Let’s Get Growing!
For over three years, the New Mexico History Museum has hosted free monthly hands-on activities, sharing historical technologies, modern-day adaptations for traditional crafts, and some fun DIY projects. For the last year, we have continued our programs online each month.
To celebrate the arrival of spring, we are going to grow some fun things. At a seed exchange at the museum a while back, some people brought sunflower seeds and some brought seeds for squash, beans and peas, all easy to grow here in New Mexico. What do you want to sprout?
Saving seeds from the fall is a great way to start a garden, but if you didn’t collect in the fall, you still might be able to find some great seeds on dried-up stems in nearby gardens. Get permission to go into the garden and then cut off the seed pods with scissors, or just knock loose seeds from plants you like into an envelope or paper bag. If you don’t know of a garden nearby, there are lots of stores and catalogs that are starting to sell seeds as we all start to get spring fever.
Ask about plants that grow well in dry soil with full sun. That way you will pick plants that will grow well in New Mexico. All plants need some water though, so that will be up to you.
At the History Museum, we also made a few videos for you to follow along with projects you can do at home. In “In a New Mexico Garden, Part 1,” we show how to make a folded origami newspaper flower pot. The best thing about this paper pot is that once your plants start growing, you can plant the whole pot into the ground. The newspaper is biodegradable, which means it will get soft and rot and become part of the soil as compost, and you won’t have to remove your seedlings to transplant them.
The only supplies you will need are sheets of newspaper (you will probably want to make several pots), potting soil and seeds.
In the second video, In a New Mexico Garden, Part 2, we show you how to make a little hanging birdfeeder out of an orange peel. All you need for this will be an orange, paper towels, a bowl to put the fruit in, a screwdriver or something pointy (but not too sharp) to put holes in the orange peel, some string and some bird seed. When you’re done, you’ll have a colorful little feeder that the birds will love.
Finally, there are things starting to grow in the ground, native wild plants that are fun to gather and that you’ll also enjoy eating.
Years ago, I moved into an old house, where the front yard area was overgrown with all kinds of weeds. One of my friends told me he would like to come over and clean the yard for me, and I was really surprised because it was a lot of work. He was excited, though, because he had noticed that most of the “weeds” in my yard were a healthy crop of a plant known in New Mexico as quelites (pronounced kay-LEE-tess), also called wild spinach, and also known as lamb’s quarters. My friend gathered up several bags worth and made it into a stew with beans. Delicious!
Since then I have tried quelites many ways, stewing it like spinach, frying it up with onions or adding it to my soups. You can find it in all parts of the state, but it tastes best when the leaves are young and tender.
Here is a popular way to enjoy this native plant. You will need to cut or snap off 3 cups of the tender top of the plants, chop up half an onion and use a couple of slices of bacon. Cook the bacon, then set it aside. Use the bacon drippings to saute the onions, and when they are soft, put about a tablespoon or two of vinegar in the pan, turn the heat low and simmer. Add the washed and torn greens and stir in just until they wilt. Remove the greens and onion from the pan and serve, sprinkled with crumbled bacon on top. Delicious!