Grow! Los Luceros
to the past
by Carlyn Stewart
Growing Connections to the Past
Hello! My name is Carly and I am the Instructional Coordinator and an Archaeologist here at Los Luceros Historic Site. Welcome to my blog, Grow Los Luceros! Los Luceros Historic Site, located in Alcalde, NM, is full of incredible history, beautiful views, sweet animals, hundred-year-old cottonwoods, decades of stories, and so much more. (To read a brief history of the site check out Ranger Rebecca’s blog here). The focus for my segment of this blog centers on the theme of “growth.” This theme enables me to discuss the hundreds of years of agriculture here, gardening projects, the bosque, wildlife, the Rio Grande, the apple orchard, as well as other topics that can fit into this theme.
One focus of this project is for you, kind readers, to follow the process of creating our demonstration heritage garden (which I hope someday will develop into a community garden). This garden serves to root Los Luceros Historic Site in the past, spiral like a vine through the present, and ensure we bloom in the future- connecting our modern goals to the land uses of centuries past.
In 2020 Los Luceros Historic Site was a recipient of the Native Seeds Search Community Seed Grant which provided us with 30 bags of seeds to be used to support community projects. Specifically, this grant will support our demonstration garden, future seed bank creation, and future community or student gardens. We hope that eventually the garden will be a hands-on project in which students from the surrounding communities of Alcalde and Ohkay Owingeh will be able to grow, process, eat, and harvest seeds for their own home gardens.
Additionally, we hope that the food yielded from this garden will be used in cooking demonstrations, cooking classes, or donated to the local community.
To begin this exciting project, Ranger Rebecca and I researched seeds that are endemic or culturally significant to the area in and surrounding Los Luceros Historic Site.
May I introduce you to the 2021 Heritage Garden seed finalists:
New Mexico Amaranthus hypochondriacus – Amaranth is an important crop that has been grown in the southwest for years. With edible leaves and seeds, from Rinconada NM, the New Mexico Amaranthus was a top contender for the Heritage Garden.
New Mexico Bolitas – This specific crop was grown for centuries by traditional Hispanic people of northern New Mexico. Prior to that, beans were a staple part of the indigenous “three sisters garden” which included corn and squash as well. Los Luceros has been home to all types of cultures and traditions and these beans were a principal part of Los Luceros history. Plus, this crop will yield tasty food and who doesn’t want that?
San Juan Tsile – If you know anything about New Mexico you probably know the importance of the chile (non-New Mexicans read: chile NOT chili). This particular variety of native New Mexico chile is still grown by elder farmers in Okhay Owingeh, the pueblo located nearest to us. It was important for us to include this crop to continue this tradition that has been so prominent in the area and such a vital part of New Mexico culture generally.
Nambe White Corn. Corn is an essential crop grown in the southwest for hundreds of years, joined by its sisters: beans and squash. This variety comes from Nambe Pueblo located in Northern New Mexico just 20 miles south of Los Luceros.
Chimayo – This is an heirloom from northern NM. Heirloom plants are known to be more flavorful, nutritious, and unique. This cantelope comes from Northern New Mexico so it is our representative squash for the Three Sisters Garden.
Fire Wheel – This stunning wildflower is native to New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. It was chosen not only for its beauty, but because it attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies which will help our garden thrive.
Early Snowball – The heritage garden of Los Luceros would not be complete without some representation of the Mary Wheelwright/Maria Chabot era of the site. Cauliflower was a favorite of Maria Chabot’s to grow.
Corrales Azafran – Safflower from Corrales, NM. This crop was used as a saffron substitute by Spanish colonialists!
Nambe Supreme –As the name suggests, this cultivar is from Nambe Pueblo. It is a cross between native and commercial varieties. We were interested in choosing different pepper types to compare them -or allow students to compare and study them.
San Juan Pueblo Squash – This variety of squash is a rare plant which comes from Ohkay Owingeh. These squash can grow up to 15 lbs! Since this is very close to Los Luceros we thought it vital to include.
There you have it! The final ten crops!
The variety of heritage seeds from Native Seeds Search was chosen to represent the hundreds of years of agriculture here at Los Luceros. Of course, other plants are extremely important to the history here such as the apple trees, mulberry trees, and pear trees all of which can be seen on the property. Additionally, alfalfa fields are incredibly important as Los Luceros was the first place alfalfa was grown in the southwest. We hope that this heritage garden will add another level of interpretation and understanding to this site’s incredible past.
I hope you will join me on this adventure. I am not a master gardener, or even an experienced one, so I hope that this experience will prove that anyone can grow a garden that is culturally important, sustainable, and fun! I am so excited to learn more and share the process with you.
Originally published on February 27, 2021 as part of the Grow! Los Luceros series.