It’s mid December. The days are short, the air is crisp, and the holiday lights are sparkling. Winter has arrived and we’ve finally had a cold front roll through here in the desert southwest. In Phoenix, Arizona, this past week the thermometer barely hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit … Brrrr! I’m sure my friends to the north are either tilting their head quizzically or scowling at me.
Hey, when it’s been a consistent 90 plus degrees, anything much less than 70 degrees feels cold and has me putting on a sweatshirt. With that said, I think I’ve officially turned into a reptile. What other explanation could there be as to why 70 degrees would feel so cold to me? Crazy, I know! However, I must say the mornings and evenings do get into the 50’s and even 40’s, which is definitely cold and has me pop’n on the heat in the RV.
With winter in full swing, it was time to make a big pot of soup, but not just any soup, Southwest Chicken Soup. Nothing like warming up from the inside out.
Considering I’m in one of my favorite places; the desert southwest, why not embrace the unique landscape and culinary flavors of the region!
With the soup simmering in the slow cooker, the RV is filled with a wonderful scent. While inhaling the delicious aroma filling the RV, I glance out the window and admire the landscape.
I find the Saguaro Cactus intriguing. As a kid growing up in the Midwest, I thought this three armed cactus was a fabrication of cartoonists. I remember watching cartoons like the Road Runner, Huckleberry Hound, and of course Bugs Bunny. The background contained scenes of red rock, cactus, and the ever abundant tumbleweed … all foreign to a young gal growing up in northern Illinois among cornfields.
Each saguaro cactus is unique and appears to have a personality of its own. It took me weeks of living amongst these beauties before I was even able to pronounce the name saguaro correctly…. pronounced: sa-wha-ro.
The saguaro cactus is a large, tree-sized cactus which can grow as tall as 70 feet (20 meters), and is native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, some parts of southern California, and northern Mexico.
Saguaros have a relatively long life span, averaging 150-175 years of age with some living as long as 200 years. (Hmm, makes me feel like I’m a tiny spring chicken in comparison 😀) It can take 50 to 70 years just for a saguaro to develop a side arm. Arms are grown to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity … more arms lead to more flowers and fruit.
Saguaros are very slow-growing and may only grow an inch or two during its first eight years. The growth rate is determined by climate, precipitation, and location.
This army of cacti seem to have their own personality; some cute, some not, some look like proud soldiers, some like cartoon characters, and others look tired, twisted, and weathered, but no two are identical. Oh and by the way, the plural is either cacti OR cactuses – either is considered acceptable.
AND then there is the rare crested saguaro. Why are some crested? Saguaros rarely grow symmetrically and often grow in odd or mis-shapen forms.
But on rare occasion, the growing tip produces a fan like form which is referred to as a crested or cristate saguaro.
Biologists disagree about why some saguaros grow in this unusual form. Some thoughts; genetic mutation, lightning strike, freeze damage, but no one knows for sure why the unusual growth occurs.
Fascinating to say the least for whatever reason!
I was fascinated with the plump texture of this saguaro after a heavy rainfall. You can literally see the water trapped below the skin’s surface.
Because the majority of a saguaro is made up of water, an adult plant can weigh as much as six tons or more. This tremendous weight is supported by a circular skeleton of inter-connected, woody ribs. The number of ribs inside the plant correspond to the number of pleats on the outside of the plant.
The saguaro cactus is an important part of the desert’s Eco system. The gilded flicker and Gila woodpecker excavate nest cavities inside the saguaro’s pulpy flesh. Large birds like hawks also use the saguaro for nesting and hunting platforms. Their stick nests can be seen constructed among the arms of a large saguaro.
In mid summer, the saguaro cactus provides a source of food for animals with its ripening fruit. Jackrabbits, javelinas, mule deer and other animals will eat the saguaro’s flesh during dry summer months, providing these animals with a much-needed source of water.
Southwest Chicken Soup
Southwest Chicken Soup
1 pound cut up Rotiserrie chicken
1 cup chopped onion
1 small carrot chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (remove seeds for less heat)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 (14 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes (you can substitute tomato sauce)
Place all ingredients in a slow cooker (omitting optional ingredients) and stir to combine. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or High for 3 to 4 hours.
When ready, ladle soup into bowls and top with your choice of cilantro, avocado or a squeeze of lime. Serve with a side of cornbread or crackers.
Recipe by Ingrid @LiveLaughRV.net
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