Posts Tagged ‘hot peppers’

suncartoonWe’ve had one heck of a hot summer here in Georgia; and it’s wreaked havoc on our garden.  The heat came early, in late April.  Oh, I forgot to mention, it’s also been dry.  Our summer squash really struggled. I had to harvest the zucchini and cucumbers much earlier (and smaller) than normal to ensure good texture and flavor.

Our strawberries were good and plentiful, but came in much earlier than the last two years.

Frankly, the corn was a disaster. I made some mistakes with it that I will confess in another post, but for now, just know I couldn’t keep enough moisture on it.

I lost my battle over our tomatoes.  They started better than ever.  They were gorgeous until early May.  Once the heat got crazy, I couldn’t get them to produce. They simply don’t like to make fruit in hot weather.  We had an excellent early harvest, but now, only the hardiest cherry tomatoes are prospering.

The green beans and potatoes have been fine.  Harvests were not as big, but quality was good.

Oddly, most years I have real trouble with winter squash. This year, I only planted ONE butternut and ONE acorn squash. They produced like crazy.  I think they liked the warmer weather.  They would have done even better, but our free range rabbits developed a taste for winter squash. 🙂

It’s our peppers, though, that have been most dramatically impacted by this crazy summer.  First, for reasons I’ll explain another day, we didn’t plant at many plants this year.  I planted three bell, 3 mini bell, 8 jalapeno, 4 Doux des Landes, 3 Thai, 3 yellow ghost, 1 yellow Moruga Scorpion, and 4 roasting peppers.  Oh, I almost forgot, we also have 5 habanero plants.

First, only one of my bell peppers survived the heat and a rabbit invasion. To my surprise, the one that survived turned out to be a Giant Aconcagua and not a bell at all. I was elated, because I prefer Aconcagua.

Not a single mini bell survived. I’m pretty sad, because they tend to be so very sweet.  On the other hand, we prefer Aconcagua, Roasters, and Doux des Landes anyway, so it’s all good.

Stumpy, but Potent Jalapeno

Stumpy, but Potent Jalapeno

With the single exception of the Yellow Moruga, all the pepper plants are stunted. Before you ask, they all had plenty of nutrients and compost.  It is my suspicion that the lack of rain played a role. I was forced to use the garden hose from late April, and our water is loaded with chlorine and chloramines. The only water I dechlorinate is for the aquaponics systems and they did very poorly. It was so hot, that even with extra oxygen the raft beds were too warm for the plant roots. Again, more in another post.

While the plants were small, they have been prolific, providing an abundance of pods. The pods on the sweet peppers have all been smaller than normal. The Doux des Landes, for example have mostly been only a little larger than a long red cayenne. They have also had more heat than one would expect. Instead of just a little warm aftertaste, these have had an actual kick.  A few have been full size, but only about 10%.

Ironically, the Moruga plant is gorgeous, large and green.  For whatever reason, though, the rabbits love the taste and we haven’t gotten a single fruit.   They are the only peppers we’ve lost to the bunnies.  Oh well.

The Ghost and habanero plants are smaller than normal, but the fruit is full sized.  The Jalapeno fruit is about half the size of normal summers. The big thing, though, is the heat. Oh my Gosh, are the hot peppers hot.  It’s like everything has been sized up.  My wife and in laws swear the Jalapenos are like Habaneros.  I don’t think they are quite that hot, but boy howdy, they pack a punch. Most years, I snack on them like a sweet pepper.  Not this year. No sir, not this year.

As for the Habaneros, although they are common orange ones, I’d compare them to Red Savina. And as for the Yellow Ghost, they are hot like red ones. The first one I ate, I was disappointed at first, because it didn’t hit at all for about 20 seconds. Then it suddenly turned to shock and awe. I love that. It’s deceptive.

All I can guess is that the extra heat stressed the peppers which often intensifies the heat. And this year’s heat is INTENSE. Yay!

Miniature Doux des Landes

Miniature Doux des Landes

My disappointment in the early setbacks has been replaced by delight due to the flavor.  All varieties hot and mild are bursting with it. And there are a lot of flowers and young pods still developing.

How has your garden done?  I’d love to hear about it.

Talk to you soon.



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This guy needs a shave!

This guy needs a shave!

Those of you who are long time readers know that I love heat. In my world, spicy food rules. Whether it’s salsa for Mexican food, ketchup for meatloaf, Cajun delights or Indian Curries, as far as I’m concerned, the hotter the better.

We started growing our own peppers about the same time we started this blog, back in2009. Since then, we’ve grown dozens of varieties of hot (sweet, too) peppers. Compared to some of my Facebook Friends, I’m a rank amateur, but I’ve learned a lot about growing and cooking with peppers.

My love affair with all things spicy began the moment I ate my first Jalapeno when I was about 10 years old. It changed my life. For years, I put hot sauce on everything.  I was content.

Life changed again in the eighties, while living in the United Kingdom, when I was introduced to Indian food. Oh my g6osh, what a revelation in spicy living. Vindaloo became my go to dish for several years, until I heard of a dish called Chicken Phall (or Phaul).

Phall is frequently called the spiciest dish in the world. It was actually created in England, not India or Pakistan.  Originally invented to encourage young, drunk Englishmen to leave the restaurant at closing time, Phall has become a staple dish in many parts of the United Kingdom. It really will put hair on your chest.

I make it all the time, and truly love it. Habanero Peppers are a primary ingredient. Chicken Phall is more than just scorching heat. It is full of flavor and depth.

Mash ready to puree

Mash ready to puree

Over the years, I have upgraded from Habs, to Jolokia and Moruga Scorpion Peppers. I have yet to make any with the legendary Carolina Reaper, but it’s just a matter of time.

As the years have passed, and I’ve done more cooking with peppers, I’ve used less and less hot sauce.  At the same time, because I grow so many peppers, My stock of frozen and dried peppers has come unwieldy. The supply just keeps growing and my long suffering wife would like to have some freezer space back for other produce and meat.

Simultaneously, I’ve watched the Chili Pepper boards on facebook come alive with news from Fiery Foods festivals and I’ve witnessed the introduction of many new sauces. As, someone who loves both to eat and to cook, all these new creations have made me want to try making my own hot sauce. Finally, this year, I decided to make it happen.

This first sauce, I’m calling, “Pastor Sam’s ‘Altar Call’.” (Regular readers know I use the “Pastor Sam’s” moniker for all my BBQ sauces and marinades.  At its base, Altar Call has one pound of peppers. There are 4 types of Habanero (Orange, Red, Chocolate, and Peruvian White), Jolokia (Ghost), Moruga Scorpion, and a few Carolina Reapers in the mash.  I aged mash for 6 days before turning it into a sauce and bottling it.

I was really surprised by the depth of flavor, after only 6 days.  The heat hit about two seconds after the flavor. At first, I thought I was going to be disappointed by a lack of heat, then two other things happened. A strong habanero flavor suddenly comes through after the first heat wave and made me think, ‘Yum. And to think, I made this all by myself.”

It was at this point, the Jolokia and Reaper peppers came into their own. What started as a slow burn, continued to grow into some real heat. It was mouth and lip heat more than back of the throat, but it kept growing for several minutes. What a pleasant surprise.

Pastor Sam's 'Altar Call' Hot Sauce

Pastor Sam’s ‘Altar Call’ Hot Sauce

Finally, in true Jolokia tradition, the pain hit my gut. Of all the hot peppers, Jolokia’s hit my gut the hardest. This one packed a pretty good punch.

As a first sauce, I am really happy with it. I would give it a solid B. It has plenty of heat combined with decent flavor. In future, I will age it a few more days, and I might try it with a hint of garlic, but it’s pretty darned good, as is. I can’t wait to add some to my burrito tonight.

I’d love to hear what you like in a hot sauce. Do you make your own? Please add your comments and questions, because it’s more fun when we share. After all, we’re in this together.


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Ok, so a few things are going wrong with the garden.  Squash borers are devouring my winter squash and rats are feasting on my tomatoes.  We’ve covered that ground already.  The fight goes on.  So, let’s spend a minute on a mighty success story.  Our Jalapenos are thriving.

Frankly, Jalapenos must be the easiest plant in the world to grow.  We’ve grown them successfully in Iowa, Maine and now in Georgia.  This year’s crop is one of the best ever.

We are growing two varieties.  One is called Gigante.  These little beauties are slightly stumpier than I thought they would be, but they are really fat, kind of like, well, me.  They are perfect for stuffing as poppers.  The peppers are mostly two to three inches long, though some a longer.  They are an inch and a half or more across.  Because they are only mildly spicy, you can easily leave all, or some, of the seeds to provide extra kick to whatever you stuff them with.  Only the faint of heart will suffer from eating these little beauties.

Speaking of the faint of heart, they want to avoid our second variety, the Biker Billy, which is sold by Burpee.  These firecrackers, are traditional color and size, but pack a Habenero like wallop.  I’m talking, serious heat.  All the traditional flavor of Jalapeno combined with Habanero heat makes for a fiesta in your mouth.  Either that, or a war, sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Just last night Brittan roasted up a few of them and I had them with a bacon cheeseburger (no bun).  Oh my gosh, I was smiling, sweating, grinning and crying all at the same time.  We’ve grown the Biker Billy’s for four seasons and they’ve been prolific every year.  The only trouble is, they are indistinguishable on the outside from ordinary Jalapenos, so occasionally, guests get an extra surprise when they bite into one.  Sometimes they forgive us.

If you like a little spice and love to entertain, try one of the giant varieties of Jalapeno.  They are easy to grow and produce prolifically.  If you are a serious chile head, but have always enjoyed the traditional Jalapeno flavor, then you are a candidate for the Biker Billy.  Whichever variety you choose, growing Jalapenos will give you real confidence that you can be a successful gardener.


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