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Information, discussions, attractions, and activities in México with a focus on Michoacán, El Alma de México.
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 Deadly Nightshade

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Hound Dog
Hound Dog

Posts : 195
Join date : 2011-02-21
Location : Ajijic & San Cristóbal de Las Casas

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PostDeadly Nightshade

As Dawg has indicated in the past, we spend our winters in Chiapas in San Critsóbal de Las Casas and our summers in Jalisco at Lake Chapala in the village of Ajijic which is a delegacion of the municipality of Chapala. We are quite fond of both places for various reasons and really love the semi-annual change of scene which is substantial. The differences between the places are profound but I won´t go into that here except to say that one of the main differences between the Chapala municipality and San Cristóbal is the splendid and huge indigenous market in the historic center of the old colonial city of San Cristóbal the likes of which simply do not exist anywhere on Lake Chapala´s north shore or, in all likelihood anywhere else around the lake or geographically within a reasonable distance. That is not to say that the shopping in the Chapala area cannot be great. The Super Lake grocery in San Antonio Tlayacapan, for instance, may be the best international grocery in all of Mexico and in most of North America in general but that indigenous market in San Cristóbal is a fabulous place to buy fresh produce locally grown in mountainside milpas near San Cristóbal whereas the local markets at "Lakeside" whether full time or weekly tiaguis are, more than anything else, simply outlets for the Guadalajara abastos. Those street and municipal markets are primarily selling fruits and vegetables grown on and distributed from large commercial farms with the abastos acting as middlemen and very little available in those markets could be even remotely construed to be grown by loocal farmers who bring the produce to market they have home grown themselves.

One of the things we most look forward to when we return to San Cristóbal is a return to that huge and fascinating indigenous market which is only a couple of bolcks from our home there. The city fathers had threatened to move the market out beyond the community´s periferico because they insisted it was a filthy, congested and rat infested disgrace but the very influential indigenous community who have been feeling their oats since the Zapatista rebellion threatened riots and massive civil disobedience so that fantasy went by the wayside thank God since we built our hoime there where we built it to be close to that community treasure.

Th indigenous people in Chiapas are largely vegetarians not because they are opposed to slaughtering animals but because so many of them live hand-to-mouth in primitive mountainside, windowless shacks and it is damned inconvenient to have to chase a chicken down, wring his/her neck, pluck the sumbitch and gut that sucker just for a Colonel Sanders moment at the dinner table. Just think about it - if a chicken is inconvenient to slaughter for dinner, just think about butchering a cow or a pig even if Uncle Ralph is coming to dinner. Because of this, these folks grow a variety of veggies on their small plots of land and, since we are talking about small fincas at between 6,000 and 11,000 feet, we are talking succulent high mountain greens and root veggies here and finer vegetables of that sort you will not find on an industrial farm in Puebla or Guanajuato. Not only that but, because this high altitude farming region is just minutes from tropical farming regions, we get the best tropical fruits and coiffee in all varieties as well.

So, anyway, yesterday we were at the indigenous market and came across some mysterious greens upon which we had never laid eyes in the past 60 plus years on this planet and bought what we, back in Alabama, would call "a mess" of them and took them home and cooked up "a mess" of the most delicious and succulent greens we have ever wrapped our mouths around and we were so thrilled at this incredible find we returned to the market today and inquired as to what these unbelievably delicious greens were called only to be informed that thay are locally known as "Hierbas Mora" which, of course, we had never heard of so we looked it up and found that Hierbas Mora are known as Deadly Nightshade in English and the fruits of the plant are toxic and can kill you if you eat six of them. Other internet sources advised limiting daily consumption of the greens to less than 30 grams so we were becoming concerned that this remarkably delicious vegetable could kill us dead and went to see our next door neighbor, a native of this town in her 60s and she told us that, yes, Hierba Mora was reputed to be poisonous but that she and her family ate it all the time in season in abundance and were still quite alive so there.
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Deadly Nightshade :: Comments

Re: Deadly Nightshade
Post Fri 14 Oct 2011, 21:43 by Peter
The green berries are poisonous but they later turn black and taste like a tiny tomato, which at that point they are safe to eat, so I was told. I wouldn't advise eating a bunch of them at once just because of their poisonous nature when out of season. I have never heard of eating the greens though.

Back in college I was taking a lot of agriculture and biology courses. A friend there was a forager and would sample berries and other plants he would find. He told a more knowledgeable friend of his about the tomato-flavored black-colored berry he had eaten earlier in the day and was told it was deadly nightshade. At that point he about gagged and felt sickened but was told they were OK when ripe but the green berries could be deadly. There are other toxins found in the nightshade family. If I am not mistaken I believe you are cautioned not to eat potato greens for their toxic properties.

I recognized the deadly nightshade plant growing as a weed in my backyard when I lived just outside Morelia's centro. I plucked and squeezed one of the berries and sure enough they smelled and looked like a tiny dark tomato inside. Outside they were shiny black. I didn't eat any of them largely due to their reputation and also that I had plenty fresh tomatoes in the house.

Glad you're still with us, Dawg.
Hound Dog
Re: Deadly Nightshade
Post Sat 15 Oct 2011, 11:43 by Hound Dog
There is an interesting discussion on the subject of hierbas mora on the online magazine Mexico Connect under that magazine´s Forums Section and the sub-heading Mexican Kitchen and the disussion is a bit too detailed for me to excerpt from it here but I highly recommend it to the reader hereabouts as reading to supplement this discussion. There is also an excellent link there to a paper on Black Nightshades worth reading. I don´t post over there but my wife does under the member name "Vichil" and it is she who started the discussion over there after we purchased and consumed hiuerbas mora at the indigenous market in San Cristóbal.

This has been enlightening and I have since found out that we have, indeed been purchasing the ripe red or yellow fruits (but have seen no black fruit in our many visits there) from the hierbas mora plant at the market but, of course, not the unripe ones that are said to be poisonous. These fruits resemble tiny cherry tomatoes and have an intensive sweet/sour flavor. It is important to note that , according to the women vendors in the indigenous market, several of whom sell these greens and their ripened fruits, these are cultivated and not wild greens and fruits grown in small fincas by indigenous in the mountains around San Cristóbal. Since we have been touting these delicious greens and now their fruits when ripe and in season, I should stress that we only eat the greens and fruit sold by knowledgable vendors in the indigenous market and would certainly not recommend that one consume plants or their fruits foraged in the back yard or fields in the forest nor purchase these products from unreliable sources not well known to you.

That having been said, theses green s just keep getting better as we get better and better at preparing them for the table. Last night we had the greens with an East Indian spicy curried chicken dish that perfectly compliments the hierbas mora greens perpared as follows:

Simmer or steam the greens in water until tender
In olive oil, saute to your taste chopped white or yellow onions, garlic and small green or red chiles as piquant as you can handle.
When onions, garlic and chiles are soft remove from heat and add chopped tomatoes, raisins and crushed cashew nuts or peanuts and mix
Serve with rice

My guess is this dish would be excellent with spinach, turnip greens, collards or chard as well. Since they have an abundance of various types of greens in San Cristóbal´s indigenous market at the present time, some of which neither of us has ever heard of, we may try to experiment more as we discover more new things to try. If you happen to be in San Cristóbal when making this dish with hierbas mora or any other suitable greens, you might consider substituting the tiny ripe fruit of the hierbas mora plant for the chopped tomatoes or, if you are able to find them, any intensely sweet cherry tomatoes whereever you are in Mexico.

By the way, we find ginger here in this market at any time and artichokes in season but the indigenous do not cook with these vegetables as additions to the dinner table. Rather, they make a medicinal tea as a liver aid with artichokes and as a cough suppressant with ginger. Vendors in the market couldn´t believe we actually ate artichokes. I guess they could learn from us as well as we from them. But, then that´s what the history of animal life on this planet is all about, no?

Last edited by Hound Dog on Sat 15 Oct 2011, 14:38; edited 1 time in total
Re: Deadly Nightshade
Post Sat 15 Oct 2011, 13:34 by raqueteer
Yummy! Some nice mango chutney, one of my specialties, would go well with the curry. Having followed your thread on the eating of artichokes, one of my personal favorites, I did buy the smaller local ones and found them to be much much better than those California monsters.
Hound Dog
Re: Deadly Nightshade
Post Sat 15 Oct 2011, 16:00 by Hound Dog
Agreed, raqueteer. The huge artichokes favored in U.S. supermarkets can be offputting while the small ones found here in Mexico and in France are more flavorful.
Here´s how to make those California monsters more ejoyable:

Bring the artichokes to a rapid boil in salted water with extra virgin olive oil and whole garlic heads and then turn down the heat a bit to high simmer the artichokes and whole garlic heads for quite a while until the artichokes are tender and the garlic heads are cooked through to the point they are sweet and the meat of the indiviual cloves can be squeezed out of their skins to accompany the tender and sweet artichokes leaves and, later , the heart.

The artichokes leaves, accompanied by the cooked garlic cloves and, later, the hearts, should be served with a dip in my opinion although you may disagree. Now, my darlin´ wife is French so her dip would be an olive oil and vinegar concoction perhaps with garlic and a little Dijon style mustard. Dawg´s dip, Dawg being a South Alabama redneck would be straight out of the Giant Artichoke drive-in in the artichoke capital of the world, Castroville, California and that would be a fine commercially prepared or homemade mayonnaise mixed with chopped onions but you decide the dip, if any, you like.

My wife, being French, likes tender, young artichokes consumed raw as often served in France among some so what the hell do the French know about fine cuisine versus Alabamians

By the way, The Giant Artichoke not only specializes in boiled artichokes prepared, shall we say, satisfactorily for a drive-in roadhouse, but deep fried artichoke heart fritters and, folks, I´m not saying those things are good for you but, what the hell, how many times in one person´s lifetime is that person going to drive through Castroville ? Chow down already and the hell with the consequences, Castroville, incidentally, is near the shore of Monterey Bay in Central California, often shrouded in the coastal fog artichokes adore and is surrounded mainly by fields of artichokes which make for one beautuful crop of splendid and majestic plants as they mature. Certainly more majestic than the brussels sprouts fields up the road a few miles in Soquel.

Last edited by Hound Dog on Sat 15 Oct 2011, 18:33; edited 1 time in total
Re: Deadly Nightshade
Post Sat 15 Oct 2011, 16:26 by Peter
Or north yet the garlic capital of Gilroy. Quite fragrant though.

A friend of mine saw little sense in artichokes and thought of them only as a conveyance tool for eating mayonnaise. I guess he never got to the heart of the matter - the best part.

Tere never ate artichokes before, alcachofas, so I did introduce her to pickled artichoke hearts. We still need yet to try some fresh ones. They are not too commonly found here in most places but I can generally count on Costco to have them, where she happened to spot them for the first time.

"How do you eat these?" she asks. Each leaf is its own spoon for the dip.
Re: Deadly Nightshade
Post Sat 15 Oct 2011, 18:21 by raqueteer
Thanks for the recipe ideas. My husband, being a Brit and all never eats them. He also does not eat corn, only for cattle he says. They don't have good corn over there.

My usual blend for dipping, being a Canuck, and as we know all Canucks, have a fascination with mayonnaise, is this.

Melt butter in a small pot, whisk in the mayonnaise, add flavorings, such as cayenne pepper, or worcestershire sauce. Enjoy. Some might like a bit of lemon juice added to this.

I REALLY like that garlic idea. Will have to try that since the small artichokes are now available at Superlake, purveyor of all good things, at a price. Maybe that too would be a good addition to the mayo mix.

Artichoke soup, is another good one which I always have at the Virrey. I may never stay there again, but I will sure drop in, inside only, for a bowl of that.

By the way, I also love the stem, and only remove a very small part of it.
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