Asaf Hasan, a Palestinian from Kuwait and Jordan, and Raina Kanawati from Syria brought this delicious Syrian fig salad to share with Mission Garden volunteers. (Photo by Dena Cowan)
Fig trees, originally from the Middle East, have found a happy home in the Southwest, a similar climate. Mission Garden in Tucson features historical gardens and heritage fruit trees that produce an abundance of figs in late July and August. Asaf Hasan and Raina Kanawati brought a delicious Syrian fig salad to share with volunteers as they led us in making stuffed grape leaves. It is traditionally eaten with the fingers and since we had all washed our hands to make the grape leaves, we dug in happily.
The salad requires no cooking, just assembly, so it’s good to prepare on these hot summer days. Choose sweet white onions or red onions if those are not available.
Figs are ripe in deep summer. Originally from the Mediterranean, they grow well in the hot American desert.
When you slice the onion, do so pole to pole rather than through the equator.
Syrian Fig Salad
8 fresh figs, quartered
1 sweet onion, sliced thinly pole to pole
1 lemon, sliced as thinly as possible
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
Choose a bowl that holds at least a quart. Combine figs, onion, and lemon and toss until well mixed. Stir in the parsley and mint leaves. In a cup, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Pour over the fruit mixture. Refrigerate for an hour to meld flavors. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Completed Syrian Fig Salad is a fresh addition to a summer meal.
My latest book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, discusses how Old World crops such as Mediterranean fruit trees were brought to Tucson by the Catholic missionaries in the early 1700s. I also discuss how local historians worked to recreate the Mission Gardens originally located at the Mission San Agustin. Order the book from Amazon or Native Seeds/SEARCH. The book is the the winner of three awards and was named Top Pick in the 2011 Southwest Books of the Year.
With the local Baja Arizona heirloom wheat harvest of White Sonora completed at Mission Garden at the living history San Ysidro Fiesta (May 22, 2021), and with the organic White Sonora wheat harvest still happening at BKW Farms in Marana–AND with the mesquite pods beginning to ripen all over the desert– now is a great time to celebrate both harvests in one delightful coffee cake!
Tia Marta here with a fun recipe that heralds the upcoming Mesquite Milling event Saturday, June 26, 2021, at Mission Garden. Mark your calendar for this special morning to bring your fresh-picked, dry, cleaned pods to be milled by one of possibly three hammer-millers into wonderful flour to freeze and use all year long. Check www.missiongarden.org for details and instructions for harvesting. (While you are in your calendar be sure to note mid-May of 2022 for the next year’s San Ysidro Fiesta–not to miss.)
Head over to Mission Garden or order online from NativeSeedsSEARCH to purchase whole white Sonora wheat-berries. (They, of course, are not really berries–they are kernels of the ancient low-gluten wheat that Padre Kino and other early missionaries brought to the Southwest, conserved by NativeSeedsSEARCH.)
To sprout wheat-berries, soak them overnight, then sprout for 2 more days by running fresh water over them and draining them about 3 times per day until tiny roots or white grass blades begin to emerge. Don’t wait–This white-tendril stage is the sweetest you will ever taste!! (Note–Plan your baking day ahead. If the emerging tendrils begin to turn green they will toughen rapidly. You can slow the sprouting process somewhat by refrigeration.)
BRUNCH CAKE RECIPE:
Blender 1/2-2/3 cup of sprouted wheat-berries with 3/4 cup milk (or buttermilk, or sour milk).
In a mixing bowl, cream together 1/4-1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter. Beat in 1 egg, then mix in the blendered sprouted wheat-berries and milk.
In a separate bowl, sift together 1 cup flour (I use white Sonora wheat flour but any flour will work), 1/4 tsp. sea salt, 2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/3 cup mesquite meal or flour.
(I’m using up my last year’s mesquite flour anticipating next month’s harvest and the milling event…)
Preheat oven to 375F.
Optional add-ons: Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp of grated lemon, tangerine, or other citrus rind.
Beat dry ingredients into liquid ingredient mixture to make batter….
Pour batter into a 9″ baking pan. Top with sliced fruit or your favorite desert delicacies (hackberries, chia, barrel cactus fruit slices and/or barrel cactus seeds….). Sliced bananas, apples, kiwi will all work fine.
Bake at 375F for 25 minutes or until cake tests done….
How delectable can it get…. when you savor ancient wheat sprouted to its most vibrant, life-giving potential, then you add the sweetness of nutritous mesquite flour from the desert’s back-40, celebrating it all in a fun coffee-cake? Tia Marta here hoping you can share this with favorite friends outside on a shady patio together!
Do you remember the old gradeschool song “Hot Cross Buns–Hot Cross Buns…”? It refers to a traditional Easter-time holiday bread served in many English-speaking countries. Variations of similar festive sweet citron breads abound on every continent.
Tia Marta here to share this old favorite with a Southwest twist–not your typical Easter bread, but indeed a celebration of desert foods and an adaptation to local cultures!
When I was young we always had Hot Cross Buns served at this time. I thought they looked like eggs with a cross on top. Traditionally they were made with white flour, and citron in the dough, topped with white crosses.
Now, in my imagination, I’m envisioning how Tucson’s Presidio women of the late 1700s might have prepared celebratory sweet citron buns. They would have used Padre Kino’s white Sonora wheat flour and perhaps citron prepared from orange or sweetlime rinds grown at the original San Augustin Mission Garden by the missionaries. For sweetener, perhaps in place of rare sugar or honey, maybe they used syrup made by neighboring Tohono O’odham harvesters from mesquite pods or agave heart, or maybe molasses from African sorghum introduced in the San Augustin garden.
Inspired by these imaginings…. in place of citron I used my candied citrus rind from Tucson’s Mission Garden sweetlimes and Meyer lemon (see my post from Nov.2020). Then I got crazy and added bits and pieces of dried saguaro cuñ (pronounced choon) frozen from last summer’s harvest. For the dough, I made a mix of white Sonora wheat and amaranth flour. For the glaze cross, instead of standard milk-glaze I used prickly pear juice (frozen from squeezed tunas last August) as the liquid to make a glorious pink instead of white design. I enjoy making yeast breads and this one is relatively quick.
RECIPE–Muff’s Sonoran Desert Hot Cross Buns
Here’s what you will need:
1) little bowl for the sweetener mix
2) big mixing bowl for the sifted flour and dough prep
3) small sauce pan to scald the milk
4) greased baking sheet
5) little bowl for making glaze
2 Tbsp warm water (105-115F)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
For sweet additions: ¼ cup agave nectar (or mesquite syrup), ¼ cup dried saguaro fruit with seeds– cuñ (or desert hackberries), ¼ tsp ground cinnamon OR ManoYMetate Adobo Mole powder mix, 2 Tbsp finely chopped citrus rind from your favorite local citrus (or rind-candy)
For liquid mixture: 1 cup milk to scald, 1 additional Tbsp agave nectar or sugar, 2 Tbsp butter, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1 lg egg
For flour mixture: 1 cup white Sonora wheat flour, 1 cup bread flour, and 2/3 cup amaranth flour (OR 2 cups white Sonora wheat flour and 2/3 cup amaranth flour)
For glaze: 1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar, 2 tsp prickly pear juice or syrup, and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Directions: In a large (warm) mixing bowl, put 2 Tablespoons warm water (105-115F)
Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon or 1 package of active dry yeast. Agitate and stir with wooden spoon then let stand to activate.
In a small bowl separately to make the “citron” sweetener, mix: agave “nectar” syrup, dry saguaro fruit, cinnamon or Mole Adobo, and chopped citrus rind.
Into a large bowl, sift flour mixture.
In the small saucepan, scald milk, then stir in 1 T agave nectar, butter and salt, then pour into mixing bowl to semi-cool. Beat in egg. (Next step with this liquid mixture….)
For dough: Gradually mix flour into liquid mixture. Mix the sweet ingredient mixture into the dough. Cover dough bowl with tea towel and put in warm place to rise to double in size (ca.35-50 minutes). Turn dough out on a floured board to knead several strokes. With buttery fingers, form dough into balls. Place dough balls (about 18 of them) on a greased cookie sheet to rise again covered, until doubled in size. If desired, brush dough with melted butter. Preheat oven to 425F while dough is rising.
When dough balls have risen, bake 15-18 minutes until golden brown. While buns are baking, make your glaze: Mix sifted confectioners’ sugar with prickly pear juice and vanilla to a thick creamy texture. When buns are still warm, apply glaze in a cross across the tops, or another design of spring’s rebirth.
Hopefully this colorful recipe and its ideas might inspire you—indeed liberate you!— to take your own favorite recipes and use wild desert foods and heirlooms in place of commercial ingredients where they easily fit. Happy experimenting with desert ingredients!
Ideas–There will be a harvest celebration at Mission Garden in May of Padre Kino’s white Sonora wheat–not to miss! Find White Sonora Wheat-berries available for milling (or for planting next fall) at Tucson’s Mission Garden and NativeSeedsSEARCH grown organically by Marana’s BKWFarms. Milled flour is sometimes available fresh from Barrio Bread. Amaranth flour is available from Bob’s Red Mill or Natural Grocers. For prickly pear juice, make plans to harvest tunas next August when ripe, or try Cherie’s Desert Harvest’s syrup.
When cooked, these beautiful O’odham tepary beans keep their pleasing integrity, and lend themselves to a diversity of delectable dishes. Read on!
Ancestors of the O’odham–the Desert People and their relatives the Pima or River People–more than 4000 years ago, were gathering wild tepary beans (ba:wi) from the mountains in what we now call the US/Mexico borderlands. They found a way to cultivate these precious beans in summer floodwater gardens and eventually domesticated them! Tia Marta here hailing the gift ba:wi(Phaseolus acutifolius) is to the world–especially in hot, dry climates!
Mixed Tepary Bean soup is perfect for chilly days of winter for an easy and delicious stick-to-the-ribs lunch. It only needs a little salt to bring out the rich flavor of teparies. Other spices can elaborate, but teparies stand on their own just fine.
To make a fancier bean soup, mash cooked teparies for a pleasant creamy texture. Mushroom powder, or kelp, or pimenton, can lead this creamy soup into different delectable directions!….
When a chilly storm sets in in the desert, tepary beans can warm the soul and body.
The most important ingredient in cooking teparies is TIME, t-i-m-e. Plan ahead by soaking your teparies the day before, for at least 8-10 hours. To hasten the soaking process, you could bring a pound of teparies and about 8-10 cups water to a quick boil then let them sit in the same water for several hours. Drain the soaking water and add 8-10 cups good drinking water for cooking. Bring to a boil then simmer (adding more water if needed) for up to 2-3 hours until beans test soft–just beyond al dente. At this point you can create anything with your cooked teparies. Good hearty soups can be the first satisfying treat.
It is so easy to mash your cooked, drained teparies. To refry teparies, just add some olive oil or butter to your fry pan and mash them as they bubble–the good old fashioned way. Or the quick fix: whirl them to desired creaminess in the food-processor.
Partially mashed then refried teparies complement eggs and toast or tortilla for a hearty and delicious breakfast!
It’s worth being reminded–mentally jolted–that teparies’ gift of super-nutrition is off the charts: One fifth of a tepary serving is protein! Their slowly-digested complex carbs measure 22% Daily Value and their dietary fiber is a whopping 100%-173%–both acting as perfect balancers of blood-sugar and digestive support. When it comes to important minerals, consider tepary’s iron at 20-30%; calcium for bones at 20-25%; magnesium 10-40% and potassium 48% as electrolytes and body building blocks.
Energize your refried teparies with your favorite chile spices, cumin powder, and/or hot sauce and voila! –you have an instant healthy dip that keeps for a week in the frig–if it doesn’t get eaten up right away! “Serving suggestion”–serve teparies with blue corn chips for a complete protein. Yummmm!
The BEST vegetarian burrito you will ever eat!!–This is the famous Tepary Burrito made with our local red and white mixed O’odham ba:wi–full of flavor, substantial high-protein nutrition, and sustained energy!
You can dress teparies up or down with garlic, chiles mild or picante, cumin seed, toasted onions, oregano, cilantro, cheeses, or even a ham hock–variations are endless. Check out archived recipe ideas by writing “tepary” in the search box above.
Tohono O’odham ha:l–the traditional desert pumpkin with its corky attachment and rich orange center–is ripening in autumn heat at Mission Garden…..
A colorful harvest is happening at Tucson’s Mission Garden, and it’s time to celebrate! Tia Marta here with an invitation: Every Saturday for the weeks of autumn there will be foodie festivities to enjoy at Mission Garden. Come masked and socially-distanced for open-air learning, tasting, photography and fun. There’s a big one this coming Saturday Oct.17, 2020 not to miss!
O’odham tepary beans hold the record for desert adaptation, high nutrition, rich flavor, and long sustainable cultivation right here in the Sonoran Desert. Come get a taste of this rich heirloom Sat.Oct.17.
This colorful heirloom bean mix, known as Tom’s Mix, is like a multi-cultural metaphor–bringing the agricultural wisdom of 14 different Southwestern cultures together in one incredibly delectable soup. You can taste it Oct.17 at Mission Garden!
Tohono O’odham 60-day corn could be the fastest maturing and most desert-adapted corn known. It was domesticated by the Desert People long ago. Mission Garden’s volunteers are honoring it and helping to bring it into wider cultivation. Come taste a tortilla made with this ancient and nutritious desert crop!
Ancient Chapalote corn (known from 4100-year-old archaological sites in the Tucson area) and pre-Columbian Tohono O’odham 60-day corn are celebrated at Mission Garden. What a beautiful way to pay proper respect on Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Our mutual thanks to Native ancestors for these gifts from the past which can help us into an unsure future!
All of these Three Sisters–Corn, Beans and Squash–are grown together at Mission Garden in traditional ways, demonstrated in different “time-line” gardens. Come observe and learn how you might plan your own garden next summer season.
As the evenings get cooler, it will be time to plant a winter/spring crop of ancient White Sonora Wheat, a golden, low-gluten wheat-berry introduced to our area by Padre Kino over 300 years ago. It will be packaged and available for sale at the Mission Garden’s Oct.17 gastronomy book launch event.
Tastes of the Southwestern heirloom bean Tom’s Mix soup and tastes of traditional O’odham Tepary Beans will be available at Mission Garden, Saturday, October 17, 10am-12noon. Look for the Flor de Mayo table under the north ramada that day. Also available will be packaged White Sonora Wheatberries with recipes for cooking them for pilaf or for marinated wheatberry salad. For more wheatberry recipes check out this post. A portion of the Oct.17 sale of these heirloom foods will go to support Mission Garden’s programs.
Author Carolyn Niethammer and her latest Southwestern foods book will be in the limelight this Saturday Oct.17 at Mission Garden. A DESERT FEAST describes in delicious detail a 4100-year history of foodways in Tucson, Arizona–named UNESCO’s first International City of Gastronomy!
All of Carolyn Niethammer’s books are gastronomic inspirations, but THIS one —A Desert Feast–bears the crown! It is rich in history and recipes. Come get your copy signed Oct.17 and discuss traditional foods–wild and domestic– with the author herself.
Rosy, ripe Bahidaj — saguaro cactus fruit–is calling from the tops of giant saguaros all across the Sonoran Desert–attracting whitewing doves and venturesome, thankful harvesters…….(MABurgess photo)
Saguaro chuñ and chocolate pair nicely–especially when they are topping home-made mango ice-cream!
The bahidaj harvest heralds the Sonoran Desert New Year, a time of celebration and prayers for rain by the First People here–the Tohono O’odham who keep traditions actively benefitting all.
Tia Marta here to share ideas for bringing bahidaj from your own yard or desert landscape to your table and taste buds.
Wild desert fruit and seed harvests, when packed into these Sonoran Plant-Power Treat energy bars, harnesses their solar-powered nutrition into kinetic energy when you need a tasty boost!
Toward the end of the saguaro harvest season–before monsoon rains arrive–many fruits will drop from cactus tips and hang to dry in the branches of their palo verde nurse trees. My mentor Tohono O’odham Elder Juanita Ahil called these sweet crunchy delicacies chuñ (pronounced choooñ.) You can pick them right from the tree branches to eat as a snack like dried figs, or take them home for serving in desserts or–tah-dah– in Tia Marta’s Sonoran Plant-Power Treats!
Partnered with other high-energy desert seeds and fruits, we can store the bahidaj’s potential energy for future muscle-action. Long ago my son got excited about my desert energy-bar inventions and wanted me to go into business, repeating Petey Mesquitey’s mantra, “We’re gonna be rich!” Here–so YOU can be rich in your appreciation of desert gifts– are the steps for making my Sonoran Plant-Power Treats. (Just remember when you start production and make your million, this is copyrighted):
With so much plenty around us in the desert–like this glorious staghorn cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor)–2-leggeds can be rewarded while social-distancing with healthy outdoor exercise and super nutrition. Read on…… (MABurgess photo)
The cholla bloom is in full swing! The low desert in Baja Arizona continues to explode with color late April into early May, with several species of cholla cactus punctuating the landscape colorfully with a rainbow of colors-and a fiesta of flavor. When the first flower buds open on cholla, traditional O’odham harvesters knew this short window of time is for feasting on this nutritious food, and for drying and storing enough for the rest of the year.
Why harvest unopened buds? Note how loosely opening petals grab spines and don’t let go. After brushing and screening off spines, cleaned buds must be boiled or roasted before eating. (MABurgess photo)
Jambalaya a la Cholla made with andouille sausage, sauteed garlic and celery, cooked cholla buds, served with brown rice. Find great jambalaya recipes online–just add prepared cholla buds!
Jambalaya a la Cholla was our centerpiece dinner shared on Zoom with pals.
When you venture into harvesting, be sure to start with three awarenesses: giving thanks for this plentiful gift from the desert, watching for snakes, and checking the wind for where spines might blow.
These off-the-wall ideas for sure are not traditional ways of cooking cholla. Hopefully these ideas can inspire you to get creative with cholla. As desert dwellers we should all have a deep respect for this much ignored or maligned cactus. Cholla reminds us that there is no time for boredom.
Try diluting the pucker-up sourness of sauerkraut by adding chunks of apple, caraway seed, and…tah-dah…cooked cholla buds for a wonderful addition!
Try this variation on a favorite comfort food–Add prepared cholla buds to creamed chicken or chicken stew.
Using a simple dill pickling recipe online, I packed 20-minute-boiled buds into canning jars with snips of fresh oregano and I’itoi’s onion from my garden, then filled jars with a cider vinegar and spice mix. After a 15-minute waterbath jars were ready for storage or use as gourmet hors d’oeuvres.
Deviled eggs made with chopped pickled cholla buds are a perfect hot-weather lunch or unusual buffet feature. Try spicing up your deviled eggs with curry powder for a great complement to cholla!
If planning for future food is on your mind, consider drying your cholla buds. Compare sizes on my drying screen of freshly boiled buds (right) and tiny, stone-hard dry buds(left) ready for storage. If fully dried patiently over several days, buds will keep for years in a glass jar.
For the best in local libation to allay woes of social distancing, quaff a Sonoran quarantini made with Tucson’s ThreeWells Mt.Lemmon gin and garnished with a pickled cholla bud in place of an olive, plus a bulb of I’itoi’s onion. It can’t get more festively flavorful and local than that!
Read more about traditional cholla bud use by Native cultures in Dr.Wendy Hodgson’s Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert (University of Arizona Press). Find more cactus cookery ideas in Cooking the Wild Southwest by Savor-Sister Carolyn Niethammer (also UofA Press).
Tia Marta wishes you happy cholla harvesting in our beautiful desert spring!
It may not be intuitive that WINTERSquash refers to a number of fantastic SUMMER crops! Many winter squashes (or pumpkins) are in the same genus Cucurbita. They can be eaten fresh in their youthful softness in summertime. If left on the vine to mature into autumn, the same bulbous fruit develops a sturdy, tough skin, “shell” or “rind” which makes them into great “keepers” through the winter. You can save one whole, without refrigeration, until a feast or potluck occasion calls you to open it up to serve a crowd.
A volunteer at Tucson’s Mission Garden at a fall harvest. Two of the “Three Sisters” (Chapalote corn and Magdalena Big Cheese Squash) were dry and ready to harvest.(MABurgess photo)
Tia Marta here to share some creative ideas for serving winter squash–aka pumpkins. The harvest of heirloom pumpkins at Tucson’s Mission Garden last fall was sumptuous and I purchased one of my favorites, Magdalena Big Cheese Squash. It is so named because NativeSeedsSEARCH plant explorers were given it many decades ago by a farmer in Magdalena, Sonora, and its shape resembles an old-fashioned cheese-wheel.
A fresh Magdalena big cheese squash cut open, ready to seed–Visually savor the glorious orange flesh full of beta-carotenes. Even better to savor its taste! (MABurgess photo)
Exercise care in cutting this huge pumpkin. It can be tough and requires a hefty knife. You can clean the seed to dry and save for next summer’s monsoon garden, or to share with the Pima County Public Library’s Seed Library. There are enough seeds inside to use some to toast with garlic oil and salt for a healthy, zinc-filled snack (especially good to eat for boosting the immune system in flu season).
It took two of us to cut wedges of it, one to stabilize the fat fruit keeping hands out of the way. We shared chunks with several friends and relatives, and, unbeknownst to each other, each sent an email exclaiming how it was “truly the best squash I have EVER tasted!” There couldn’t be better recommendations.
Simply steamed, chunks of Magdalena Big Cheese are a totally blissful experience. Here I dusted it with Spike spice-blend –but it really needs nothing –just eating!
For a down-home easy dish, try stir-frying slices of Magdalena Big Cheese with marinated tofu and other veggies, and serve over rice.
Stir-fried sliced Magdalena Big Cheese pumpkin with soy-sauce-marinated tofu, onion, and pea pods. Delish! Serve over rice. (MABurgess photo)
If you have leftovers, or if you want to serve a more exotic dish, you can curry your steamed or roasted squash, mashing with curry powder, salt and pepper to taste, then serving it with side “boys” to complement the curry. I place little bowls of crystalized ginger, TJ’s blistered peanuts, dried currants, grated coconut, and banana slices for guests to bedeck their curry with.
Curried Magdalena Big Cheese squash with garnishes of peanut, mint leaf, crystal ginger, raisins, and banana. (MABurgess photo)
I don’t just cook winter squashes. They are so sculptural that I have to document them–to paint them!You are cordially invited to see my squash and gourd watercolors displayed next weekend at our Flor de Mayo Studio — Saturday and Sunday, February 8 and 9, 2020–at our ArtTrails.org OPEN STUDIO TOUR on Tucson’s West Side. See the ArtTrails website for a map to Flor de Mayo Studio (also showing photographer Rod Mondt’s nature images).
Shapely Dine Cushaw –a big-as-life watercolor by MA Burgess–Join us for the ArtTrails.org OPEN STUDIO TOUR Sat-Sun Feb.8-9 to see more!
When you’ve barely slept off your Thanksgiving feast, while deep thanks are still in your heart and your significant other is deeply absorbed in TV football, here’s an option that can lead to joy, nutrition, productivity, fulfillment, and calorie burning: planting a little winter-spring garden!
Seasonal seeds and I’itoi onion starts for your winter garden in low desert. Check out the seed-ideas for winter veggie gardens at the NativeSeedsSEARCH store.
Young I’itoi’s onions emerging. Use them this winter and spring for chives or shallots–indeed the gift that keeps on giving!
Peas love desert winters and will give wonderful pods next spring. So easy to grow! O’odham Wihol(peas) have become well-adapted to low desert since their welcome introduction about 350 years ago.
Tia Marta here to encourage you to think FUTURE FOOD! That is, take the simple steps–right now–to envision food from your own little piece of earth. Time to simply put some seeds or starts into the ground. Now–while the desert is rejoicing in rain! Now–before your to-do list or other emails divert your better intentions.!
Your little desert plot of good soil need not be spacious. It can even be in lovely or homely pots on your patio. Hopefully this post will fill you with inspiration, motivation, and access for planting your own food!
Little bulbils from the bloom-stalk now ready for planting….
Begin gardening with the end in sight! We must believe in the FUTURE of our FOOD then take steps to make it happen. Gardening is an act of FAITH and HOPE, so let’s get down on our knees and do it!
For seasonal gratification, try Tohono O’odham peas, either in a pot or a garden edge where the vines can climb a wall or trellis. For the much longer view of gratification, try planting agave clones. It may be 10-15 years before they are ready to harvest but the wait will be a sweet, nutritious gift for you, or your grandkids, or some other hungry desert dweller dealing with global warming.
Hohokam agave(Agave murpheyi) bulbil clones planted in pots for growing out and sharing….
Desert Laboratory Director Ben Wilder and Desert Ecologist Tony Burgess sampling sweet roasted agave heart at Tucson’s Agave Heritage Festival, Mission Garden
Winter/spring is grain-growing time in low desert! Organic heirloom White Sonora Wheat-berries are ready for planting or cooking, available at the NativeSeedsSEARCH Store, 3061 N.Campbell Avenue, Tucson (locally grown at BKWFarms)
White Sonora Wheat kernels –so easy to plant in crowded pots or in small garden plots
Young White Sonora Wheat sprouts enjoying the rain–and ready to harvest for juicing–healthy local food right from your patio!
Young starts of heirloom Magdalena acelgas (chard) grown from seed available at Mission Garden or NativeSeedsSEARCH store or online www.nativeseeds.org
Heirloom Magdalena acelgas will give you sumptuously delicious harvests of greens all winter–as these at Tucson’s Mission Garden.
Colorful rainbow chard in handsome pots grown by herb-gardener-alchemist-friend Linda Sherwood. Isn’t this a stunning ornamental –and edible–addition to the patio?!
There’s no finer way to express Thanksgiving, or to exercise off your feasted calories, than to be outside in the dirt. So I’m wishing you happy winter gardening on your patio, backyard, or why not your front yard!! Now get out your trowel and pots, and those seeds you’ve been accumulating, get your hands dirty and sing a prayer-song as you plant your future food with faith and hope!
Chef Sean Sherman, founder of the company The Sioux Chef, uses indigenous ingredients in creative dishes. He was invited by the New York Times to submit ten essential Native American dishes. (Photo courtesy of The Sioux Chef)
The Desert People have grown and eaten tepary beans for more than a thousand years. In the mid-20th century they nearly disappeared, but became popular again when people began to realize how well they were adapted to the hot, dry Southwestern climate. Just recently, they appeared in the food pages of the New York Times, courtesy of Chef Sean Sherman , founder of the company”The Sioux Chef.”
Sherman grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in the 1970s. As a kid, he and his cousins harvested edible wild plants that grew there including chokecheries, wild prarie turnips and juniper berries. As an adult he became a professional chef, eventually turning to more wild foods from his heritage and that of other Native American nations. In 2014, he started The Sioux Chef, connecting with other indigenous chefs, farmers, seed keepers and leaders. His cookbook, The Sioux Chef, won the 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award. Sherman focuses on making appealing foods using only indigenous American ingredients, nothing imported by Europeans.
Sherman’s recipe for teparies involves seasoning the cooked beans with sautéed onions, a little agave nectar, and chile–either Hatch ground dried chile or chipotle chile. He calls for half brown and half white teparies, but you can use whatever you have on hand. The New York Times sends readers wanting to purchase teparies to two sources we’ve often cited here, Ramona Farms and Native Seeds/SEARCH.
Teparies have been a frequent subject on this blog. We love their flavor and adaptability. Tia Marta wrote about them here; Amy uses them in a mixed vegetable stew.
Below is another of the Sioux Chef recipes the Times printed, this one using chia, which grows wild in Southern Arizona, and domesticated amaranth grain, a relative of the wild amaranth that shows up after the summer monsoons. Sherman calls for domestic berries, but they are found in woodlands. If you are lucky enough to have access to wild wolf berries or hackberries, they would be a perfect addition. I used some saguaro fruit I had in the freezer.
Popping the amaranth is easy in a dry hot wok. The popped kernels look like teensy pieces of popped corn. Watch closely when popping. The time between popped and burnt can be a matter of seconds.
Amaranth showing both popped and unpopped seed. Like popcorn, seeds don’t all pop at the same time. Keep stirring until most are popped.
Chia pudding with saguaro fruit and popped amaranth. I added a couple of blueberries and some kiwi for contrast. After I made this for the photo, my husband and I ate it for breakfast.
Almond Chia Pudding
1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk, plus more if needed
½ cup chia seeds
¼ cup light agave nectar
Pinch of fine sea salt
¼ cup amaranth
1 to 2 cups fresh mixed berries (any combination of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries)
¼ cup crushed manzanita berries (optional)
Small fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
In a lidded quart container, vigorously whisk together the 1 1/2 cups almond milk, chia seeds, agave and salt. (This ensures the chia seeds are evenly hydrated.) Let the mixture soak in the refrigerator at least 1 hour and up to overnight, so it develops a rich, creamy texture that is similar to that of rice pudding. If the mixture becomes too thick, whisk in more almond milk.
While the pudding soaks, heat a small skillet over medium-high. Add the amaranth and cook, shaking the skillet, until the amaranth begins to smell toasty and about half of the seeds have popped, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the amaranth to a plate to cool to room temperature. (Popped amaranth can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and stored in a lidded container in a cool, dark place.)
To serve, whisk the pudding to incorporate any liquid on top and break up the chia seeds, then spoon pudding into bowls. Top with the berries, popped amaranth and mint sprigs.
One more thing: My book on the 10,000 years of culinary history that led to Tucson being named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy has entered editing and over the next few months I’ll be posting a few bits of the most interesting information I learned in the two years I spent researching. Please follow me on my Facebook author page (Carolyn Niethammer author). I learned lots and would like to share it with you. This will be the first book authorized to use the City of Gastronomy logo. See my other books at http://www.cniethammer.com.