Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pepper planting time!

(Clockwise from top left: red chile, Roberto's, ancho, aji limon, tabasco, green tomatoes, a lone late fall okra, anaheim, habanero)

2008 Pepper Report & 2009 Pepper Planting Mania!

Yes, it's early! But I wanted to get a jump start on my peppers this year, since the ones I grew from seed didn't really come into their production height until September/October. I'd planted those seeds toward the end of Feb last year and planted them out toward the end of April. It gets hot, hot, hot in Oklahoma and our first freeze wasn't until November 6. Most of the peppers hung on until November 20, though, with the help of frost blankets. Then everything except the over-wintering crops went down hard.

(Left corner: tabasco peppers; right corner: Hungarian wax. Also one Roberto's Cuban and one jalapeno)

This year, I planted 18 seed plugs with 2 seeds apiece, on Jan 24 (for the list, see the bottom of the post). I'm hoping that giving them an extra month will mean more peppers earlier in the season. The biggest of my home-seeded plants were producing well but the smaller guys had really just put on a bunch of peppers right before the first frost. The plants I bought were all big, bushy, and beautiful, producing extravagantly by August. So with that in mind, I bumped up my seeding date by about five weeks.

Last year I grew 11 varieties of seeds and 3 peppers from plants. Below are some notes...

(Clockwise from left corner: Hungarian wax (looks like a yellow finger), tabasco, cayenne, red bell, habanero, Anaheim)


* Hot pepper mix (included jalapeno, cayenne, Hungarian wax, red cherry, & Anaheim): This was a Burpee's packet I bought from Lowe's. I double-planted 9 seed plugs and ended up with 1 jalapeno (did okay but got taken out early by some sort of disease that looked like anthracnose on its leaves), 1 cayenne (same story as the jalapeno), 3 or 4 Hungarian wax (these did well, showed disease tolerance, and produced about a dozen+ peppers per plant. I pickled these and they lasted about three-four months), and 3 or 4 Anaheim (one grew well from the beginning and was highly productive. The others were stragglers and had put on a bunch of peppers in Nov when it got cold. Good disease resistance). I didn't get any red cherries!

Pickled Hungarian wax peppers

* Roberto's Cuban Seasoning: Got this from Baker Creek but they haven't relisted it this year. It was described as a habanero-flavored, low-heat pepper, which it was. It was AWESOME!

(Roberto's Cuban Seasoning/Aji Dulce)

Baker Creek is carrying a new pepper called Red Mushroom that seems to bear a physical similarity to this pepper, except Roberto's wasn't hot or was only very, very mildly hot. I read an article in Gourmet (I think) over the summer that described a similar pepper called aji dulce, which is probably what Roberto's really is. Anyway, phylogeny aside, I planted 6 of these and three made it into the garden. One grew exceptionally well and early (saved seeds from this one), and the other two were in the straggling bunch that had just set well (although on smaller plants) when the first frost hit. Dommage!

* Lemon Drop (aji limon): From Pinetree. I bought these seeds because I tried one from the pepper lady at Pearl's Farm Mkt in Tulsa. The one she gave me actually did have a lemony accent. Mine had a lemon smell, but not much of a lemon flavor. And they were HOT! I planted four of these and two got planted out. One died. The other did really well, producing early and prolifically. I liked it and used it quite a bit (excellent minced with mashed chickpeas and garlic) but may try again for more lemon. The growing conditions and the fact that I only got to sample one plant may have affected the flavor. I saved seeds and still have 1/2 the packet, as well.

Accidental bliss - Gifts from the compost
* Red chile: This is the pretty red triangular pepper sold at the grocery store as a Red hot chile. Kinda generic name. I put them in chili and salsa and loads of stuff, so there are always tons of seeds in the compost. I don't know how many of these came up - probably three dozen or so! I let about half a dozen grow to maturity and they didn't disappoint. While not exceptionally prolific (they didn't get off to a start until June, maybe), they were reliable and lasted a long, long time, right up until the second hard freeze. Nice heat and disease resistance.

(red jalapeno, tabasco, red chile, Roberto's Cuban, Hungarian wax, the larger pepper at middle-right is an ancho)

* Ancho: Also from the compost and also grew slowly. The peppers were normal sized, not the monsters you see at the store. Good heat and good heat/cold tolerance; one of the last peppers to bite it! Like the red chiles they were somewhat spindly but they were only getting probably six hours of direct sunlight...

* Tabasco: Plant bought at Lowe's. This plant exploded on me. I ended up with hundreds, if not a thousand, tiny orangy-red peppers that were hot, hot, hot! I made tobasco sauce, froze them, dried them, and of course we ate them fresh. This plant was almost too productive and lasted until the bitter end.

* Habanero: Ditto. We had more habs than we could handle. Ate fresh, made sauce, pickled, dried, frozen. Very prolific and very, very hot! Also bought at Lowe's.

* Red Bell: Not very productive. I think we got four or five bells off this plant and they were mostly undersized. I think it got whatever foliage disease the jalapeno got. Also bought at Lowe's.

(tabasco, cayenne, jalapeno, Hunagarian wax, Roberto's Cuban, habanero)

I guess that completes the 2008 portion. For 2009 I'm focusing more on smaller sweet peppers since the larger ones seemed to have trouble in my micro-climate (which doesn't feature tons of all-day sunshine). I'll planted the following:

* 4 seeds from the Hot Mix - Burpees (Lowe's)
* Ashe County Pimento - Baker Creek
* Jimmy Nardello Italian (for frying or drying) - Baker Creek
* Italian pepperocini (mildly hot for pickling) - Baker Creek
* Leutschauer Paprika (medium hot for drying/grinding) - Baker Creek
* Pasilla Bajio (medium hot mole pepper) - Baker Creek
* Red Cheese pepper - Baker Creek
* Aji limon - Pinetree
* Aji dulce/Roberto's Cuban Seasoning - Baker Creek
* Red Savina Scotch Bonnet - these are from some peppers I grew and froze in 2003, so I kind of doubt they'll germinate...we'll see.

And there you have it! The pepper round-up and opening, in one go! The irony about writing this today, however, is that I'm only sitting at home due to being iced in for the second day in a row! So of course my thoughts turned toward warm soil and tasty, spicy peppers. Can't wait!