I love hot peppers; my favourite condiment is Frank’s Hot Sauce. So I’m really looking forward to growing some amazing new hot peppers this year! I thought I’d share some old favourites and some promising new-to-me varieties that I’m planning to grow.
First, let me say that hot peppers really really like the heat. They are a plant that might actually do better in a pot on a hot hot balcony than in the ground. Because they like it hot. Just don’t forget to water them!
Here are a few that I’m excited about for this year:
Variegated Fish Pepper. This variety of hot pepper has variegated leaves, meaning they’re mottled dark green/light green. The peppers turn every colour of the rainbow, and stripey too, before they are finally fully ripe. I am super excited to try them out!
Black Hungarian. These hot peppers were requested again this year by a gardener who tried them last year for the first time. They look a bit like jalapenos, but they’re dark dark purple, almost black. Great flavour!
Thai Hot Pepper. Tiny red hot pepper with big hot flavour. My Grandpa grows these indoors for a continual supply of heat to use in his cooking. Grandma won’t touch them.
Other hot peppers are cayenne, chili, jalapeno, chinese ornamental (still edible), and paprika.
Hopefully it will be a good year for hot peppers! I’m planning to start the seeds really soon because they need more time to grow to the right size than the sweet peppers or tomatoes.
The size of the weeds in my garden often causes me embarrassment, particularly when showing my gardens to people who had previously held the notion that I am this ‘amazing’ gardener who grows ‘so much food’ for her family. So, at risk to my own personal dignity – what shards are left – I write about my day yesterday.
I had a wonderful day yesterday; the weather was gorgeous for working outside, so I thought I better make the most of it. I spent a few hours clearing the garden of bricks, wood, cold frames, and forgotten tools. I also took down the fence in preparation for my father-in-law coming with his tiller-machine. I still have some patio stones to move, and hubby will have to help take down the garden gate, but most of it is done, which feels pretty good.
The embarassing part comes when I write about what I found in the garden – see photo above – under thigh-high weeds. These beautiful chili peppers, plus those little round peppers. I’m sure they’re hot but I can’t for the life of me remember what they’re called. Nice, eh? If I hadn’t been clearing out the cold frames I never would have seen them. It’s like foraging in the wild, except it was supposed to be my well-tended garden.
Every year I have this same problem, and every year I vow it will change next year. I will weed my garden. I will weed my garden. I will weed my garden. Sigh.
Things are changing for real next year, because I have more people keeping me on my toes. I’m reducing the size of the garden, because I need to be realistic about what I have time for. I’m also putting in about 6 or so of the 4′x4′ square foot gardening beds, since I’m selling them and need to have more experience with them. They should drastically reduce my need to weed, since the plants are planted in such a way that every little bit of the garden is used to its full potential. And I’ll be filling them with new soil and composted manure, which should help me stay ahead of the weeding for a little bit. I will then have garden paths that can be paved with patio stones or seeded with grass, since they are dedicated paths that won’t suddenly be the carrot and bean patches next year.
I’m excited about this transformation. I do believe it will help me get something done. It’s hard to look at 2000 square feet of garden and decide to weed it, but with the 4′x4′ patches, I can work one patch at a time.
AND, if customers will come to my greenhouse on Saturdays in May and June, I will have even more incentive to keep things looking nice!
Everybody should grow food in their backyard. Or on their balcony. Or in a window, like my brother and his wife did for a year or two. Even if it’s only enough for a snack. There are many reasons why I say this, and one of the most important has to do with our children. How will they know where their food comes from, unless we show them?
Here’s a story for you: picture my cute little nephew, one and a half years old. Says a few words, communicates well regardless of how many words he uses. Hefty boy, tough as nails – he has to be, he has an older brother – and very adventurous. My sister has a garden in her backyard – she has to, we have the same genes – and in it she has a chili pepper plant, pictured above. It’s a big beautiful plant, because her soil is good and so is the weather where she lives. Don’t those peppers look tasty? Bright red, they just call you to come and have a taste. So, that’s what my nephew does. Every time he gets into the garden. Takes a bite, spits it out, and says “hot”. Every time. He’s learning about chili peppers, hands-on!
So where does our food come from? Carrots don’t grow on trees and peppers don’t grow underground. Oranges don’t grow in our climate so they have to be shipped from somewhere warm, far away. Broccoli takes up way more space in the garden than the head you buy in the grocery store. Parsnips are not white carrots, apple trees take at least 5 years to produce fruit, lettuce likes growing in cool weather, and sugar snap peas are pure candy when eaten off the vine. If you sat and watched a pumpkin vine for a few hours, you would swear you saw it grow an inch. There are thousands of tomato varieties, but for some reason the ones you buy in a grocery store are tasteless. I think the next generation needs to know these things and more.
My children eat beans raw from the garden, but if I buy frozen ones they put up a big fight about eating them cooked. In the summer they snack on the cherry tomatoes and beans and peas and ground cherries in the garden, sometimes playing restaurant outside, or playing that they’re orphans (gasp) and need to scavenge for food. Such imagination, such healthy food entering their growing bodies, I love it.
It doesn’t matter the size of the garden, or what is grown, but everyone needs to grow something edible. At least once. And share it with someone younger.
Before the downpour this morning, while it was still just sprinkling, I was out feeding my chickens and noticed that one of my chili pepper plants was looking particularly full of flower buds. It’s now halfway through September, so in order to take advantage of all these blooms I potted it up and put it in the greenhouse. Eventually even the greenhouse will be too cold, so I’ll bring it in the house for the coldest parts of winter. I’ll keep it near the heater vent, both for heat and for air movement – this will help a bit with pollination, but I will probably also take a soft paint brush to all the flowers too – just gently brushing each one every other day or so when they’re open.
This is something I learned from my grandpa – he has successfully overwintered hot pepper plants and kept them alive for 5 or more years, still producing hot peppers all through the seasons. I’ve had some luck myself; in the picture below is a jalapeno pepper plant that I overwintered for one winter. Unfortunately it didn’t make it through the second – I’m not sure what the problem was – but I’m going to try again with the chili pepper plant.
See all the flowers? It was a very prolific plant!
If you want to try this yourself, be sure to use potting soil mixed with some composted manure to fill in the extra space around your plant roots. It’s ok to have a bit of garden soil in there, like what’s holding the roots of the plant, but potting soil is best for pots because it allows the roots to breathe a little better than garden soil does. Three things a plant needs from soil: Air, Water, and Nutrients. Too much or too little of any of these can cause problems.
Thanks Erin for commenting on yesterday’s post – I’ll contact you about getting you the Lemon Basil seeds!