Magazine article Sunset

How to Grow a Mexican Dinner

Magazine article Sunset

How to Grow a Mexican Dinner

Article excerpt

A lively interest in international cuisines has led venturesome cooks and gardeners to discover some of the flavorful vegetables and herbs that are the basis of ethnic cooking. But few of these can be found in local markets, and until recently, it was difficult even to get seeds.

As more people travel and enjoy ethnic restaurants, demand for exotic vegetables has skyrocketed. Many catalogs (see "Ordering ethnic vegetable seeds" in this issue) now offer seeds of Asian, European, and Mexican kinds. Gardeners who love to cook can experiment in their own back yards, then use the results to re-create favorite ethnic dishes.

If water is short in your area, consider growing just a few vegetables this year. Use an efficient watering system, such as drip irrigation, and mulch to reduce water needs as much as possible.

What makes these vegetables different from their domestic counterparts? It might be subtle or dramatic differences in flavor (as with mild-tasting Asian eggplant or blistering-hot 'De Arbol' peppers). It might be variations in color or

shape (as with round, lavender-and-white 'Rosa Bianco' eggplant or ridged Chinese okra). Some ethnic vegetables-such as warty-looking bitter melon and zucchetta rampicante squash have no familiar equivalents.

The vegetables shown on these pages do well in the West, since they originate in areas with similar climates. After trying many of them, we found them just as easy to grow as their domestic cousins.

Here we show warm-season vegetables that you plant in mid- to late spring. Most must be mail-ordered, so you should send for seeds soon.

Vegetables for Mexican cuisine

Visits to Mexican produce stands in California piqued Rosalind Creasy's interest. "I wanted to see how many types I could grow myself, so I would always have fresh ingredients on hand. All but cumin were successful."

To give the garden an exuberant look, she plants masses of flowers in with her vegetables. "The Mexican gardens I've visited are always wild-looking and colorful."

Ms. Creasy suggests putting tall plants such as amaranth, corn, and sage in the back of the garden so they don't shade the rest. …

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