Ay Caramba - It's Pepper Time

You may wonder why I always chat about peppers, Facebook about peppers, and blog about peppers in winter, since they are very much a heat loving summertime crop?


By mid January, peppers have already been on my mind for weeks and weeks as I began shopping for my annual seed order in December.

Peppers need to be started really early in the year, in February. One has a bit more leeway with the sweets as they germinate pretty quick, but the hots can be notoriously difficult to start. Some take many, many weeks to germinate.   

Greenhouse is full of pepper plants! 

I grow a huge variety of peppers, anywhere from 10 to 40 plants each year. When choosing which peppers to grow, consider first what you want to do with them.



Scoville Heat Unit Scale from Yakima magazine

Scoville Heat Units are used to rate the heat of peppers, ranging from zero to several million. At the bottom of the scale are the sweet peppers with zero heat units, and at the top are peppers with over a million SHU like the Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia) or the Carolina Reaper.


Chervena Chuska

SWEETS!

Are you a wimp like me, who tolerates no heat, and just wants sweet ones to stuff, eat out of hand, or chop into salads and stuff? I grow two types of sweets, tapers and bells, in a whole rainbow of colours...

Long tapered heirloom types are great for fresh eating, frying, stuffing or roasting. Most tapered ones have thinner walls than round or bell types do, and come in green, red, or yellow.

Corno di Toro (Bull's Horn) and Chervena Chuska are my favourite tapered sweets, but there are many others to choose from.

Looks like a rabbit got to it, but nope... it was me ; ) 

The ones that you are probably most familiar with are the bell peppers. Great for fresh eating, stuffing, and chopping into salads, salsas, or toppings, too.

Bells come in a huge variety of colours from the common green (which is how most all of them start out), to red, orange, yellow, purple, white, and mahogany.

I love to eat peppers fresh as I work in the garden, or even as I work on the computer ; ) Though I do use them in everything else, as well... marinated, roasted peppers in sandwiches are super delish, or stuffed with quinoa and all kinds of goodies.


SWEET WITH SPICE!

Nothing beats your own homegrown sweet paprika peppers. Eat them fresh, add to salads, stuff them, or dry and grind into powder.

Alma Paprika is an apple shaped pepper that goes from white to yellow to orange and then red. You can eat them at any stage/colour. It makes a fabulous paprika powder for your goulash, or for sprinkling on your macaroni salad.

Beaver Dam and Feher Ozon are tapered paprika peppers, fantastic heirlooms for fresh eating, cooking, or grinding into paprika powder. The tapered ones are most commonly recognized for paprika making, but all are equally delicious.

Pimentos are sweet with just a wee wee hint of spice, are often canned or ground into paprika powder. Mix into cheese or mayonnaise for a yummy spread for crackers, celery, and sandwiches.

Pickled Hungarian Yellow Wax Pepper Rings 

MILD!

Mildly hot peppers range from just a wee hint of heat to a good bite, generally from 500  to about 10,000 Scoville Heat Units is considered a mild heat.

The ones right at the bottom of the scale (about 500 SHU) are great for just about everything! They have a nice, mild hint of heat, are fantastic for soups, sauces, salsas, garnishes, sandwiches, and salads.

Sweet chili peppers fall into this catagory, like Poblano, Ancho, Anaheim and Pasilla Bajio. They make terrific mole sauces and are used in all sorts of ways in Mexican cooking.

You are probably used to seeing pickled whole Pepperoncini peppers on grocers shelves. They are mild and tasty. If you've ever had the salad at Olive Garden, you are familiar with this pepper ; )


The ones we like to grow for slicing and pickling are Beaver Dam, and Hungarian Yellow Hot Wax. They are all tapered (banana) peppers that change colours, so pick a few at all stages for a prettier peck of pickled peppers. We also pickle Black Hungarians, but leave them whole.


HOT! HOT! HOT!

These guys range from hot to flaming hot. On the lower end of the scale are the Chili and Thai peppers, and then they range right on up to the Habanero and Scotch Bonnets.

I, of course, do not eat any of these, at all! However, the rest of the family is crazy and loves them all.

These guys are often used for making hot sauces like Tabasco or Franks Red Hot. They also make a nice crushed pepper flake to add to dips, sauces, rubs, marinades for heat and flavour.

Spicy Mexican foods are made with Habanero peppers, while spicy Caribbean dishes like Jamaican jerk chicken or pork are made with Scotch Bonnets.

Cayenne and chili powder, of course, are the well known spices, but you can make all kinds of blends to change up the flavour. Try some Lemon Drop Aji peppers to make a fabulous citrus-y rub or sauce spice.

Trinidad Scorpions

AY CARAMBA! THE STINKING HOTS!

I like to call these the stinking hot peppers, they are crazy, insane sizzling hot. I grow these for hubby and his friends, but I will not even pick them! My job is to grow them, lol, the mister gets to deal with them.

Please be very careful when handling these peppers, and do NOT touch any sensitive body parts while prepping or cooking with them. Wear gloves!

They are sometimes nearly as hot coming out as they were going in, so do not plan any big road trips for the day after a hot pepper feast.

To make them a bit milder, you can remove the seeds and the membranes inside, as that is where most of the heat resides.

Apparently these peppers do have a good flavour, which is why the heat lovers eat them. Use them for hot sauces or for spicing up a bbq sauce or rub.
 

 Happy pepper growing! 

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