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  • Sat, June 14, 2014 2:24 PM | Anonymous

    One of the free trees available through the Shade Tree Program is the Mesquite Tree, and July to September is the season to harvest the pods. But how do you harvest the pods and how can you use them?  

    Indigenous American Indians relied heavily on Mesquite pods as a food source and would grind them into flour or use it as a sweetener. To see if a pod is ready, snap it and it should easily break in half.  Taste it to see if the pods are sweet and if so, they are ready for harvest. 

    Place a sheet or a tarp underneath the tree and gently tap/shake the limbs for the pods to fall.  Do not pick-up pods that have already fallen on the ground, as they can be contaminated with mold and animal feces.  Also, discard any pods with black mold.

    Next, in a five gallon bucket mix one tablespoon bleach with five gallons of water.  Fill another bucket with clean water.  Dunk the pods into the bleach-water and swish them around.  Then, swish the pods in the clean just-water bucket and set the pods somewhere to thoroughly dry, preferably on a screen in a shaded area as direct sunlight degrades nutrients and vitamins. 

    Once the pods are thoroughly dry, store then in a clean, dry container such as a large mason jar or cloth bag. To make mesquite flour, first grind the pods in a coffee grinder or high-powered blender. Then using a fine-mesh sieve, filter out any remaining pieces and seeds. (Or, VPA holds an annual mesquite milling event in the fall so you can always hold on to your pods until then. We will give more details about that as the time nears.) Now, what do you do with the mesquite flour?

    Mesquite flour tortillas, pancakes, and roasted nuts are some of the easiest and tastiest ways to start experimenting with this highly nutritious Arizona-native resource. Mesquite flour is rich in protein and micronutrients like calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc and it’s gluten-free! It’s also a low-glycemic food because of its high soluble fiber content (which means it digests slowly so it doesn’t rapidly increase blood sugar levels), so it’s a good option for diabetics! 

    Below is a recipe for mesquite flour tortillas and links to recipes for mesquite flour pancakes and mesquite roasted pecans.  You will also find links for more information on mesquite flour and where to buy it.

    Ever worked with mesquite flour?  Let us know about your own experiments!

    Mesquite Flour Tortillas *

    1½ cups whole wheat flour (or try a gluten-free flour blend)

    ½ cup mesquite flour

    1 teaspoon salt

    4 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil)

    ¾ cup water (or diary/nut milk of choice)

    butter or coconut oil for cooking 

    1.  In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the whole wheat (or gluten-free) flour, mesquite flour, and salt.

    2.  Next, mix in the olive oil and then, gradually, mix in the water (or milk).

    3.  Knead the dough for about three minutes. It should come together into a big ball. Cover the bowl and let it sit for thirty minutes.

    4.  Separate the big ball into ten smaller balls and cover and let sit for another thirty minutes.

    5 Roll out the balls to 1/8″ thick circle and then heat a skillet on medium-low heat (a cast iron skillet works well here).

    7.  Add a pat of butter or 1 tsp of coconut oil to the skillet and spread it around.

    8.  Cook a pancake until it is browned on both sides.

    9.  Repeat steps 7-8 for each pancake. You can keep the pancakes warm in an oven or toaster oven set to 200 degrees while you are cooking all of them.

    * Original recipe created by the Edible Desert Committee; adaptions by Nutritionist Danielle Corral. 

    (Mesquite Flour Pancakes)

    (Mesquite Roasted Pecans)

    (More information of harvesting and storing pods) 

    (Where to Buy Mesquite Flour)

  • Mon, May 05, 2014 12:33 PM | Anonymous

     often get asked what a tree workshop is like so we thought we'd show you.
    After checking-in, attendees listen to a presentation delivered by one of the tree specialists.  Here, the do’s and don’ts of tree care are explained--like how and where to position the trees, how to water them, how to select a tree, and what to expect from the different types of trees such as rate of growth and shedding considerations. If you take the APS online class, then you do not need to attend another in-person class.  

    Afterwards, there is an "Ask the Expert" table with Master Gardeners and Arborists who are available to answer individual questions and concerns you may have. At this time you’ll also be able to pick-up your trees.  You can choose from trees like Desert Willows, Thornless Mesquites, or Thornless Palo Verdes (saplings pictured below).

    All of the young trees come in a 5-gallon bucket and are typically 3-6 feet in height, depending on the tree type. (Refer to our blog on 10 Ways to Reuse Your 5-Gallon Tree BucketMost saplings can easily fit in the back of a standard car. Thanks to our amazing volunteers who mainly operate the entire event!  If needed, they are available to help you pick-up and carry your new free trees to your car.

    Not only are the workshops great for learning about different Arizona native trees, you’ll never know what else will be at the hosting locations--like peacocks at Glendale Library and a 3D printer at Red Mountain Library!  It’s a great way to get involved in caring for trees and learning what we can do to beautify our homes while also conserving energy.  

  • Sat, April 19, 2014 2:14 PM | Anonymous

    While babysitting for a Desert Willow tree at the VPA downtown Phoenix office, we came across some visitors on the tree--aphids!  To prevent damage to the tree, it is important to act right away before the aphid population takes over.  Because the tree is still a sapling, we can’t spraying the leaves with a strong stream of water to blow them right off the plant. Another option is to create a spray solution by adding about 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water. Spray this directly on the aphids, which are usually under the leaves or other protected areas. If you’re not a fan of using detergent on your plants, below are some suggested organic ways for pest management to include a recipe for homemade garlic spray.

    We did notice a couple days later some caterpillars showed-up to dine on the aphids. Sometimes letting nature run its course is best. 

    Try out the suggestions below and let us know what works. Or tells us your solutions--we’d love to know the best way to care for our Desert Willow!   


    Organic Damage Control

    Keep your plants as healthy as possible, and spray dormant oil to control overwintering eggs on fruit trees. Also, control ants that guard aphid colonies in trees from predators by placing sticky bands around the trunks. Spray aphids with insecticidal soap, summer oil (on tolerant plants), and homemade garlic sprays (recipe below).

    Seven Ways to Organically Control Pests,0  

    Homemade garlic spray

    This all-purpose garden insect pest control spray combines the repellent effects of garlic, onion, and hot pepper with the insecticidal properties of soap: 

    1. Chop, grind, or liquefy one garlic bulb and one small onion.

    2.  Add 1 teaspoon of powdered cayenne pepper and mix with 1 quart of water.

    3.  Steep 1 hour, strain through cheesecloth, then add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap to the strained liquid; mix well.

    4 Spray your plants thoroughly, including leaf undersides.

    5.  Store the mixture for up to 1 week in a labeled, covered container in the refrigerator.  

    All About Aphids…

    Shiny, sticky leaves of trees, shrubs and garden plants are telltale signs of aphids.  Sometimes they cause damage; sometimes they do not. To keep them from becoming a problem, we need to watch for them and then take action when populations begin to build.  Knowing what to look for and how to deal with them are key elements to controlling aphid populations  

    Aphids are soft-bodied six-legged critters that suck plant juices and generally make a nuisance of themselves, especially when their populations explode out of control. They come in many colors. Yellow or light green forms are common in our area, but we frequently find specimens in various shades of red, black and gray. Some have wings and some do not. To protect our plants against aphid invasions, we need to understand them.

    Aphids tend to congregate in groups, usually at the growing tips of branches or on the leaves. They have a sucking mouthpart and they feed on the plant’s juices. After using what they need, they discharge the waste, a sticky, sweet substance called “honeydew.” The honeydew can accumulate on the leaves and stems of plants as well as roofs, automobiles, sidewalks, driveways, lawn furniture and other items underneath the tree. It makes the leaf sticky to the touch and gives it a shiny appearance. Honeydew falling from a heavily infested tree can give someone underneath a feeling of standing or sitting in a drizzling rain.

    There are various ways to control aphids. Sometimes the best solution is to do nothing.  One or two aphids on a plant is no reason to freak out with the insecticide sprayer. Aphids become a problem only when populations are high and the plant has to battle hundreds or thousands of the pests. The key is to watch the plants carefully every day. I like to give my plants help when I start seeing 10 or more on a medium sized leaf.

    The first tool in your arsenal is a strong stream of water. Spraying the leaves with a jet of water can blow a lot of them right off the plants. Aphids remaining on the leaf are often injured and eventually die. Unless the leaves are close to the ground, dislodged aphids will not be able to crawl back into place and resume feeding. In your diligence to get rid of the insects, do not allow the jet of water to damage the plant. That would be self-defeating. Also, some plant leaves are susceptible to sunburn from water laying on the leaf during a sunny day. Early morning or late afternoons are the best time to spray plants.

    Another way to control aphids is to use an insecticidal soap spray. If you use a commercial product be sure to follow label directions. If you want to create your own spray solution add about 2 tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water. The soap solution will need to be sprayed directly onto the animal which, again, are usually located on the lower surface of leaves and in other protected places. Because some plants are sensitive to the soapy sprays, run a test on a small number of leaves and search for damage before spraying the entire plant.

    Predator and parasite insects are really good at cleaning up some aphid populations. Predator insects feed upon the aphids directly. Parasites are animals that lay their eggs into or on the target aphid so that the hatching young can use the aphid for food. When using commercial insecticides to control any insect pest, always keep these beneficial allies in mind and try to do nothing that would harm them. Some insecticidal sprays will be just as hard on the beneficial insects as they will on the target pests.

    Lacewing larvae and lady beetles are particularly good at controlling aphid populations because of their voracious appetites. In fact, when aphid populations are low to moderate, many times these predators will find and consume most if not all of the insects without us having to do anything. I mentioned earlier that I found aphids on Virginia live oak trees. Sure enough, next to the aphids, I frequently found lacewing eggs on their characteristic flexible stems. When they hatch, my guess is that the aphid problem will soon disappear. Parasitic wasps and flies are also excellent in helping keep populations down.

    By carefully monitoring susceptible plants and taking correct action, aphid populations can often be minimized or eliminated before plant damage can occur.



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