P Is for Peppers



((NOTE: See July, August, and October updates, at end of entry))

The great thing about hot peppers is that a little goes a long way. Which has been fortunate for me, as I’ve not found some peppers to be especially easy to grow in profusion.  This may be less true of the hot varieties, because we now have bags of Serranos and Red Chilis keeping their heat dormant in the freezer. But I’m not pleased about the lack of volume in the mild peppers that I’ve tried to grow each summer for the past few years. (But see our August and October 2017 updates!)

As the photo above shows, every year we have a fine display of red hots in roomy pots, and we’ve put them to use in chili dishes, frittatas, soups, sauces, and stews. Some of these little fellas are so potent that Jean needs only one or two per quart or two of the dish to give us a nice warm mouthfeel per spoonful. We chop the rascals up into bits to spread in the dish, or sometimes she will put them whole into the slow cooker to spread the heat gradually. Pictured below are Chris’s tomato and green veggie sauce with serranos for spice, and Jean’s tomato, zucchini, and herbs stir fry, spiced by red chilis. Almost all ingredients come from our summer garden.


Tomato and green veggies sauce


Tomato, zucchini, herb stir fry

We both like a good number of dishes to have a forceful kick, but neither of us is into competing for a fire-eating prize, so we don’t try to up the ante by throwing in more chilis.

To save the rest for later use, Jean’s favorite method is to bag them for the freezer, It’s been remarkable how they keep their potency even over several years. Part of last year’s crop of inch-long red chilis I couldn’t resist displaying like this:

garden kitchen hot chili logo - 1

They loved showing off, and didn’t mind being bagged for the freezer:

kitchen red hot peppers from 2016 - 1

We promised them they’d be liberated eventually so they could do their picante thing, and we’ve kept our promise, chili by chili.

I promised Jean this year that I’d not add to the freezer population by growing more hot peppers. But, alas, I like the look of them so much in the summer garden that I snuck in one more plant, a Thai variety. Here it is in late June, next to a mild purple variety. Both are popping out white blooms, and should be producing green fruit in another week or two.

garden thai chili and purple pepper jun 17 - 1

In Ground or in Pots?

Meanwhile, I’m experimenting this year with growing three pepper plants in the ground in one of the raised beds, Whereas the hot varieties have done great in the pots for several years, I’ve been less happy with the performance of the mild varieties in the same medium. I’ll typically get about six green, yellow, or purple milds per plant over a summer, but they tend to be much smaller than the large beauties you can get in the store. I figure the pots–which are valuable for keeping away the snails and for their portability–restrict the growth areas for the plants, and so I’m hoping the in-ground plants will grow taller and wider, and produce more and larger fruit. We’ll see.

garden peppers shishito yellow big bertha green jun17 - 1

Right now, in late June, here (above)  is the trio–(R to L) one shishito, one medium-size green, and one “Big Bertha” green. The “Big Bertha,” which I planted earliest, in mid-April, is already much larger than any of my pepper plants in earlier years, and has three green fruit heading toward decent size (see below). The shishito, planted in mid-May, has four small fruit in process. Equally good news: no sign of snails.

garden pepper big bertha green jun17 - 1

I’ll keep this entry updated as the summer proceeds. As with all the other residents and visitors in our garden, every day brings its changes to the peppers. Here is a shot of two pot-grown pepper plants, a serrano and a mild green, from October 2015, to show something of what may emerge, as summer moves into fall.


July 2017 Update

As promised. It’s only three weeks since I posted the entry, but there have been peppery developments. It’s been a hot July, with many days over 100 and none below 90. I’ve been trying to stick to my regimen of every-other-day watering of the veggies, despite the scorching heat, with mostly positive results. The Big Bertha green pepper plant has been a steady producer of large fruit, and the shishito (below) is brimming with fruit. The potted Thai is thick with tiny green firecrackers, a couple of which have turned red. All in all, a successful experiment, with lots left of summer.

garden shishito pepper mid july 17 - 1

The Big Bertha and the shishito contributed to my latest stir fry (below). along with some of the grape and cherry tomatoes that have been getting red by the dozens each day in the garden. I toss in several of the varied herbs that have also been thriving in pots (thyme, marjoram, chives, Greek oregano, purple and green basil, sage), and we’re ready to go.

kitchen chris's tomato peppers garden herbs stir fry jul17 - 1

August 2017 Update

This summer has been my best ever for peppers so far–with a good month or more still to go. The in-ground experiment has paid off, with all three plants producing beyond expectations. Meanwhile, the Thai chili may be my most productive hot chili ever (see just below). More freezer bags to be filled!

garden thai chilis aug 17 - 1

All four mild plants have been steady producers, with late July to now in late August showing their increasing productivity, even as the temps have slightly fallen (now high 80s to low 90s) and the daylight hours have diminished.  Moreover, no slugs or snails or other pests have appeared.  The Big Bertha green is giving us the largest peppers we’ve had from one mild plant, and it keeps generating new fruit, over a dozen in total so far. (Below.)

garden big bertha green peppers jul17 - 1

The shishito (the first of these I’ve grown) began producing mature fruit in July and has more than ten at a time growing on the plant (below).

garden shishito peppers jul17 - 1

Meanwhile, the most pleasant surprise of the summer has been the potted purple pepper, which did not produce mature fruit until late July, but which now steadily is giving us gorgeous-hued medium-size peppers that start out sherbet-lemon in color and then turn royal (as shown below). By the way, these are delicious when roasted.

garden potted purple peppers aug17 - 1

October 2017 Update

The temps are now in the high 70s and low 80s, so the peppers have slowed, but not yet stopped producing. The Big Bertha still has four little ones growing, but they may not mature as the weather cools. The in-ground plant was going strong through mid September, though, as the temps stayed in the 90s. The shishito still has many white flowers and several fruit still on the bush. We’ll see how they fare in the coming autumn days and nights.

The medium green and the royal purple have a few white buds, but no fruit. And the miraculous Thai red hot gave me its bounty of at least 100 little zingers, and they are ensconced in their snug baggie in the freezer.

What a summer for peppers! The best in our garden so far. The experiment with in-ground plants worked, and the pots came through in stellar fashion.

garden red thai peppers full on bush sept 17 - 1

Thai mini red hots produced like no potted pepper plant I’d ever tried.

garden bowl tomatoes eggplant shishitos peppers oct 17 - 1

Shishitos, greens, and royal purple peppers share space with the season’s last eggplants and almost-last tomatoes

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