Life is Sweet with Honeybees and Cherry Trees

Hello from your History Herald! As spring gently rouses New Mexico from its winter sleep, the days become warmer and brighter and our gardens welcome back their beautiful blooms. Will all this beauty around, I am inspired to talk about one of Earth’s most impressive and important species who starts to make an appearance around this time—the Honeybee!

So, what’s the buzz about bees? While there are several species of bees native to New Mexico, Honeybees specifically have been in the area since the 1500s when early Spanish settlers imported them along with other livestock up El Camino Real. Considered a valuable commodity and tremendous asset to humans, bees were brought along mainly for their pollination services. Did you know that managed honeybees are among the most reliable pollinators in agriculture? That’s very important in this state. New Mexico alfalfa hay, for example, is one of the state’s top agricultural crops and it’s almost entirely dependent on bee pollination!

Honeybees are also valued for their honey, wax production, and more. Did you know local honey provides allergy relief? Bee pollen does too, and is rich in vitamins, protein, and other nutrients. Beeswax is great for fixing squeaky hinges, polishing wood furniture, and for making lotion or salve. Of course, here at Las Golondrinas we use beeswax in our candle-making activity! Propolis, resin bees collect from trees to coat the hive, has antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties; and let’s not forget bee venom therapy, using bee stings to relieve arthritis. Wow, the brilliance of bees!

Evolving over millions of years, these talented little beauties, are unique in their ability to produce honey and form large “eusocial” societies, the most evolutionarily advanced among colony groups. Their form of communication, the most developed of any invertebrate, includes seven dances used to alert the colony about the location and distance of pollens. Honeybees also clean their hives and even self-medicate by choosing plants that benefit them — incredible! In addition, is there really any other way to enjoy a New Mexico sopapilla other than with local honey?!

With plants and trees around us blossoming, you might have noticed some honeybees buzzing around them, and who can blame them? Currently one of New Mexico’s most savored trees, the Southwestern Chokecherry, is in bloom with fragrant pink and white blossoms, enticing bees with their nectar. Found between 5,000 and 8,000 feet of altitude, they thrive in rich, moist soils along riverbanks, but are also hardy enough to withstand drought, which is why they’re perfectly adapted to much of northern New Mexico. By late summer/early autumn, clusters of dark cherries will be ready to be enjoyed by animals and humans alike. Much like Piñon picking, it’s tradition for families to forage the wild cherries annually.

A native species of New Mexico, Chokecherry trees have been traditionally prized as both a food, high in antioxidants and rich in vitamin C, and for the medicinal properties of its bark and roots.

A staple food among many Indigenous communities, Chokecherry ranks among the most important fruits. Called “Capulin” in Spanish, Chokecherries have long been used to make jelly, jam, juice, syrup, and even wine! You can consume them raw, but they pack some pucker power (there’s a reason they’re called chokecherries!). The intense, often bitter, taste mellows when dried or cooked with sweeteners. Capulin jellies and syrups are sweet, tangy (and a lovely color) and are delicious on toast, pancakes, tortillas, and more! Much like sopapillas with honey, Capulin is a must-try New Mexican delicacy!

Curator’s Corner: Purslane

by Amanda Mather, Curator of Collections

As spring springs around here it makes me think of all the green things I have missed over the winter that are now starting to bud and come back to life. Here is to one of my favorites, and some green I can’t wait to see! This week we will focus on a weed we all know and sometimes don’t love: Purslane.

Portulaca oleracea is as common as they come, thrives in human-disturbed soil and is drought tolerant almost to a fault. If you live dang near anywhere other than Antarctica, you have come across Purslane. It looks like a small humble succulent, growing close to the ground with small yellow flowers that bloom in the morning — right now it is more than likely all over your garden. Now you know what I am talking about, right?

The variety native to the Americas, Portulaca retusa has been almost completely replaced by its European cousin oleracea, but one can still sometimes find the native Notched Leaf Purslane if they know what they are looking for (so count me completely out).

Where and with whom the European variety arrived here in the Americas remains elusive but as soon as it arrived, the Purslane revolution had begun. American Purslane had been, and continues to be, an incredibly reliable and important food source to Native peoples the continent over. We see in archaeological evidence that this plant was used for its seeds – small, black, starchy and apparently quite delicious – and for its tangy, fresh tasting leaves. Evidence for this humble little plant and humans love for it show up at Salmon Ruins, Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Canyon de Chelly. This is basically a greatest hits list of Ancestral Puebloans, so what I’m saying is that this plant was super-popular!

Native people have also used Purslane medicinally. Diné people used it for stomach issues while Puebloan people used it as an antiseptic wash. In Mayan Mexico, people would use it as a cure for tuberculosis.

The main thing Purslane was used for by people was its leaves. Green tasting with a hint of acid that comes from the plants high malic and oxalic acid content, Purslane is still eaten in New Mexico to this day – it’s great in a salad, boiled, fried, sautéed like spinach or mixed in stew.

Although grinding and baking the seeds of Purslane seems to have gone the way of the Dodo, its green, fleshy bits are still very much munched on and appreciated. Next time you are in the garden, cursing at those weeds, pick it up and take a bite. Its yumminess may surprise you, it always does me!

History Herald: Apples

by Laura Gonzales, Education & Volunteer Manager
photo credit: Vic Macias

Hello from the History Herald! Did you know that apples have been an integral part of New Mexico’s history for over 300 years? In the past, New Mexico orchards were ripe with an array of heirloom apples brought over from Spain as early as the 17th century. In fact, New Mexico is home to some of, if not THE first orchards in the United States.

Apples were planted in the Manzano (Spanish for “apple”) Mountains. Early settlers believed the region was the ideal place to plant apple trees because the climate, altitude, and soil were all reminiscent of some of the best apple-producing areas in Spain. Those trees flourished, and remnants of those original trees can still be found in the area today. In fact, a survey by the Manzano Forest Reserve in 1926 identified a tree that’s believed to have been planted before 1676, which would indeed make New Mexico home to the oldest apple orchard in the United States! Not sure if more recent studies have been done, but seems Johnny Apple Seed has got nothing on us!
During Prohibition many trees were cut down (as apples were used largely to make hard cider), and over the years development and drought has taken its toll on New Mexico’s orchards. However, thanks to local growers and craft brewers like our friends at New Mexico Hard Cider (New Mexico’s 1st cidery, 2014), apples and cider are making a comeback! Using apples they sourced from Las Golondrinas, they have a new El Rancho de las Golondrinas Cider available at their taproom! Part of the proceeds from every sale will help support the museum — visit our Facebook or Instagram pages for details.
Together we are keeping community traditions alive! Stay safe, be well, and drink local and responsibly!
Sources: Cider Craft Magazine, New Mexico Magazine, and Local Flavor Magazine.

Cooking with Golondrinas: Red Chile Apple Pie

Apple Pie

Since we’re focusing our History Herald this week on apples, and my apple trees are starting to yield some great fruit, here’s a recipe that has become a fixture at our house for holidays and special occasions — the red chile adds a great little (or big) kick, depending on how much you opt for — it really depends on the heat of your chile powder and your tolerance for that heat!

Red Chile Apple Pie

5–6 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 T vanilla
2 T Cinnamon
1/2 – 1 T powdered red chile
1/ stick butter
2 pre-made pie crusts (or see crust recipe below — I have heard that some are afraid of making crust from scratch at altitude, but it’s really not that hard — the secret is REALLY cold water and Crisco instead of butter, which makes a more flexible crust)

Pie Crust

4 cups flour
2 sticks Crisco, room temp
1/2 t salt
2 T Greek yogurt
COLD WATER as needed

Make pie crust first so you can refrigerate, either overnight or for a couple of hours:

  • mix flour and salt
  • cut in Crisco — you may need to add more flour
  • add Greek yogurt
  • Continue cutting in with pastry cutter; sprinkle in water until it starts to look like cornmeal
  • Form dough into two balls and wrap in plastic wrap; chill in refrigerator

Pie Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix apples, sugar, spices in large bowl
  • roll out one ball of dough and place in pie plate with enough hanging over the edge to merge with top crust
  • place apple mixture in pie plate
  • add butter to top of apples
  • Roll out dough and cover apples with top crust; pinch edges and remove excess dough; vent crust with 1–3 vents
  • Bake for 35–45 minutes, until top crust is golden


Cooking with Golondrinas

by Jackie Camborde, Director of Development

I am going to be totally honest here — I am an ambivalent cook. I’m good at it, but more often than not it seems like too much work. However, thanks to the bounty of fresh produce available this summer, I am feeling more inspired than usual! Here are two dishes we made this week for dinner:

zuccini parmesan Zucchini Squash Parmesan

2 small to medium sized zucchini
2 small to medium sized squash
1/2 of a medium red onion, chopped
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1 t garlic salt
1 t oregano
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Spray pan with non-stick spray
  • Slice zucchini and squash into quarter inch circles. Line them up in a 9 inch baking pan, alternating colors.
  • Sprinkle onions on top.
  • Drizzle dressing over pan.
  • Sprinkle garlic salt on top.
  • Cook, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes.
  • Take out pan and sprinkle cheese over the top.
  • Sprinkle oregano on top of cheese.
  • Bake for another five minutes. Cool for five to ten minutes before serving.

green bean salad Easy Green Bean Salad

5 cups green beans, washed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 c olive oil (fun hack: I save the olive oil that marinated mozzarella comes packaged in – it has great flavor and is perfect on salads!)
1/3 c Balsamic vinegar
1/3 c crumbled Feta cheese
1/2 c black olives, sliced or chopped
1/4 c pimentoes or red pepper, sliced or chopped

  • Add salt to water and bring to a boil
  • Add the green beans and boil for 5 minutes.
  • Put green beans in a strainer and pour cold water over them to stop them from cooking.
    Mix oil, vinegar salt and pepper
  • When beans are cool, mix with olives, pimentoes, green onions, and feta.
  • Stir in oil and vinegar
  • Chill for at least an hour before serving – it’s actually best the next day.

Bon appetit, everyone!

Curator’s Corner: Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert – NM Foodways Pioneer

by Amanda Mather, Curator of Collections

Today for my book “report”” as it may be I would like to do something a bit unusual, emphasize just one author. Her name was Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert, she lived almost 100 years and was one of the great advocates for New Mexico’s rural people and it’s traditional food ways.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, NM, Fabiola was educated at New Mexico Normal College (which would later become Highlands University) and later earned a second Bachelors’ Degree in Home Economics at NMSU in Las Cruces.

She then went on to teach rural women all over the state how to make the most out of what ingredients they had. Fabiola introduced them to modern farming and home technologies that helped to greatly improve their lives.

Fabiola also founded the La Sociedad de Folklorico in Santa Fe to help preserve traditional Hispanic folkways in New Mexico. She spoke Spanish, English, Tewa and Tiwa and invented the u-shaped hard taco shell — she was amazin! In the midst of all this she also managed to write several books, each of which have their own merits.

Historic Cookery: This is probably the first New Mexican cookbook ever written and published. Written in 1931, this book helped spread the good word of chile to American households everywhere. Recipes collected from her family as well as from her work with rural New Mexico housekeepers, the book is full of traditional New Mexican techniques and foods. I love pouring over this book; it’s like a great little window back in time and has helped preserve New Mexican foodways into our future.

The Good Life The Good Life: New Mexico Traditions and Foods: Published in 1949, this book not only has great recipes but they are in the context of an average rural New Mexican household. The book is broken down into seasons and as the family goes through the year the recipes and lifeways of that particular time of year are revealed. This book is small but mighty and helps one get perspective on how daily life worked here at the turn of the century with the added bonus of some great recipes.





We Fed Them Cactus: The title of this book is in reference to an autobiographical event in Cabeza de Baca Gilbert’s life on a ranch in rural New Mexico, when the family, having fallen on hard times, had to feed their cattle cactus to keep them alive. This book is a tale of life from the perspective of the camp chef. An autobiographical narrative, Fabiola wanted to show Americans what Hispano life looked like and preserve traditional lifeways for future New Mexicans.

Hope you enjoy reading about Fabiola’s New Mexico — and let us know if you give any of her recipes a try!

Curator’s Corner: Chile

by Amanda Mather, Curator of Collections

There are certain cuisines and specific foods that are almost impossible to imagine without chile. Thai and Chinese cuisine, pasta arrabiata, I mean what did they even do in Szechuan before they had chiles?

Before contact, there wasn’t any chile to be had outside of the Americas. It’s hard to even imagine a world without chile, but for those not residing on this side of the planet that was indeed the case. In the Americas, chile was one of the first cultivated plants humans got their hands on. We have been eating and growing chile for about 6,000 years, which speaks to both its importance and deliciousness. The first chiles were likely cultivated in Northern Mexico and they have been a fixture in our cuisine ever since.

The word chile comes from the Nahuatl word ch illi; the pepper part came with Europeans who called them chile peppers on account of pepper being that only thing he could acquaint with the spicy bite of chile. And with that, chile began to spread all over the world, and quickly. Portuguese traders took them to Asia in the 15th century where, as we now know, their popularity was immediate and widespread.

What gives chiles their bite is a chemical called capsicum and other related chemicals called capsaicinoids. The amount of capsicum in a chile is measured in Scoville Heat Units, named for an American chemist that developed a test for capsaicinoids around the turn of the 19th century.

Here in New Mexico chile is our lifeblood, our identity, a source of pride and love. In the fall the smell of roasting green chile fills our grocery store parking lots, while people wait patiently to get their stash for the year. It gives us our state question “Red or Green?” and our ristras that we hang proudly in front of our houses. Here at El Rancho de las Golondrinas we grow our own, harvesting chile as summer turns into fall. We sure do love the stuff, and it is definitely one of the things that make New Mexico so special.