I shared a few pepper recipes using our garden peppers the other day, but I wanted to show some other options for using the peppers as well.
A lot of hot peppers are stored or used once they are dried. The most reliable way to dry peppers is using a dehydrator, although I’ve also had good luck (sometimes) using the oven or just letting peppers dry on the counter. The biggest issue with letting peppers dry on the counter is that if there is a chance the fruit have any fungal spores on them (or any blemishes), they can rot before they dry down sufficiently to store.
On the recommendation of Denise, our Foods & Nutrition Agent, I used the dehydrator outside and set at 135 degrees. It took about 8 hours to dry the smaller, hot peppers. It took about 16-20 hours to dry the larger, thicker-walled peppers, like the paprikas and Aleppos.
The dehydrator had several racks, so I was able to segregate the different peppers onto different racks.
I dried some of the cayenne peppers, lemon drop peppers, hot paprika peppers, and Aleppo peppers.
I don’t have specific plans for any of these at the moment, other than possibly grinding them into either pepper flakes or powder.
Well…the Lemon Drop peppers I have a hot sauce recipe to try. Sometime.
I did try to spread out the peppers to start, but they ended up towards the center anyway. These are the cayenne peppers. You can still see a little of the purple coloration despite the fact that they wee mostly red.
The Espelette (Basque region) and Fushimi (Japan) peppers, I tried with simple sautéing. The Espelette peppers probably should have been dried and ground instead…like a paprika pepper. Oh well.
After cooking, I sprinkled them with salt and let them cool enough to eat. This is one of the traditional ways to prepare these Fushimi peppers and the similar Shishito peppers. YUM! I am definitely regretting the bags of these peppers that I harvested and intended to sauté earlier in the season, but never got around to.
These peppers were not all that exciting otherwise. The walls are thin, the flavor was a little “green” and the seeds were too prevalent. But you sauté them in hot oil, sprinkle with salt, and they are transformed into a delicious appetizer.
I finally had time to try a few recipes using some of our less common peppers in the Demo Garden. I still have a few other recipes I want to try as well.
I may have to plant hot paprika peppers myself, just so I can make this recipe every week. I adapted a straight red pepper cream sauce to the paprika sauce. A lot of sauces call for powdered paprika, but I wanted to try using the peppers fresh.
This was pretty much the easiest recipe that I never knew I was missing out on. You put two cups of cream and the chopped peppers in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the cream is reduced by half and the peppers are soft (about 30 minutes). If you want something that is lower fat, you can use fat free half and half. (I checked with our foods agent. She also said you could use cream and just use it sparingly to accent your food, rather than drowning your food in the cream sauce.)
Then I took a stick blender and blended it until smooth. Then I added a little salt and pepper. I served it with pasta and chicken. The hot paprikas added just the right hint of flavor and spiciness. I also tried this recipe at home with plain colored, sweet peppers. It was also tasty, but not with the same depth of flavor.
I had been looking for some good recipes to try with the Aji Limon (Lemon Drop) hot pepper all summer. A Peruvian friend said that for a true Peruvian experience, I needed to use these peppers to make ceviche. While I like fish, I’m not confident in my ability to purchase good enough quality fish in a landlocked state to make fresh ceviche. So I settled for this salsa recipe. (I also have a hot sauce recipe to try out another time.)
This recipe called for 8 oz. of the fresh Aji Limon peppers, 8 oz. of yellow bell pepper, 2 mangoes, brown sugar, and a bunch of vinegar and lime juice. I’ll be honest…I was afraid of how hot it might be.
At that point, I brought back the stick blender to smooth out the lumps.
After tasting, I would characterize this as a “hot” salsa. In other words, comparable to the heat level you might find if you buy a salsa labeled “hot.” If you regularly eat or enjoy spicy foods, this will be a nice salsa for you. If you are not into spicy foods, you will probably want to steer clear. That said, as with any salsa that contains a lot of brown sugar and mango, it is very tasty.
To use some of the Tabasco peppers, I was tempted to try making homemade tabasco sauce, but I decided to be kinder than that to my office mates. I settled for making a southern-style vinegar sauce.
Then all I did was heat a cup and a half of white wine vinegar and pour it over the peppers in a jar. You could add garlic or peppercorns, but I decided to stay simple. I’ll give it a couple weeks to “steep” before trying the flavored vinegar.
Still to come in another post: the Espelette peppers, the Fushimi peppers, and dehydrating peppers.
I’ve heard from a lot of gardeners this year that they had a poor tomato year. On one hand, I know that some of my tomato plants at home struggled as well. On the other hand, most of our plants in the Demo Garden did very well. My theory is that due to our rainfall this year, most average gardens were constantly losing nitrogen to leaching and the plants showed it. My plants at home were never as vigorous and lush as I would expect, and I blame it on lack of fertility.
Why did our Demo Garden tomatoes thrive? I think the fact that we incorporated 3-5″ of compost into the beds in the spring played an important role. We didn’t even add additional fertilizer, and the plants looked good all year long. I suspect that had we NOT had a rainy year, we would have had poor production due to excess nitrogen.
All that aside, we still had some obvious differences in our varieties this year.
I know I’ve mentioned this variety multiple times over the summer, so it can’t be much of a surprise that it turns up as an easy winner. The flavor is like eating candy, the plants were vigorous and prolific, and the fruit didn’t crack no matter what the weather did. If you like sweet cherry tomatoes, I can’t recommend this variety highly enough.
This is the second year that we had Beefy Boy in the garden. It performed well again this year. The fruit were good sized and the yield was also good. Again this year, there was some significant cracking. But…almost everything cracked this year, as most years.
The Tiren tomatoes are the ones that are in the front, slightly to the right of center. Overall, I really liked this tomato. For a large-fruited roma, it was quite prolific and, in fact, still had fruit on it until late this fall. The fruit had very little seed gel, and the flavor was very good for a modern, hybrid roma. (Believe me, many hybrid romas are not so tasty!) The fruit shape was a little odd. The biggest complaint I have with the variety is that almost all the fruit had a small spot of blossom end rot. Now, this could be largely related to this year’s weather. Or it could be a common, every year occurrence. I didn’t hold it against the variety this year, but if it were to be the same or worse in other seasons, I would probably become less keen on the variety.
This variety is another orange slicer, similar to the Chef’s Choice Orange that we grew last year. For whatever reason, I don’t have any good pictures of this variety. The tomato in the upper right corner of the above picture is one of the Orange Slice fruit, although not a fully ripe example.
While it had good production, large fruit, and the same tendency to crack as most of the other varieties, I think I would probably prefer the Chef’s Choice Orange over this one. It’s hard to say when comparing one year to the next, but I think the Chef’s Choice was more prolific. Still, this was a good tomato.
This is one of the “Goliath” series tomatoes, the Original, as you may have guessed. It typically has large fruit, about 16 oz. I would say that it performed very comparably to Orange Slice and Beefy Boy. From a flavor standpoint, I thought it was a little sweeter and less acidic than some of the other red varieties.
Worth Another Try, Sometime
This cherry tomato variety is part of the Artisan tomato series. It has a pink to maroon color with green stripes. For whatever reason, this plant was exceptionally vigorous (maybe too much compost?) and seemed to be not as productive for its size as you might wish. The flavor got mixed reviews. It was much more acidic and less sweet than others. I think the less-than-perfectly-ripe fruit were not as tasty, definitely. Still, it was a fun variety to try growing.
Lucky Tiger Cherry
I had high hopes for this variety, another in the Artisan series. Naturally, it was a bit disappointing. The Lucky Tiger Cherry was green with a red blush when ripe. Unfortunately, the result was ugly rather than attractive. This variety also cracked terribly and the plants succumbed to disease when most of the others did not. The yield was pretty good, but the flavor also left something to be desired. Highly acidic flavor, but not much else.
Verona was marketed as a tomato that was similar to Juliet but even tastier. Without having a true, side-by-side comparison, it is difficult to say for sure. However, Juliet rarely cracks. This variety cracked constantly. Not a good sign! The flavor was nice, but I would be hard pressed to say that it was better than a Juliet. The yield was good, but not the exceptional yield I expect from a Juliet. So…I wouldn’t call this variety the new, improved Juliet!
Not Worth It
The only picture I have of this plant is from when it was newly transplanted. This variety set almost no fruit, the fruit set was late, and what fruit it did set was cracked and rotten before we could harvest or taste it. There is the chance that the excess compost played a role in the lack of productivity, but I’m going to be hard pressed to want to try this one again.
Another one with no pictures! This was supposed to be an improved variety of Early Girl, with an early days to maturity of 52 days. This plant didn’t have ripe fruit until well after most of the other varieties were producing. Could this have been a weather issue? Yes. So try it if you like, but I’m not overly keen to try it again.
Those are my thoughts on our regular garden tomatoes for this year. I’ll have another post to discuss the container varieties.
I am finally returning to the task of reviewing our garden results this year. The next area is the hot pepper section of the garden. In general, I find that hot peppers do well here. However, because we had such a range of varieties, there are some differences in performance.
This Peruvian pepper was a little slow to get started, but once it did, the plant was vigorous, healthy, and prolific. The peppers were good quality with minimal signs of sunscald and the flavor was nice, citrusy, and spicy. A great choice if you are looking for a hot pepper with a different flavor profile.
The tabasco pepper plant enjoyed the hot summer and just kept on flowering, setting fruit, and ripening. I have to admit that we let way too many of these go to waste. However, if you want to make your own hot sauce, one of these plants should leave you well set. The plant got a little unruly and floppy late in the season, but that’s pretty normal.
I’ve never grown a Thai Chili that was not ridiculously productive, and this year was no exception. If you want hot peppers for cooking spicy Asian foods, you cannot go wrong with a single Thai Chili plant. The plant was quite compact compared to most of the other hot peppers, but still very productive.
I was pleasantly surprised with how well this heirloom paprika pepper performed. This was a hot/spicy paprika. While the yield was not overwhelming, it did produce steadily. The fruit was nice sized and good quality. While the plant was taller and a bit leggy, it didn’t have any trouble with breakage or splitting that other plants had.
I did try one of these fresh the other day, and they have quite a kick. I have also dried some in the dehydrator and made a red pepper creams sauce with them. All those things are for another post, however. I’m definitely planning to find more opportunities to try paprika peppers.
‘Flaming Flare’ Fresno
This pepper is an All America Selection and performed as expected. It had a good, consistent yield, nice fruit, relatively early fruiting, and a healthy, vigorous plant. It also didn’t experience any breakage, despite being relatively tall.
Hungarian Hot Wax
The Hungarian Hot Wax wasn’t quite as prolific as the sweet banana peppers on the other end of the garden, but for the relatively compact plant, the yield was quite good. It was also an early and consistent producer.
Another All America Selection, this plant seemed quite out of place on the hot pepper end of the garden because the plant was so compact. It was also an early, consistent producer, but I think the yield was depressed somewhat because it was so shaded by all of its neighbors.
Worth Another Try, Sometime
Feher Ozon Paprika
This pepper was rather interesting. It lost part of the plant early in the season and never really seemed to recover. It also set the first fruit extremely early, before the plant had gotten very big. Even though we picked off the first few fruit that set, it never got very big. So in comparison to the size of the plant and amount of foliage, the fruit set was quite impressive! Whether a variety problem or a weather problem, the small plant and heavy fruit set meant that it struggled to ripen the peppers. While we had a few turn red, many more stayed white. The white peppers were pretty much bland. This would be a good variety to try again another time.
This pepper was a bit disappointing. It had a couple times that a branch broke due to wind or weather. The fruit, while of good number and size, seemed much more prone to sunscald or other rotten spots. I would like to try this one again sometime, using a cage to support the plant and hopefully having a season that is a bit less rainy.
Not Worth It
The biggest challenge of this pepper was that it was so tall, leggy, and brittle that the branches kept breaking off. Granted, we had some spectacular storms. If you were to try it, I would definitely recommend caging or staking or tying of some sort for support. Because the plant was constantly trying to rejuvenate itself, the yield wasn’t all that much.
Those are my thoughts on the hot peppers this year!
It’s been a few weeks since the last Friday PhotoEssay, and the garden has definitely changed.
I think the biggest change is simply the fact that while it is still a jungle out there, many of the tomatoes and vines are much more brown than green. The peppers are even starting to show some wear and tear. I think the only thing that is still unabashedly green is the luffa gourd vine…which has still not started blooming!
On the other hand, we planted the Passionflower vine for the flowers and caterpillars, but we do have some fruit set. I don’t know if it will ripen before it gets cold, but it’s still pretty neat to have fruit.
There was a point where I think we all felt like the Ginger bed wasn’t going to amount to much, but the plants have really done well! Clockwise from the left-most plant: Greater Galangal, Turmeric, Ginger, Cardamom. We are going to try digging the plants, potting them up, and keeping them for next year.
While the Black Scorzonera doesn’t look like much from the top, I’m actually very pleased with how the plants are doing. What remains to be seen is what the roots look like, but it typically isn’t harvested until after a couple frosts, so we have some time yet.
The flowering purple carrot / false Ammi from the Purple Garden has really started looking good. It took all season, but it has some nice flowers on it now. Because it’s technically a carrot that bolts easily, if we pulled it the roots should look like a poor quality purple carrot.
Our pollinator / herb garden is looking really good right now, although the milkweeds are getting a bit gangly. The zinnias in particular are very attractive. Now all we need is for the sages to be in full bloom!
Have a great weekend!