Posts Tagged With: Tucson Presidio Museum

Celebrating Succulent Food-Plants–Sonoran Centuries and Cholla

Glowing marginal teeth of Agave shrevei from central Sonora. Known there as lechuguilla ceniza (ashy color), and as totosali by the Warijio people, it was traditionally pit-baked for communal eating. (MABurgess photo)

Tia Marta here to take you on a visual tour of our strikingly beautiful Sonoran Desert century plants and cholla which have, for centuries, fed Sonoran Desert people–and continue to do so in interesting new ways!  This is a “photographic appetizer” for the grand gastronomic and libation experiences planned for April into May–an invitation for you to participate in Tucson’s amazing Agave Heritage Festival and Cholla Harvest Workshops.  [For a full schedule of the many culinary, ethnobotanical, artistic and musical agave events, go to http://www.agaveheritagefestival.com.  For info on cholla harvests go to http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org or call 520-907-9471.]

The Hohokam Century Plant, Agave murpheyi, is planted at Mission Garden to simulate a Hohokam archaeological site where ancient desert people farmed it.  This will be one of the agaves to taste at the Mission Garden’s pit-roasting event as part of the Agave Heritage Festival. (MABurgess photo)

Mescal cenizaAgave colorata–a sculptural Sonoran century plant, was traditionally pit-baked by Native People of NW Mexico.  It gives a superbly attractive focal point in an edible landscape!  (MABurgess)

Natives of the low Sonoran Desert region surrounding the Sea of Cortes, especially Yuman, Tohono O’odham (calling it a’ut) and Seri people (calling it ahmmo), traditionally used various varieties or subspecies of Agave deserti to cook as an important staple in their diet.

Agave deserti (this subspecies from the Anza-Borrego State Park in SE California) was pit-roasted by Native People, adding a rare and delicious sweet to their often sparse menu. (MABurgess)

Roasted agave heart of Agave murpheyi ready to divide and eat! (MABurgess photo)

Agaves bloom only once– a magnificent flower show after a long lifetime–hence the name “Century Plant” as the 15-25 years before maturing seems like a century.   Harvesters, mescaleros, watch year after year until they observe when the center of the leaf rosette begins to show the flower-stalk emerging, the signal the plant is changing its stored starches to sugars for blooming.  (There is a giant agave in central Mexico, Agave salmiana, from which harvesters remove the young flower stalk to create a center “well.” Sweet sap, agua miel, wells up daily, for weeks.  Cooked down and concentrated, that’s the so-called “nectar” being sold as a sweetener to gringos.  Good sweetness–nice product–wrong name.  Nectar is what pollinators drink from flowers; agave sweetener is made from internal sap.)

Agave “nectar”–really sap–makes a healthy sweetener for my prickly pear and chia lemonade. (MABurgess)

When the agave is about to bloom, to make roasted agave (for maguey or mescal), the whole mature plant is harvested, thick leaves chopped off (used for fiber), and the center or head, the cabeza that looks like a pineapple, is roasted in a rock-lined pit.  Cooking often takes 2-3 days and nights.  Once roasted, the fibrous pulp is a nutritious, sweet, chewy treat with complex healthy carbohydrates.

Roasted agave (maguey) leaf base ready to eat, showing fiber and pulp. Wish you could taste its smokey flavor! (MABurgess photo)

Bootleg Sonoran bacanora mescal, made in backyard stills from Agave angustifolia, rests in the succulent linear leaves of its unassuming century plant source.  Importers are now bringing this indigenous Sonoran mescal, bottled legally, into the US–now available at unique saloons such as EXO Coffee and specialty liquor stores.  (MABurgess)

If you haven’t tasted mescal, the distilled spirit made from roasted and fermented agave, you have a treat coming.  In a particular district of Jalisco, Mexico, it is made from  Agave tequilana –the blue agave–known only from there by the more familiar name tequila!  Select Sonoran Desert Agave species produce mescals that some connoisseurs consider even better than tequila.  At the Agave Heritage Festival you can taste several such spirits, to make that determination for yourself!

The beautifully cross-banded, fountain-shaped Agave zebra, from the hottest mountains of NW Sonora, was known for making mescal by local Sonorans prior to the 1950s.  Its stripes and fountain-form adds dramatic accent to an edible landscape.  Young agave plants can be purchased at Tucson’s primo succulent plant source, Plants for the Southwest for growing your own. (MABurgess photo)

Variegated Agave americana makes a vivid desert ornamental. It may have been one of several agaves cultivated by ancient people of the Southwest. (MABurgess photo)

At this year’s Agave Heritage Festival, at celebratory, culinary, artsy and educational events–from Mission Garden to Maynard’s MarketDesert Museum to Carriage House Tucson,  Tohono Chul to Tumamoc Hill,  UA to Pima College, with horticulturalists, scholars, artists, musicians–we will delve into the lore and many gifts of the Agave family.  Learn hands-on–even tastebuds-on— from esteemed experts, ethnobotanist Jesus Garcia, Southwest foods authors Carolyn Niethammer and Gary Paul Nabhan, culinary artists Chef Janos Wilder, Barry Infuso, and Don Guerra, scholars Karen Adams and Maribel Alvarez, to name just a few!  Sign up soon at http://www.agaveheritagefestival.com, giving yourself a gift while supporting such special organizations as NativeSeeds/SEARCH, Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and Tohono Chul Park.

Alongside the Agave events, as the succulent season progresses, there are other desert foods to harvest and taste in new recipes, inspired by both traditional knowledge and ideas for sustainable desert living into the future.  Cholla buds and nopalitos from several cactus species will be featured in upcoming workshops.  To call up lots of neat info from past http://www.SavortheSouthwest.blog posts, insert the word “cholla” into the search-box above for a feast of ideas, then……

 

Vivid flower of staghorn cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor) with spiny bud ready to harvest.  Learn how to carefully pick, de-spine, cook and prepare this super-food in wondrous recipes at Mission Garden and Flor de Mayo workshops.  (MABurgess photo)

As cholla cacti begin to bloom, it’s time to harvest the buds!  Join me Friday, April 20, 2018, at the Mission Garden Cholla Harvest Workshop — Sign ups at http://www.tucsonsbirthplace.org.  Or, on Saturday, April 21, come to Flor de Mayo’s Cholla Harvest on Tucson’s west side–contact www.flordemayoarts.com and 520-907-9471.  Cooking School classes are happening at Janos’ Carriage House, http://www.carriagehousetucson.com, and Gastronomy Tours downtown are being scheduled at the Presidio Museum, http://www.tucsonpresidio.com.

I hope you have enjoyed my Photo Gallery and that you may enjoy many a succulent Sonoran Desert dish and libation this season–more ways to honor Tucson as an International City of Gastronomy!

May we all toast the spirit of Agave Goddess Mayahuel!

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sweet and Savory Valentines–with lovely local grains

Happy Valentine's expressed with the happiest of ingredients--heirloom barley, white Sonora wheat, organic hard red wheat and mesquite!

Happy Valentine’s expressed with the happiest of ingredients–heirloom purple barley, white Sonora wheat, organic hard red wheat and mesquite!

I admit it–I have a “thing” about barley. I’ll take it in any form–in stews, Scottish soups, marinated grain salads, mesquite/barley biscuits, barley banana bread…..and yes, my personal favorite, beeeer! (Your’s too? OK that will be another good post….)

Tia Marta here to share some fun recipes fit for a happy Valentine’s Day or beyond–made with heirloom grains including barley–one recipe with whole-kernel grain, one with milled whole grain flour.  These amazing grains are some of the reasons Tucson is now an International City of Gastronomy!

Arizona-grown heirloom Purple Prairie Barley grain in its healthy hulls

Arizona-grown heirloom Purple Prairie Barley grain with its healthy bran intact

It seems very few people in recent times know much about barley except perhaps as an ingredient in grape-nuts cereal or Campbell’s Scotch Broth. When you look into the nutrition of barley you find that it has the lowest glycemic index of all the grains, that is, it is the best of all for keeping blood-sugar in balance, especially when used in whole kernel form, either cooked whole, or milled from whole kernels.

There is an ancient barley now being grown in Arizona that has a delicious flavor, colorful nature, antioxidant properties, and versatility which have captivated me. It hails originally from Tibet (some say by way of the Nile) and is known as Purple Prairie Barley.

 

Keep the faith while cooking whole kernel purple prairie barley--Let the grains re-absorb all the liquid, 4:1 that is water:grain

Keep the faith while cooking whole kernel purple prairie barley–Let the grains re-absorb all the liquid,  water:grain ratio is 4:1.

Basic cooking for whole Purple Prairie Barley is super-simple.  It just takes a little time.  Once you have them cooked you can freeze them for future culinary creativity.  Stove-top method:  bring to boil 4 cups drinking water and 1 cup whole grain barley, and simmer until ALL the purple liquid is absorbed.  In a crockpot, the same process may take 3-5 hours–no watching necessary.  The glorious purple liquid which rises in the cooking water is chucky-jam-full of anthocyanins, those wondrous antioxidants, so don’t let a drop get away!

When fully cooked, purple prairie barley is plump, almost round, and still retains its lovely color.

When fully cooked, purple prairie barley is plump, almost round, and still retains its lovely color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot, whole purple barley-berries taste great as a chewy cereal for a chilly morning, delicious with cream or yogurt and a dollop of agave nectar.  It also makes a delectable pilaf (see photo idea below) or marinated whole-kernel salad.  [You can substitute barley in recipes for White Sonora Wheat-berries–to find them enter “wheat” in this blog’s search box.]

 

Ingredients for baking Valentine cookies--L to R rolled oats, dry cranberries, White Sonora wheat-berries and flour, Purple Prairie grain and lavender flour, local hard red wheat kernels and flour

Ingredients for baking Valentine cookies–L to R rolled oats, dry cranberries, White Sonora wheat-berries and its golden flour, Purple Prairie grain and its lavender flour, local hard-red wheat kernels paired with its beige flour

Rolling out dough for heirloom barley hearts--Valentine treats to celebrate Tucson's LIVING culinary history

Rolling out dough for heirloom barley hearts–Valentine treats to celebrate Tucson’s LIVING culinary history

 

 

 

 

 

This cookie recipe is really easy–two bowls, sifter, rolling pin or bottle, teaspoon measure, and only one half-cup measuring cup are needed.

Very Sonoran Valentine Cookies

Ingredients:
1 c purple prairie barley flour
1/2 c organic white Sonora wheat flour
1/2 c organic hard red wheat flour
1/2 c local mesquite flour
1/2 tsp sea salt or real salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c (one stick) organic butter
1/2 c organic cane sugar
2 lg or 3 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla
optional topping on cookie dough: dry cranberries or cherries
Directions: Preheat oven to 375degreesF. Sift all dry ingredients into one bowl. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar; stir in vanilla; beat in eggs.  Add dry ingredients into wet mixture, mixing thoroughly. Pat dough out on a board heavily dusted with more barley flour. Roll dough to a ca. 3/8 inch thickness–(consistent thickness is more important than an exact measure.) Cookie-cutter your favorite shapes out of the rolled dough and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until barely browning. Crunchily enjoy the pinkness of your purple barley cookies!

Rolling out cookie dough for Purple Prairie Barley cookies

Cutting cookie dough for Purple Prairie Barley cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple barley Valentine cookies with cranberry decoration

Purple barley Valentine cookies with cranberry decoration– a pinky-purple hue, yummy flavor & crunch!

You can make delightful variations on these Purple Barley Cookies by substituting the above ingredients in an oatmeal cookie recipe or in a Scottish shortbread recipe.

 

Preparing heirloom purple prairie barley pilaf

Preparing heirloom purple prairie barley pilaf

For a savory dish, try your cooked whole-grain purple barley in a delicious pilaf prepared in a way similar to a quinoa or rice pilaf.  Stir-fry an assortment of 2-3 cups of your favorite veggies in olive oil (try any chopped heirloom squash, scallions, carrots, colorful sweet peppers, mushrooms, kohlrabi, etc from local farmers’ markets).  Finish the stir-fry adding 1 cup of cooked purple prairie barley.  Season to taste with Asian sauce, spike or Cavender’s.  Pine nuts or cashews might add another flavor dimension.

 

 

Magdalena heirloom barley grown at Mission Garden, Tucson

Magdalena heirloom barley grown at Mission Garden, Tucson

Packaged rare Magdalena Barley seed grown at Mission Garden--our own local treasure.

Packaged rare Magdalena Barley seed grown at Mission Garden–our own local treasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to find these heirlooms for cooking or to grow them?  Here are some local sources of whole-kernel grains–also, where you can get them freshly milled if you don’t have your own grinder.  Find several of these grains growing at the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace’s Mission Garden living history gardens, open every Saturday for tours.  Hayden Flour Mills’ heirloom Purple Prairie Barley  is now available at our Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday’s St.Philips Farmers’ Market in various size packets ready to cook or mill.  The Wong family at BKWFarms Inc., now in their fifth generation of local farming in Marana, are the organic growers of Padre Kino’s heirloom White Sonora Wheat which NativeSeeds/SEARCH helped to resurrect from near-loss.  BKWFarms also produces organic hard red wheat-berries, which make a rich, higher gluten flour perfect for breads and cakes, and which I quite successfully used in the Valentine cookie recipe above.  Other heirloom wheat-berries grown by Ramona Farms and San Xavier Coop Association are available at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, 3061 N.Campbell Ave, Tucson.  Local mesquite flour for the Valentine cookie recipe is available at the NSS store and at our Flor de Mayo booth, St Philips Farmers’ Market.  Come visit us this Sunday for a little taste!  And, have us mill these organic grains fresh for you on-site!  Check out http://www.flordemayoarts.com for re-sourcing these grains online.  For a great grain brew, ask at Dragoon and our other local micro-breweries for their latest creation.  Here’s to your health–using our local, organic, heirloom grains!

I invite you also to join me, Tia Marta, next Saturday, February 20, at Tucson Presidio Museum’s community lecture at the Dusty Monk Salon and Saloon, Old Town Artisans downtown Tucson.  I’ll be speaking about the Presidio Period’s Edible Plants, and there just might be a few tastes of these heirloom grain treasures for accompaniment….

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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