|A horse grazes along the edge of a cornfield, Tenasdá, Querétaro|
San Ildefonso Tultepec, Querétaro -- Every summer I spend a few weeks here in rugged high country of the Municipality of Amealco, along the southern border of Mexico's Querétaro state. I come to the area to teach, but always have free time to explore and enjoy the countryside.
The weather is changeable and the air a bit thin in this place more than 2600 meters (8500 feet) above sea level. The earth is red, and during the summer rainy season the land is green. The verdant hills and mountains, fields and forests loudly call an observer's attention. However I also find myself lowering my view. Everywhere there are wonderful things at my feet.
At this time of year, dozens of species of flowers are visible along roads and trails. Sometimes one solitary bloom is all I ever see of a particular variety.
Other types of flowers grow in vast colonies that carpet the ground with yellow, pink, red, purple and blue. The blooms may last a few days, or as long as a week or two. Later-flowering varieties replace those past their prime, so the color patterns are constantly changing.
Other flowers grow in small clusters. This is interesting country because although during this season the land can be waterlogged and muddy, the area also experiences a cool, desert-dry winter when grays and browns are the dominant colors. Cactus and other plants common to arid climates are common.
I was tempted by this cluster of perfectly-ripe tunas, and picked a couple for myself and my companion. I enjoyed the delicacy, but paid for it afterward, spending about ten minutes pulling the tiny spikes from my fingers.
Tender young leaves of nopal also are good eating. With spines carefully shaved off and the leaves diced or cut into strips, nopal makes a nice addition to salads and cooked dishes, with a flavor and texture slightly reminiscent of asparagus.
Several varieties of champiñones (mushrooms) pop up around here during the dampest days. I saw these growing under a fallen log. Not being an expert on mushrooms, last week when I spotted them I took nothing more than this photo.
However, when I came into the city of Querétaro Friday for a weekend off, I found myself dining on tacos of champiñones a la mexicana (local mushrooms fried with tomato, onion and green peppers) and sauteed nopal at a local restaurant.
I have been trying to improve my diet by eating more natural and vegetarian foods. I'd had flor de calabaza (squash flower) tacos a few days ago. Perhaps the unfinished business of wild nopal and champiñones had stayed unconsciously on my mind all week.