I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – ‘know what you grow!’ The thing is often I get a little carried away with the whole process of growing things, that I forget to follow my own advice. Most of the time I get it right and do a bit of research if I’m growing something new, so I know it has the space it needs and the soil is perfect for it to grow well. I find out all there is to know so there is no surprises along the way. That is the exciting part, that and watching something new unfold across the season before you very eyes.
But when it comes to something you grow every year, it can get a little boring and so you are always on the lookout for ways to spice things up. Every year I grow peppers. They have their own bed and it can easily house 16 plants. Eight of these are bell peppers because in a good season they are a staple and I can half them, deseed them and freeze them to last the whole year in almost every dish I cook.
The other half of the bed is the fun bit. There are so many different kinds of chillies and peppers out there are well over 40 varieties available to the seed sowing gardener in New Zealand so it is only natural to want to grow them all. The initial instinct is to go with all the exciting spicy ones – habanero, jalapeno, rocoto, cayenne among other tongue sizzling delights. While I don’t mind the occasional bit of spice, you can have too much of a good thing and we have more than enough chilli sauce to last a life time. I even fermented my own tabasco sauce, but I think 2 litres is probably a tad too much – especially when you consider they normally sell it in tiny 60ml bottles!
I didn’t mind the peach and chilli sauce as it wasn’t too hot – spicy enough for a kick but the sweetness of the fruit lifts it into something special. This year I put away some peaches from the tree into the freezer so I can use them when the chillies turn red as I’m down to the last bottle and am using it sparingly. I may make some more sweet chilli sauce but there are still a few large bottles in the cupboard from last season. We haven’t even touched the chilli vinegar. I think people are afraid of it.
And then we have to think of poor old Hubby the Un-Gardener. As in some situations I’m quite brave – I’m not when it comes to chillies and so poor old Hubby the Un-Gardener would frequently be subjected to “can you try this please” and every time he’d just pop whatever it is in and chew. Sometimes he said, that’s nice, but most of the time he’d run out the house shrieking with the heat of it. And then I’d know not to put that particular pepper into the family meal. To be honest I’m not sure why he trusts me every single time.
So this season I have been more restrained and chosen peppers that are lower down on the Scoville scale but more interesting than the standard bell peppers. But now that they are almost ready I’m not entirely sure what to do with them. I know I can pickle some, and I have plans for the paprika. The pepperoni sounds completely intriguing and I’m wondering if I need to find out how to make salami to get the best out of this chilli. – Actually re-reading the description that came with the seed packet – they are supposed to be fab on a pizza and should be picked when 5 – 8cm in the green / yellow stage. Opps – I think I’ve let them go too far. Besides there are loads on the plant and there are only so many pizzas a girl can eat!
Ok so looking into them all in the kind of detail I should have earlier:
- Dulce Espana 0 Spanish sweet pepper renowned for its versatility and fruity taste. Ideal for salsa, salads, frying, stuffing, roasting and pickling. They are a good size too!
- Paprika 0 – 300 – I have plans for these – they will be dried and smoked and dried for my own special spices. I’m super excited about this
- Yellow banana 0 – 500 mild, tangy taste usually consumed when yellow. But red will do too. I can use these in cooking for a bit of a zing that hopefully the kids will eat too. I like a bit of spice to my meals, so need to gently increase the heat levels so the kids don’t even realise it is happening.
- Golden pepperoni 1 – 1000 These apparently get their golden colour when you pickle them so they are good to use on pizza and on antipasto. I really should have looked into this information at the beginning of the season as I think I may have let them get a little too big.
- Anaheim 500 – 2500 good for stuffing and roasting which is good to know, and is good for Mexican food. You can get the best flavour by charring the skin first. Although apparently these are also better when a little immature.
- Mulato 1000 – 2000 – this is supposed to ripen brown not red and then dried. It is supposed to have a chocolate hint to it so we shall see about that….
- Jalapeno 2500 – 8000 A good old favourite – spicy but familiar. Delish when stuffed with cheese, but also used as a source of heat for the average person like me who likes a little heat, but not enough to destroy tastebuds for weeks to come.
- Hungarian Yellow wax 5000 – 10000 – Gosh I didn’t really expect this one was that hot. The scary thing is it looks just like a Yellow banana so labelling is essential! These are the ones that enjoy being pickled.
- Cayenne 30000 – 50000 – Now I know these ones are hot, because I have little packets in my spice drawer. But I have decided not to buy cayenne pepper anymore – so this will be dried and ground and I’ll put it in my own little packet!
Armed with this knowledge I sloshed about in the garden and did a bit of harvesting and now I need to decide exactly what I’ll do with my abundant crop.
Come again soon – we’ll know for sure what this second storm decides to do with itself. Hopefully it won’t decide to flood us again.
Sarah the Gardener : o)