Posts Tagged With: White Sonora wheat

“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

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

Farmers’ Market Sources for Warming Body and Soul, Baking and Gifting

Autumn harvest from the NativeSeeds/ SEARCH Conservation Farm in Patagonia, AZ-heirloom Navajo banana squash

Autumn harvest from the NativeSeeds/ SEARCH Conservation Farm in Patagonia, AZ–heirloom Navajo banana squash (MABurgess photo)

What makes Tucson an International City of Gastronomy?  It is not only that we are blessed with amazingly creative chefs–like the ones showcased at the Mission Garden Picnic feast.  It’s also the availability of rare and wonderful heirloom foods that are adapted to our particular Baja Arizona climate, soil, and cultures!  Few other places have the flavorful and nutritious diversity of crops that have been part of our Baja Arizona agricultural landscape for about 4000 years. 

Tia Marta here to share ideas for finding the raw materials for some great slow-food feasting this Winter Solstice season.

OPEN NSS NAVAJO BANANA SQUASH FOR AN EXPLOSION OF BETA-CAROTENES!

OPEN NSS NAVAJO BANANA SQUASH FOR AN EXPLOSION OF BETA-CAROTENES!

Ignored, more than maligned, by present-day dominant cultures, the squash is a gift to menu-inventors.  It can be prepared as a savory dish with good old salt/pepper/butter, or fancied up with moles.  Or it can be made into fabulous desserts.  Use it in place of sweet potato for a genteel variation.  My favorite is to make it into a festive “Kentucky Pudding”.

Muff’s “Kentucky Pudding” Dessert Recipe

4 cups steamed or baked heirloom Navajo banana squash (or other heirloom) mashed or pureed

2-4 Tbsp mesquite honey or agave nectar (to taste)

2-3 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger root (I found it at Trader Joe’s)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans or pine nuts

1/4 cup good bourbon whiskey

Steam or bake squash ahead.  (You can freeze it for using later in a variety of recipes–it’s so convenient!0  In a saucepan, heat mashed squash on medium.  Add honey, ginger, nutmeats.  When hot and steamy, stir in the bourbon quickly and serve with a flair.  You could even try flambé. Serves 4-6.

Navajo banana squash showing its interesting pattern of seeds inside

Navajo banana squash showing its interesting pattern of seeds inside

These luscious heirloom squashes, grown at NativeSeeds/SEARCH’s Seed Conservation Farm in Patagonia, are available now at our Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday’s St Philips Farmers’ Market.  Come see the size of them–one of them could feed the whole extended family or a small tribe!  We will be selling them by the smaller family-sized chunk as well.  Start salivating…  If you are seeking Vitamin A in glorious beta-carotenes, this is the food to find.

And don’t forget those giant seeds inside!  They can be roasted easily with a little olive oil and sea salt and voila you have a healthy snack full of zinc to ward off colds in this chilly season.  You can save a handful of those seeds to plant next summer in your garden and keep the gift growing.

Heirloom organic locally grown White Sonora Wheat-berries

Heirloom organic locally grown White Sonora Wheat-berries

And here are some ideas about baking with local heirloom grains….  Get out your VitaMix or your hand-mill and get ready for a real treat–home-baked goodies made with fresh-milled flour from whole heirloom grains.  Find these precious ancient grains at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store (3061 N Campbell near Prep and Pastry) and at the Flor de Mayo booth–Sunday St Philips Food-In-Root Market.

Organic Khorasan Kamut wheat--great for bread baking

Organic Khorasan Kamut wheat–great for bread baking

If you don’t want to take the time, or if you don’t have milling equipment, no problem!  Just come by our Flor de Mayo farmers market booth and see your special grain being fresh-milled before your very eyes.  It is especially neat for kids to see where flour comes from.  Surprisingly, many an adult has difficulty making the connection with grain and flour.  The beauty and significance of keeping the grain whole until milling is that the grain is ALIVE!  When used fresh-milled within a few days of milling, the beneficial enzymes–the “life force” in the whole kernel–are still active in the flour.  And the taste of freshly-milled flour is a whole new flavor-ballgame.

Organic hard red wheat--perfect for Christmas cookies and cakes

Organic hard red wheat–perfect for Christmas cookies and cakes

Come actually touch our good organic grains!   Feel their liveliness.  We have recipe ideas to share, like our Baja Arizona White Sonora Wheat flour and Mesquite pie crust.  In addition we can recommend lots delicious whole wheat-berry recipes for Padre Kino’s white Sonora wheat grown locally by BKWFarms or the Pima club wheat grown by San Xavier Farm Coop and Ramona Farms.

For a completely new experience, try baking with a purple grain!–our heirloom Purple Prairie Barley.  Barley flour has the lowest glycemic index of all the grain flours hence helping to balance blood sugar.  It has a rich flavor that can enhance any bread or biscuit recipe.  The purple color indicates a high anthocyanin content– an important antioxidant.  When you cook the purple barley as a whole grain, you can use it in pilafs and marinated grain salads the way you might use rice or quinoa.  Combined with rice it makes a colorful high-contrast pilaf.  (I’d be happy to elaborate in another post.)

Beautiful purple prairie barley--an heirloom originally from Tibet

Beautiful purple prairie barley–an heirloom originally from Tibet–full of the healthful flavonoid anthocyanin

Try using Mano y Metate's Pipian Rojo Mole as a vegetarian spice for these Zuni Gold beans!

Try using Mano y Metate’s Pipian Rojo Mole as a vegetarian spice for these Zuni Gold beans!

Tis the season also to rejoice in the indigenous beans that have supported Native cultures for unknown centuries.

Beautiful Zuni Gold beans--used traditionally in the Winter Solstice celebration

Beautiful Zuni Gold beans–used traditionally in the Winter Solstice celebration

Heirloom beans are full of protein, full of flavor, and so versatile.  I like to cook up a big pot of these golden Solstice beans and then freeze them in serving sizes to prepare later in a variety of fun ways–as chile beans, as dips, in burritos, as hummus, and of course heart-warming bean soup–the list goes on… Come get inspired at our Flor de Mayo table when you see the biodiversity of beans spread before you!

Delectable Christmas Limas can be prepared as vegetarian centerpiece dishes to honor the season!

Delectable Christmas Limas can be prepared as vegetarian centerpiece dishes to honor the season!

The most festive heirloom bean of the holiday season is the colorful Christmas Lima (AKA Chestnut Lima) so called because of the timing when it is harvested.  (Check out past blog posts for some great recipes.)  We have even had jewelry-makers buy this bean to string as fetish-style necklaces.

Calling creative gift-givers!  Join us at the Sunday St Philips Farmers Market for some meaningful, local, healthful and tasty gifts that say “Baja Arizona” in the most delightful way.

Just for scale, Tia Mart hefts this heirloom Navajo squash. Who needs a workout center if you are a gardener or farmer?

Just for scale, Tia Marta hefts this heirloom Navajo squash. Who needs a workout center if you are a gardener or farmer?

May you have happiness, health, peace in your hearts, and good cheer this holiday season –greetings from Rod and Tia Marta at Flor de Mayo!

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

Heirloom Grains & Heirloom Fruits marry in a Holiday Pie

Padre Kino's Membrillo Fruit with Slide Rock Star King Old Fashioned Double Delicious Apples

An Heirloom Fruit Harvest:  Padre Kino’s Membrillo Fruit from my garden with Star King Old Fashioned Double Delicious Apples from Slide Rock State Park heirloom orchard (MABurgess photo)

In both the low Sonoran Desert and in the higher Southwest, fruits are hanging on the trees ready for harvest.  At Mission Garden the quince trees, better known as membrillo, are bearing their last sturdy fruits.  Mission Garden was the site of a wonderful celebration of membrillo in October with talented cook Josefina demonstrating how to make cajeta de membrillo, our sweet autumn dessert delicacy.

Membrillo (Quince) trees heavy with fruit at Mission Garden Tucson, near A-Mountain

Membrillo (Quince) trees heavy with fruit at Mission Garden in Tucson, Arizona, near A-Mountain–Come visit any Saturday morning!

Membrillo is a perfect food-giving tree for low desert as it can can handle heat--great for a kitchen garden

Membrillo is a perfect food-giving tree for low desert as it can can handle heat–great for a kitchen garden

Tia Marta here to share what is happening in my kitchen these days, bringing together some of my most admired heirloom grain and fruit ingredients–both cultivated and wild–knowing that I have guests coming for the holidays who need a little taste of LOCAL!

It is pie time in our household.  And today it is Membrillo-Apple Pie with White Sonora Wheat-Mesquite pie crust!      I mean, how much more local can one get?

This was the year that our five-year-old quince tree, which we purchased from Desert Survivors Nursery Kino Fruit-tree Project, and which we planted a couple of years ago in our backyard, decided to flower and set fruit–just enough this time to make a couple of pies.  We look forward to the amazing productivity in future years that the Mission Garden quince trees are already showing.  Quince or membrillo fruits look like a cross between yellow apples and pears but are far more sturdy than either of those.    Before ripening they are covered with fuzz and, as they lose it and become shinier and more yellow, you know they are ripening.

Because they are harder than other fruit, be sure to cut membrillo very carefully. Expect them to come out with not-so -symmetrical slices.

Because they are harder than other fruit, be sure to cut membrillo with extra care. Expect this to result in not-so -symmetrical slices–no problem inside a pie.

Even when this aromatic rose-family fruit is ripe, its somewhat sweet tissue never really softens.  They may feel and taste granular, similar to some pear varieties.  But they are substantial food, full of good potassium, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and iron.  In other regions, quince has been used with apples to make jellies as it aids the gelling process.  Since the time of the missionaries into Pimeria Alta, the traditional way of preparing membrillo here is to cook it down with raw sugarcane sugar to make the cajeta confection.  (A detailed report of cajeta de membrillo will make a neat separate post.)

I chose to mix membrillo with its sweet cousin, heirloom local apples, to create a Southwestern version of the all-American pie.  From the neat old Pendley Homestead at Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, I obtained the deep maroon-skinned apples shown above from a 1912 orchard.  From the English Family Orchards at Willcox I added a few little galas.  Don’t ever be ashamed to ask orchardists at farmers’ markets if they have any “rejects” for sale.  Many a tasty apple gets tossed because it has a blemish or knick.  Such apples can become a rewarding gift in pies, apple-brown-betty, or applesauce.

Pressing mesquite/whiteSonora wheat dough into pie pan

Pressing mesquite/whiteSonora wheat dough into pie pan

rolling mesquite white Son wheat pie dough

Mesquite meal and white Sonora wheat make a fabulous pie-crust! It is not as elastic as store-bought crusts so be careful in rolling it onto your pie pan. Shown here is a very flat spatula I use as an assist.

Next step, after growing, harvesting, slicing the heirloom fruits, is getting dusted by making my local heirloom Mesquite/White Sonora Wheat Pie Crust (recipe following):

[Kids, don’t try this culinary photographic technique at home.  Your one-handed iPhone will get really sticky.  Mine will never be the same.]

 

Ingredients for heirloom wheat pie crust:

1 1/2 cups freshly milled whole, organic White Sonora Wheat flour*

1/2 cup freshly milled local velvet mesquite meal**

1 tsp Real-salt or sea salt

2/3 cup shortening (I use organic butter)

5-7 Tbsp ice water

*Organic, fresh-milled white Sonora wheat flour is available for your holiday baking from our Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday St Philips Farmers Market, or by contacting us at info@flordemayoarts.com or  520-907-9471 to order it ahead.                                                                                                                                                                             **Freshly-milled velvet mesquite pod meal (flour) is available via the same Flor de Mayo contacts above.                                                                                                                                                                     Both kinds of heirloom flour are available at a special Heirloom Grains event this coming SATURDAY November 21 at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell, Tucson–the public is invited 10am-2pm.

Pinching a tall edge of my mesquite/heirloom wheat pie crust

Pinching a tall scalloped edge of my mesquite/heirloom wheat pie crust–This provides a retaining wall so juicy filling will not overflow while cooking.

Directions for heirloom wheat pie crust (lattice top):

Sift dry ingredients.  Cut in shortening into small pea size lumps.  Sprinkle in tablespoons of ice water gradually, mixing with a fork.  Form 2 balls of dough. Dust each ball with more white Sonoran wheat flour. Flatten each out on a well floured board and roll with rolling pin or bottle.  Use rolling pin as in the illustration, to lift lower pie crust dough onto pie pan.  Press in with fingers.  Keep second ball of dough for working on after pie filling has filled the lower crust. [See recipe for Membrillo/Apple Pie Filling below.]

With second dough ball, roll out as before then cut in 1/2 inch wide strips to lay in basket-weave pattern atop the pie filling to allow filling to lower as it cooks.

Membrillo/Apple Pie Filling ingredients:

(Cook ahead slices and chunks of 4-5 membrillo fruits, washed, then cut with or without skin.  Boil in good drinking water for 20 minutes or until soft.  I am one of those crazies who thinks fruit skins are healthy and full of phytonutrients, so I leave the colorful fruit skins on.)

2 cups sliced membrillo fruit, pre-cooked  (reserve liquid for other gelled salads)

2 cups thinly sliced heirloom apples

1/2 cup organic cane sugar

1/2 cup organic brown sugar

2 Tbsp organic heirloom white Sonora Wheat flour

1/2-1 tsp ground cinnamon

dash sea salt

1-2 Tbsp organic butter

juice of one small heirloom sweet lime       (I got mine from the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace Mission Garden booth at the Thursday Santa Cruz farmers market at the Mercado San Agustin, West Congress, Tucson)

Membrillo/apple pie filling in shell ready to bake

Membrillo/apple pie filling in shell ready to bake. Check out the heirloom sweet lime adjacent–with the dimple–this one from Mission Garden.

Membrillo/Apple Pie-Filling Directions:       Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine sugars, flour, cinnamon, salt, then mix with the sliced apples.  Fill uncooked pastry crust (shell) with mixture.  Squeeze the sweet lime juice over the filling and place dollups of butter on top.  Place lattice strips of the mesquite/whiteSonorawheat dough across the top of the filling as in picture below.  BAKE for 40-50 minutes or until the crust looks golden brown.  Note:  mesquite meal has natural complex sugars which may caramelize or brown faster than white flour so keep an eye on it after 40 minutes.  The one in my photo got a little too done for my taste, but it will still be fabulous.

Membrillo/heirloom apple pie with mesquite/white Sonora wheat crust--hot and ready to serve

Membrillo/heirloom apple pie with lattice crust of mesquite/white Sonora wheat –hot and ready to serve–To the left in photo is flour milled from BKWFarms wheat-berries.

There will be several ancient grains available at our upcoming Celebration of Heirloom Grains this SATURDAY at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store.  Put it on your calendar and dig out your favorite recipes!

Heirloom purple prairie barley available at Flor de Mayo booth,St Philips Farmers Market and at the NSS Grain Event Saturday!

Heirloom purple prairie barley available at Flor de Mayo booth,St Philips Farmers Market and at the NSS Grain Event Saturday!

In addition to our native Mesquite Flour, there will be such fresh lovely grains as organic Hard Red Wheat grown by BKW Farms in Marana which is superb for breads.  Our organic white Sonora wheat is the best for pastries.   Also available will be the ancient Purple Prairie Barley originally from Afghanistan, now from Hayden Mills.

For the knowing baker, milling the whole grain fresh creates a totally different and wondrous effect to breads and pastries because the enzymes and other constituents in the grain remain “lively” for only a few days after milling.  Come enjoy the milling process right before your eyes and feel the vitality of the flour you can take home to bake with!

Our thanks go to the caring padres who first brought the grains to the desert Southwest, to the generations of farmers who continued to grow and save the grain, to NSS for “rediscovering” and conserving them so carefully for the future, and to new farmers like San Xavier Farm Coop, BKWFarmsInc, Ramona Farms, and Hayden Flour Mills for multiplying them for our nutrition, enjoyment, and sustainable desert living!

For more info please call NativeSeeds/SEARCH at 520-622-5561 or Flor de Mayo at 520-907-9471.  See you at the Milling and our Celebration of the Heirloom Grains!!

Magdalena heirloom barley grown at Mission Garden, Tucson

Magdalena heirloom barley grown at Mission Garden, Tucson

A savory pilaf made with heirloom purple prairie barley--watch for future recipes--Grain available at the Flor de Mayo booth, Sunday St Philips market

A savory pilaf made with heirloom purple prairie barley–watch for future recipes–Whole grain available at the Flor de Mayo booth, Sunday St Philips market, and at Saturday’s Heirloom Grain Celebration

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

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

An Invitation to Celebrate El Dia de San Ysidro Labrador

With White Sonora Wheat waving its ripening seed heads in May’s wind, it’s time again to celebrate our local agriculture–our ability to feed ourselves locally.  Yea!.. harvest time now for our winter gardens’  bounty as it dries…

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

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

Tia Marta here inviting you to return to the hallowed soil of Schuk-shon–Tucson’s Birthplace “Black Spring”–at the foot of “A” Mountain, in the new Mission Garden, to the very site of the original garden supporting Mission San Augustin de Schuk-shon.  The Feast of San Ysidro Labrador is approaching.

May 15 is the traditional Dia de San Ysidro, Saint Isidor, patron saint of farmers and gardeners.

According to legend, San Ysidro Labrador was so hard-working and generous with his produce to all in need—people or animals–that angels would plow next to him to triple his crop. In my artistic interpretation, San Ysidro lies exhausted under a tree from working his field while an angel guides his ox to finish his plowing.

Heirloom bean mosaic of San Ysidro Labrador created by artist/ethnobotanist MABurgess

Heirloom bean mosaic of San Ysidro Labrador created by artist/ethnobotanist MABurgess

Here in my big-scale heirloom bean mosaic, the “medium is the message”–in part.   It was assembled using more than 21 colorful varieties of Southwestern heirloom beans and seeds, grown out from the Native Seeds/SEARCH Collection, in Tucson, Arizona.

The ancient seeds used to “paint” this image pay homage not only to San Ysidro but also to the generations of traditional farmers who have selected their seed and labored to grow the best for feeding family and community. Their seed-saving has provided us today with priceless heirlooms, fitting genes, and hope for a food-secure future.  (Notecards of my San Ysidro mosaic will be on sale at the fiesta as a fund-raiser for Mission Garden’s good work.)

This year, our San Ysidro fiesta will be celebrated on Saturday, May 16, within the adobe-walled orchard of living agricultural history, Tucson’s newest “museum park” sponsored by the non-profit Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace.  Planted in this living museum are representative crops that have fed the sequence of Tucson residents over the last 4100 years.  Seeds of these ancient crops were blessedly conserved by the caring staff and volunteers of NativeSeeds/SEARCH over the past 34 years.

The new Mission Garden--living agricultural history

The new Mission Garden–living agricultural history

 

Vaquero in the Orchard of heirloom Mission Period fruit trees at San Ysidro Fiesta 2014 (MABurgess photo)

Vaquero in the Orchard of heirloom Mission Period fruit trees at San Ysidro Fiesta 2014 (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dia de San Ysidro celebration will officially begin at 9am with a procession from the future Tucson Origins Heritage Park next to the Santa Cruz “river” channel to Mission Garden’s east gate at 929 West Mission Lane, just east of  Grande (Mission Road.)  Festivities will include music by Mariachi Las Aguilitas from Davis Elementary, Alabanza with Bobby Benton, a presentation by historian/author Dr. Tom Sheridan, Native American four-direction prayers and blessing of the fields, food, and animals, and the Tohono O’odham Desert Indian Dancers from San Xavier.  Designs for the new cultural theme gardens (Chinese, Mexican, Afro-American, and Medicinal) will be unveiled.

Activities will culminate with a tasting of Pozole de Trigo, the traditional Sonoran stew for the feast-day prepared by talented volunteer cooks from Tucson’s Hispanic community.  For a fabulous recipe to try in your own kitchen, check out Bill Steen’s article for Sonoran Wheat Posole in Edible Baja Arizona–here’s the link to directions with his mouth-watering photos:

http://www.ediblebajaarizona.com/a-personal-posole

Or, for an even more local recipe, try this Akimel O’odham (Pima) recipe for Heirloom Wheat Posole with Tepary Beans:

Pima Posole Stew with Tepary Beans and White Sonora Wheat, served at Heard Museum

Pima Posole with Tepary Beans and White Sonora Wheat, served at Heard Museum

The combination of high protein Native Teparies and delicious low-gluten Heirloom Wheat Berries makes this a rich and nutritious stew.

 

 

Heirloom Wheat Posole with Tepary Beans—Pilt’kan ch Ba’bawi Posh’oldt

Ingredients:

2 cups dry tepary beans *

Water to more than cover the beans for initial soaking and cooking

1 large marrow bone (or beef broth as substitute for ½ the water when simmering, omit for vegetarian)

2 cups dry whole wheat berries (wheat kernels) **

3-4 cups drinking water or stock

Sea salt to taste (1-2 Tbsp.)

Black pepper or native chiltepine peppers***, to taste

Directions:

Carefully sort dry beans to remove stones. Wash, rinse, and cover with good water to soak overnight. Drain when plumped and ready to cook.

In big cooking pot, put beans, marrow bone, and drinking water to cover. Bring to a boil then simmer for 2+ hours.

Separately, rinse wheat berries and drain. Add wheat berries and salt to the cooking teparies. Add more water and/or stock. Bring to boil, then simmer an additional 1 ½ hours or until wheat berries are round and tender, and teparies are tender(not chewy).

Reserve excess water for later soup stock. Remove bone.  For serving, posole should be moist with broth. Add black pepper and sea salt to taste. If picante bite is desired, add one or two crushed chiltepine peppers.

Enjoy this traditional taste of the desert! ***********Here’s where to find these traditional ingredients (being grown anew in their home turf):

*Native tepary beans are available at www.nativeseeds.org or at www.ramonafarms.com .

** Organic White Sonora Wheatberries are available at Flor de Mayo tent at Sunday St Philips Farmers Market, Tucson, or at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson.

***whole wild-harvested chiltepine peppers are available at Flor de Mayo tent, Sunday St Philips Farmers Market, Tucson, or at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store, Tucson.

*****************************************************************************************

Seed packets of heirloom wheat varieties grown at Mission Garden

Seed packets of heirloom wheat varieties grown at Mission Garden, for sale to plant in your own winter garden.

Sheaves of heirloom White Sonora Wheat hand-harvested at Mission Garden

Sheaves of heirloom White Sonora Wheat hand-harvested at Mission Garden

Because Dia de San Ysidro especially heralds the wheat harvest, the staple grain introduced by Padre Eusebio Kino and other missionaries over 300 years ago to the Native Tohono O’odham community living here, this year’s festivities will include a ceremonial wheat harvest, guided by expert plantsman and Desert Museum staff person Jesus Garcia, to take place around 8am, Saturday, May 16, before the procession.

Support organizations, such as NativeSeeds/SEARCH, San Xavier Coop Association, BKWFarmsInc, and Tucson Herbalist Collective will have booths with demonstration items, tastes of native foods, solar cooked White Sonoran Wheat berries, traditional food products packaged for sale, and resource people to talk with about desert gardening for real food.

Invitation to the 2015 San Ysidro Fiesta

Invitation to the 2015 San Ysidro Fiesta

The event is free with a donation requested.   Find out more details of the San Ysidro Festival at  www.tucsonsbirthplace.org.   Hope to see you there!

[For more great recipes and stories about White Sonora Wheat, you can search with the box above using those key words, thru the last 2 years of this blog.]

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Glorious Diversity–A Palette of Heirloom Legumes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diversity of Southwestern heirlooms in Tom's Mix

Diversity of Southwestern heirlooms in Tom’s Mix

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

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

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

Here’s to the Budding Desert!

red staghorn cholla flower and bud (MABurgess photo)

red staghorn cholla flower and bud (MABurgess photo)

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

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

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

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

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

cholla feeds many desert creatures (MABurgess photo)

cholla feeds many desert creatures (MABurgess photo)

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

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

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

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

 

rusty orange flower of the various-colored staghorn chollas

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

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

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

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

fruits of jumping cholla clinging to former years' fruits

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

delectable cholla bud and white Sonora wheat-berry salad

Delectable cholla bud and white Sonora wheat-berry salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marinated Wheat-berry Salad with Cholla Buds!                                                                                         

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

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

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

first cut into cholla bud cornbread--yum!

first cut into cholla bud cornbread–yum!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin Time in Baja Arizona!

Male flower Magdalena Big Cheese squash (MAB photo)

Male flower Magdalena Big Cheese squash (MAB photo)

Tia Marta here to celebrate the pumpkins and squashes that are now plumping up in every garden and popping up in farmers markets. These sculptural fruits of the vine are our visual signal of autumn and herald cool weather cuisine. So many people ask, “What’s the difference between pumpkins and squashes?” Really there is not much difference, except that, to some ears, “pumpkin” sounds fun but is never eaten, while squash sounds like something your mother made you eat and you didn’t discover how good they are until you discovered Mexican food! (Yum, calabacitas.) Often pumpkins refer to the jack-o-lantern type squash—a Cucurbita pepo—but many squashes of other Cucurbita species are also called “pumpkin” so the term is not cut and dried.
While chubasco rains keep sprinkling our desert, my squash vines have continued to elongate and to flower into the fall. I’m hoping to have winter squashes coming on until the frost hits. Meanwhile, I can go out each morning to assist in pollinating any female flowers with the hefty stamens of the male flowers. Then, what a treat it is to take the plucked, spent male flower and sauté it with eggs for breakfast!

Tohono O'odham Ha:l and curry pumpkins at SanXavierCoop booth, SantaCruz Farmers Market (MABphoto)

Tohono O’odham Ha:l and curry pumpkins at SanXavierCoop booth, SantaCruz Farmers Market (MABphoto)

Native People domesticated several varieties of squash or pumpkin centuries before Europeans invaded North America. We all know the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving story, but here in the Baja Arizona borderlands we should be giving a lot of thanks to the Tohono O’odham, the Yoreme, the Guarijio, and the Raramuri for the gifts of fabulous squashes they have given to all desert gardeners and farmers. From the Tohono O’odham comes the giant cushaw winter squash, known as Tohono O’odham Ha:l or “Papago Pumpkin,” (Cucurbita argyrosperma) with its bulbous pear shape and thick corky peduncle (its vine attachment.)

Tohono O'odham Ha:l "Papago Pumpkin" showing characteristic corky attachment and colorful stripes (MABphoto)

Tohono O’odham Ha:l “Papago Pumpkin” showing characteristic corky attachment and colorful stripes (MABphoto)

From the Yoreme or Mayo comes the round, oranged-fleshed Mayo blusher (Cucurbita maxima). From the Guarijio comes a grand segualca (Cucurbita moschata). And from the Raramuri or Tarahumara, comes the striped mini-pumpkin with sweet orange flesh (Cucurbita pepo). This last one is the pumpkin Native Seeds/SEARCH grew in plenty last year and returned to drought-stressed Tarahumara farmers in a cross-the-border sharing. Check out http://www.nativeseeds.org for images of each of these lovely squashes, or visit the Mission Garden at the base of A-Mountain to see maturing fruits from the monsoon planting. Then plan ahead for next year to plant some of each in your own monsoon garden for great winter cookery and for sharing with neighbors.

All of these Native pumpkins/squashes are the ultimate in desert adaptation. They grow well in the heat with monsoon rains, AND, they keep for long periods of time without refrigeration over the winter. Talk about an easy, low-tech way to preserve food! I have kept the hard-shelled Tohono O’odham Ha:l outside in the shade of my back porch from October’s harvest into May of the following year when temperatures soared. That’s what you call a keeper.

Tarahumara pumpkins Oct2014 from 2013 harvest (MABphoto)

Tarahumara pumpkins Oct2014 from 2013 harvest (MABphoto)

With last fall’s harvest of Tarahumara pumpkins, I started another experiment in non-refrigerated storage. I kept 2 medium-sized pumpkins inside on a tile floor out of direct sun. Over the summer they turned from green striped to bright yellow-orange on the outside. I had no idea this week what they would be like inside when I opened them at last for cooking. To my surprise and gladness the flesh was still firm and gorgeous—bright with beta-carotenes—and the seeds were plump and not-yet-sprouted.

Rich flesh and seed of Tarahumara pumpkin (MABphoto)

Rich flesh and seed of Tarahumara pumpkin (MABphoto)

Pumpkin seeds cleaned to dry and save for next year's planting (MABphoto)

Pumpkin seeds cleaned to dry and save for next year’s planting (MABphoto)

With such luscious pumpkin seeds, some had to be saved for next summer’s garden and some had to become snacks. Here is what I did to them. Give it a try with your next opened pumpkin:

Spicy Sweet Pumpkin Seed Snacks
(Makes 1 cup)
1 cup of pumpkin seeds, cleaned
1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of honey
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
¼ tsp of chile powder (choose mild, medium, or hot, depending on your palette)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
(Some recipes call for boiling seeds first, for 10 minutes in 4 cups of water then draining before the next step. It helps to soften the hulls but may remove some nutrients. This step is optional–I don’t bother.) Transfer seeds to a bowl, toss with the honey, oil, and spice ingredients until fully covered, then spread them out evenly onto a baking sheet that has been coated lightly with cooking oil or non-stick spray.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes, tossing once, or until the seeds are crispy and lightly golden brown. Let them cool before serving — they will get even crispier. Pumpkin seeds contain zinc which is great for fall-weather immune fortifying. They also contain L-arginine which is especially good for guys. Enjoy this tasty Southwest snack!

Chile-and-honey-roasted pumpkin seed snacks (MABphoto)

Chile-and-honey-roasted pumpkin seed snacks (MABphoto)

Next I prepared the Tarahumara pumpkin itself for a truly local autumn dessert. It takes a cleaver to carefully open a winter squash and to chunk it into segments small enough to fit into the saucepan. After you scoop out the seeds and fiber, you can boil, steam or bake the pumpkin chunks with skin or shell on. When softened and cooled, scoop out the pulp. Don’t hesitate–serve it with butter and sea salt as a hot vegetable right away. With the remainder, mash or puree it, storing it in freezer for later using in pies, empanaditas, or—as you’ll see below—in a fabulous Sonoran Pumpkin Cake!

 

Tarahumara pumpkin cleaned and chunked for cooking (MABphoto)

Tarahumara pumpkin cleaned and chunked for cooking (MABphoto)

SONORAN PUMPKIN CAKE with White Sonora Wheat and Mesquite
(inspired by NativeSeeds/SEARCH pot-luck favorite volunteer Ed Hackskyalo)
Recommended for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and other autumn occasions.

INGREDIENTS
Preheat oven to 350.
2 cups sugar (or alternative sweetener such as agave nectar or honey)
1 cup vegetable oil or softened butter (adjust less with liquid sweeteners)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 – 2 ½ cups heirloom White Sonora Wheat pastry flour (fresh-milled flour needs adjusting)**
¼ – 1/2 cup mesquite pod meal**
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups “Papago Pumpkin” or other native squash, cooked and pureed (or pumpkin puree)

Combine sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl; mix well. Sift dry
ingredients into a separate bowl; stir into liquid mixture, beating well. Stir in pumpkin puree.
Pour batter into two greased and floured 9 inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for
35 to 40 minutes. Turn out onto racks to cool.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING and FILLING
l package (8 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, measure then sift (use less to taste, as less sweet is nice contrast to cake)
½ – 1 teaspoons vanilla extract (as needed for smoothing)
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl; beat well until smooth. Makes enough
for a 2-layer pumpkin cake. Frost pumpkin cake with cream-cheese frosting and sprinkle with chopped pecans or pine nuts for extra decor.

**Organic heirloom White Sonora Wheat-berries and flour, and local mesquite pod meal ,are available from Flor de Mayo at St Phillips farmers market on Sundays, or http://www.flordemayoarts.com or 520-907-9471. Whole grain organic White Sonora Wheat-berries for home-milling and mesquite meal are also available at NativeSeeds/SEARCH, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, or online http://www.nativeseeds.org.

Sonoran Pumpkin Cake made with organic heirloom White Sonora Wheat and mesquite  (MABphoto)

Sonoran Pumpkin Cake made with organic heirloom White Sonora Wheat and mesquite (MABphoto)

Sonoran Pumpkin Cake tea time on wheat china to honor the Wong Family farmers who are helping to save the ancient white Sonora wheat (MABphoto)

Sonoran Pumpkin Cake tea time on wheat china to honor the Wong Family farmers who are helping to save the ancient white Sonora wheat (MABphoto)

Now in their fifth generation of farming, the Wong Family of BKWFarms in Marana, have taken a rare heirloom wheat–the White Sonora Wheat that Padre Kino introduced into the Sonoran Desert over 300 years ago and “saved” by Native Seeds/SEARCH seed conservationists–and have made it a certified organic and sustainable crop again for the Southwest.  Bravo to the Wongs for making this low-gluten food treasure available to us!

Organic Wheat Farmer Ron Wong, Big Jim Griffith, and Karen Dotson of BKWFarms at Tucson Meet Yourself 2014 (MABphoto)

Organic Wheat Farmer Ron Wong, Big Jim Griffith, and Karen Dotson of BKWFarms at Tucson Meet Yourself 2014 (MABphoto)

BKWFarms and Flor de Mayo gave out samples of White Sonora Wheat-berry sprouts and a fabulous Sonoran Shortbread made with the White Sonora Wheat flour at the recent Tucson Meet Yourself festivities.  Coming up….Come try samples at the Flor de Mayo table this next weekend at the Chiles Chocolate and Salsa Event, Tohono Chul Park, Oct 25-26.   Every Sunday at St Phillips Farmers Market you can find taste surprises made with White Sonora Wheat-berries or mesquite at the Flor de Mayo booth–Stop by and visit Tia Marta and Rod!  And tell your friends in Phoenix not to miss our Flor de Mayo display at the Dia de los Muertos celebration, Desert Botanical Garden Nov 1-2.

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

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