Just a twenty minute walk from my house, I transport to a sacred little place. It's a patch of land where Nature speaks to me, and plant relatives know my name. They greet me with their movement, and I smile when I see them. They are used to seeing hikers, not medicine makers with offerings.
So with days like today (71 degrees), it's ideal weather to go out and forage for Desert Mustard. She has the nickname of "Weed", however, I don't call her by that name because she doesn't act like one near my home. I have heard that in some areas of California, she likes to show her presence in more abundance. That is probably when people start using her nickname.
The best time to pick Desert Mustard is when she is small. She'll be less bitter - much like we are as people. Look for her in areas far from traffic, pesticides, and other pollutants. You can use her in salads, pestos, or any way you would use arugula. Her green leaves offer much chlorophyll and vitamins A and C, which are all good for our skin. Perhaps she wants to keep us youthful.
Last night was a bright Full Moon. I always feel a shift with the Full Moon, her energy is very strong to me. Her glow radiates down on all of us, and makes me feels really good. Her beautiful light also makes it easier to see at night, and apparently that was the case last night!
This morning I noticed some rather big chunks missing from my Prickly Pear Cacti...that weren't there yesterday. It looks like one of our four legged plant relatives came down from Cew S-wegiom to eat under the Moon.
Javelinas are generally omnivores, however just like me, plants make up the largest portion of their diet. Unlike me, they have huge strong molars that are necessary so that they can chew on coarse foods like Prickly Pear Cactus and her spines. They too love Mesquite Beans, tubers, Cholla Buds, roots, acorns, and even little flowers. I guess we have a lot more in common that I had originally thought...we're Sonoran Desert snack buddies!
Cew S-wegiom (O'odham) is the original name for Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona.
This past week has been quite incredible. My daughter turned sixteen, three new cousins found me after submitting my DNA to a genealogy site, and my first published story arrived in the mail today.
My journey as a traditional healer has been evolving over the course of 20+ years, first starting out as a massage therapist and traditional herbalist. Food was such a natural evolution, especially since I am working with foods that have nourished my ancestors for generations, such as the ones I wrote about in my story. Everyone's family remembers different stories, different plants...I hope I inspire you to remember yours.
Epazote (Epozotl in Nahuatl), is one of my favorite herbs. Very much like cilantro, many say it's an acquired taste. I've never tasted gasoline, but if I did, I would use that as one of the flavor notes. It's a curious combination of mint, basil, cilantro, and lemon with scents of turpentine.
Think oil painter on the Mediterranean, eating pho.
Don't let my description frighten you, it's a beautiful herb with lots of flavor, and if you haven't tried it, you're missing out. It's been used as medicine and in culinary for generations throughout Mexico and Guatemala. Add a few leaves to a pot of beans, and it's said to prevent flatulence. You can find it in most Mexican grocery stores, and in my opinion, fresh is always best.
When green and ripe, Palo Verde beans are sweet, crunchy, and packed with nutrients. They have been eaten and prepared many different ways for generations before me by Indigenous Peoples such as the Yavapai. Yet many people living in the desert now, have no knowledge that the beans of this tree are edible, and sadly, they allow the beans to dry up and fall to the ground.
I encourage you to take a look at your yard differently. What FOOD is growing there? Foods of the desert are offerings of monsoon rains and the sun. Value them. Eat them. Share them.
The beans from these pods are in season now, and they are waiting to be appreciated. Once collected and shelled, you can gently steam them, blanch them, or eat them raw.
I am proud to be a contributor in the Phoenix community cookbook titled Let's Eat Local. Perfect for all people wanting easy to follow nutritious recipes, it's specifically made for those struggling with food insecurity. The recipes are healthful, made with local produce, and are also in Spanish.
See more in the link below:
One of my favorite places in the city...Singh Farms. This little gem is still unknown to many locals, but it's popularity is growing, turning into quite the spot for Saturday mornings. Layers upon layers of vegetable gardens are scattered throughout the property, nestled under a canopy of trees. Peacocks are walking around. Chickens and turkeys are cooped up. And the available produce is the bomb! Super fresh and all organic. It's the perfect place to "get out of the city", while never leaving the city.
Singh Farms: 8659 E. Thomas Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
I learn better in Nature. Being present with Her makes it easier for me to learn and/or remember. So today I listened to two - 1 hour lectures on plants while hiking through the desert. How blessed I am that I began to remember things I didn't know. Ancestral memories.
I begin this slideshow where my hike ended: with my favorite desert flower, the ocotillo. These coral colored flowers will begin to show off their beauty very soon. In fact, this little blossom was the only one I saw in full bloom amidst hundreds of ocotillos. She's ready for spring as much as I am! Behind her is a majestic saguaro. I am always in awe of how old they are...they do not start growing "arms" until they are at least 50 years old! Most of the saguaros on my hike today were easily in their hundreds. I wonder what they've seen and what they remember?
Promoting the upcoming 39th annual Pueblo Grande Museum Auxiliary Indian Market. Whew, that's a mouthful!
This past week has been a whirlwind of activity in preparation for the upcoming Indian Market. We've done radio spots, tv spots, and lots of talking in hopes of getting others as excited about the Market as we are. It's been really great, and I have one more tv spot tomorrow, and then I can focus of food prep for the Market. Here are some photos from our past week. I've had the opportunity to meet some amazing people, such as Grammy nominee, Aaron White!
I love my friends, they know me so well. Every season different people (friends, friends of friends, next door neighbors of friends), contact me to collect random things from their yards: fruit, pods, legumes, flowers, cuttings, herbs. Generally they call because they want to share, but more than often they call because they are not sure what to do with these plants that I am always saying ARE food. So "Call Felicia" is usually what happens, and it's becoming quite funny. Needless to say, I anxiously show up the next day prepared with baskets, tongs, shears, and gloves, and secretly....I am super excited.
This morning was no different. In my friend's muddy backyard, I eagerly arrived to collect "cactus apples". If you've never tasted one, they are absolutely refreshing! Crisp. Sweet. Almost icy in texture, like a Hawaiian snow cone. Their delicate flavor is reminiscent of kiwi, and like a kiwi, you eat the tiny seeds. I am not quite sure if the columnar cactus I got these from is a Sancayo columnar? I know it is not a Senita, because those have fur-like tops. If you know the correct name of this cactus, please do share! Here are some photos from my chilly morning balancing on a step ladder in the mud. So worth it!
I feel I have finally digested an incredible experience...the 2015 Native American Culinary Association's Indigenous Foods Symposium held in Tucson a few weeks ago. It was great to connect and reconnect with so many enthusiastic chefs, all passionate about the same thing: Indigenous Foods!
I enjoyed giving my presentation on Kitchen Wisdom, and I'm already looking forward to submitting an abstract for next year :)
Today I am preparing herbs for a tea blend to be given out at the NACA Indigenous Foods Symposium next week in Tucson. I am using a blend of herbs found growing wild in Tijeras Canyon, New Mexico, where my family is from, combined with regional herbs that grow well in the area.
Knowing which plants grow wild in that area helps me better understand their story, as well as my ancestor's stories. Certain herbs were used and regarded very highly to people like my great-grandmother, who was an herbalist. Knowing that these plants were part of the landscape she once walked on with her bare feet, makes me smile inside with a feeling of connection. Some of the herbs I am using are bitter smelling, some beautifully fragrant, others with little scent at all. Knowing stories of where your family is from is very special, however having the opportunity to smell where your family is from is quite surreal.
This month my husband and I finally enjoyed our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was the end of their rainy season and very humid. And although the humidity may have slowed us down, it didn't stop us. We had a great time venturing off on hikes, kayaking in the sea, and seeing the beautiful botanical garden about thirty minutes away. The garden, nestled in the jungle, is not an ordinary botanical garden! At times it felt like we were on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark. We took "Jaguar Trail" down to the river at the base of the property. Along the way we saw coffee trees, orchids, iguanas and bright yellow birds. It was the absolute opposite of the desert in terms of green and wet, and I found it interesting to see familiar plants growing there, such as cholla and nopales cactus. After our hike we stopped at their restaurant to cool off. They had a refreshing hibiscus tea made with vanilla grown right there on the property. I'll have to try this combination at home :)
Always forming new relations, this morning I took a field trip to Ramona Farms, located on the Gila River Indian Reservation, about 45 minutes from my house. (One hour if you want to count the 15 minutes I was lost near the cemetery). My visit was prompted by a cooking demonstration I am giving next week (Native Foods for Health), in which I am using their products. So naturally I was curious for more information about the traditional foods they grow at the farm.
Arriving there, I couldn't believe how big the farm and it's operation were! It's spread out in various areas, with crops growing on different fields depending on variety and planting season. Although I didn't get to meet Ramona, I was blessed to sit down with Alyssa Dixon, the farm's Customer Support Specialist and member of the Gila River Indian Community - Akimel Ootham. She was a wealth of knowledge about the foods they grow there, and we had a great energy exchange discussing food memories of her grandmother, community, and the nurturing it takes to grow these foods. I was personally smitten with their Heritage Collection which included pinole and tepary beans. I bought a bag of their mesquite Roasted Pima Corn (Huuñi Ga'i) to anxiously experiment with at home. So check back later to see what I do with it :)
Please check out their website to read their story. Their foods are all natural and certified authentic to be made by/produced by American Indians.
Today was a beautiful day to pick mesquite pods from a friend's tree. I will be grinding these down for beverages and cooking, as well as keeping some whole for future demonstrations.