Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pepper Palooza

 Half of the pepper patch
Peppers are a crop that require a lot of patience.  Especially if you start your own plants from seed.  Around the 1st of March I prep my planting trays and sow the seeds of peppers, eggplants and tomatoes and put them on a heat mat to sprout, then under grow lights where they grow along for about 6 weeks.  At that point, I step them up into larger pots and start to harden them off by putting them outside during the day and bringing them in at night, exposing them to more and more sun each day.  Around the 1st of May I set them into the garden beds and put the cages around them.  Then it's a waiting game until the first fruits begin to show color and fully ripen up, usually around mid August.  Six months before the first fruit, that is a long wait.  From that point on, its pepper city up to and often beyond frost.

They are actually pretty easy to grow, I just keep them watered and usually give them some extra fertilizer in the form of fish emulsion in mid-summer as they are starting to set fruits.  There are few pests that attack the plants, sometimes caterpillars can get into the fruits and cause them to rot, but generally they are free of problems.

Bowl of sweet, colorful, crisp goodness
I have no interest in green peppers unless they are the hot varieties.  I grow 1 plant of serranos every season which produces enough peppers for an army.  I also grow at least one of the medium hot chiles such as anaheims, poblanos or pasillas each year.  But my true faves are the sweet and colorful bell peppers; red, orange and yellow as well as the Italian stuffing peppers.  I have Carmen this year and sometimes I plant Corno di toros which are nice as they also have yellow and orange fruits in addition to the red.  This year I have a Marconi Gold which is a bright yellow stuffing pepper the same size as the Carmen.  And finally the pimentos which are so meaty and rich roasted and either dressed in olive oil for salads or appetizers or chopped for good old pimento cheese.  

All of the peppers freeze really well too and so I roast and freeze them or chop and freeze the colored bells to use in soups, stirs fries and other dishes through the winter.  Small hot peppers can be frozen whole and the chopped peppers need no prep or cooking, just core and seed, chop and toss in freezer bags, so easy.

We are eating lots of these now raw in salads, dipped in hummus, sauteed in pasta dishes.  The only down side is that there isn't a lot of other stuff coming out of the garden at the moment, the tomatoes are finished, the eggplants are making a few, the beans are winding down, and now I am waiting eagerly for the fall greens to start up but it will be a while.

Just yesterday I sowed seed for lettuce, spinach, radishes and turnips.  I put in another batch of carrots as the first planting from a month ago came up sparsely.  The beets look good and are already about 3 inches tall, so they will be the first greens we get to eat this fall.  I also need to pull out the tomato plants dead or dying to make room for the brassicas.  Little broccoli, cabbage and collard plants are sitting in pots and really want to be in the ground.  I do have quite a few frozen greens from the spring so I guess I'll eat those  while I wait for the new ones to come on,

Truthfully, there is never a shortage of food around here, I'm only complaining because, well, I don't know why I'm complaining, it's foolish!

Monday, September 2, 2013

FIG-alicious August

Whoa- what happened to August?
Let's see....
There was a vacation.

Here we are with our peeps out in Missouri
We had an amazing visit and adventure in the Ozarks with brother Jon and sister-in-law Candy.  Together we camped and floated down the crystal clear and cold spring fed Current River in the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways.  It was good to go and see everyone, but after 2,000 miles in the car and 9 nights in 7 places, we were glad to get back home.  We've been back a week and I'm just now feeling like I might be getting caught up on things, though you know the reality of life in the country, you never really get caught up.  Everywhere I look I see another task that needs tending to.

Something else that's been taking up lots of time, surprise, surprise- harvesting and processing.

Figs were coming in like crazy before we left, this is a fraction of what we were dealing with. 

 Add cupfuls of the above, fresh sliced ginger and lemon...
 Bubble, Bubble Toil and Trouble

Ta Dah!! 
20 jars of fig and ginger preserves to stash under the bed with the canned tomatoes and peaches.

I made another 4 pints yesterday with the ones we harvested after we returned, they are coming in daily and if we don't pick them quick, they turn to fruit fly and wasp food, dripping sour juice or full fledged fuzz balls covered with fur.  I think they are slowing down.  They sure are tasty both fresh and cooked.

The tomatoes really are finished and it's time to pull out the dead and dying squash, cukes and early beans and plant the fall garden.  I am happy to report the forecast for this week brings a cold front on Wed that will usher in cooler drier fall weather. Pretty much from the first hot humid days in June, I wait eagerly for the moment when the weather cools again.

But now- I need to go out and mow the grass.

My fig preserves:
12 cups (after prepping) washed, stemmed and halved fresh figs
6 cups of sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 whole lemon; quartered lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
2 inches of fresh ginger; peeled and thinly sliced
1 stick of cinnamon

Put it all together in a large heavy bottomed pot and bring to a simmer.  Cook one to two hours stirring frequently over a medium-low heat until thickened.  If you have a thermometer, it should reach 221 degrees.  Be careful not to scorch or burn on the bottom.  Be careful when you stir, it can splatter and burn you!  Makes about 10 half pints.  To process, pour hot into sterilized jars, top with new canning lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove to cool.
OR put in containers in the fridge, give to friends and keep refrigerated until its gone.