cooked black teparies

¾ cup organic heirloom White Sonora Wheat flour**

3 or 4+ crushed wild chiltepin peppers*** (number depends on your desired picante level)

¼ tsp sea salt

1-2 Tbsp Mano y Metate ground Mole Dulce powder

2 Tbsp raw pinyon nutmeats

Adding White Sonora Wheat flour and crushed chiltepin to molten chocolate mixture

Adding White Sonora Wheat flour and crushed chiltepin to molten chocolate mixture

** Freshly milled White Sonora Wheat is available at our Flor de Mayo booth, Sunday’s St Philips farmers market (www.foodinroot.com). Call ahead for quantities larger than 1 kilo—520-907-9471.

***whole wild-harvested Chiltepines are available at the NSS Store, 3061 N Campbell, and at Flor de Mayo booth, Sunday St Philips farmers mkt. Chiltepin plants to grow can be purchased at NSS plant sales.

Flavors to guild the lily--Wild chiltepin peppers, ironwood bear molinillo grinder, and Mole Dulce powder

Flavors to guild the lily–Wild chiltepin peppers, ironwood bear molinillo chiltepin grinder, and Mole Dulce powder (all available at NSS store and Flor de Mayo at St Philips farmers market)

 

 

Directions for “Hot-dam” Black Tepary Brownie Bars:

Pre-heat oven to 325F. Grease 8×8” baking pan with wax paper set in bottom. Melt butter and mix powdered cocoa in thoroughly. Add the brown sugar and organic white sugar and vanilla to the butter and cocoa, and beat. Beat 2 eggs and stir thoroughly into the choc/sugar mixture. Wisk in ¾ cup pureed black teparies. Sift together: ¾ C white Sonora wheat flour, ¼ tsp sea salt, and the well-crushed chiltepin peppers. Stir dry ingredients into liquid mixture. Add pinyon nutmeats. Pour batter into bake-pan. Sprinkle 1-2 Tbsp of Mole Dulce powder on top of the batter. Bake 25 minutes or until it tests done (when fingerprint pressed on top springs back). When cooled, cut into small bite-size squares to be served with hors d’oeuvre picks—you will see why…..(and don’t rub your eyes after eating.)

"Hot-dam" Black Tepary Brownies ready to enjoy!

“Hot-dam” Black Tepary Brownies ready to enjoy!

 

 

Tia Marta is hoping you enjoy these fruits and flavors of the Sonoran Desert assisted by fruits of tropical North America—a marriage made in dessert-Heaven! With every bite we should be thanking ancient tepary farmers, and the recent ones who have brought back the Black Tepary from near genetic-oblivion.

 

 

Coming this week to Tucson is a food event not to miss: the Farmer to Chef Connection, this Wednesday, September 16, at Tucson Community Center, 12:00noon-5:30pm, sponsored by LocalFirstArizona. Google their site for tickets and come enjoy a smorgasbord of local tastes.

Also be sure to mark your calendar for October 18 and join NativeSeeds/SEARCH and Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace at the very heart of Tucson’s Birthplace –the Mission Garden at the base of A-Mountain—for the first-ever outdoor Farm to Table Picnic. It will be a feast to remember. Make reservations now and we’ll see you there for fun, flavor, history and friendship!

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Glorious Diversity–A Palette of Heirloom Legumes

The desert this spring is exploding with color, its rainbow shades reminding us of the amazing diversity of life, of species, of varieties of plants in this rich Sonoran Desert! Cholla flowers themselves are a veritable palette of genetic diversity within a species and between species.

Tia Marta here to talk about the rich diversity of beans selected and cultivated over the centuries by smart Native farmers in what is now the southwest borderlands…..

Tom's Mix is a rainbow of color, flavor, nutrition, and genetic adaptations to the desert Southwest! (MABurgess photo)

Tom’s Mix is a rainbow of color, flavor, nutrition, and genetic adaptations to the desert Southwest! (MABurgess photo)

In the genetic treasure trove of the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Seed Bank, there are hundreds of varieties and landraces of common bean, runner bean, and limas that can dazzle both our eyes, tastebuds–and our souls. Their colors, theirs shapes, sizes, sculpture are miniature works of art. And inside each little bean, each variety carries a complex of genes shaped over time to fit a specific local rainfall regime, soil, daylength, temperature range, and human habits. Their genetic potential may provide us some nutritional lifeboats into the uncharted waters of climate change.  (We are in this together.)

Delectable Tom's Mix available online at NativeSeeds.org and FlordeMayoArts.com.

Delectable Tom’s Mix available online at NativeSeeds.org and FlordeMayoArts.com.

Long ago, my gardening pal and mentor Tom Swain “invented” a mix of 14 different beautiful Southwestern heirloom beans garnered from the NativeSeeds/SEARCH collection. Of course we had to call it “Tom’s Mix” (ok–“oldsters” get it). It is the most beautiful set of genetic as well as flavor jewels—truly a treasure to behold and to eat.

Many people at our Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday St Phillips Farmers Market have asked how to identify each bean in the mix. To sort them, ID each variety, and come to know them is a fun challenge.  I’d like to create a game for kids (and adults) to teach taxonomy in a cool way using them.

 

 

So, head for the NativeSeeds store or Sunday’s St Phillips market, pick up a bag of Tom’s Mix, and take the BEAN CHALLENGE!

Herewith is your KEY to unlocking some the of mystery beans of our beautiful desert region.  (They each carry stories with them–come learn more from Tia Marta at the Sunday market… see, buy, taste each beautiful bean, see which one is cooking in the solar oven, and press her to finish her bean book!)  Until then, you can feast on these gorgeous visual hints—first a feast for the eye, later for the palette–with this photographic key to the makings of Tom’s Mix:

Ed's perfect pecan pie made with Zuni beans--a healthy dessert!.

Ed’s perfect pecan pie made with Zuni beans–a healthy dessert!.

“Zuni Gold” (aka “Four Corners Gold”) was originally from the Native Zuni people of NW New Mexico, a flavor gift to the world.

“Zuni Gold” (aka “Four Corners Gold”) was originally from the Native Zuni people of NW New Mexico, a flavor gift to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Yellow-eye bean" (not related to black-eye pea) similar to Zuni Gold but with a distinctively different flavor.  It was the original Boston baked bean before coming west.  So rare it is not often used in the mix.

“Yellow-eye bean” (not related to black-eye pea) similar to Zuni Gold but with a distinctively different flavor. It was the original Boston baked bean before coming west. So rare it is not often used in the mix.

 

“Scarlet Runner” is a vining bean with brilliant red flowers that attract hummingbirds.  It is a large purplish speckled bean not to be confused with lima.

“Scarlet Runner” is a vining bean with brilliant red flowers that attract hummingbirds. It is a large purplish speckled bean not to be confused with lima. (MABurgess photo)

Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) are larger than so-called “common” beans (Phaseolus vulgaris–an insulting name for such wonderful food plants!)  Runner beans, as the name implies, are climbers as compared with bush-beans.  Their flowers are bigger and they bear huge pods.  Runner beans make a great addition to soups and stews.

Related to scarlet runner is “Aztec White Runner” or “Bordal” (aka “Mortgage Lifter”) is another vining bean with a big white flower.  It is large, plump and a little sweet.

Related to scarlet runner is “Aztec White Runner” or “Bordal” (aka “Mortgage Lifter”) is another vining bean with a big white flower. It is large, plump and a little sweet.  (MABurgess photo)

 

“Yellow Indian Woman” is the only bean in the mix not from the SW.  As legend has it, Swedes brought this bean to Native people of the northern plains.

“Yellow Indian Woman” is the only bean in the mix not from the SW. As legend has it, Swedes brought this bean to Native people of the northern plains.

“Flor de Mayo”  (Mayflower) is a favorite of traditional people from Chihuahua and Texas to southern Sonora.

“Flor de Mayo” (Mayflower) is a favorite of traditional people from Chihuahua and Texas to southern Sonora.

“Bolita” or “little bullet” is a champion of flavor and makes a delish burrito or refried bean.

“Bolita” or “little bullet” is a champion of flavor and makes a delish burrito or refried bean.

 

 

 

These three beans are of similar shape and color–though different in flavors.  It is neat to try them separately, to enjoy their individual attributes.  Watch for announcements when Native Seeds/SEARCH sponsors its Great Bean Tasting Events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Moon Bean” (also known in Colorado as “pinkeye bean”)  is a mild, tasty, versatile bean.

“Moon Bean” (also known in Colorado as “pinkeye bean”) is a mild, tasty, versatile bean.

In Tucson our culinary hero Chef Janos Wilder of the Downtown Kitchen has created the most delectable casserole using Moon Beans, chicken, and other surprise veggies.  Try this one out also in marinated salads with white Sonora wheat berries.

“Maicoba”  is named for the Pima Bajo village in Sonora where it originated.  This yellow bean goes by many monikers—sulfur bean, azufrado, canario, peruano.

“Maicoba” is named for the Pima Bajo village in Sonora where it originated. This yellow bean goes by many monikers—sulfur bean, azufrado, canario, peruano.

The versatile Maicoba makes a fabulous refried bean, a great dip, or burrito.

“Cranberry bean” refers to the flecks and strips of dark maroon or cranberry coloration on beige, not to its flavor.

“Cranberry bean” refers to the flecks and strips of dark maroon or cranberry coloration on beige, not to its flavor.

You will often see Italian recipes calling for cranberry bean.  This year’s crop of cranberry was for some weather reason a bust; let’s hope that next year it comes back strong again.  To participate, plant some locally.

“Cannellini” is an elongated white bean grown in the Four Corners for years, brought there by immigrants.

“Cannellini” is an elongated white bean grown in the Four Corners for years, brought there by immigrants.

Cannellini makes a fabulous addition to minestrone, or becomes the center of a yummy Mediterranean marinated bean salad.  A smaller, creamier bean is the “Colorado River Bean” which resembles the Mayflower bean from SeedSavers catalog.

“Colorado River bean” takes its name from the Colorado Plateau where it is grown.  This small speckled bean makes a wonderfully creamy soup.

“Colorado River bean” takes its name from the Colorado Plateau where it is grown. This small speckled bean makes a wonderfully creamy soup.

Worlds apart in flavor and size is the Christmas lima–a true lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus–like a moon).  This one is not like your average butter bean.  It is massive as beans go, rich and almost meaty–great for a vegetarian centerpiece dish.

“Christmas lima” or “Chestnut lima” is a true lima bean Phaseolus lunatus, large, flat, purple mottled, and hearty flavored.

“Christmas lima” or “Chestnut lima” is a true lima bean, large, flat, purple mottled, and hearty flavored.

 

“Aztec Black Bean” or “Black Turtle” is the traditional bean of the Nahuatl or central Mexico.

“Aztec Black Bean” or “Black Turtle” is the traditional bean of the Nahuatl or central Mexico.

 

“Anasazi Bean” is the only trademarked bean in the mix.  Original seeds of this fast-cooking bean were actually found in an ancestral Puebloan ruin in the Four Corners.

“Anasazi Bean” is the only trademarked bean in the mix. Original seeds of this fast-cooking bean were actually found in an ancestral Puebloan ruin in the Four Corners.

These two beautiful beans, Black Turtle and “Anasazi bean,” bind up the full complement of flavors in Tom’s Mix.  As individual beans, each is hard to beat flavor-wise and texture-wise.  Together, combined in our Tom’s Mix, they are a culinary delight.

Black beans are the staple of many traditional diets, from Meso-America to northern New Mexico.

The “Anasazi” is the fastest cooking and least distressing to digestion of any bean I know of.

So now are you feeling enriched by these visual legume wonders?  I hope so!  Now to come try your hand at identifying them firsthand, and to treating your taste-buds at our Flor de Mayo tent at Sunday farmers market.

Identified or not, these precious heirloom beans in Tom’s Mix make a fabulous soup that our market and online customers rave about. You can ship out this Southwest gift to all corners of the globe via paypal at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.

Tom’s Mix is so versatile—try them as a dip or as a most colorful marinated bean salad when the weather heats up. If you are inspired to assist the bean genes into the future, try your hand at growing some of the Tom’s Mix varieties this summer in your own garden.  You can learn lots more at our Seed Libraries (Pima County Public Library) and at the upcoming International Seed Library Conference to be held in Tucson in early May.

Diversity of Southwestern heirlooms in Tom's Mix

Diversity of Southwestern heirlooms in Tom’s Mix

See you Sunday at St Phillips Plaza or at the NSS Store, 3061 N Campbell. We look forward to talking heirloom beans with you!

[As for the diversity of those cholla flowers mentioned at the start….. Tia Marta will be exploring our diverse cholla flora at upcoming cholla bud harvesting workshops: Sat April 11 sponsored by NativeSeeds/SEARCH and Sat April 18 sponsored by Tohono Chul Park. Contact each for more info: http://www.nativeseeds.org and http://www.tohonochulpark.org, or call Flor de Mayo at 520-907-9471.]

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

Here’s to the Budding Desert!

red staghorn cholla flower and bud (MABurgess photo)

red staghorn cholla flower and bud (MABurgess photo)

Can you almost hear them?  I mean the sound of buds swelling and bursting with life out there is the rain-soaked desert?  This spring the wildflowers are a joy, for sure, but the perennials this season will really be in their glory.  Tia Marta here with some wonderful ideas about how we can share in the coming cornucopia of cholla.

Cholla cactus flower buds emerging, covered with spines--brimming with goodness for all desert creatures….

Cholla cactus flower buds emerging, covered with spines–brimming with goodness for all desert herbivores….(MABurgess)

It should be a bountiful bloom this year–the buds are off and running already.  Every branch on our Sonoran Desert chollas is loaded with little buds, and they seem to double in size every day.  It looks the same in the western part of Arizona, the Mojave….a zillion buds on the golden branches of Cylindropuntia echinocarpa.

While the chollas are preparing for their yearly reproductive ritual–a wildly colorful show for attracting pollinators–many desert creatures will be benefitting from this flamboyant event, including Native Desert People who have always shared in the bounty.

cholla feeds many desert creatures (MABurgess photo)

cholla feeds many desert creatures (MABurgess photo)

You can learn traditional and modern ways of harvesting, preparing and cooking cholla buds in one of several classes coming up soon in April.  With the guidance of ethnobotanist of Tia Marta (yo,) we will get out in the bloomin’ stickery desert, get up close and personal with chollas, get to know their lore, their anatomy, their culture, learn to carefully de-spine them, cook, dry, pickle, and prep them into the most unusual and fun recipes.  Their health benefits are off the charts–we’ll learn about those too.

prepping cooked cholla buds with I'itoi's onions for White Sonoran Wheatberry salad

prepping cooked cholla buds with I’itoi’s onions for White Sonoran Wheatberry salad (MABurgess photo)

The biggest kick will be impressing your family and friends with off-the-wall gourmet recipes that no one else makes (other than some wild and wonderfully creative foodies like Janos Wilder, Chef of the Downtown Kitchen, not to mention NativeSeeds/SEARCH staff cooks!)

 

rusty orange flower of the various-colored staghorn chollas

Rusty orange flower of the various-colored staghorn cholla, Cylindropuntia versicolor (MABurgess photo)

We have many cholla varieties in the Sonoran Desert—each with its own distinct characters and timing of flowering. The cane cholla (Cylindropuntia spinosior) is found in a few places in low desert but is more typical of higher desert and desert grassland. It’s the one with the persistent round yellow fruits, and gorgeous magenta flowers. The jumping cholla (C. fulgida) always has long clusters of green persisting green fruits hanging like bunches of grapes. It typically blooms with the monsoon rains of summer with a lovely deep rose flower. If you can find the buds of either of these chollas in their season, their buds are great tasting too.  The buds of both are spiny, but the first-mentioned staghorn cholla (C.versicolor) bears easily-removable spines, so that’s the one my Tohono O’odham “grandmother” and mentor Juanita preferred to pick. I will be demonstrating her teaching at our upcoming workshops in April.

cane cholla in bud with last year's persistent yellow fruits

Cane cholla (C.spinosior) in bud with last year’s persistent yellow fruits

fruits of jumping cholla clinging to former years' fruits

Fruits of jumping cholla (C.fulgida) clinging to former years’ fruits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tongs specially designed for harvesting cholla buds and prickly pear--available at Flor de Mayo tent Sunday St Phillips farmers' market

Tongs specially designed for harvesting cholla buds and prickly pear–available at Flor de Mayo tent Sunday St Phillips farmers’ market

The best instrument for safely harvesting buds is simply a pair of tongs. Long barbeque tongs can help you maneuver through hazardous cactus branches at a safe distance. We commissioned a young woodworker from Sedona to fabricate the right size tongs for us out of fire-killed ponderosa pine—available at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store and in our selection of handmade wooden utensils at our Flor de Mayo booth at the Sunday St Phillips market.

Cholla buds from yellow and red flowers--de-spined and ready to cook

Cholla buds from yellow and red flowers–de-spined and ready to cook (MABurgess)

After de-spining, the buds must be further prepared by roasting or boiling before eating them either plain as a tasty vegetable or fixing into other delectable dishes.

 

 

Here’s an easy sure-fire winner for pot lucks……

delectable cholla bud and white Sonora wheat-berry salad

Delectable cholla bud and white Sonora wheat-berry salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marinated Wheat-berry Salad with Cholla Buds!                                                                                         

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 cups cooked and cooled White Sonora Wheat-berries**                                                                                                                                1/4 -1/2 cup of your favorite Italian vinagrette dressing

¼ cup chopped celery
¼-1/2 cup chopped colorful sweet peppers
¼ cup minced I’itoi’s Onion bulbs and tops, or minced red onion
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half (optional)
½ cup cooked and cooled cholla buds.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Romaine lettuce leaves as bed

Instructions: Marinate cooked white Sonora wheat-berries in the dressing overnight in frig, stir once or twice.
Mix in all fresh chopped veggies and cholla buds.
Serve on a fresh romaine leaf.   Makes 6 generous servings.

first cut into cholla bud cornbread--yum!

first cut into cholla bud cornbread–yum!

At our up-coming Cholla Bud Harvesting Workshops you will joyously taste cholla in a variety of gourmet recipes. You will a;sp learn how to preserve them, dry them for storage, learn their survival strategies and how those natural “tricks” can help us. Come “internalize” a deeper appreciation of these desert treasures!

For more photos and interesting details, please check out my Edible Baja Arizona article from April 2014 online at http://www.ediblebajaarizona.com. You can view a neat short clip about cholla harvesting created by videographer Vanda Pollard through a link on my website http://www.flordemayoarts.com.  Best of all, you can attend one of our scheduled Cholla Bud Harvesting Workshops to learn the process first-hand!  From there you can harvest your own–and bring these nutritious and off-the-wall taste treats into your home and party menus.

 

Workshop Dates (find a downloadable flyer on the website http://www.flordemayoarts.com):
Saturday April 4, 2015, 7:30-9:30am—register at 520-907-9471
Wednesday, April 8, 8-11am, Pima Co Parks & Rec 520-615-7855 x 6
Saturday, April 11, 8-11am, Westside, sponsored by NativeSeeds/SEARCH, call 520-622-0830×100                   Saturday, April 18, 8:30-11:30am, Tohono Chul Park, 520-742-6455 x 228

Hoping to see you at one of these fun classes!  Happy harvesting–to all budding harvesters and cholla aficionados!

**Certified organic heirloom White Sonora Wheat-berries from BKWFarms are available at the Flor de Mayo booth at FoodInRoot’s Sunday St Phillips Farmers Market, St Phillips Plaza, N Campbell Avenue, or online from http://www.flordemayoarts.com in ½ lb, full pound, kilo bags, and greater quantities for chefs. Also available from the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson.

Dry cholla buds for reconstituting to cook are available at San Xavier Coop Association booth at Thursday Santa Cruz Market and at NativeSeeds/SEARCH.

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

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