Being on vacation is a chance to get away, see new sights, and act like an idiot without being recognized. I love going to new places and so, slapping our adventurer’s hats on, my spouse and I took off for Santa Fe.
For those who haven’t been, this is a lovely city. For me, the adobe buildings and brightly colored doors and windows were a treat made more exotic by the bloom of familiar plants in the gardens below the houses. We share many plants with the southwest since we’re a high dry place too, and it was nice to see familiar faces amongst the stucco city.
See new sights: This is the home of High Country Gardens, a source for xeric and native plants perfect for the Rocky Mountain region. In their demonstration gardens early bloomers were booming; sage, poppies, roses and columbines wound through each others’ leaves, the textures and colors heart-stopping in their simple beauty.
Visitors spoke to each other in grunts, “ooo! oo!” the most frequently heard comment. Get down there if you haven’t visited. You’ll find the garden center filled with benches of low water plants, nurseries packed with vines, shrubs and trees for the high desert, and…
…the biggest bumblebee I have ever seen. It flew through the groundcover greenhouse like a C130, the drone of its passing a low hum that shook nearby petals. We gave chase, although carefully: she may be mellow, but only an idiot bum rushes a bug with a stinger.
Act like an idiot: Throughout the city, trucks parked, advertising pinõn seeds for a mere $12 per bag. Remembering the pecan harvests of Texas, we stopped, intent on picking up some for pestos, salads, and other culinary dishes. Seeing the sandwich-sized baggies of brown, bean-like nuts, we wondered: this is all you get for twelve bucks? Where’re the blonde, oily, savory nutlings you get at the grocers?
This is pinõn in their natural form, we were assured, albeit roasted. You crack and open them like a sunflower seed, with a nip from your front teeth. “Cool,” I thought and bought a bag, my mind filled with visions of how many dishes I could make from the baggie.
But the vendor didn’t lie. These seeds are individually encased in a hull that must be broken by biting, and the task of getting enough for a spoonful, much less a recipe worth, takes all day. Squirrels find the pinõn a delicacy to be savored, mostly because it takes them a good while to open the thing.
To shell enough for a meal, I’ll need to start early in the day, say when I arrive for work, nipping and opening nuts all day in order to have the quarter-cup my pesto calls for. Staff meetings can be a community effort to husk my seeds for supper.
Still, heading home, north from the city bathed in sun and draped in blooms, the car smelling of hyssop and mums from High Country Gardens, those pinons were fun to nibble. Keep cracking those hulls, and we’ll be feasting next week.