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For The Garden

Southwestern Heirloom Crops

Author: Lori A. Johnson
Issue: September, 2017, Page 164
Photo by Shu Suehiro
HOPI YELLOW WATERMELON
(Citrullus lanatus ‘Hopi Yellow
)
Type: Annual

Harvest: Spring to summer

Size: 6-12"H by 8-10"W

Soil: Well-drained loam

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Moderate
Maintenance: As with most watermelons, keep moist, but not waterlogged. Once fruit has set, water can be reduced slightly, as drier conditions will produce sweeter melons.

Attracts: Bees

Note: Watermelons grow best when sown from seeds rather than transplanted. A deep cream or yellow patch on the underside of the fruit indicates the melon is ready for harvest. Allow fruit to fully ripen on the vine for maximum flavor.

Why we like it: The pale yellow/orange flesh of this large Native American green-striped heirloom melon is known for its crisp, candy-sweet taste.



Photo by  H. Zell
I’ITOI’s ONION
(Allium cepa var. cepa ‘I’Itoi’s’ Onion)
Type: Perennial

Harvest: Fall or spring

Size: 12-18"H by 6-8"W

Soil: Well-drained loam

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Moderate

Maintenance: Propagate by bulb division, as these clumping onions rarely flower and set seed. In the low desert, I’Itoi’s onions will grow under sufficient rains, either in summer or winter.

Attracts: Bees

Note: Named for a closely related shallotlike wild onion that grows on I’itoi Mountain in southern Arizona, these onions are thought to have been brought to the New World by 17th-century Jesuit missionaries.

Why we like it: This easy-to-grow onion is a great choice for beginning gardeners. It’s also hardy enough to survive occasional freeze conditions. The peppery taste of the greens is said to complement Southwest cuisine.



Photo by Seth Vidal
CHIMAYO MELON
(Cucumis melo ‘Chimayo’)

Type: Annual

Harvest: Summer

Size: 6-10"H by 18-24"W

Soil: Well-drained loam

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Moderate

Maintenance: Melons like soil rich in compost. Overwatering can dilute the flavor of the fruit.

Attracts: Bees

Note: Melons were introduced by 17th-century Spanish settlers throughout the Southwest, resulting in several dozen regional varieties. The flesh of these oval-shaped fruits ranges in color from white to orange to green, while their skins can be smooth, ribbed or netted.

Why we like it: This melon originates from the Chimayo region of northern New Mexico. Its sweet orange flesh resembles cantaloupe and is eaten in a similar manner. It also makes a unique garnish for fruit-based cocktails.



Photo by Native Seeds/Search
YOEME BLUE CORN
(Zea mays ‘Yoeme Blue’)

Type: Annual

Harvest: Summer

Size: 6-10'H by 2-4'W

Soil: Well-drained loam

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Moderate

Maintenance: Corn is typically wind-pollinated, so the planting of different varieties should be staggered or planted approximately one-quarter mile apart.

Note: Blue corn varieties contain high levels of antioxidants found in other blue foods, such as berries. Tortillas made with blue corn contain as much as 20 percent more protein than those made from yellow or white corn.

Why we like it: This heat-tolerant, low desert-adapted variety of blue corn was originally collected on the Salt River Pima Reservation. Native varieties have a greater nutritional content than commercial varieties.


Other Favorites: Flor del Rio corn (Zea mays ‘Flor del Rio’), Hopi red ‘Kawayvatnga’ watermelon (Citrullus lanatus 'Hopi red'), Isleta Pueblo melon (Cucumis melo 'Isleta Pueblo'), O’odham Ke:li Ba:so melon (Cucumis melo ‘O’odham Ke:li Ba:so’), Magdalena big cheese squash (Cucurbita moschata ‘Magdalena big cheese’), Sacaton white tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius var. latifolius), Yoeme purple string bean (Phaseolus vulgaris ‘Yoema’) Tarahumara squash (Cucurbita pepo)
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