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A Refreshing Garden Experience

The first time you drive through Six Shooter Canyon in search of the “Salsa Garden”, it is easy to miss the small weather-worn sign  and simple home which marks the “Sunrise & Sunset Chile & Herb Garden.”

But once there you discover that visiting the “Salsa Gardens” is no Wal Mart experience.

The owners, Pat and Manuel Romero, who have operated their small (and that is a mis-nomer) garden for nearly 40 years don’t simply welcome you into a store; they welcome you into their garden, their outdoor home, a place grown from patience, hard work, and a passion for plants.  They tell you stories, remember your name (or at least your face), and with gracious familiarity help you take home a little garden.   The plants themselves are as refreshing as the people who sell them.  They were not prepared in bulk, at the lowest cost possible, in some far away place.  No, each plant began its life on the Romero’s kitchen table as a tiny seed, was nurtured all winter in the warmth of their home, and then hardened for the spring, awaiting their final destination in your garden.

While the personal touch drew me in, the sheer variety found at the Sunrise & Sunset Garden sold me as a return customer.  Where else can you find white, purple, or brown bell peppers or tomatoes that range from pink, white, orange to zebra-stripped?  Pat’s personal favorite is the fatalii chili pepper, the African equivalent of the habanero pepper.  Even Ace and Walmart recognize they can hold nothing over the little garden and refer customers seeking something more unique to the Salsa Gardens.  In fact, customers come from all over the area from as far away as Apache Junction, Dudleyville, and Roosevelt.PIC-Gardenlosses

While today the Chile & Herb Garden attracts visitors from all over, its beginnings were humble.  The Romero’s first sold their seedlings at yard sales.  Impressed with the quality of the plants, friends and neighbors encourage the Romero’s to sell more. So, in 1996, they began their little store with a few plants and one small greenhouse.  Since then the greenhouse has expanded and the number of plants has grown to about three to four thousand, with 50 to 60 varieties of tomatoes, 70 kinds of chilis, and about 25 to 30 types of sweet peppers, not to mention a whole host of herbs.  Despite this growth, the Romero’s remain community-minded.  Every year, they donate plants to places such as the senior center, nursing homes, or the food bank, and their final weeks of profit to the St. Andrea’s Children’s Clinic in Nogales, Mexico.

The Sunrise and  Sunset Chile and Herb Garden is open from the first or second week in March till the first week in June.  Their regular hours are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM, but Pat assures me that if you find her there other times she’ll help you out then too.  As a small seasonal business, they don’t take credit cards, so bring cash.  Plants cost about $1.75 each.  They are located at 9149 Six Shooter Canyon Road, Globe, AZ.  They can be contacted via email peppers@cableone.net or by phone at 928-425-6218.

I must admit that buying a plant from the Romero’s does not guarantee a “green thumb,” but I believe it does something even better: it inspires a “green heart.”  So this year, whether you are preparing an elaborate garden or just hoping to grow a little something in a pot, make sure to visit the Sunrise and Sunset Chile and Herb Garden.  And who knows maybe this summer you will find yourself having a salad with zebra-striped tomatoes and purple bell peppers!

By: Laura Baker

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