Printed with the permission of The Alpine Avalanche
On a drive around the area a few years ago, my husband and I discovered an other-worldly landscape just a stone’s throw from Mexico.
Cruising around what was soon to become our new far West Texas “neighborhood,” we decided to turn right onto FM 170 down in Presidio and head back up the farthest drivable edge of West Texas, rather than completing the River Road drive to Terlingua, and back up through Alpine to return to Fort Davis.
We knew there were hot springs somewhere along the way, and the wildflowers were in bloom everywhere, so we were ready for a scenic drive.
FM 170 runs parallel to the Rio Grande through desert ranchland with ruins that date back to the 1700s. Historical markers date back to the 1600s.
Nothing prepared me for the beauty of seeing all of the ocotillo cactus plants in their fully-blossomed glory.
On FM 170, both sides of the highway were lined with miles of ocotillos, literally as far as the eye could see. Ocotillos are indigenous to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert in the Southwestern US and northern Mexico. It’s actually not a cactus, but that’s a story for another time.
When ocotillos are blooming, the landscape has a surreal red haze. To me, it appeared that every red bird ever created on the planet was perched at the many tips of the tall, lanky, spine-laden desert plants. I was mesmerized and took at least a hundred pictures that day.
With the abundance of blooms out in the desert, we weren’t too surprised when we met swarms of bees along the roadway, until the numbers of bees began to seem like an end-of-days scenario out of a movie.
We then noticed beehives set up along the road, and it made sense that bees would be all over the place. We made sure to stop for photos in bee-free areas.
We visited the old historic adobe church, found the sign for the Chinati Hot Springs entrance, and stopped at the Hot Springs Airport General Store on the return trip.
What a surprise the store was – they sold pretty much anything you needed, out in the middle of “nowhere,” as well as beautiful locally handmade leather goods.
We bought a bottle of honey thinking it was local honey, but my husband noticed that it said, “Haefeli’s Honey Farms” out of Del Norte, Colorado.
As it turns out, Haefeli’s Honey Farms comes every year to load up the hives we saw along FM 170 and take them to Colorado to be processed.
A little online shopping later, we received a variety of far West Texas local honey from Haefeli’s Honey Farms that included Acacia, Desert Wildflower, and Salt Cedar to accompany the Clover we bought at the general store.
About a year later, on a road trip through Colorado, we stopped for gas in Del Norte and saw the Haefeli’s Honey Farms shop nearby. West Texas is a small world. Check out http://www.haefelihoney.com.
We go through quite a bit of honey and love trying different local flavors. I use honey as a sugar substitute in much of my cooking. It’s naturally sweeter than sugar and you use less. It acts as a thickener in sauces, dressings and marinades. It provides and retains moisture to many dishes, and can actually extend the shelf-life of baked goods.
Since honey is a humectant, it attracts and retains moisture and can be very beneficial to facial cleansers and moisturizers, soaps, shampoos and conditioners. It also has anti-microbial properties.
Do you have a cough or a sore throat? Eat a spoonful of honey straight, as often as you need it for soothing relief.
Don’t feed honey to infants under one year of age as their new digestive systems can’t digest it properly.
Honey is a natural energy source and many athletes take advantage of the 17 grams of carbohydrates with 64 calories per tablespoon.
Do yourself a favor and take the drive from River Road in Presidio up to Candelaria on FM 170. Be sure and stop at the General Store.
We visited last weekend but the ocotillos were only budding… we’ll head back down about mid-April when the desert will be teeming with color and the bees will be gathering as much pollen as they can.
I have to wonder how much of this honey has ocotillo pollen in it?
Honey Apple Crisp
4 1/2 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples (for best results, use Granny Smith or Golden Delicious)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
4 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a medium casserole dish. Evenly spread the apple slices in the prepared dish. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice and water, and pour over the apples. Drizzle apples with honey, and sprinkle with cinnamon.
In a bowl, mix the brown sugar, flour, oats, and butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the apples.
Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until apples are tender and topping is lightly browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream or gelato.