Sunday, September 30, 2012

Autumn in Mabel's Words, and a Prune Pie Recipe from Taos Pueblo

Yellow highlights Taos Valley: the aspen in the mountains make marble cake swirls among the evergreens, the cottonwoods will soon be turning at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House. As our Indian summer draws to a close, most of the harvest is in. Cold nights now upon us and I worry about my 19 tomato plants. 

They are producing robustly, but not quite soon enough. I cover them at night and so far, no frost has taken them. From my window the Early Girls ripening look like red Christmas balls amidst wreaths of green.

The sunflowers that surround our house took a hit in last week's light frost. Many of the leaves have turned black, but one brave sunflower caught my eye today. It has just started to set seed, as you can see, and already birds are flocking to our organic feeders. 

Today I picked up Mabel's book, Winter in Taos, to look for what she grew in her garden and what she wrote about autumn. I thought it would be fun to illustrate her words with photos to give you a sense of this fall's splendor in Taos.

The desert behind the house turns yellow with fall flowers, and in dry years there are big clumps of purple asters growing wild everywhere. The autumn colors here are purple and yellow and there seems to be more of an overflow of blooming and burgeoning than at any other season, like a last fling of life before the sleepy winter months.

The sunshine seems yellower, and it blazes down in a full, walloping kind of heat that is intense because of the cold edge already in the air. 

In all the orchards now the fruit is falling on the ground and there is a magnificent abundance in the red and white apples. We cannot take care of so much fruit and I let the Indians come and take it away, and Max and Jose gather what they need for their families. Little boys come asking for apples and we give them what they can carry in their sacks

We watch the trees change color rapidly now, and riding to the Pueblo we snatch the wild plums off the bushes as we pass.They are warm and juicy and have a sharply sweet taste.

Today was San Geronimo Day, the biggest feast day celebration at Taos Pueblo. This is a time when visitors find prune pies , traditionally made from wild plums, for sale in the shops there. These are probably my favorite cookies, and I thought you might enjoy having the recipe  that our fabulous baker, Pamela Martinez from Taos Pueblo, contributed to Mabel's Kitchen: Favorite Recipes from the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.

Prune Pie

2 - 9 inch pie crusts

1 bag pitted prunes
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350. Boil the prunes in water for 10 minutes. Drain well. Mash the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg together with the boiled prunes until thoroughly mixed. Spread the mixture on a prepared pie crust rolled to fit a 9 inch by 13 inch low-sided baking tray. Allow the edge of the crust to climb over the sides of the tray. Roll out the second crust and cover the prune filling, crimping the edges to the bottom crust. Bake at 350 for 1/2 hour or until golden.

Synchronicity at work in Taos. On the fall bounty theme, a harvest moon rose tonight over the foothills.

Listen to the night and the lovely sounds that break its quiet.

With that, I wish you and the moon "Good Night."

Adios for now,


  1. The prune pie recipe sounds like it's worth a try. The simple recipes are often the best.. you can actually taste the ingredients. :)

  2. What a beautiful post! Looking forward to heading back for a visit to Taos (and to see you all at Mabel's!) in late October. Thank you for sharing the Pie recipe!!

  3. A lovely post! And your images are beautiful!! "Let them eat pie!"