Every year that I garden I learn something new. And every year the harvest grows. This was our best pepper harvest yet. It wasn’t a huge amount, but definitely more than years past.
I’m wishing I’d weighed our peppers as I brought them in from the garden, but a handful here and there didn’t seem significant enough to document. I really have no idea how many peppers we’ve picked so far, but the 29 plants are still producing as I type this.
What I Learned About Growing Peppers This Year
- As with all plants, you must keep them weeded and mulched. I noticed a significant increase in growth shortly after thoroughly weeding the bed and spreading a 3″ layer of woodchip or hay mulch around each plant and in between the rows. I think I stunted their growth during their neglect.
- Sprinkling dried egg shells and dried, used coffee grounds liberally around each plant prevented the Blossom End Rot we’ve always had problems with in the past. No rot this year whatsoever.
- Grow what you normally use. I wish I’d planted jalapenos and more bell peppers, instead of the exotic sounding varieties I chose. I realized too late in the season that if I wanted to make fresh salsa, I’d have to buy the peppers I needed at the store. Which completely defeats the purpose of growing your own peppers. Next year, I’ll plant according to the recipes I’d like to make. Like salsa. And jalapeno poppers.
- Know when your peppers are ripe. Should they be green, yellow, orange or red? Having an idea of what the peppers are supposed to look like when they’re ready to pick will help you determine when to harvest.
- Have a plan for the harvest. If you don’t know exactly what want to do with your peppers before you pick them, they’ll inevitably sit on your countertop or in the fridge, and will go bad before you get around to doing something with them. Worse case scenario, pop them in a ziploc bag and toss them in the freezer. I freeze them whole.
- Know whether your peppers are hot or sweet. I grew several varieties that I had no familiarity with. When I picked them, I had to do a search online to find out if they were hot or not. Knowing their characteristics would have helped me have a better plan for how I would use them. Plus, I ended up planting a ton of sweet peppers, and only one hot variety. I could have used more heat for my cooking.
- I haven’t had any problem with insects or other garden pests on my peppers. Haven’t had to spray or sprinkle a single thing on them, other than the egg shells and coffee grounds in the soil.
What I Learned About Each Variety I Grew
I grew these mostly for medicinal purposes. I don’t normally cook with cayenne. You can make a tea with it to drink for colds and flu, or gargle with cayenne tincture for sore throats. A compress made from cayenne is good for rheumatic pains, sprains, and bruising. And you can use infused oils of cayenne for a warming massage to help with arthritis pain.
According to The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, cayenne seeds can be toxic, so I decided to remove them before drying the peppers. I dehydrated them in a food dehydrator.
- Always use gloves when chopping hot peppers. Even when handling dried peppers. I made the mistake of blowing my nose after picking dried cayenne peppers out of the dehydrator to put in ziploc bags. All of a sudden the inside of my nose was tingling, then burning, then totally on fire. A wad of toilet paper soaked in milk and shoved up my nose quickly took the inflammation away. Even the towel I used to dry my hands on after washing them contained the oils. My husband later wiped his face on this same towel and experienced burning as well.
- I plan on grinding the dried peppers into a powder as I need them. I have been forewarned that it is best to do this outside so that your entire house doesn’t fill with a pepperspray effect.
You pick cayenne peppers when they turn red. I’ve been surprised by how abundantly the plants have produced. I didn’t need to plant nearly as many as I did. I’m thinking four of these plants probably would have been sufficient for my needs.
Albino Bullnose Pepper
A sweet, mild pepper. Great for salads, stir-fry, fajitas, and in any dish where you’d use a yellow or orange bell pepper, in my opinion. You can pick them at this creamy yellow-white stage, or you can wait until they fully ripen to a reddish-orange.
Friariello Di Napoli
Another mild pepper, these are great for pickling and frying, both of which I’ve been experimenting with. I’ll try to post how to can them soon. I seeded a half-dozen of these peppers, and sauteed them in olive oil infused with garlic until they were soft and slightly browned. Lightly salted, they were delicious as a side dish by themselves.
Friariello Di Napoli plants produce heavily. Pick when they’re about 4″ long.
California Wonder Peppers
I use bell peppers for so many dishes, I knew I needed to plant a lot of these. The plants have done really well, though not as prolific as the smaller pepper varieties. We prefer yellow, orange, or red peppers to the green ones, but I’ve been afraid to leave them on the plant long enough to allow them to fully ripen. So, I’ve been picking them green. I’m always afraid they’ll start to spoil if I leave them too long, but I’m going to watch the peppers currently on the plants and see how they do as they continue changing shades. You can pick the peppers at pretty much any stage, as needed.