I’m trying to catch up with my 2014 garden notes so I have to take a break from watching my monarch caterpillars for a moment, which is not as easy as it sounds. They’re so stinkin’ cute! But in the interest of having something to look back on when planning next year’s gardens I need to get this stuff down.
Today’s update features the lovely Capsicum, better known here in the states as peppers. Delicious, nutritious, crunchy, smoky, spicy and sweet, peppers offer a huge variety of flavors, textures and uses. Sweet red bell peppers, especially roasted or grilled, have always been at the top of my list but now, having managed to grow my first successful pepper crop from a variety of seeds gathered through swaps, I’m stretching my tastebuds a bit.
I learned this year that pepper seeds can be tricky to germinate. Apparently they like to be heated from below and kept in the dark, totally the opposite of the germination station I cobbled together. I think more than half of mine failed, but I had good luck with a few varieties. The biggest surprise so far are the Anaheim chilies. They are growing like crazy on bushes nearly 4′ tall. They don’t taste great raw but they develop a gorgeous smoky flavor when roasted or grilled.
I resisted picking them for a couple weeks and hoped they’d grow large enough to stuff, and they did! For the stuffing I sauteed chicken sausage with onions, zucchini, Swiss chard and Serrano chilies from the garden then mixed in quinoa I’d cooked with seasoned chicken stock. I sliced open the peppers, removed the seeds and stuffed those suckers full to bursting.
They went on the grill over medium-high for about 15 minutes. A little parmesan and two minutes under the broiler and they were done. It was a messy process but totally worth it. We ate them with a cucumber-dill yogurt sauce for a nice crisp, cool balance to the warm, smoky peppers. I also grilled a few more to keep in the fridge and add to eggs, sandwiches and whatever else we’re eating.
We’ve also had good success with my beloved shishito. Although only two seeds sprouted the plants have done well and we’ve harvested a couple dozen peppers so far. I like to char these on the grill and toss them with sea salt, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a splash of soy sauce (details here).
Serrano peppers are also producing like crazy and I’ve got way more than I know what to do with. So far I’ve roasted some for the freezer, made salsa fresca three times, froze some whole and given a handful away. I’ve promised the next batch to a restaurant down the street so at least I know they’ll go to good use.
The Numex Twilights, which originated at New Mexico State University, are doing pretty well. I grew them ornamentally because they looked so cute in the picture. They’re really unusual in that they start out purple then slowly change to yellow then orange and finally red. They grow upwards on a bushy little plant and look kind of like Christmas lights.
I haven’t actually tasted these peppers, but based on how red our friend’s face turned after popping one in his mouth I’m going to surmise that they are pretty damn hot. He was in such pain that he ran inside grimacing and sweating and willingly drank milk for the first time in years. I know it’s wrong to say it was really freaking funny, but honestly what kind of dummy just pops a random pepper in their mouth?
And that brings us to my proudest moment – my first ever gorgeous bell peppers. I’ve got a little forest going, chock full of fat green peppers and several that are finally turning red. It took a long time for them to turn but it’s worth it! I waited as long as I could to pick one but I was experiencing such terror that something might go wrong – bugs, possums, aliens – that I had to do it. Isn’t she gorgeous?
I will proudly mention here that no chemicals were used to grow this pepper – no, not even MiracleGro – just fish emulsion, crushed egg shells and compost. Oh, and of course LOVE. We stuffed and grilled that guy too and will be using the next one in a paella tomorrow. Yum.
I would also like to thank Pat Sherwood for this adorable apron made by her, by hand, just for me 🙂
And that brings us to the end of the update from this happy capsicum grower. One note to self before I go: stake the peppers before they grow big and bushy ya dummy!
Harvest Tally June 18 – July 10:
Bell: 1 Red, 5 Green (3.5+ lbs)
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