Since an unusually severe cold snap in early October, this Autumn at La Posada has been sunny, warm, and virtually windless. In other words, from a gardener’s point-of-view, absolutely beautiful. As the leaves on the cottonwoods and ash trees turn yellow and fall back to earth, we have been busy harvesting the fruits and vegetables of summer, and planting many bulbs and seeds. The bed within the Potager Garden where Santo Domingo blue corn was growing only two weeks ago is now planted with three kinds of garlic. The other beds in the Potager have recently been planted with yellow chard, “bull’s blood” beets, and red lettuce. All of these plants are cold hardy; they can survive or even grow during winter. Several of them (like the beets and chard) are also ornamental.
One of our favorite edible ornamentals — Hopi red amaranth — is just now being harvested from the Potager. The stunning burgundy flower heads hold hundreds or even thousands of tiny black seeds. Many of these seeds will become high protein amaranth flour to be used in The Turquoise Room. Many others will be saved for next year’s plantings. A domesticated pigweed, amaranth was a sacred and staple food of the Aztecs. Along with other beautiful and edible ornamentals like rosemary and lavender, amaranth loves growing here in the Painted Desert. The heat, sunshine, and relatively cool nights of the Little Colorado River Valley seem to make this remarkable but somewhat obscure plant very happy to live here.
Soak up the warm Autumn sun and enjoy the rich colors of harvest time, a truly special season in La Posada’s organic gardens.
Patrick Pynes, Ph.D.