Friday, March 30, 2012

Juniper Trees... and Allergies

Juniper is a coniferous plant of the cypress family, with more than 50 varieties ranging all the way from the arctic to tropical Africa. This 25- to 50-foot tree is common in the Southwest, where it causes severe allergic reactions in much of the population during late winter and early spring when it is in flower. Juniper berries are actually a modified pine cone, with fleshy scales that merge together to form an outer skin over the seed, giving it a berry-like appearance. The berries start out green, ripening into a blue, purple or nearly black color in 10 to 18 months, depending on the variety. Single trees will typically contain berries at all stages of the ripening process.

While highly toxic, juniper berries are used for medicinal purposes, in cooking, and for other flavorings. Perhaps the best known use of these highly aromatic berries is the use of green berries in the flavoring of gin, which explains the particularly bad hangover that overindulgence in gin produces.

Juniper berries have diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, and are used medicinally to treat a wide range of ailments, including asthma, arthritis, rheumatism, and to hasten childbirth. A folk tale reported in Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs mentions more esoteric uses for juniper: “The plant’s pungent aroma has long recommended it for driving away evil spirits and disease. Legend has it that juniper planted beside the front door will keep out witches; the only way for a witch to get past the plant was by correctly counting its needles.”

Several species of butterfly larvae feed exclusively on juniper, including the Juniper Carpet, Juniper Pug and Pine Beauty, though this is little comfort to those who suffer greatly from allergies!

Read about Trans-resveratrol (a potent source of antioxidants, which has recently been found to help reduce, or completely cure the symptoms of juniper allergies)

Visit the Taos Unlimited Plants & Wildlife section to read more about Juniper

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Village

Definition: “A group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area; a self-contained district or community within a town or city, regarded as having features characteristic of village life.”

Villages do exist in Northern New Mexico, due to the popularity of rural living throughout the area. Usually, the role of the village is to offer minimal, yet vital, services to those living in the immediate area, such as a post office, a general store, a gas station, etc. One of the most popular villages in the Taos, New Mexico, area is Arroyo Seco (pictured above), known for its quaint, authentic Northern New Mexico atmosphere. ~Jean

Read more about Taos, Santa Fe, and Northern New Mexico on Taos A to Z

Monday, March 26, 2012

Aimee’s Haiku for March

spring winds blowing hard
weeds-a-tumble cross the yard
ahh...New Mexico!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Recipe of the Month: New Mexican Pinto Bean Soup


1-1/2 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
2 cups onions, coarsely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1-1/2 to 2 cups of fresh or well drained canned corn
1-1/2 teaspoon of dried Mexican oregano
1 dried chipotle pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into small pieces
4 cups of boiling water or stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 to 2 tbsp. of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ripe avocado, diced or sliced
1 teaspoon of salt
Pepper to taste


Drain and rinse the beans. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and add the cumin seed. Give them a quick stir and add the garlic and let it brown.

Add the onion and bell pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the beans, corn, oregano, chipotle, and water or stock.

Lock the lid and bring the pressure cooker to high. When high pressure is reached, lower the heat enough to maintain the pressure and cook for 8 minutes.

Release the pressure and remove the lid, pointing the lid away to release any excess steam. With a slotted spoon transfer 1 cup of the beans to a blender and puree with the tomato paste. Add back to the soup. Add cilantro, lime juice, avocado, salt, and pepper.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yesterday was... The First Day of Spring

Even though we do get the four seasons of the year in Northern New Mexico, they aren’t defined in a crystal clear fashion. Spring in Taos has seemed to become more and more muddled; the winter months have days with spring-like skies and temperatures, yet on the actual first day of Spring, we are usually stuck with leaf-less trees and brown ground...and it can still snow up to the end of April! But, all the natives know this and everything is still great. So...

Come visit us in Taos and the other Northern New Mexico towns and cities. It’s always a good time to be here! ~Jean

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

St. Patrick’s Day... is Coming Soon

On the surface, it would appear that New Mexico has very little in common with Ireland. For one, the Emerald Isle is just that, an island. It's green and lush and surrounded by the ocean. It rains a LOT. While soda bread and cabbage and Colcannon are yummy, they are the antithesis of spicy ... as unlike traditional New Mexican fare as could possibly be. The question which brings New Mexicans to the table is Red or Green (chile), while the question in Ireland is Green or Orange (Catholic or Protestant), and has had a very divisive effect on the populace for centuries.

Common knowledge has it that the Irish came to America because of a potato famine. And that is true, but it is only a part of the truth. Ireland was an early colony of Great Britain. And while the country was rich in seafood, produce and livestock, the British rulers confiscated it all to be exported to England, leaving the Irish with a few fish, potatoes and kelp. And so when the potato famine hit, Ireland's native population was decimated. Many made their way to England to work, and many braved the ocean crossing to come to America.

Irish immigrants in America soon became the backbone of society, filling the ranks of the fire department and constabulary in many U.S. cities, bringing with them a rich culture of stories and music, an easy laugh, and a willingness to do the hard jobs.

But in a very unusual way Ireland was always blessed. It is one of only four countries on earth which has no snakes. For that, the Irish everywhere honor St. Patrick, who, according to legend, drove the snakes into the sea sometime during the fifth century, banishing them from Ireland forever.

Here again on the surface, it would appear we New Mexicans have nothing in common with Ireland, for we certainly have our share of snakes. But we do have a little guy we revere, who does his best to keep the snake population down. And that’s our state bird, the roadrunner, whose diet consists largely of lizards and snakes. So on March 17th this year, as New Mexicans sit down to their green chile (which I understand is great with corned beef!) or celebrate the day in their favorite tavern, let’s all remember to raise a glass to our little roadrunner, the closest thing we have to St. Patrick.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at one of Taos’ favorite watering holes

Monday, March 12, 2012

Taos: My Favorite Things (2 in a Series)

Enjoying the Wind Sculptures
It’s almost spring in the Land of Enchantment. And while this place may not hold the kind of magic that makes pigs fly, your lawn furniture just might. Depending on what part of the expansive Taos mesa you might live on, the winds can be pretty intense at times. And with the exception of mid-summer, there is almost always a good breeze on our part of the mesa.

So it’s not surprising that wind sculptures are very common here. On the way into (or out of) Taos there is a group of shops and galleries in the shadow of Taos Mountain, with a large group of wind sculptures sharing a meadow with some cattle. Often when I drive by there isn’t much activity, but this time of the year, the wind sculptures are usually singing along with the breezes. At times when the wind is strong enough, it can be quite a sight! I always look for them on my way back out of town, when I can have a better and longer look at them. Often in the spring, I am well rewarded with a big smile and a song in my heart. ~Aimee

Come visit Taos this spring!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Spring Break in the Taos, New Mexico Area

With the ski season winding down, it's not common knowledge that March is the best snow fall month in New Mexico. And there are many great activities happening at Northern New Mexico's ski resort towns during February and March. For snow sports enthusiasts, it is the Spring Break destination of choice. But that doesn't mean you have to miss out on Mardi Gras or the beach!

Those seeking world class skiing are sure to find their niche at Taos Ski Valley, and there is no better ski destination for families and those who want a more relaxed ski vacation experience than Red River or Angel Fire. Each of these resorts sponsors Spring Break related events, ending their seasons with the traditional Pond Skimming. So bring your suits, tubes and pool toys...and don't forget your skis or snowboards!

Read more about Spring Break Events in Northern New Mexico

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Highfalutin

Definition: “Pompous or pretentious speech, writing, or ideas.” Origin: “mid-19th century, during the period of the populating of the Old West.” ~Jean

Read more about Taos, Santa Fe, and Northern New Mexico on Taos A to Z

Monday, March 5, 2012

Movie Locations of the Great Southwest: Part 2 in a Series

Hud (1963)

This movie is a must-see for those interested in the Great Southwest (Texas in particular) during the mid-twentieth-century. It was such a special time in America: the old was making way for the new at breakneck speed and it was like being in a whirlwind to those who were living it. The story told in Hud clearly illustrates that particular time in history.

My thoughts on the movie:
This is without a doubt my favorite movie of all time (tied with another Paul Newman flick, Paris Blues) and Paul Newman is my all-time favorite actor. No Doubt About It. End Of Story. So There. But, seriously... this film is simply hypnotic, with its sad, mundane reality so out in the open for everyone to see. These people think this is the way life is, and I guess for them, that’s true. I had some somewhat distant relatives (who lived in small Oklahoma towns) who were sort of like these folks, and maybe that’s why it touches me the way it does: a strange chill mixed with a warm, cozy feeling about something that does, indeed, seem oddly familiar.

As for the lead character of “Hud,” played to perfection by Newman, all anyone can say is: what a cad! But, what a charming, handsome, and completely swaggeringly seductive cad. I’d like to know who could resist him... oh, wait a minute: in real life I’d get as far away from this monster as possible, no fooling. But, God, what movie magic this whole mess makes. This is definitely a film where they got it completely right, including the ending. What a triumph! Paul Newman is “Hud!” ~Jean

Movie Synopsis:
A classic character study of Hud Bannon, a ruthless young rancher without a heart, who abuses and eventually alienates everyone in his “big fish in a little pond” Texas Panhandle world.

Location Site: Claude, Texas
Most of Hud was filmed in and around the tiny town of Claude. The sleepy Texas Panhandle town was the perfect backdrop in which to tell the common, yet tragic, story of the Bannon family. This movie, which was beautfully filmed in black and white, perfectly captured the banality of the humdrum, dead-end feeling of a small Texas town and the personal dramas of its inhabitants in the early 1960s. More...

See the entire feature about Hud in Movie Locations of the Great Southwest on Taos Unlimited