Salsa Contest, Open House – Under The Old Apricot Tree At NYP

Under The Old Apricot Tree At NYP

Teen Salsa Contest Results


Abiquiu– Mother Nature provided a beautiful location, and she cooperated with perfect weather under sunny blue skies for the Northern Youth Project’s Heritage Garden Open House and Teen Salsa Contest held on Saturday, September 17.

The NYP was created seven years ago to offer teens an opportunity to get outdoors, learn skills, and develop a love and respect for the earth we live in. 

The Teen Salsa Contest was a “hot item” with six different salsas, all well made with Heritage Garden vegetables, with some teens adding avocado in some of the salsas or other ingredients. Some had interesting names along with a great taste and flavor, like the “Tsunami” which must have had five or six different colors in that particular salsa, it was a somewhat mild to medium hot salsa that ended up taking Third place, but a First in the nomenclature category. Well, maybe the “Big Daddy” salsa was also a clever name. More on the salsas and the winner in a moment.

Photo shows corn growing vigorously at the NYP Heritage Garden Open House. Photo by ROBERT NARANJO,

The NYP Heritage Garden had it all! Enough variety of vegetables and herbs (remedios) growing to have made any garden planting  grandparents or great-grandparents proud, and indeed, worthy of the name “heritage.” Tomatoes, corn, onions, chile, even strawberries and more. There were herbs as well, cilantro, horehound, “yerba buena” (mint), just to name a few.

An NYP garden intern gave a tour of the Heritage Garden. Intern Brianna Padilla pointed out things that would have gone unnoticed like the natural spring above the garden,  its water piped into a cistern and used when water from the acequia or ditch wa not available, as it can only be diverted one time during the week for a few hours. So, the natural spring water filled cistern comes in mighty handy. The NYP interns and staff also helped dig the acequia in the spring, joining other landowners with water rights in cleaning and digging the acequia according to Padilla. Acequia duty is not for the faint of heart.

Padilla pointed out the “Pollinator Hotel” which was made of wood with little “rooms” for bees and other “guests” who help pollinate plants and trees, a kind of “honeymoon” hotel, no pun intended, of course. And, no charge for the guests at this hotel!

Since the garden area has slopes all around, the NYP interns and staff had terraced off some of the sloped area creating flat beds where the soil was being conditioned for planting next season, Padilla said.

Nearly every inch of the NYP compound had been put to use by the interns and staff. Under the old cottonwoods were storage buildings and the tents where visitors assembled. The place had a well-thought out appearance to it.

The more one looked, the more one found surprises. There was an essential oil making demonstration by Yvonne Casaus, an Herbalist, and owner of Northern New Mexico Natural Medicine and Health Hotline. Salves, chap stick and other products were demonstrated and made by combining certain natural ingredients with beeswax serving a bonding agent. It’s really fascinating how natural and somewhat easy to make, but one still needs to know the process. Casaus was extremely knowledgeable on the herbs and other plants in New Mexico and their medicinal properties.

Photo shows, on right, Yvonne Casaus, Herbalist, during her essential oils demonstration. Photo by ROBERT NARANJO/ 

Refreshments included water and seltzer water, to help out during the Teen Salsa contest. There was fruit juices, too, but the hibiscus and alfalfa tea, with rose added served with ice was outstanding and incredibly refreshing. It was a dazzling red color and tasted not too sweet but just right. It was just sensational, and it didn’t have any type of sweetener in it other than the natural ingredients.

Under the old apricot tree on the southern end of the Heritage Garden, hanging on the fence, like an outdoor art gallery, were framed photos of the area taken by NYP interns. They were all magnificent photos bringing various themes to life. They were on sale for reasonable price and all could have been used for a New Mexico in photos book.  

Near the hanging photo art gallery, and also under the old apricot tree, was a compost bin filled with organic material from the garden that was put in there during the course of the summer to use in the spring.From under the old apricot tree, looking towards the tent area, where the guests were gathered, a beautiful garden met the eye. It was evident that the interns and staff had given life to what was once likely just a field filled with weeds competing against each other. Or, maybe a generation or two in the past, the field was once a proud garden like the one planted there now.

After everyone had tasted the salsas, and accompanying blue corn and yellow corn chips, self-served on a Styrofoam plate with little compartments for each of the six salsas, and cleverly numbered one through six on top of the plate, the number of your favorite was written on a ticket given to each person trying out the salsas. When the bowls of salsas were finished, the votes were counted and the time came for the announcement of the winners of the Teen Salsa contest.

Leona Hillary thanked the Teen Salsa contest participants, judges and announced the winners of the Teen Salsa Contest.

First Place, Brianna Padilla, NYP Youth Council President. “Big Daddy Salsa”

Second Place, Matias Coronado

Third Place, Team Salsa Tsunami: Lavina Gray and Rosalie Davis. “Salsa Tsunami”

Brianna Padilla, with her “Big Daddy” was awarded $20 for getting the most votes and winning the Teen Salsa Contest and the choice of selecting the next destination for the NYP field trip. She wisely traded making that difficult choice to another NYP salsa contest winner for a Bluetooth speaker that he had won. “I don’t want to make that choice on the field trip, because if not all the kids are happy with it, I’ll never hear the end of it,” Padilla explained.

Team Coronado, Team “Tsunami” Lavina Gray and Rosalie Davis were given monetary awards, too, for second and third Place, respectively.

Lupita Salazar, on right in photo, wearing stripes and a hat, is the Agricultural Program Director at NYP

Salazar has done a tremendous job working with the interns in the garden, cooking and baking, and other activities. Her father, Eliud Salazar, who attended the Heritage Garden Open House and Teen Salsa contest, told the Valley Daily Post, “Lupita was always in the family garden as a young girl and interested in everything that was growing there. She still has a big garden at home,” he said, adding that “she made about two dozen tortillas to bring here today.” He related that she has made tortillas using a “mano y metate” (not to be confused with a “mocajete” which is round, bowlshaped, and also uses a mano) to grind the corn into meal, and they “came out great–they were good.” Caya hombre!

Eliud Salazar was quite complimentary of the Harvest Dinner in November at the Rio Arriba County Rural Events Center at “Las Crusadas” where US 84 intersects with NM 534, the El Rito turnoff. About a mile down on your right is the Rural Events Center. Salazar explained that “a four-course meal is prepared for guests at a very reasonable price with much of the prepared banquet made using items from the Heritage Garden.”

Eliud Salazar said he was so impressed “by the quality of the meal that he donated extra money” in addition to the reasonably priced ticket. The NYP harvest banquet is in November, at the Rural Events Center. There is also a NYP auction at the Banquet to benefit the youth group. Contact NYP at their web site at:

“Nothing in Northern New Mexico for teens to do?” NYP members beg to differ.