Summer’s End–October

This is an amaranth plant growing in the large garden at the Hanuman Temple in Taos. There are many varieties (colors and shapes) of this ancient plant grown by humans for their health-giving seeds. I buy amaranth seeds in bulk and add them to a mix of chia and flax which I grind in an electric coffee grinder and sprinkle on food, especially salads. I add it to pancake batter and hot cereals as well. When the plants are young I pick the leaves to add to salads, but they are definitely edible at any stage of growth.

Speaking of the Hanuman Temple…they recently had an annual festival, the Bhandara, in honor of their guru. For this popular event they do traditional Indian cooking with wood fired ovens. In an outdoor area near the kitchen there are eight of these and I was able to see them in use for my first time. I’ve always wondered how and when they were used. It seemed at the time that most of the cooking that day was over and the attention was focused on these tortilla type breads that were being placed in a large wok-shaped pan of oil. On the upper left you can see how they puff up when cooked.

Here’s a view of the cooking operation. I had heard of the annual Bhandara celebration  before I moved to Taos from a good friend in Ketchum, Idaho, who had attended it many times with her family over the years. They have a close friend who’s been associated with Ram Das most of her adult life. Likely the gathering was an extended family reunion opportunity. Now that I live here and usually go to the temple on Sundays I appreciate what a role it plays in bringing together like-minded people. It is a very inclusive, welcoming place.

This may not be a world-class photo but it introduces the seasonal ritual of ristras. Before I lived in Taos I thought they were just for looks but soon learned that to the pepper-addicted folks of the region they are a practical way to keep dried ones handy in the kitchen. The couple on the left have become two of my favorite farm market vendors. Love their radishes and often photograph their amazing flowers.

And this is a last look of the season of Barbara and Larry of Cosmos Farm in Dixon. Barbara was still stringing marigolds when I took this but said this would be their last time coming to the market for this year. For me there was something special about the beauty they brought with their marigolds and garden bounty and I’ll look forward to seeing them again next year.

It’s difficult to transition away from the season of the farm market which brings the spread-out and diverse community of  Taos together. The end of the market season is just one less reason to drive to “town” with any social expectations. Many of the farmers drive long distances to participate in the summer market and one can only imagine the work it takes beforehand–to plant, nurture, then harvest their produce in time for the weekly early morning drive, not to mention setting up their booths. What a gift of dedication to the good of the larger community! I’m sure I can say WE ALL thank you!

I’m not sure of the date of the last farm market but I can feel it’s soon. Last night our temperatures dipped below freezing for the first time of the season. I check the weather online so knew it was coming. I harvested all my unripe tomatoes and cut all my marigold flowers to make the strings I so love. I can take down the faded ones I made last year now and enjoy the fresh orange color and the smell of the new ones.

I am adding a stewed apple recipe to this blog for folks who both like to eat healthy and find they have an over-abundance of apples (like me). It comes from an ayurvedic cookbook (Eat Taste Heal), is great for balancing Vata, and is dairy and gluten free.

Ingredients:

2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

4 or 5 dried apricots, soaked in hot water 20 minutes

4 dates, preferably Medjool, pitted and cut in half

2 C water

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (I say “or less”)

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and same amount of cardamom

Put all ingredients in medium (small?) saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-low, cover and simmer for at least 5 minutes (or longer? I say). With a ladle, transfer 1/3 of the contents, including juice, to a blender and process to a puree. Stir this back into the pan and serve warm.

Keeps well in the fridge for a week or so (my comment).

Cottonwood leaves along the curb…

Farm Market Hums Along

There were more incredible flowers this week at the farm market brought by the couple who had those first-in-market sunflowers a month ago. This week they had giant zinnias and an almost purple rose, plus pink Echinaceas. The husband, who’s handling the sales, says it’s all his wife’s doing, that she is the queen of flowers. I’m convinced of that. She is sitting in the back, but enjoying the praise.

This brings back memories of my garden in Ketchum, Idaho, that had a lot of Echinaceas. I do have the cosmos you see in the upper right starting to bloom now. It will eventually dominate my front flower garden.

Jeff and Tanya at Talpa Gardens had these adorable Rhode Island Red chicks for sale, a big attraction at their booth. Of course I wanted to take them home but my landlord has forbidden keeping chickens. Don’t ask me why. I’ll wait for a better situation…but it’s one of my visualizations. I had them when I was living in the California back-woods back in the 70s.

I loved seeing this wild arrangement decorating the Hanuman Temple’s produce booth. The dark red is amaranth I’m pretty sure. The temple property has a huge garden area, not surprising since they focus so much on cooking and feeding people. You can bet this time of year their meals are full of really fresh ingredients, plus their secret ingredient, love and devotion.

The most exciting discovery of the day was meeting a farmer, Juan Sebastian, who’s part of White Mountain Farm in Mosca, CO. He explained that this was his first trip of the season down to the Taos Farm Market. What caught my eye were these 1 lb. bags of quinoa. He also had 5 lb. and 25 lb. bags. He explained that his farm is now specializing in organic quinoa crops and they were the first in the country to grow marketable quantities back in the 80’s. If you visit their website, linked above, you can learn more about the history of this San Luis Valley farm. Interestingly I’ll be passing by Mosca on my way to a family reunion in Colorado tomorrow.

Juan Sebastian also shared that he came here from Huehuetenango, Guatemala. He had a wife and son with him but he seemed to be the only one in the family who was speaking English. The farm also specializes in organic potatoes and is shipping their quinoa and potatoes through the site. If you’re lucky enough to live in Alamosa his farm sells produce weekly there. I’d like to see how the quinoa crop looks in the ground and take photos but not sure I’ll have the time this trip. He showed me some leaves from the plant and they looked very much like lamb’s quarters or the red-leaf orach, which I have growing. The quinoa leaves are edible raw or cooked as you would spinach.

If you haven’t cooked quinoa I highly recommend it. It is one of nature’s most perfect foods. It is not a grain but rather a small round seed, similar to millet. It cooks quickly (15 – 20 minutes) and has a delicious nutty flavor. I eat it now more often than rice and it substitutes well for it. It is amazingly high in protein and is especially helpful for those who do not eat meat, or not much of it. I felt we were very fortunate to have this helpful ancient plant growing so regionally. Sadly they can’t compete with the grocery store per pound price of quinoa, but for those who can pay more it would be a wise thing to do, to support this endeavor.

Love