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Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

27 September 2012

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade ... or gumbo

Much as we love all the wild animals that come to our yard, they can be a pest when they help themselves to tomatoes in the garden or nearly ripe fruit in our mini-orchard. Our long, hot, dry summers make things worse. The coyotes look for moisture everywhere. They not only drink out of the bucket of water we put out for them but also sometimes chew on the irrigation heads, knock over the birdbath, and bite open vegetables merely to suck the juice out.

The cactus before its fruits were stolen
 Recently, the coyotes climbed up the large cactus outside our dining room to get at its half-ripe fruits, in the process knocking off many leaves and leaving deep gouges from their claws in the leaves that remained.

I had started a cactus garden on the hill visible from my husband's office window, but the cost of large cacti has kept the garden growing slowly. After I got over my distress at what the coyotes had done, I realized that I could  jumpstart my cactus garden by planting all those large leaves in it...and those leaves wouldn't cost a cent. So I did.

But I saved two out to experiment cooking with. The first thing I made was a vegetarian Cajun gumbo. I put the recipe up yesterday at "Meal Times: Ancient Foods for Modern Cooks."

One broken leaf went into a pot of gumbo.
If you've never made gumbo before, my earlier post "Cajun Gumbo Made Easy" has many hints.

If you like meat in your gumbo, I suggest adding diced tasso and/or chopped chicken in step 5 (that is, let the meat simmer with the rest).

I hope you try my recipe out and let me know what you think!


ninthmuse (roz m) said...
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ninthmuse (roz m) said...

So do the cactus leaves add the kind of gelatinous quality okra does? (I notice there's no okra in your vegetarian recipe)

Charles Gramlich said...

Gumboooooooo. I'm hoping they have gumbo at lunch today. They usually do on friday.

Shauna Roberts said...

ROZ, I think the cactus leaves WOULD add the same thickening stickiness that gumbo does, but the reason I baked the leaf squares first was to get rid of the sap because Dave doesn't like okra's goo. I will try a sticky version of the recipe the next time I make it and see how it works. Right now, the thickening agent is ground sassafras root (filé powder), which is a traditional alternative to okra.

CHARLES: I'm hoping too you can have some gumbo for lunch! Thanks for stopping by.