Posts Tagged With: solar oven cookery

Cooking with the SUN!

A sleek fold-up All American sun oven is set up on my patio table.  I slightly rotate it and reposition the angle every hour or so to track the sun. (MABurgess photo)

June in Baja Arizona should officially be Solar Cookery Month– time to not add any more heat in the house.  Thanks to some fabulous Baja Arizona “solarizers,” namely Technicians for Sustainability (www.TFSsolar.com), our house is now blessed with a PV array–yet despite this “free” electricity we still don’t want any extra BTUs loose in the kitchen.

Tia Marta here encouraging you to take your cooking OUTSIDE!!  A great project to do with kids is to make your own solar oven with a cardboard box and lots of tinfoil.  (The internet has easy do-it-yourself plans.)  Or you can purchase a ready-made solar oven online.  Check my website http://www.flordemayoarts.com under the menu “Native Foods” to buy one of the most efficient and least expensive solar ovens you’ll find anywhere!

Try de-hydrating saguaro fruit in a solar oven with the lid partially open to allow moisture to escape. It doesn’t take long to dry sliced fruits or vegetables. (MABurgess)

Wild desert fruits and orchard fruits will be coming on aplenty, and when solar-dried, they make wonderful snacks and trail mix.  As seasonal veggies come available in your garden or at farmers markets, you can slice and solar dry them for winter soups and stews.

It’s almost time to harvest mesquite pods (kui wihog) and saguaro fruit (bahidaj), in the dry heat of Solstice-time before monsoon moisture arrives.  Here are solar-oven-dried mesquite pods, crispy and ready to mill into flour.  Solar drying of mesquite pods–oven door slightly open–allows bruchid beetles to escape.   Solar-dried aguaro fruit chun (pronounced choo’nya) is ready to store or eat as rare sweet snacks! (MABurgess photo)

Washed velvet mesquite pods, covered with drinking water, set in solar oven to simmer for making Tia Marta’s “Bosque Butter.” (MABurgess photo)

Mesquite “Bosque Butter” and “Bosque Syrup” a la Tia Marta–Scroll back to the July 15, 2017 Savor post for how-to directions for these delicious products, made from solar-oven-simmered mesquite pods. (MABurgess photo)

Pellet-sized fan-palm dates washed and ready to simmer for making “Datil Silvestre Syrup”–First they should be transferred with water to a dark pan with dark lid for placing in solar oven to absorb more heat.  Scroll to Jan.30,2015 post for recipe.

Concentrated Solar Fan Palm Syrup–nothing added–just water and fan palm fruit simmered in solar oven.  For easy directions search “More Ideas for Wild Dates” post for January 30,2015. (MABurgess)

 

Solar-oven-dried figs get even sweeter and more flavorful, and keep for a long time. These are heirloom mission figs harvested from my Padre Kino fig tree purchased from the Mission Garden’s and Jesus Garcia’s Kino Tree Project–the “Cordova House” varietal.  You swoon with their true sweetness.  (A caveat for any dried fruit or veggies:  be sure there is NO residual moisture before storing them in glass or plastic containers to prevent mold.)

Tepary beans, presoaked overnight, into the solar oven by 10am and done by 2pm, avg temp 300 or better (see thermometer).  Note the suspension shelf to allow for no-spill when you change the oven angle to the sun.  This is a demo glass lid.  A black lid for a solar cooking pot will heat up faster absorbing sunlight.  (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

George Price’s “Sonoran Caviar”–Cooking pre-soaked tepary beans slowly in a solar oven or crockpot makes them tender while keeping their shape for delicious marinated salads.  Directions for making “Sonoran Caviar” are in the Aug.8,2014 post Cool Summer Dishes. (MABurgess photo)

 

We cook such a variety of great dishes–from the simple to the complex– out on our patio table.  I stuff and bake a whole chicken and set it in the solar oven after lunch.  By suppertime, mouth-watering aromas are wafting from the patio.

For fall harvest or winter dinners, I like to stuff an heirloom squash or Tohono O’odham pumpkin (Tohono O’odham ha:l) with cooked beans and heirloom wheat- berries to bake in the solar oven.  It makes a beautiful vegetarian feast.

A solar oven is a boon on a camping trip or in an RV on vacation for heating dishwater as well as for cooking.  It was a God-send for us when power went out.  Solar ovens in emergency situations can be used for making safe drinking water.  (Hurricane-prone areas– take heed!)

 

 

 

For one of my favorite hot-weather dishes–marinated White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad–the solar oven is a must.  On stove-top, wheat-berries take an unpleasant hour20minutes to fully plump up.  That’s alot of heat.  Outdoors in the solar oven they take about 2 hours while the house stays cool, keeping humidity low.  Hey–no brainer!

 

Muff’s Marinated White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad Recipe

1 cup washed heirloom wheat-berries (available from NativeSeeds/SEARCH, grown organically at BKWFarms in Marana)

4 cups drinking water

Simmer wheat-berries in solar oven until round, plump and softer than al dente, and have absorbed the water–approximately 2-2 1/2 hours depending on the sun.  Drain any excess water.

Chill in frig.  Marinate overnight with !/2 cup balsamic vinegar or your favorite citrus dressing.  Add any assorted chopped veggies (sweet peppers, I’itoi’s onions, celery, carrots, pinyon nuts, cholla buds, barrel cactus fruit, nopalitos….).  Toss and serve on a bed of lettuce.

Muff’s White Sonora Wheat-berry Salad laced with pickled cholla buds, roasted nopalitos and barrel cactus fruit nibbles. (MABurgess photo)

While cooking with a solar oven, it will help to “visit” your oven every 1/2 hour or hour to adjust the orientation to be perpendicular to the sun’s rays.  Think about it–You gotta get up that frequently anyway from that computer or device where you’ve been immobile–just for health and circulation’s sake!  Think of your solar oven as part of your wellness program.

A solar oven is so forgiving too.  If you need to run errands, just place the oven in a median position to the movement of the sun.  Cooking may take a little longer, but, you are freed up to take that class, get crazy on the internet, texting or whatever.  And if you should get detained, good old Mr. Sun will turn off your oven for you.  No dependency on digital timers.  Happy cooking with the sun this summer!

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

Summer Solstice Celebrated with Saguaros

On Summer Solstice morning, a white-wing dove coos to the saguaro fruit to hasten its ripening, and takes its first taste. When red fruit opens, doves will dip in for a luscious meal and come up with red heads!  (photo JRMondt)

Have you seen it yet?–the rare red-headed white-wing dove of the desert?  “Red-headed Ok’ko-koi” is only around for a short while during the bahidaj.  He is the herald of saguaro fruit harvesting season.

These longest days of the year (and the hottest!!) are the Sonoran Desert New Year of the Tohono O’odham, the Desert People. It is the beginning of “action time” in the desert, tho’ it may look blistered and dead from inside an air-conditioned space.  Lots is happening.  Listen to sounds of quail and dove at dawn; watch scurrying lizards at noon; sense bats at night.  Desert life out there is pollinating flowers and dispersing seed in prep for monsoon moisture.

Fallen bahidaj on the rocks will be critter food.  For people, catch it before it falls. (MABurgess)

Tia Marta here to share ideas about the giant saguaro’s gifts of good food to its fellow desert helpers.  With San Juan’s Day celebrated June 24, I pause to also acknowledge the birthday of my dear friend and mentor, Juanita Ahil, who first led me into the desert on an early June morning to introduce me to some amazing desert treats, discussed in this post.

Pick the fruits that show a blush of rosy red on the top.  (MABurgess photo)

A saguaro fruit, opened with its sharp “pizza-cutter” calyx, is filled with sweet raspberry-red pulp and crunchy black seeds. (MABurgess photo)

 

Juanita would scoop out the nutritious pulp from thick fruit rinds–with thanks and blessings.  We’d take several juicy bites before filling buckets of bahidaj to make syrup.

Juanita would add water to the pulpy fruit to loosen the mass, then strain out seeds before concentrating the sweet water to syrup. (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

Over her open fire, she would stir a pot full of fruit and water until the water turned red, then strain the mass through a basket-sieve, saving the seed for other purposes. (See blog-sister Carolyn Niethammer’s post on “Black Beauty Wafers” of saguaro seed.)  After sieving, it was the long process of boiling down the sweet water to a dark syrup–like making maple syrup.  Don’t be surprised if you see Bahidaj Sitol selling for what looks like exorbitant prices; consider the time it takes to make!  Juanita would contribute a share of her hard-produced syrup to her Tohono O’odham Community for fermenting into wine for the rain-ceremony, with prayers for the desert’s rebirth.  Surplus syrup was so concentrated, it could be kept unrefrigerated, carrying summer’s sweetness into the winter.

Here are some delectable ideas for cool, super-simple desserts with saguaro syrup:

 

Muff’s “Sonoran Melba” topped with pine nuts and chia seed (JRMondt photo)

Directions for Muff’s SONORAN MELBA WITH PINE NUTS AND CHIA

Over a serving of vanilla or vanilla-bean ice cream, pour 1-3 tsp pure saguaro syrup (bahidaj sitol).  It doesn’t take much, as it is so rich!  Sprinkle top with 1/2 tsp chia seed and 1 Tbsp of pine nuts (shelled).   Taste and go nuts in ecstasy!

Rod’s “Saguaro Split”–topped with saguaro syrup, seeds and nuts (JRMondt photo)

Recipe for Rod’s SAGUARO SPLIT:

Divide a half banana in half longitudinally. Serve a big scoop of ice cream in between–any flavor– like chocolate chip or French vanilla.  Top with saguaro syrup, seeds and nuts of choice.  [Here the “lily is guilded” for sure.  Who needs a cherry on top when you have the rare treat of saguaro syrup?!]

Setting out fresh bahidaj pulp to dry on wax paper. (MABurgess)

Try dehydrating saguaro fruit in a solar oven with the lid partially open to allow moisture to escape. It doesn’t take long. Note the rock holding the oven cover open.(MABurgess photo)

I also love to make chuñ–the dried bahidaj fruit which you can sometimes find hanging on the branches of a palo verde, the nurse tree next to the saguaro where fruit has fallen.  Scoop out the pulp from its rind, place blobs on wax paper, dry them outside under a screen or in your solar oven.  Eat and enjoy chuñ as a totally healthy snack; it is high in complex, slowly-digested sugars, vegetable protein and healthy oils in the seeds.   Or, get creative with chuñ–as in the following recipe:

 

 

 

Sweet chun dried in the sun is even better than figs! (BTW–Now– in the dry heat of Solstice-time before the monsoons–is prime time to harvest mesquite pods too!  Check out desert harvesters.org for more info.)  (MABurgess photo)

Recipe for Tia Marta’s JUNE CHUÑ healthy fruit salad:

1/2-3/4 cup diced apple (approx 1 small apple diced)

1/2 cup organic red grapes cut in half

3 Tbsp dried cherries, cranberries, or chopped dried apricots

1/2-2/3 cup organic plain lowfat yogurt

1-2 tsp agave nectar (optional, to taste)

1/4 cup chopped dried bahidaj chuñ

Mix all ingredients except chuñ ahead and chill.  Sprinkle some little chuñ chunks on each serving as topping. Serves 2 or 3.  This is fancy and sweet enough to be used as a dessert. Enjoy the natural complex carbs, sweet nutrition, and delightful crunch!

Cool “JUNE CHUN”–a fruity and crunchy salad or dessert (MABurgess)

So, Happy Desert New Year!  And happy harvesting in the coolth of early summer mornings, rejoicing in the gifts saguaro gives to its fellow desert-dwellers–from the white-wing doves and ants to us two-leggeds!

[If you are beyond the Sonoran Desert and want to try some of these desert delicacies, you can contact http://www.tocaonline.org (website of Tohono O’odham Community Action, Sells, AZ) or http://www.nativeseeds.org (NativeSeeds/SEARCH at 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ; or 520-622-5561) to order them.  Many other traditional desert foods are available at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.]

Braving the heat, inviting the monsoons and prepping for summer planting, NativeSeeds/SEARCH will be celebrating San Juan’s Day at the NSS Conservation Farm in Patagonia, AZ, this Saturday, June 24, 2017, 11am-3pm.  Bring a dish for the pot luck and a spray-bottle of water for blessings.  For info call 520-622-0830.

 

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

Election Bread—Savoring an old Recipe

No matter who your candidate was this momentous month, by fixing this festive treat called “Election Bread,” we can at least toast the democratic process AND local heirloom foods all in one delicious slice!

Ames Family Election Bread served joyously as a dessert

Ames family traditional Election Bread served joyously as a dessert topped with natural vanilla ice cream

Tia Marta here to share an Election Bread recipe inspired from my own family tradition served around election time each November. On the internet you might find historical variations of it with the moniker “Election Cake.” Technically it is a fruity yeast bread—probably one of the precursors of holiday fruit cake, reminiscent of Italian panettone–a nice addition as weather cools and fruits ripen. In the “old days” they say this Election Bread was baked to attract people to the polls on Election Day and fortify them for the trip home.

I gleaned our Ames Family Election Bread recipe from a cherished little cook’s notebook which my 80-year-old great Aunt Rina wrote for me when I was just learning to cook—yikes, some decades ago. My new adaptation of it reflects our home turf in the flavor-filled Sonoran Desert.

Heirloom Sosa-Carrillo fig (a Padre Kino introduction) from Mission Garden now producing in my yard (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom Sosa-Carrillo fig (a Padre Kino introduction) from Mission Garden now producing in my yard (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom pomegranate from Mission Garden, Tucson (MABurgess photo)

Heirloom pomegranate from Mission Garden, Tucson (MABurgess photo)

But here in Baja Arizona, instead of waiting for fall, I had to begin prep a few months ago by harvesting ripe heirloom figs, pomegranates and apricots as they ripened.  Father Kino’s figs grace my yard and the other two yummy fruits, grown at Tucson’s Mission Garden at the base of A-Mountain, were purchased at the Thursday Santa Cruz farmers’ market.

Preserving them for later use, I dried the fruits in my solar oven with the lid slightly opened, allowing humid air to escape.

 

Fresh Mission figs cut ready for drying in the solar oven

Fresh Mission figs cut ready for drying in the solar oven

Sun-dried figs get even sweeter and more flavorful than when they are fresh!

Sun-dried figs get even sweeter and more flavorful than when they are fresh!

Celebrating our International City of Gastronomy, I rejoice in using flours grown and milled locally by BKWFarms in Marana, Arizona, to bake this rich bread.  Other ingredients I sourced close to home as well — Tucson’s precious mesquite-smoked Hamilton whiskey, homegrown heirloom fruit propagated at Mission Garden, agave nectar in place of sorghum molasses — from the bounty of Baja Arizona’s foodscape, its green thumbs, and its creative local “food-artists.”

Tucson's best whiskey from Hamilton Distillers--made with organic local malted grain dried using local mesquite.

Tucson’s best whiskey from Hamilton Distillers–made with organic local malted grain dried using local mesquite.

Bread teaches us patience.  It is a beautiful meditation so take time to enjoy the process. There are tasks for this recipe to be done on two consecutive days.  At the very least, in between texts and emails, radio news and phone calls, take time out to go to the kitchen, check the status of your “rehydrating” fruit, or check your yeast sponge, take a nip, etc.  Bread is a living gift and this Election Bread in particular brings many quite lively foods together.  Be not daunted–become one with the yeasts!

If you are already into sourdough baking and have live starter, take method A.  If you are beginning with dry yeast, take method B.  Both will give olfactory pleasure from the git-go.

 

RECIPE FOR AMES FAMILY ELECTION BREAD

Day 1—Making the Pre-ferment –method A–Using Sourdough Starter
1 cup whole milk, warmed to ~ 70º F
¼ cup active starter — fully hydrated
2 ¼ cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour *

OR Day 1 — Making the Pre-ferment — method B– Using Yeast
1 1/8 cup milk, warmed to ~70º F
1 tsp instant dry yeast
2 ¼ cups plus 2 Tbsp organic all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour *

Pre-ferment Instructions:  In a bowl, combine milk and sourdough starter or yeast. Mix thoroughly until starter or yeast is well dispersed in the milk mixture. Add flour and mix vigorously until the yeast mixture is smooth. Scrape the sides of your bowl to use all yeast. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Allow your sponge to rest and ferment 8-12 hours at room temperature. When ready to use, your pre-ferment will have bubbles covering the surface.

Also Day 1–Pre-Soaking Dried Fruits

1 cup dried fruits, coarsely diced in 3/8-inch or ½-inch pieces **
1-1 ½ cup whiskey, bourbon, brandy, or non-alcoholic fruit juice ***

Instructions for Pre-soaking Dried Fruit:  To prepare dried fruits for your bread, soak them overnight, or for several days beforehand, in a lidded jar. Measure your dried fruit then cover with liquor or liquid of choice. (To speed up the soaking process put diced fruit in a small sauce pan, warm over low heat for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and allow fruit to soak, covered, for several hours.) Until the fruit is totally softened, you may need to add more liquid to keep fruit submerged.

Before adding fruit to your dough, strain the liquid off of the fruit. Use this fruity liquid as a cordial, or to make a simple glaze after bread is baked.

Freshly mixed dough in greased and floured bunt pan

Freshly mixed dough in greased and floured bunt pan

Proofing Election Bread dough--after covering and allowing dough to rise to almost double size--fruit bites visible

Proofing Election Bread dough–after covering and allowing dough to rise to almost double size–fruit bites visible

*** My secret to this “fruit marinade” is the smokey flavor of local Whiskey del Bac!  Using spirits results in a fabulous liqueur “biproduct” to enjoy later.  But, remember the words to that song “Oh we never eat fruitcake because it has rum, and one little bite turns a man to a bum……..”  For the tea- totaler, any fruit juices will work for re-hydrating the dried fruit chunks:  try apple cider, prickly pear, pomegranate juice, cranberry.  Then save the liquid after decanting as it will have delicious new flavors added.

 

Day 2 –Preparing Dough, Proofing, Baking Election Bread

Ingredients:  
1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup unrefined organic sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup whole-milk yogurt
¼ cup sorghum molasses, agave nectar, or honey
Your Pre-ferment –yeast mixture or sourdough mixture from Day 1
2 ¼ cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour combination *
1-2 Tbsp mixed spice blend—your choice cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mace blend
¼ tsp ground coriander –optional
¼ tsp ground black pepper –optional
1-2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sherry or another spirit- optional
2 cups rehydrated local fruit from dried/preserved fruits, decanted

* Create your own combination of pastry flours. My Southwest pastry flour mix to total 2 ¼ cups is:
½ cup organic all-purpose flour
¼ cup mesquite pod milling dust
1 cup organic BKWFarms’ hard red wheat flour                                                                                                                                          ½ cup organic heirloom BKWFarms’ White Sonora Wheat flour  (heirloom flours available at NativeSeeds/SEARCH and http://www.flordemayoarts.com)

** My Election Bread fruit mix honors the Kino Heritage Fruit Tree Project. You can purchase heirloom fruit seasonally at Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market. For this recipe I used:
1/3 cup diced dry figs
1/3 cup diced dry apricots
1/6 cup dry pomegranate “arils”
1/6 cup dry cranberries (a bow to East Coast food)

You can test to see if dough is done thru using a wooden kabob skewer or cake tester. Listen to hear if bubbles are still popping in the dough.

You can test to see if dough is done through by using a wooden kabob skewer or cake tester. Listen to hear if bubbles are still popping in the dough.

Day 2–Instructions for Election Day Bread Baking

a) Cream the butter well; add sugar, mixing until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time with mixer (or spoon) on medium speed. Mix in the sorghum/honey and yogurt. If you have a dough hook mixer you can use it or good old elbow grease. Add the pre-ferment (starter or sponge) and mix slightly.
b) In a separate bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients. Mix as you add dry ingredients into liquid ingredients, being careful not to over-mix.
c) Gently fold in the rehydrated fruit (then optional sherry).
d) Grease (with butter) and flour a bundt pan or round cake pan. Divide the dough evenly into the cake pan. Proof (i.e. let the dough rise) covered in a warm place for 2-4 hours, until the dough has risen by about ⅓ of its volume.
e) Preheat oven to 375F. Bake at 375° F (190° C) for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F (177° C) and continue baking for about 25-35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before cutting and eating.         Enjoy this sweet bread either plain or topped with a simple glaze.

If you are new to yeast bread baking, it would be fun to connect with a friend to chop fruit or get hands gooey together, or to have one person read directions while the other mixes. We always do it as a family and it’s so much more fun to add humor and gossip to the mix–or even a little political emoting.

Sonoran Desert style Election Bread with local grains and local fruits--Ah the aromas!

Sonoran Desert style Election Bread with local grains and local fruits–Ahhhh, the aromas and rich history of Baja Arizona in a single slice!

During the coming holidays, you could try this easy bread for a great party treat, for breakfast, or for a colorful dessert topped with whipped cream or ice cream.
And feel free to play with the recipe, adding your own tastes, honoring your own family’s food culture and history and your own sense of place!
Buen provecho from Tia Marta!

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

More Ideas for Wild Dates in Borderlands Towns

Washingtonia filifera near UA main gate (R.Mondt photo)

Our native fan palm, Washingtonia filifera, near UA main gate.  Original seed from Arizona’s KOFA Mountains.   (R.Mondt photo)

Yes, we can delight in the most fabulous wild dates right here in Baja Arizona. We don’t have to put out lots of energy into finding these tasty little morsels because they are now all over the urban landscape. Once, in olden times, they were confined to oases, but now they line every old neighborhood street in low-desert towns. Harvest at the right time and enjoy their bounty.

Our Native Fan Palm Washingtonia filifera, UA photo (Note the stout trunk)

Our Native Fan Palm Washingtonia filifera, UA photo (Note the stout trunk)

Tia Marta here to continue our culinary explorations of native fan palm fruit. Our street sentinels are more than vertical shade.  They bear other surprising gifts. Our so called California fan palms (“palma taco”) offer tiny sweet and plentiful fruits (the size of a plump pea), and were harvested and relished by Native People of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts long before Hispanics brought date palms (the pinnate-leafed palms) from the Old World.

Washingtonia robusta in a S.Tucson landscape

Washingtonia robusta planted in a S.Tucson landscape

When ripe in summer into fall, zillions of fruits hang from pendulous stalks of Washingtonia filifera, with 20 pounds or more of the little buggers in one cluster—talk about prolific! As mentioned in my blog-sister’s post two weeks ago, Carolyn and I were challenged by renowned ethnobotanist Dr Richard Felger to try our hands at creating some “contemporary” recipes for this ancient and well-adapted desert food—which is now disregarded as nothing more than a columnar street planting. We know from ethnographic accounts (see them summarized in Wendy Hodgson’s Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert, UA Press, 2001) that for the Native Cahuilla of Southern California, the fan palm meant survival—a staple in their diet, used both fresh or dried and ground, hard seeds and all, into a flour for cooking or griddling. Another ethnobiologist friend Dr. Amadeo Rea (1997) documented Pima children collecting fan palm fruits as snacks. Dr. Felger intends now to bring this native palm back into new, appropriate use as a sustainable desert food crop.

Fruits newly harvested from the California fan palm Washingtonia filifera (MABurgess photo)

Fruits newly harvested from the California fan palm Washingtonia filifera (MABurgess photo)

Washingtonia fruit is mostly seed, but the small amount of pulp has a group impact (MABurgess photo)

Washingtonia fruit is mostly seed, but the small amount of pulp has an impact in numbers (MABurgess photo)

Harvesting the high hanging fruit clusters proves challenging. Native harvesters used a lasso. More recently some harvesters fit a sharp can lid to the end of a pole to cut off the entire fruit stalk. A Tohono O’odham saguaro harvesting kuipaD might suffice—or a long-poled tree-trimmer—both worth a try.

 

In addition to their success as hot-desert food producers, both fan palms native to southwest North America, Washingtonia filifera (the stout, shorter one) and W.robusta (the super-tall, spindlier one), provide excellent nutrition. It has been estimated that one fan palm’s fruit could sustain one human’s nutritional needs for more than 200 days! Get a load of these figures from James W. Cornett (Principles Jour.Internat.PalmSociety,1987):  Protein 3.1%, Carbs 77.7%, Fiber 10.4%, Calcium 110 mg per 100g, VitaminA(Carotenes) 180mg per 100g.  Comparing these wild date nutritional figures with the commercial date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), our wild fan palm is way ahead on all counts except carbs (carbs 94.1% in standard dates).

Washed and drained fruits of Washingtonia filifera ready for snacking! (MABurgess photo)

Washed and drained fruits of Washingtonia filifera in Tarahumara sifting basket, ready for snacking! (MABurgess photo)

Since the fruits of W.robusta (the tall one) are even tinier than W.filifera, I chose to do my foodie experiments with the latter one’s “bigger” datelets–both small.  Fruits of both are mostly seed, a stony seed surrounded by a thin layer of sweet skin and dry, date-like pulp. Here are two fun ideas I’ve come up with for using fan palm fruits, which can be done easily in any kitchen or patio. These ideas also might present interesting potential for commercial-scale food production. (I hope our wonderful local companies like Cheri’s Desert Harvest are listening to the significance herein!)                 So, here’s my first idea–really in three delicious parts:

Simmering fan palm fruits

Simmering fan palm fruitsSolar Fan Palm Syrup, Datil Molasses, or Datil Candy

SOLAR FAN PALM SYRUP

Directions:

Wash thoroughly and drain 4 cups desert fan palm fruits. Place in a saucepan with 8 cups drinking water to cover fruit well. On stove-top, gently simmer the fruits for at least 30 minutes, (if using solar oven, make it 1 hour). Add more drinking water to keep fruits covered. Let cool and stand in refrig for 1-3 days. This process is bringing out the complex sugars into solution. Again, when you have a little time, bring back to simmer 15-20 minutes. Taste the liquid. It should be deliciously sweet with a rich, almost smokey bouquet—but still thin. With a sieve, decant the sweet liquid from the cooked fruits, saving the fruits aside.

After sieving out the simmered fruit, the liquid is being concentrated in a solar oven with oven cover slightly open to release moisture (MABurgess photo)

After sieving out the simmered fruit, the liquid is being concentrated in a solar oven with oven cover slightly open to release moisture (MABurgess photo

[Here is where my experience reducing thin saguaro fruit juice kicked in. I knew that this thin, sweet liquid from the fan palm dates had to be cooked down slowly.]

Pour the juice into a solar-oven-worthy pan and put in preheated solar oven—without a lid on the pan. Let the glass cover of the oven be slightly open to allow steam/moisture to escape. Check after 15 minutes. If syrup is desired, check for correct syrup consistency.  Keep heating until thickened to pourable syrup.  Then, try this wonderful and healthful solar syrup over mesquite pancakes for the ultimate Southwestern breakfast!

Concentrated Solar Fan Palm Syrup--nothing added--just water and fan palm fruit!  (MABurgess)

Concentrated Solar Fan Palm Syrup–nothing added–just water and fan palm fruit!  Come taste it at the StPhil’s farmers market!(MABurgess)

 

 

“DATIL SYLVESTRE” MOLASSES

With more time and further moisture reduction, there are more delicious options….. Here’s one:  For the best, richest “Datil Molasses” you ever tasted, let the liquid cook down for another 45 minutes or an hour (depending on sun intensity).  Be careful not to overcook, which might leave a sweet glue on the bottom of your pan. (The same reduction of liquid can be done of course on the stove-top or over a fire, like reducing maple sap, but hey, this is a desert product. We’ve got our fuel overhead! Let’s use it.)

“DULCES DE DATIL SYLVESTRE”

Carrying the process of concentrating the syrup yet another step further…If an even more chewy candy is desired, you might use the concentrated sweet molasses in a candy mold or for gelling like a fan-palm gummy bear.

Here’s another totally delightsome, exotic yet simple idea for maximum pleasure from fan palm fruits…..

DESERT OASIS CORDIAL

Wild Fan Palm Liqueur (MABurgess photo)

Wild Fan Palm Cordial (MABurgess photo)“Desert Oasis Cordial”

It takes about 4-5 weeks to make this rich cordial liqueur, so plan ahead. With a fall harvest of wild dates you could start making your Desert Oasis Cordial by Thanksgiving and have it ready for Christmas-time celebrations. But don’t wait—when the fruits are ripe, go for it.

This is how I did it:

Wash, wash, wash and drain at least 2 cups of ripe native fan palm fruitlets (W.filifera), enough to pack firmly into a mason jar.  Into the packed jar, pour vodka of your choice, filling all the space between the little fruits to the brim to cover them. (You could use tequila or EverClear for differing degrees of delight.)  Screw on lid and place jar in a cool dark corner of your kitchen, where you can be reminded to agitate it. After a week, open it and add more vodka to cover fruits, as the fruit tissue will have absorbed some of the alcohol. Shake and turn over the closed jar every week.  For the herbalists among us, you will recognize this process is basically tincturing the wild dates. After 4-5 weeks, decant (i.e. separate) the liquid from the fruit. The decanted liquid will be a rich dark chocolate brown color like Godiva liqueur only translucent. Taste it and serve sparingly in small cordial glasses. Store any remaining liqueur in a closed decanter for the next festive occasion.

W.filifera fruit AFTER tincturing and decanting makes a fabulous alcoholic treat (seeds to be discarded)

W.filifera fruit AFTER tincturing and decanting makes a fabulous alcoholic treat (seeds to be discarded) (MABurgess)

Decanting the marinated fan palm fruits from the liqueur (MABurgess)

Decanting the marinated fan palm fruits from the liqueur (MABurgess)

After both your Fan-Palm Syrup-making and your Desert Oasis Cordial-making, you will have delicious fruits left over in the straining or decanting process.

Don’t forget the simple joy of snacking on little fruits, doing the pulp-from-seed separation maneuver with your tongue and teeth. Move over, sunflower seeds!  The boiled fruits after syrup-making are still tasty.  Better still–the vodka-soaked wild dates give an extra kick, so don’t overindulge.

Both can be briefly quick-whirled or mashed in a blender, meat grinder, or CuisinArt to begin the process of separating the remaining pulp from the hard seeds.

After decanting the cordial, remaining fruit is whirled and put thru colander to separate pulp from seeds

After decanting the cordial, remaining fruit is whirled and put thru colander to separate pulp from seeds

[If someone has a good idea of how best to separate seeds from pulp easily, please share it!] Fruit leathers, energy bars, jams, “datil newtons”, spreads, supplements—there are SO many ways the remaining fruit pulp could be used, so that none of the nutrients and fiber need go to waste. Even the hard seeds could be parched and ground into a nutritious flour—as Native People did in earlier times, to their advantage.

 

"Desert Oasis Cordial" from wild fan palm fruits (MABurgess photo)

“Desert Oasis Cordial” from wild fan palm fruits (MABurgess photo)

BTW, after snacking on Washingtonia fruitlets, be sure to check your smile in the mirror for black flecks of the yummy pulp between your incisors.  I can see it now—the next fad question after “Got milk?” will be “Got datil?”  That could make for a wild date experience. Enjoy!

For a taste of the native fan palm fruits, come by our Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday’s St Phillips farmers market, 9am-1pm. There we also have a demo of solar-oven cookery in action.  The cleverly designed solar ovens are for sale from us with a discount and no shipping costs. We’d like to see every household in Baja Arizona equipped with a solar oven for emergencies as well as for sustainable living.

You can find the perfect makings for the pancakes to eat with your Solar FanPalm Syrup for that Southwestern breakfast–mesquite flour and heirloom White Sonora Wheat flour— at the Native Seeds/SEARCH store (3061 N Campbell, Tucson) and at Flor de Mayo’s booth at St Phillips farmers market.  See you on Sunday! Have your taste-buds ready for a wild date.

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

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