Three hundred and ten years ago this week Father Kino died, on March 15, 1711. We remember Padre Kino 310 years later because he was so far ahead of his time. He fought against slavery and racism (radical notions for his time), and worked tirelessly for all humans to be treated with dignity and respect.
Padre Kino Was Ahead of His Time
I write of Father Kino on a gardening site because his humane treatment of people included respecting the uses of plants by Native peoples. These uses would have been lost in time – but he welcomed and fostered such knowledge, encouraging native herbs in the gardens, fields, kitchens, and infirmaries of the missions he was in charge of.
In Kino’s travels in this region, then called the Pimería Alta, Father Kino interacted with 16 different tribes, specifically the Cocopa, Eudeve, Hia ced O’odham (called Yumans by Kino), Kamia, Kavelchadon, Kiliwa, Maricopa, Mountain Pima, Opata, Quechan, River Pima, Seri, Tohono O’odham, Western Apache, Yavapai, and the Yaqui (Yoeme).
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In my book Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today, half the herbs discussed were ones used by Natives while half were European imports to our area. Note that some of these imports came originally from Asia or other parts of the globe. Over the years, I have mentioned a number of these herbs in my articles and blogs. Most of this material was lost to the hackers, but you can use the search bar and type in “Kino.”
My garden reflects this half and half! Right now in my garden, as the season warms, I have both native New World and a European imports sprouting. I have both the native epazote, and the Old World basil. Both are coming back from seed that have planted themselves!
The basil coming back from seed is “Mrs. Burn’s famous lemon basil.” Originally (a decade or so ago) I bought the seed from Native Seeds/SEARCH. It is an ideal basil for this area, very drought tolerant, and ideal for the kitchen too, with delightful flavor. Epazote is a native herb that helps “pre-digest” beans if you add some leaves while they are cooking. Strongly scented epazote does NOT carry that flavor with it – indeed you will not taste it at all. More about growing heat loving epazote – here.
I do give numerous talks about Father Kino’s herbs. Each talk varies because it depends on season, audience, and where in the world the audience lives. Most recently, the Cochise County Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society (AZNPS.com) watched my presentation about the Kino plants that grow wild in their part of the Arizona, or can be cultivated in their landscapes.
Father Kino lives on in many ways, including in our Southwest gardens – in mine, and hopefully in yours.
A Few More Details
Father Kino was born Eusebio Francesco Chini in Segno, in what is now northeastern Italy, on August 10, 1645. The name Kino is the German version of his last name, which coincidentally also made for ease of Spanish pronunciation. Learn more at www.padrekino.com.
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Read more about epazote in my book “Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today” (Tierra del Sol Press). I hope you will consider purchasing a copy locally at Antigone Books, Magic Garden, Mostly Books, Rillito Nursery, Tohono Chul, and Tucson Botanical Gardens. Call first to make sure they have copies left.
You can also buy Father Kino’s Herbs on Amazon (link). If you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.
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