Sunday, November 29, 2015

ADELA'S GARDEN




Life Along the South Texas Sand Sheet

Not far from here a lady named Adela has a garden.  Now and then I’ll visit the garden and invariably find Adela tending the seedling plots or perhaps she’ll be in the strawberry field or even out in her small vineyard examining the plants.  Everything growing around her was borne from her hands.  Usually, she works alone but occasionally someone will stop by to lend a helping hand.  No one with any sense tells Adela how plants should grow; after all, someone who works day after day in a garden gets to know the plants on deeply intimate terms.

Chile Pequin

Adela has hundreds of chile pequin plants in her garden

I seldom say much when I’m in Adela’s garden as not to disturb her work.  I get the impression she has little time for small talk and besides, the concentration on her face tells me not to bother her when she’s in the “flow”.

Adela tending her seedlings

Pumpkins or watermelons or perhaps onions and garlic or rarities like pepino del monte, Adela grows them all.  So you see, there’s always something new to observe.  Granted I am a lover of native plants.  I can spend an entire day roaming the quiet woods looking at the foliage.  Keeping track of growth patterns and making note of soil types; I find very few things as pleasing as wandering the woods amongst the plants.  In that respect, Adela’s garden is an anomaly amidst the natural world; and though I’ve never been too keen on modern agriculture, prone as it is to destroy the land, I do find the concept of a small garden, built from the mindset of self-sufficiency and with nary a thought about pesticides or artificial fertilizers, a good and practical idea.  Granted that Adela works diligently five or six days a week to make her garden productive, but if one is tactical and frugal then a minimalist garden will produce all one needs to become self-sufficient.

The seedlings have been moved to larger pots

Pepino del Monte grows in a vine along the ground

Wild Cucumber or Pepino del Monte

Wild cucumber or pepino del monte is an introduced plant that’s now essentially native in this region.  I grow tired of that anthropocentric term “invasive,” a prejudicial word that eschews one life form and then fully accepts another that is perhaps as “invasive” or more so than the first.  None of it makes much sense until one realizes that most everything in this life is predicated on making one person happy at the expense of others.  So it is that mesquites (that are definitely not invasive) are often called “invasive” and cows (that are absolutely invasive) are never considered as such.  Regardless, the world is constantly changing and plants and animals move about now with mind boggling frequency.  The Columbian Exchange, the Asian Crossroads, the North/South Fluctuation, and now the advent of Global Warming, Climate Change, Chaos (choose your preferred phrase) and the entire concept of what is native and what is soon to be native and what is overwhelming the other and what is mutating into something else has become an evolutionary video flashing before us.

Pepino del monte, by the way, can be pickled or it can be cooked fresh.  My preferred way of eating pepino del monte is as follows.  I should note that my relative, Dario Guerra, makes the most scrumptious pepino del monte I’ve ever eaten.  As I understand it he saut├ęs slices of pepino in oil and then adds tomatoes, onions, a little bit of chile pequin or some other hot stuff and then adds salt and pepper.  Not much to it but Dario combines the ingredients perfectly and I love going over to his house for a bowl of pepino—or picadillo or frijoles y arroz or whatever he has on the stove.  Dario is a born cook or perhaps I should say, chef.


I told the young man from Texas A&M Extension Service to pay close attention to Adela’s advice.  “She knows more about plants in this area than anyone,” I said.