Hi, friends. Welcome to another edition of Annette’s Adventures. I’ve written a lot about my adventures in the field, exploring the rocks and mountains of New Mexico, but today I decided that I wanted to share an urban adventure with all of you.
Did you know that New Mexico is possibly home to the oldest apple tree in North America? Let’s start with a bit of history before I get into the adventures.
The Spanish arrived in New Mexico around 1598, but people were farming the middle Rio Grande Valley as early as 1200 – 1300 AD. Spanish Colonists established farms and ranches all along the Rio Grande and planted apples throughout the region. The Pueblo Revolt occurred in 1680 and drove the Spaniards out of the area until they returned in 1706 and established more permanent settlements. La Villa de Albuquerque became the administrative and trading center for the surrounding area. Agricultural settlements sprung up around the Villa; each settlement developed a unique community identity that still stands today.
The Manzano Mountains are a small, north-south trending mountain chain located approximately southwest of Albuquerque. In 1926, the Manzano Forest Reserve identified a tree near the Manzano Mountains that is believed to have been planted before 1676, making that the oldest apple tree in North America.
So, what does this apple history of New Mexico have to do with Annette’s Adventures? Everything!
My New Mexico harvesting adventures started this summer. I kept in trail-ready condition for fieldwork by hiking on the weekends. When it got hot, my friend and I started hiking in the Santa Fe Ski Basin; we could escape the heat and get some high elevation hikes in. One weekend a lady on the trail gave me two mushrooms. I took them to the field and shared them with the crew. They were delicious! After that, I was hooked. I took a basket and mushroom field guide to the mountains every weekend for a month straight. It is important to note that I only picked mushrooms that I could positively identify as bolete and sought out mushroom mentors whenever possible.
A friend recently introduced me to a local group of volunteers called Food Is Free ABQ (FIFABQ). We joined FIFABQ for a harvest at a micro-orchard in Los Ranchos. The orchard is considered original; it was repurposed as a central park for a small townhouse community. There are about 30 trees in this specific micro-orchard, most were apples, but there were also pear and Asian pear trees. In two hours, the group harvested roughly 2,400 pounds of fruit. The fruit gets distributed to local people who can use it. As a harvester, I came home with an unexpected grocery bag of apples. My first harvest was a blast, and I got apples too! No surprise that I would jump in and help with more harvests. The second harvest I joined was only two miles away from my house and was again an old established micro-orchard. FIFABQ is an all-around win when it comes to community service. Harvest season continues through November, and I look forward to volunteering with Food Is Free Albuquerque again
The adventure doesn’t stop there. The apple harvests is a great way to connect with and learn from locals. I made a small comment about how beautiful and tantalizing the prickly pears look, this led to me learning how to process the ruby red fruit. Filled with curiosity and armed with leather gloves, tongs, and paper bags; I harvested my first batch of prickly pears. My cupboards are filling with local harvest, who knows what fruit I will harvest next, but it will likely produce many tasty treats. Until next time my friends….