Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jako in Chacala

This is a Jaka fruit. That's the nickname, and I can't remember the long name. It's ripening right now on this tree in front of Socorro's, but I am not sure if it has a season or if it grows year around here.I haven't eaten it yet, but people say the inside looks funny and tastes good and sweet. We'll see.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What's This Tree, in Chacala???

A few days ago I was walking on a little path I had never been on before.In a wooded area right in the middle of Chacala.And I found a tree I have never noticed before. I am wondering what it is.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mystery Cuke in Chacala

This morning I was walking along the one paved road in Chacala, with my landlady. We were on the way to her restaurant, via the “short-cut”. It takes longer to walk, but avoids all kinds of social interactions. Which was fine with me this morning.I had a really annoying morning and was probably better off just walking along with Dona Lupe, carrying some of her stuff.Anyway. As we were walking down the road I saw a really colorful piece of something half-buried under some vegetation.Dona Lupe told me it was “albayee” or something like that. She said it was very sweet, “dulce” and she used to eat it a lot.We collected some pieces for me to photograph, and she went on the restaurant, and I headed home.Socorro was gardening at her house. When she saw me walking by with my hands full of the plant pieces, she said the same name as Dona Lupe had said. And said the berries were sweet.Then Clemen and I met on the road in front on my place. She didn’t know the name of the plant, but she knew that it was sweet. I think she meant the red berries were sweet.She said that when she was a kid (10 years ago) the plant grew everywhere from next to the beach to up beyond where the paved road runs now. She said they ate wild things all day long, and snacked on this plant all the time.I am curious about the growing season for these plants. They are so bright I am surprised I never noticed them before. They look just like cucumbers when they are young. And the vine is similar. Very similar.

I am writing this at a little computer place that's only open on the weekends. Dona Lupe's restaurant is next door. She just saw me over here computing, and came over. She wrote the correct name of this plant on a piece of paper for me. She borrowed my glasses to do it.

The plant/fruit is "Alvellana". Some local woman are reading over my shoulder, and they agree with the name, but not the spelling. But I'll just go with Dona Lupe's version.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pomagranites, I Think, in Chacala

My next-door neighbor, Aurora, has a little pomagranite shrub. I spelled wrong, I am sure. It;'s next to her (storage room, laundry, etc) and she says it grew from seed.

She says it's a grenada, but I don't think that's right. But who knows.I considered cutting the fruit open, just because it could make a nice photo. and because I am curious how the fruit turned out.But it seems like that might be a waste, since I don't know how to tell when they are ripe.
When I was a kid in L.A. we used to steal pomagranites from a neighbor's front yard. It was huge and covered with many many fruit. We had wars with them. And we had avocado wars too. With fruit from a giant avocado tree across the street from our house. I don't remember anyone actually eating either fruit. But they are big favorites here. We were wasteful, aggressive little kids I guess.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Growing Luffa Sponges in Chacala

This morning I was visiting with one of my favorite neighbors in Chacala. Her name is Concha, and she has 3 rental units. And her son has one unit (soon to be two units) nex door, which Concha manages.

We sat on her patio, which is right on the road. We were enjoying the quiet morning and the warm sunshine. And admiring her plants. I pointed out some some lovely yellow flowers on a vine growing on the building across the street.

Concha kept telling me the plant was a “?????”, a Spanish work I didn’t understand. Finally she went in the house. When she came out she had some luffa-type sponges which she said were growing on those vines.After I admired the luffas, we walked across the street. As we got closer I could see the plant was actually a squash plant. Not some kind of flowering vine.It is a volunteer growing against a semi-abandoned building. Actually the building is usually rented for Christmasn and Semana Santa, but that’s about it.

Anyway, we picked about four dried squash plants, which were still hanging on the vine. And then walked back across the street. We picked the dried shells off the plants, and then gently whacked the resulting sponges on the edge of the garbage can. I think we were knocking excess whatever loose from the sponges.Concha said to let the sponges dry for months before using them. And she showed me how to kind of unroll the sponge, to make it wide enough to swipe your whole arm or leg when you are showering.Every cool!!! I’ve never gardened before where it’s warm enough for luffa sponge–type squashes to dry on the vine. I am very pleased with my morning. It seems as though I learn something new every day in Chacala

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Walking Down the Beach Road

Yesterday I walked along the road along Chacala Beach, between the motor home/coconut grove area and the entrance to the Majahua and Mar de Jade parking areas. I saw a few things I wanted to take photos of. Including these kids, on their way home from school wearing their school clothes. And Jose Manuel, who has a daily route picking up the garbage around town.I visited with Esparanza, at her beach campground.Esparanza showed me a fruit she called a "Grenada". I though that was the Mexican name for Pomegranite, but I guess not. This is the vine it grows on.And this this the fruit.And the opened fruit. It smells delicious, but the appearance is not appealing to me.
She also showed me her Guayaba tree. Another fruit. Sort of limey. Not in season right now.She also showed me two nice rose blossoms. I don't know how she grows such nice roses so close to the beach, but she does. And her Lantana. She doesn't have a name for it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dirt in Chacala

I was at the tianguis/street market in Las Varas a couple of weeks and got to talking with the husband of the woman who has a plant booth. He and Jesus, one of my neighbors who has a used clothing booth at the tianguis, made a plan with me to bring two sacks of nice dirt down to Chacala for me. I was kind of half watching for the dirt, but didn’t really expect to see it. Many times plans don’t happen here, at least not the way I expect them to.

But the sacks of dirt showed up at my place, on the steps, on Friday afternoon, after this week’s tianguis. I wasn't sure who to pay. Then today I was standing on the road in front of Aurora’s talking to someone. It was a vistor who told me that on Friday a woman in a truck, named Angelica, was asking where I lived. Just then Jesus drove by. He told me Angelica has brought the dirt down. And that Angelica was the plant lady. And I should pay her. I told him to tell her I would see her at the market on Friday.Just now I took a little break from writing. One of my favorite little kids, Caesar, just came visiting. At Christmas he gave me a little gift. I told him to come to my house for his gift. And he showed up today. I had some little toys for him, but it turned out he wanted food. So we opened the fridge and he picked out an apple juice, a tangerine and eggs. Then I added one of the chocolate bars some visitors gave me. His Mom loves chocolate, like me.We put his stash in a plastic bag, and he headed home. I heard him call me a minute later. He was down to the road, with the bag of food and toys over his shoulder. He called up “Gracias, Anee” and gave me a big wave and a smile. Nice morning.

Learning About a New Gardening World

Someone emaied me last week. The email seemed to be focused on the writer's concerns about gardening at her new place in San Miguel Allende. San Miguel is in the higher plains between Guadalajara and Mexico City, and has a much more varied, and much colder climate than Chacala.

I have only visited SMA, in late September, and don't know much about growing things there. I did look at many of the nurseries then, and the local public gardens, and parks, and some private gardens in homes and at restuarants and historical buildings. I was really impressed with the gardens and the variety of plant I saw there.
The photos here were taken in San Miguel de Allenda last September. There are other photos of the gardens there from posts in late September and early October 2006.

This is part of what I wrote to the woman who wrote the email. She was concerned about finding familiar plants, like dahlia's in SMA. And was concered about what she saw as a lack of variety in the plants she saw there."My suggestion is that you kind of start fresh when you get to San Miguel. Lots of plants that grow in Marin will grow in SMA, and many other more tropical and Mediterrean plants will grow there too. I have seen Dahlias for sale around PV, and SMA has lots more nurseries, so you may have been there at the wrong time of year.

My own experience of moving to Mexico, after gardening in zone 5 for 40 years, was to spend a year observing and visiting other peoples gardens, and looking at nurseries and reading gardening books and the web about plants that grow in this climate. As experimenting. There are so many plants here. Most people get starts from their friends, rather than nurseries. Nurseries are mostly for landscapers, not home gardeners.

"I think you will be amazed at what's available in SMA. I love succulents and that's where I went to find them. They were everywhere. And there are lots of gardens in SMA, and all the nearby towns, and botanical gardens too. There is so much to learn about growing plants in a new climate. It's very fun and an adventure. You will never run out of plants and gardens to discover. "It's just different here, in Mexico. Not better, not worse. Well, maybe better, because you can grown things year round. And many of the favorite plants in the San Francisco, CA, area came from Mexico, that is, they originated here.

My advice to you would be to let go of thinking in terms of how and what you used to do as a gardener, and explore all the new possiblities here in Mexico.

I would add the following comments to that writer:

And, FYI, my experience so far in Mexico is that most of my best plants have come from sharing with my neighbors and friends here. The plant nurseries are generally focused on providing plants for landscapers. Although if you look carefully, they have many many plants. And the plants they offer change with the season.

And there are lots of great books in English and in Spanish about growing plants in Mexico and warmer climates. It's really fun to learn about new plants in a new clima.

Regarding your comment about smuggling plants into Mexico. First of all, there is a reason for the care that is taken to only allow certified and inspected plants either way across the border. Those laws are important and necessary, for all our sake's. I hope you don't do that.Also, there are many many bamboo varieties available in Mexico, and it's not a good idea to break the law of any country. And it's disrepectful of the country you are entering. Dahlia's grow in Mexico. In fact, I think they originated here or in Central America. I am sure you can find some in season.
It worries me when I think people are bringing an attitude of superiority into Mexico. Like the only good stuff comes from the U.S. or Canada. There are gardens here in Mexico that were established hundreds of years ago and are still flourishing. Us Californians can learn alot down here. If we look around and study up, and make gardening friends in Mexico.