Posts Tagged With: Tohono O’odham

Heirloom Cowpeas for a Summer Garden Surprise

You are in for a treat this summer–don’t wait until New Year’s Day feasting.  If you have “black-eye-pea prejudice,” or if you have never tasted a FRESH black-eye-pea, read on!  Black-eyes will be a reward for your palate–and positive reinforcement for the novice gardener.  First, action is needed:  With monsoon moisture it is time to get those seeds in the ground!  Tia Marta here to share some hot-weather garden advice, recipe inspiration, with some historical spice, about the sweet and nutritious black-eye “pea” Vigna unguiculata.

Lovely foliage, flowers, and pods of Tohono O’odham native black-eye pea U’us Mu:n maturing in a monsoon timeline garden at Mission Garden, Tucson (MABurgess photo)

A rose by any other name…..Really it’s not a pea at all!  (Here in Baja Arizona, true peas, English peas, Pisum sativum, must be planted in the cool season.)  Nor is black-eye a common bean either.  Other monikers for this frijol-like legume are cowpea (it used to be cow forage), and crowder pea (its fat seeds are packed against each other in the pod.)  Spanish called them frijoles de carete.  Cowpea varieties that became part of Chinese cuisine are called long beans.   The generic term for edible legumes including cowpeas is pulses, a term that nutritionists tend to use.

An amazing relative of cowpea– Chinese long bean–growing at Mission Garden in the new Chinese Timeline Garden, a Wong Family heirloom planted by Nancy Tom (DenaCowan photo)

Cowpeas were first domesticated in sub-Saharan Africa a few thousand years ago and made it on their agricultural-culinary odyssey to Spain during the Middle Ages, according to historian William Dunmire.  Cowpea came to the New World with Spanish explorers and arrived in the American Southwest with Padre Kino around 1706  (according to Bolton’s 1948 translation of Kino’s journals.)  Native People of what is now northwest Mexico and the US Borderlands quickly adopted this sweet, nutritious food.  It dovetailed perfectly into their traditional summer temporal gardens, their bean staples, and their taste buds.

Over years of selection for color, flavor, and adaptation to arid agriculture, the Mayo, Pima Bajo, Tarahumara and other Native farmers shaped this Old World gift into different colorfully-patterned landraces.  The Tohono O’odham, with selection, altered their adopted variety into a spotted vivid black and white bean, naming it U’us Mu:n or “sticks-bean” because the pods are long, straight or curvy, and clustered.  The Guarijio and Mountain Pima (now of Sonora) named theirs Yori Muni meaning “foreigner’s bean” as yori is slang for something akin to “gringo.”  (Names can reveal alot.)  Mexican and Anglo pioneers and later African-Americans continued to bring “new” varieties of black-eye peas into the Baja Arizona borderlands–which all thrive in our humid hot summers.

A rich harvest of Tohono O’odham U’us Mu:n grown at Mission Garden from seed saved by NativeSeedsSEARCH (MABurgess photo)

Your monsoon garden is bound for success choosing from NativeSeedsSEARCH’s many heirloom cowpea varieties –known success stories in the Southwest.  The seeds will be up in no time and flowering, great for gardening with kids.  Down below soil level cowpea roots will be feeding the earth with nitrogen.  Above ground they feed us well.  When pods are plump with seed, before they dry, harvest and cook the seeds fresh.  When you taste fresh black-eyes your eyes will roll back in ecstasy as your tummy goes “whoopee!”  After they dry, they can be kept for months, even years, but New Year’s is a good time to share them for good luck.

A prolific producer is pioneer heirloom Bisbee cowpea saved by NativeSeeds/SEARCH, available at the NSS Store (NativeSeeds/SEARCH photo)

My favorite dish is a simple compote of cowpeas with garden vegetables.  As cooking beans goes, cowpeas are much speedier than common beans, as they do not need to be presoaked, although soaking an hour before cooking does reduce cooking time.  I quick-sauté my onions, garlic, carrots and celery in a little olive oil, add them to cowpeas and soak-water in a dark lidded saucepan, and put them in the solar oven.  They will be done and smelling delightful in 2-3 hours, depending on the summer or winter sun during the brighter time of day.  You can also make a hummus with black-eyes for a cool summertime dip.

Black-eye pea compote with garden vegetables –cooked in the solar oven! (MABurgess photo)

We grew a red cowpea heirloom from NativeSeedsSEARCH one summer that had foot-long straight pods.  The refreshing green mass of foliage, flowers and pods sprawled across the garden and kept producing for weeks.

For a rainbow of cowpea ideas for your garden, go to www.nativeseeds.org, click on shop then enter cowpeas in the search box, or go directly to the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell and browse for instant gratification.  Prep your soil, pop seeds in the ground, add water and get ready for botanical action.  By late August you will be pleasing palates with your own home-grown cowpeas, black-eyes, crowders, u’us mu:n–fabulous food by whatever name you want to give them!  Savor Sister Jacqueline Soule discusses growing beans in our area on her site, Gardening With Soule here.

The colorful and reliable Tohono O’odham cowpea in the NSS Conservation Garden–U’us Mu:n (NativeSeeds/SEARCH photo)

Can you hardly wait to have such greenery and goodness in your garden?  All it takes is some seeds in the ground!  You can find even more detailed info about cowpeas at the NativeSeedsSEARCH blog and scroll down to May 14, 2018 post.  Tia Marta wishing you happy and prolific gardening with the monsoons!

Mosaic of cowpeas created by NativeSeedsSEARCH aficionados (credit NSS)

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, heirloom beans, heirloom crops, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A New Addiction– Nopalito Tortilla Chips

Young pad of our native Engelmann’s prickly pear. Note the little leaves protruding from each aureole. (MABurgess photo)

Luscious and healthy hors d’oeuvres–nopalito tortilla chips! They are sturdier than other chips and much better for dipping. (MABurgess photo)

Here’s an off-the-wall-fun idea that will enhance a party or pot luck to bring a zillion laughs and mmmm’s, not to mention great new taste.   It’s tortilla chips made with something you can pick from the “back forty” in the desert for free, i.e. fresh prickly pear cactus pads—nopalitos. Talk about justifying your addiction to tortilla chips by enhancing your vitamin intake AND balancing your blood sugar!

This idea came originally via my cousins in California who frequent farmers markets, where they found “Nopaltillas,” a trademarked chip produced by Nopaltilla LLC. [Google “cactus chips” for a full description.]

Sez I, “For having some fun in the des, burning off a few calories, why not make them ourselves?”  Tia Marta here to share with you my experiences making Cactus Corn Chips –Nopalito Tortilla Chips.

Young pad of orange flowered O.linheimeri ready for harvesting to make nopal tortilla chips (MABurgess photo)

Notice the leaves on these cladophyll. This is the right stage for harvesting nopales.

Chips are great any time, but now in May (beginning in April) is perfect for this seasonal “specialty.”  Through spring in the Sonoran Desert, our first exercise is to recognize new growth on a prickly pear cactus.  The so called “pads” on a prickly pear are really inflated green stems–not leaves.  These vertical, flat, succulent oval pads (called nowh by the Tohono O’odham and cladodes by botanists) grow out from the edges of mature, spiny pads.  You can recognize the young pads by their thinner shape, their brighter green color, AND the KEY INDICATOR, tiny dunce-cap-shaped prongs at each aereole (spots on the pads where spines emerge.)  These little dunce caps are the only true LEAVES on a cactus!   They are temporary, shed when major heat arrives.   Only harvest pads if you see those little green dunce-caps!!  Be ye warned:  not all pads will do as food. The presence of the tiny leaves shows there is, as yet, no woody tissue inside.  Unless you have the digestive system of a termite to break down cellulose, don’t try to eat mature prickly pear pads.

Wild-harvesting the youthful pads will require tongs, a pocketknife, and 360 degree awareness to avoid touching tiny hair-like spines called glochids that are really bothersome in skin or clothing.  Go to www.desertharvesters.org for good instruction.   Far easier to find young pads in town on the semi-spineless nopal in many older yards around Baja Arizona,  the cultivated Indian-fig cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica, first propagated by Nahuatl people of central Mexico.   Better still, I suggest that you grow your own.  What I grow in my garden in harvestable profusion is an orange-flowered species Opuntia lindheimeri, very productive with nopalitos and tunas.  Whichever nopales you harvest, you’ll need to singe off the spines and leaves over a flame or gas stove before you dice them to prep for making our nopalito chips.

Freshly diced nopalitos ready to puree. Labor-saving short cut: these are available from Food City!

The “cheater option”  is to purchase fresh-diced nopalitos or fresh nopal pads in the produce section of Food City.  These are in fact from the same Indian-fig cactus available by reaching over any fence in old neighborhoods.

 

Chopping diced nopalitos in Cuisinart

Pureed fresh nopalitos prepped for mixing with masa to make nopal tortilla chips–pretty weird –such a rich healthy green!

Now for the quick and easy recipe:

Nopalito Tortilla Chips 

You will need a Cuisinart or mixer, mixing bowl and fork, flat surface and rolling pin OR a tortilla press, gallon ziplock bag, tea-towel, hot griddle, and oven.

Ingredients:

2 cups corn Maseca (instant masa corn flour mix from Mexican foods section of grocery)

1 1/2 cups diced fresh nopalitos

3-10 tbsp warm water

1/4 tsp sea salt (and powdered salt–optional–for surface)

Directions with photos:

Puree your diced nopalitos.

Add pureed nopalito liquid into the masa flour and mix

In a bowl with the 2 cups masa flour and sea salt, pour pureed nopalito liquid gradually into the masa flour and stir until dough becomes workable with hands and not sticking to the sides of the bowl.  If mixture is too dry, add water one tablespoon at a time, mixing after each until you can make a dough ball with your hands.

Rolled balls of nopalitos masa dough golf-ball size left to set awhile

Roll chunks of dough into golfball-size balls and set aside covered with tea-towel for up to an hour to set.  Cut the sides of a gallon plastic bag.

If you don’t have a tortilla press you can flatten your dough ball between 2 layers of a cut ziplock with a rolling pin

Place ball of dough within two sides of the plastic to flatten with rolling pin or in a tortilla press.

Nopalito tortilla on a hot griddle–You can even grill it on a glass-top stove like this or in an iron skillet over an open fire.

On a medium-hot griddle cook the flat tortilla dough on both sides until edges are tinged golden brown.  Tortillas should still be flexible.

Cutting a stack of warm tortillas into corn chip size

Cut tortillas to chip size.  Brush sparingly with corn oil, avocado oil, or olive oil.  Place in a hot oven (400 degrees) for 6-8 minutes watching carefully to remove before browning.  Dust with powdered salt if desired.  Serve hot or cold.

Nopalito tortilla chips brushed lightly with oil and then baked in a medium-hot oven

You will find that nopalito tortilla chips have a wonderful tangy flavor, and also a sturdiness that will not crack with heavy bean dips or guacamole.

And what nutrition!  Nixtamalized corn in the masa has preserved the amino acids in the corn.  And nopalitos are full of complex carbs that give sustained energy and available calcium for bones, teeth, and nerves.  What more could one ask from a snack food?

Tia Marta encouraging you to make and enjoy these easy and not-so-sinful treats from the desert!

 

 

 

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

A Gastronomy Tour thru Time–from Ancient to Now!

Bedrock mortar hole where ancient desert people milled mesquite, legume pods, and other seeds  (MABurgess photo)

All around us in the desert–in our own Tucson Basin and beyond–there is evidence in the rocks that people long ago were gathering, processing, growing and eating bountiful desert plant foods.  The same plants (mesquite beans, amaranth, chia, corn…) are providing us today with a smorgasbord of yummy ingredients for new culinary creativity.  The pre-history and history of our diverse food cultures–not to mention the amazing inventiveness of our local chefs, farmers and gardeners–led UNESCO to name Tucson the first International City of Gastronomy in the US!

Tia Marta here to tell you about upcoming GASTRONOMIC TOURS created to celebrate our diverse local food heritage.  Are you ready for total immersion in culinary bliss?  Tucson’s Presidio Museum is sponsoring tours of our food heritage in the heart of Old Town.  Look for announcements about The Presidio District Experience:  A Progressive Food Heritage and History Tour.

Tucson’s Presidio San Augustine Museum–a living-history treasure at the center of downtown where visitors can envision life of 18th century Spanish conquistadores and their families on the new frontier.

In the style of progressive dinners or “round-robins” the tour will begin at the Tucson Presidio Museum, developing a sense of Tucson’s setting and cultures over the recent 10,000 years.  Participants will enjoy samples of traditional wild-harvested desert foods, then surprising Spanish introductions.  Next tourers venture forth afoot to taste Hispanic and Anglo family traditions plus nouvelle cuisine desert-style at some of our one-of-a-kind historic restaurants.  Past meets present in a symphony of taste sensations with spirits, entree, bebidas or dessert at each new venue.

These tours are educational-plus!  Feeding not only body and satisfaction-center, knowing Tucson’s gastronomic history feeds the mind and soul as well.  Tours are scheduled for Sunday afternoon, March 25, April 8, 15 or 29, from 1pm-3:45pm.  Check out http://www.tucsonpresidio.com , go to the event calendar and click on Heritage Tour for details and registration for each date.

Seedlings of heirloom white Sonora wheat seed from NativeSeeds/SEARCH and BKWFarms, planted early Feb and gladly doused by mid-February rains, growing rapidly, to be harvested in May (MABurgess photo)

Now, with the goal of merging plant knowledge with many food cultures into one tasty recipe, I’d like to share a quick and easy idea to enhance a pot luck or dinner for a few:  Muff’s Multi-Heritage Biscuits. 

A traditional milling of amaranth with stone mano on a metate.  Today, hard amaranth seed can be easily ground in a grain mill or coffee mill.  Traditional Tohono O’odham gatherers ate “rain spinach” or juhuggia i:wagi (Amaranthus palmeri) when summer rains started, then harvested these ollas of small seeds from the spiny stalks later when the weeds dried.   Plan to harvest your wild amaranth (aka pigweed) seed next September if monsoon rains are good.  Amaranth grain is 15-18% protein and high in iron, fiber and phytonutrients!  (MABurgess photo)

One of many species of Sonoran Desert saltbush, traditionally used by Tohono O’odham.  It can be dried and pulverized as baking powder. (Atriplex hymenolytra) (MABurgess photo)

Bringing together Amaranth, Mesquite, and sea salt from Tohono O’odham traditional fare, and Hispanic White Sonora Wheat introduced by Missionary Padre Kino, in a very Anglo-style biscuit from my Southern background,  here is a fast, tasty, local and nutritious complement to any meal:

Muff’s Multi-Heritage Biscuits 

You will need:

1/2 cup mesquite flour [from NativeSeedsSEARCH or desert harvesters.org]

1/2 cup amaranth flour [home-milled from NativeSeedsSEARCH’s whole grain, or Bob’s Red Mill amaranth flour]

1 cup white Sonora wheat flour (or Pima Club wheat flour)  [from Ramona Farms, San Xavier Coop Association, or NativeSeedsSEARCH]

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp sea salt

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup milk (or sour milk, rice milk, soy milk)

Mixing organic white Sonora wheat flour from BKWFarms, plus amaranth flour, roasted mesquite flour, and butter for Muff’s Mixed Heritage Grain Biscuits (MABurgess photo)

Preheat oven to 450 degreesF.  [You can use a solar oven but it will not get quite that hot.  Solar biscuits come out harder–reminiscent of cowboy hard-tack.]. Sift together flours, baking powder, and sea salt.  Cut in the butter to small pellet size.  Add milk.  Stir until soft dough forms.  Either drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet for “bachelor biscuits” OR, turn the dough ball out onto a floured board.  Knead a few turns.  Pat or roll lightly to about 1/2-inch thickness.  Use any shape cookie cutter to form biscuits–small for bite-size, large for cowboys, initialed for kids.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 12-15 minutes until barely golden.  Serve hot, rejoicing in the diversity of heritage foods still available from local farmers or in nearby desert!

Rolling out mesquite, amaranth, white Sonora wheat biscuit dough with Mayo Indian palo chino rolling pin purchased from NativeSeedsSEARCH (MABurgess photo)

Muff’s Mixed Heritage Grain (Mesquite-Amaranth-White Sonora Wheat) Biscuits hot from the oven (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A landmark in the heart of Tucson’s Old Town, this restaurant, shops and music venue occupy the oldest existing structure in the neighborhood, across Court Street from Tucson Presidio Museum

Two heirloom wheat flours introduced by Missionaries (White Sonora “S-moik Pilkan” and Pima Club “Oras Pilkan”) grown by a traditional Piman farmer at Ramona Farms; also grown at San Xavier Coop Association and organically at BKWFarms Inc in Marana (available at NativeSeeds/SEARCH store)               (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find many traditional desert foods and artworks depicting these botanical and culinary treasures at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.   Flor de Mayo native heritage foods can be purchased at ArtHouse.Centro in Old Town Artisans at LaCocina Courtyard, NativeSeeds/SEARCH store and online catalog http://www.nativeseeds.org, at Tumacacori National Historic Site, Tucson Presidio Museum Shop, Saguaro National Park Bookstore, and Tohono Chul Park Museum Shop.  Join us at Mission Garden (http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org) Saturday, March 31, 2018 for a public tour by Herbalist Donna Chesner and ethnobotanist Martha Ames Burgess about Desert Foods as Medicine.

Hoping to see you in Old Town for a gastronomic tour this spring! Plan now for some of that immersion experience in local culinary bliss….

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

So Many Pumpkins…So Little Time!

Tohono O’odham Ha:l “TO pumpkin” –a striped cushaw winter squashes with their corky peduncle attachments–and bright orange Tarahumara pumpkins (a NativeSeeds/SEARCH harvest) MABurgess photo

Pumpkin-bashing may be fantastic sport after Halloween, and indeed it can create great compost with the right follow-through, but I’m in the camp of those waste-not-want-not folks who enjoy pumpkins and squashes for their wholesome flavors and vibrant nutrition (not to mention their esthetic colors and sculptural forms–see last month’s post).  Tia Marta here, delighting in the diversity of our Southwestern heirloom pumpkins and sharing some diverse ways to enjoy them.

An assortment of Dineh Hubbard-type pumpkins from a Navajo community in northeastern Arizona (MABurgess photo)

The so-called “Magdalena Big Cheese squash” from Sonora, shaped like an ancestral jackolantern, has a glorious color inside and great flavor, here pictured at Mission Garden grown from NativeSeeds/SEARCH seed. (MABurgess photo)

Pumpkins are easy and fun to grow over the summer if you have a nice sunny space where the vines can sprawl, a little plot of good deep soil for the roots, and consistent water.

[Do you think that the word squash has a bad rap?  You’ll notice that I prefer to use the word pumpkin for many of the squash group within the Cucurbit family that mature with a harder shell and an be saved for longer periods.]  Pumpkins can actually take many forms–not just the carve-able Halloween type.  I think of squash as the early, thin-skinned stage of several different pumpkin relatives in the Cucurbitaceae family.  There are four different species of pumpkins that Southwestern Native People have created into a diversity of successfully adapted crops over the centuries.  You can plant seed of all 4 species in one garden as they will not easily cross-pollinate.   Dig into the NativeSeeds/SEARCH website http://www.nativeseeds.org to explore the wide realm of Southwest indigenous squashes.

Three different pumpkin lineages–the light green “Mayo Blusher”(Cucurbita maxima), the striped “TO ha:l” (C. argyrosperma), and golden-orange “Magdalena Big Cheese” (C.moschata). Surprisingly, they can all be grown together and remain pure because the different species will not easily cross.

Now for the fun of “internalizing” these colorful and nutritious foods–  Look what happens when you open one up!

Rich orange betacarotenes of Mayo Blusher pumpkin can brighten many a meal– and a nutrition panel!  After de-seeding you can roast a half pumpkin turned open-side-down in the oven or solar oven.  Served with melted butter, there isn’t anything finer nor simpler to prepare!  (MABurgess photo)

My Tohono O’odham teacher and mentor Juanita Ahil told how, when she was young, her family would take a whole TO ha:l on long trips in their wagon.  When they rested the horses they’d make a fire, roast the ha:l whole on the coals, and when done cut and serve chunks in the shell communally with the family.  That was dinner–easy, packable, nutritious, sumptuous, no mess to clean up, just toss the shell.

Winter Pumpkin stir-fry–Skin and dice fresh Mayo Blusher (or any hefty heirloom winter squash) into chunks to stir-fry with onion or garlic. Enjoy as is, or add herbs and other veggies as desired. Don’t be hesitant to even try adding curry to this stir-fry for a healthy pizzaz.  Yum!  (MABurgess photo)

A delectable one-dish meal with stir-fry pumpkin:  Mayo Blusher turkey-skillet–the perfect way to use turkey left-overs!  You can use TO Ha:l, Magdalena Big Cheese, Dineh pumpkin, or any other winter squash (or other meats). to achieve flavor-filled variations on this wonderful dish. (MABurgess photo)

Carrying the stir-fry of heirloom pumpkin to the next level, try it in a stir-fry one-dish meal with meat.  Here I have sautéed ground turkey before adding it to the Mayo Blusher and onion stir-fry.  Add fresh diced green peppers or diced I’itoi’s onions for color and flavor–or if you have a picante palate, dice a jalapeño into the entire dish, gradually testing it to your own level of “heat.”  This is an innovative use of left-over turkey a few days after Thanksgiving.

With roasted or steamed Mayo Blusher (or other pumpkin heirloom) you can make a slightly sweet dish pleasing to a younger palate.  Add agave nectar to taste, pine nuts and/or pumpkin seeds to add crunchy texture.  (MABurgess photo)

After steaming or roasting your pumpkin (here I”ve used Mayo Blusher again as we had a bumper crop), add 1 cup of mashed pumpkin as a substitute for the wet ingredients in any coffeecake recipe. It will add flavor, color, and nutrition.  (MABurgess photo)

Many hard-shelled winter squashes/pumpkins have the helpful attribute of storability without refrigeration.  I kept a whole Tohono O’odham Ha:l in the shade of my back porch all winter long until March when I cooked it up.  Its weight was getting lighter but it had lost no flavor!  Steamed or roasted pumpkin leftovers can be stored frozen ready for quick defrosting, a more effective use of space than storing whole pumpkins.

Shiny Mayo Blusher (Cucurbita maxima)  seeds washed, dried, ready to save for planting–or to roast as a healthy snack

Tohono O’odham Ha:l seed saved from a pumpkin, cleaned & saved for summer planting or winter snacking

Honoring those ancient Southwestern farmers through the ages (and those who still grow traditional squashes and pumpkins), let’s rejoice in their agricultural creativity and plant a seed next summer.  Meanwhile, with heirlooms from farmers’ markets, we can reap the benefits of their beautiful culinary contributions.  Enjoy a pumpkin served in new and delightful ways this holiday season!

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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

Wild Rhubarb Rises Again!

Wild rhubarb is emerging again this month from its hidden storage roots, dotting arroyo-banks and sandy places with green rosettes of leaves and colorful raspberry-pink stalks (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb is emerging again this month from its hidden storage roots, dotting arroyo-banks and sandy places with green rosettes of leaves and colorful raspberry-pink stalks (MABurgess photo)

It’s an unusual winter season when Canaigre (also known by many other names:  Wild Rhubarb, Desert Dock,  Hiwidchuls in O’odham language, Latin name Rumex hymenosepalus) creeps up out of its sandy hiding places to bloom and seed before spring weather gets too warm.  When conditions are right, it can dot the desert floor in early spring with its floppy leathery leaves and pink stalks similar to domestic rhubarb.  This recent cool season Nov.2016-Jan.2017, with its period of penetrating rains, has been the right trigger for awakening canaigre.  Right now it’s time to attune our vision to finding it!  If the weather heats up rapidly, as happened in the last couple of springs, its tender leaf rosettes will dry and crinkle leaving a brown organic “shadow” of itself on the sand, its stored life safely underground in fat roots.  Tia Marta here to share some experiences with canaigre or wild rhubarb.

Wild rhubarb dug out of sandy soil showing multiple tuberous roots and young leaves (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb dug out of sandy soil showing multiple tuberous roots and young leaves (JRMondt photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb storage roots (JRMondt photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb storage roots (JRMondt photo)

Canaigre isn’t just everywhere in the desert.  It’s elusive.  It usually likes sandy loose soil, like the flood plains of our desert rivers in Baja Arizona and Sonora, along major arroyo banks, and on pockets of ancient sand dunes.  Where you see one you usually see many.

Wild rhubarb on sandy soil in Paradox Valley, western CO (JRMondt photo)

Wild rhubarb on sandy soil in Paradox Valley, western CO (JRMondt photo)

Wild rhubarb emerging in ancient dune soil, Avra Valley , southern AZ (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb emerging in ancient dune soil, Avra Valley , southern AZ (MABurgess photo)

My late friend and mentor, Tohono O’odham Elder Juanita Ahil, would take me to her favorite harvesting grounds at the right time each February and March to collect the rosy stalks–if they had emerged.  Over the last 40 years, with deep regret, frustration and anguish, I’ve seen her special “harvesting gardens” go under the blade as development turned wild rhubarb habitat into apartments, golf courses, and strip malls.  Hopefully our Arizona Native Plant Society (www.AZNPS.com) will be able to advocate for setting aside some remaining sites on public lands, similar to the BLM Chiltepin Reserve at Rock Corral Canyon in the Atascosa Mountains.  Where wild rhubarb was once super-plentiful, they and their habitats are now greatly diminished, even threatened.

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Botanical illustration of wild rhubarb from Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, U.NewMexico Press (drawing by Mimi Kamp)

Botanical illustration of wild rhubarb from Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, U.NewMexico Press (drawing by Mimi Kamp)

Details of the parts of the plant that Juanita traditionally harvested are shown in Mimi Kamp’s sketch.  Contrary to some ethnographic reports, Juanita did not use the leaf petioles for food; she harvested the flower stalks, i.e. the stems, leaving the leaves to make more food for the plants to store for the next season.  Traditional knowledge is so attuned to Nature.  Hers was an awareness of the plant’s needs balanced with her own appetite.  Other reports of traditional use of wild rhubarb mention cooking the leaves after leaching/steaming out the oxalic acid from them which is not healthy to eat.

Juanita would also dig deeply into the sandy soil directly under an unusually large, robust hiwidchuls to harvest one or more (up to maybe 1/4 of the tubers) to use as medicine.  I recall her digging a big purplish tuber the size of an oblong sweet potato at a depth of 2 1/2 feet on the floodplain of the Rio Santa Cruz where ball parks now prevent any hiwidchuls growth at all.  She would dry it and powder it to use later on scrapes to staunch bleeding.  Her hiwidchuls harvesting dress was dotted with rosy brown patches of color dyed from the juice splashed on the cloth when she cut the tubers into slices for drying. (See Jacqueline Soule’s post on this blog from 2014, also Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants books, for alternate uses.)

Wild rhubarb flower stalk close-up (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb flower stalk close-up  with buds and flowers  typical of buckwheats (MABurgess photo)

Canaigre/wild rhubarb is in the buckwheat family sporting clusters of little flowers that produce winged seeds.  Their papery membranes help catch the wind for flying to new planting grounds.  The green celery-like flower stalk or stem turns pink or raspberry-tinted as it matures.  That was when Juanita would cut the stem at its base to use for her hiwidchuls pas-tild, wild rhubarb pie!

Wild rhubarb stalk with colorful immature seeds forming (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk with colorful immature seeds forming (MABurgess photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb's membranous seeds (MABurgess photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb’s membranous seeds (MABurgess photo)

In a good year, Juanita would harvest literally bundles of hiwidchuls stalks and we would set to work baking.  Her pies were sweet and tangy.  Here is what she would roughly put together in her off the cuff recipe.  But almost any rhubarb pie recipe should work with the wild rhubarb.  You can find great info on Southwest Native uses of canaigre in Blog-Sister Carolyn Niethammer’s book American Indian Food and Lore.

Juanita’s approximate Hiwidchuls Pas-tird RECIPE

Ingredients:

ca 4-6 cups chopped young wild rhubarb stems

1/4-1/2 cup white Sonora wheat flour

2-3 Tbsp butter

ca 2 cups sugar

pie crust–2 layers for top and bottom, or bottom crust and top lattice crust (A good variation is mesquite flour added to your crusts)

Directions:  Prep stems ahead.  Preheat oven to 450 F.  Chop young rhubarb stems in 1/2 inch cuts.  Stems are full of vascular bundles and can become very fibrous as stems become fully mature, so youthful stems are best.  (Be warned:  One year we harvested a little too late and our pies were so “chewy” with fiber that we had to eat our pies outside in order to be able to easily “spit out the quids.”)  Cook hiwidchuls chopped pieces in a small amount of water until tender.  Add in sugar, butter and flour and cook until mixture is thickening.  Pour mixture into your pie crust.  Cover with top pie crust and pierce for steam escape, or cover with lattice crust.  Begin baking in hot oven (at 450F) then reduce heat to medium oven (350F) for 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice is bubbling through lattice or steam holes.  Enjoy it hot or cold!

 

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Now let’s head out into the desert washes to see if there are more stands of hiwidchuls popping up out of the ground, making solar food to keep themselves and other creatures alive and well!   Let’s get ready to be collecting their seeds (which also were used traditionally by Native People as food) in order to propagate and multiply them, adding them to our gardens for future late winter shows of color, good food and good medicine.  Happy gardening and eating from Tia Marta and traditional knowledge shared!

 

 

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

EVERYTHING-LOCAL PIZZA from Baja Arizona!

Totally local veggie pizza with cholla buds, nopalitos, acelgas, mushrooms, goat cheese and home-grown cherry tomatoes--ready to bake

Totally local veggie pizza with cholla buds, nopalitos, acelgas, mushrooms, goat cheese and home-grown cherry tomatoes–ready to bake

If you love pizza–and I’m picky about good pizza–here are some ways to celebrate local foods, to eat super-healthily, get creative in the kitchen, AND have new excuses to eat pizza!  Tia Marta here to share ideas for a delicious pizza party, incorporating the fabulous gifts that our local desert foods offer.

It will take a little fore-thought and assembly time (…like, all year harvesting at the right seasons for DIYers, or trips to the farmers market, NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, or San Xavier Farm Coop).

Locally-harvested buckhorn and staghorn cholla buds, reconstituted and ready to cut as toppings for pizza

Locally-harvested buckhorn and staghorn cholla buds, reconstituted and ready to cut as toppings for pizza

Pickled prickly pear cactus pads--better known as nopalitos in Spanish and nowi in Tohono O'odham

Pickled prickly pear cactus pads–better known as nopalitos in Spanish and nowi in Tohono O’odham

Cholla buds dried from last April’s harvest, soaked and simmered until soft through, make a tangy taste surprise– a super-nutritious calcium-packed pizza topping.  In the photo, the larger buds are from Buckhorn cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthacarpa) and the smaller buds are from Staghorn (C. versicolor), both plentiful for harvesting in low desert.  Dried cholla buds are available at San Xavier Coop Association’s farm outlet, at NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, and at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.

Another perfect topping is nopalitos, simmered or pickled and diced young pads of our ubiquitous prickly pears (Opuntia engelmannii, O.ficus-indica to name a couple).  Collecting from the desert is a spring activity, but you can easily find whole or diced nopales anytime at Food City.  The other cheater’s method is to find canned pickled cactus in the Mexican food section of any local grocery.  Nopalitos are a taste thrill on a pizza, and you can enjoy their blood-sugar balancing benefits to boot.

Starting the dough sponge--with local, organic hard red wheat flour--ready to rise

Starting the dough sponge–with local, organic hard red wheat flour–ready to rise

Risen pizza dough after a couple of hours--note the rich whole grain flour of local BKWFarms hard red wheat

Risen pizza dough after a couple of hours–note the rich whole grain flour of local BKWFarms hard red wheat

As for making the crust, we have the perfect source of the freshest whole grain organic flours right here from BKWFarms’ fresh-milled heirloom white Sonora & hard red wheat.

My suggestions for a Baja Arizona Pizza Crust:

Ingredients:

3 ½ to 4 cups bread flour mix  (consisting of 2- 2  1/2 cups organic hard red wheat flour from BKWFarms Marana, 1 cup pastry-milled organic heirloom white Sonora wheat flour also from BKWFarms, ½ cup organic all purpose flour from a good grocery)

2 tsp local raw honey (see Freddie the Singing Beekeeper at Sunday Rillito farmers market)

1-2 envelopes instant dry yeast (or your own sourdough starter)

2 tsp Utah ancient sea salt or commercial sea salt

1 ½ cups drinking water, heated in pyrex to between 105 degrees F and 115 degrees F

2 Tbsp organic olive oil for the dough

PLUS 2 tsp more olive oil for spreading on dough as it proofs

Pizza dough risen and kneaded then stretched and patted out on pizza pan ready for toppings

Pizza dough risen and kneaded then stretched and patted out on pizza pan ready for toppings

Directions for making Crust:

[Note–you can find several pizza dough recipes for bread mixers online.  Just substitute the above ingredients.]

Heat water and pour into a large mixing bowl.  Test for temperature then dissolve dry yeast.  Add honey and sea salt and dissolve both.  Add oil to wet mixture.  Sift flours. Gradually mix flours into wet ingredients until a mass of dough is formed and begins to pull away from sides of bowl.  Knead into a ball.  Let stand covered in a warm place until ball of dough has at least doubled in size (approx 2 hours).  Knead the ball again, divide into 2 equal parts, cover thinly with the additional olive oil, and roll out or hand-flatten the 2 dough balls out onto 2 oiled pizza pans.  Pat dough to approximately 1/4″-3/8″ thickness to the edges of pan.  At this point you are ready to add any number of good toppings.  Here are ideas for a local veggie and a local meatie pizza.

For the finest plain local carefully created goat cheese, find Fiore di Capra at Rillito Farmers Market, Sundays in Tucson

For the finest plain local carefully created goat cheese, find Fiore di Capra at Rillito Farmers Market, Sundays in Tucson

Baja Arizona Pizza Toppings

Ingredients for local Veggie Pizza toppings:

1/2 pt. spreadable goat cheese (I use Fiore di Capra’s plain)

local chard or acelgas (from Mission Garden) torn in pieces

local tomatoes, sliced

I’itoi’s Onions, chopped

heirloom garlic, minced

1/2 cup reconstituted cholla buds, sliced in half or quarters

1/2 cup diced nopalitos 

Fresh Chard (acelgas) from a refugee friend's garden--a great substitute for spinach in a pizza!

Fresh Chard (acelgas) from a refugee friend’s garden–a great substitute for spinach in a pizza!

Native I'itoi's Onions and local heirloom garlic from my garden for pizza topping

Native I’itoi’s Onions and local heirloom garlic from my garden for pizza topping

1/2 cup local oyster mushrooms, sliced

1/4-1/2 cup salsa, optional

Luscious oyster mushrooms from Maggie's Farm (Rillito Farmers Market) to cut in strips for pizza

Luscious oyster mushrooms from Maggie’s Farm (Rillito Farmers Market) to cut in strips for pizza

[You probably by now have some ideas of your own to add!]

Ingredients for Meatie Baja Arizona Pizza toppings:

1/2 pt goat cheese

1/2 lb local chorizo sausage, loosely fried

or, 1/2 lb local grass-fed beef hamburger, loosely fried and spiced with I’itoi onions, garlic, salt

1/2 cup tomato&pepper salsa of choice (mild, chilpotle, etc)

Fresh local pork chorizo to render before putting on pizza dough

Fresh local pork chorizo to render before putting it on the pizza dough

Directions for Toppings:

Layer your toppings artfully, beginning by spreading the goat cheese evenly over the patted-out crust dough.  For a local Veggie Pizza, scatter minced garlic and chopped I’itoi’s onions evenly atop the goat cheese layer.  Place torn leaves of fresh acelgas over the onion/garlic layer.  Add sliced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, sliced cholla buds, diced nopalitos.  Top with optional salsa.  For a Cholla&Chorizo Meatie Pizza, do a similar layering beginning with goat cheese spread over the crust dough, then scattered I’itoi’s onions and garlic, then a full layer of cooked chorizo, and topped by lots of sliced cholla buds.  Adding salsa over all is optional for making a juicier pizza.

Preheat oven to high 425 degrees F.  Bake both pizzas 20-24 minutes or until the crust begins to turn more golden.  You won’t believe the flavor of the crust alone on this local pizza–and the delicious toppings grown right here in Baja Arizona are better than “icing on the cake”!  You can add more spice and zing by crushing our native wild chiltepin peppers on your pizza–but be forewarned–they might blow your socks off.

Home-grown chiltepin peppers crushed and ready to spice up a local pizza--Look out for a wave of picante heat even with a small pinch!

Home-grown chiltepin peppers from my garden, dried, crushed and ready to spice up a local pizza–Look out for a wave of picante heat even with a small pinch!

Here’s wishing you a great local pizza party!

How could you top this Baja Arizona Pizza?!!! Our locally grown and wild desert-harvested ingredients can't be beat by any other veggie pizza!

How could you top this Baja Arizona Pizza?!!! Our locally grown and wild desert-harvested ingredients can’t be beat by any other veggie pizza!

What a great combination--wild-harvested cholla buds, local chorizo, Fiore di Capra goat cheese, and truly flavorful organic wheat flour crust!

What a great combination–wild-harvested cholla buds, local chorizo, Fiore di Capra goat cheese, and truly flavorful organic wheat flour crust!

Buen provecho from Tia Marta!  See you when you visit http://www.flordemayoarts.com.

 

 

 

 

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

“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

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