Gardens of New Spain
University of Texas Press, Austin, 2004
This book jumped out at me in the giftshop of the Tucamacori National Historic Park near Tubac, Arizona after I had been meandering through the garden and orchard. The subtitle is “How Mediterranean plants and foods changed America” and is quite appropriate.
Starting with what was growing in both Spain and the Americas prior to Columbus’s departure, the book provides a fairly detailed study of the arrival and dissemination of foods from Spain through the areas of colonization. It also touches on the back-flow of items from the Americas to Spain, and the cultural implications of the transitions. Possibly the most interesting aspect was the description of the various exploration and settlement endeavors heading north from Mexico and how they carried different foods with them as they went to Texas, Arizona, and California.
It was interesting to read several references to Tucson while being in Tucson, for example the discovery of maize from an excavation in central Tucson dated to 2000 BC, making it one of the first sites in the current US to have evidence of maize farming, or references to some of the best places to see sour oranges and olives in the Southwest being on the University of Arizona campus, less the 3 blocks from where I read the book.