What do you do with 15 pounds of assorted peppers? Roast them! My Italian in-laws wasted no time when we arrived home from picking peppers at our garden plot last week. They quickly cleaned and cut up three bags of peppers, piled them onto cookie sheets, drizzled them with canola oil and Italian spices, then roasted them in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes (making sure to check and stir them about every 5 minutes). The peppers were done when soft, yet a bit firm. We enjoyed them between two slices of crusty bread. Pepper sandwiches are delicious hot or cold!
Don’t throw away your lemon, orange or grapefruit peels! They are packed with intense citrus flavor perfect for a homemade sweet, crisp and chewy fruit candy. I followed an easy recipe for candied lemon peels on the LunaCafe blog. Her stunning bright yellow lemon photos inspired me to try her recipe. I made a half pint of delicious lemon candy from four of our homegrown lemons. The candied lemon peels taste like a natural lemon gum drop. They are not sour or bitter. The candy will stay fresh for several weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Pepper plants thrive in the cool moist fall weather. Our potted Jalapeno and Cherry Bomb pepper plants on our deck are loaded with new peppers. A few Bell and Habanero pepper plants at our community garden plot are still producing fruit, too.
The Jalapeno and Cherry Bomb peppers are perfect for spicy mouth popping appetizers. They are not too hot when the seeds and membranes are cut out. Actually, some of the jalapenos were quite mild. I wore rubber gloves and cut out off the pepper tops and sliced out the seed membranes (the white part holding the seeds). Then I stuffed the peppers with of mixture of sausage, cheese, beaten egg and bread crumbs. I cooked them for 15 minutes at 400 degrees fahrenheit. My husband and guests enjoyed them with homemade pizza. Our eyes watered a bit, but no one said they were “too hot.”
Our zucchini plants produced over 22 pounds of zucchini! We could not pick them fast enough so some zucchini grew into a size worthy of the county fair. My kitchen counters were covered with green logs a few weeks ago. I chopped and my son shredded (using the food processor) until we filled over 15 cups with zucchini meat. Here is our zucchini resume…
- Traditional zucchini bread
- Oatmeal cookies containing shredded zucchini (squeezed dry).
- Appetizers of breaded then broiled zucchini slices (can be used in Lasagna in place of noodles).
- Pasta with sauted zucchini, tomatoes, garlic and onion.
- Pizza with a crust made from shredded zucchini, eggs, flour, olive oil and cheese. My son’s culinary review, “It does not look like pizza, but it tastes like pizza. It is yummy!”
Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to our zucchini plants this week. I found a squash vine borer larva inside the stem of one of our plants. Moist sawdust-like debris around each stem and wilted leaves were signs of this devastating pest. I cut open one stem and found the larva. Sometimes the plant can be saved by digging out the larva and covering the stem with dirt. Our plants had too much damage to be saved. But our zucchini legacy will continue despite the vine borers……there is more shredded zucchini frozen in a bag inside our freezer!
The one habanero pepper plant in our garden plot continues to supply us with more than enough hot peppers. I do not know what to do with all these small bright orange peppers. They are pretty, but so pungent! One tiny crumb size bite will burn your tongue. A week ago I roasted about 15 of the habaneros in our oven. As they roasted, the kitchen filled with a sweet smell that reminded me of a deli or a room filled with pepperoni sticks. Then the aroma became overpowering and grabbed my throat. I could not stop coughing and my eyes started watering. I opened our kitchen sliding glass door and stood outside on our deck until the coughing stopped. Those are powerful peppers!
Yesterday, while making chili for guests I wondered if my roasted habaneros had less heat than uncooked habaneros. I cut a speck of skin from a roasted habanero and placed it on my tongue. It gave a tingling burn, not a stabbing burn. The heat seemed reduced so I chopped one-fourth of a roasted habanero and added it to the sauting onions and garlic. My chili got a spice lift and tasted fabulous. It had a rich hot and sweet flavor. My husband and guests devoured my chili as they told their own hot pepper stories. Today, my friend, a creative cook, suggested that I add my leftover pumpkin soup to the leftover hot chili. Our spicy pumpkin chili was delicious, mild and creamy.
Don’t be afraid to add habanero peppers to recipes. They are hot and sweet. The website, Habanero Madness and the book, Habanero has more than enough habanero pepper advice and recipes for all my habaneros.
What do you do with your habanero peppers?
It is mid-October and our fig tree is still producing figs! Those green figs in the photo are now brownish purple and ready to eat. My son and I ate a couple today. Yummy! Our 6 year old fig tree had a growth explosion and produced over 5 pounds of figs this summer and fall. Normally, we wrap our fig tree with a leaf-stuffed burlap blanket to protect it in winter. But last winter we did not. Instead, God covered it in 80 inches of snow. We feared it would be damaged from the Blizzard of 2009, but instead it produced our biggest crop of figs.
Figs are sweet and delicious. I wonder why they are not as popular as strawberries, grapes or bananas? Here is a list of the fig fun my family and I had this summer and fall:
1. Picking and eating figs while playing in the backyard.
2. Eating figs stuffed with gorgonzola cheese.
3. Eating sliced figs on top of cereal and oatmeal
4. Making and eating a fig, onion and gorgonzola cheese pizza
5. Baking and snacking on homemade fig newton cookies
6. Eating figs sliced in salads.
7. Making and snacking on homemade blueberry and fig fruit roll-ups.
8. Eating chicken breasts stuffed with figs and gorgonzola cheese
9. Eating our homemade sugar-free fig jam on warm toast.
10. Dreaming about ways to eat figs after reading Fig Heaven.
What did you do with your figs?
This summer, my husband brought home a surprise for me. Not a bouquet of flowers, but some brown wilted plants in moist paper towels. He knows I prefer plants over cut flowers. The plants were starter greens from his co-worker. I planted them in our salad table. I assumed the plants were romaine and green leaf lettuce because one had smooth broad leaves and the other had curly thin leaves. When the plants reached mound size, I questioned their identity. The leaves felt tough and tasted bitter. My husband told me it was endive. A quick search through gardening books and the internet solved my greens mystery. It was escarole and curly endive, something I never grew or cooked before.
Highlights of what I learned about endive: 1. Curly endive has the frilly leaves and Batavian endive or escarole has broad leaves. 2. Endive can grow in winter and is less bitter when grown in cooler weather. 3. Blanching endive can reduce bitterness. Curly endive is blanched by covering it with a porous pot. Escarole is blanched by wrapping it with string so the outer leaves will block light from inner leaves. 4. Endive is used in a lot in Italian cooking including soups and saute. 5. Endive is high in vitamin A,B,C and contains Calcium and Iron .
I wrapped my escarole plants with string to blanch the inner leaves hoping they will be less bitter. I plan to make Escarole Bean Soup and Curly Endive and Bean Soup with my hearty mystery greens. Do you have any mysteries growing in your garden?
My husband built a salad table one Saturday afternoon this past spring. He followed the plans for the Salad Table from the Grow It Eat It Network. He built it from wood piled in our garage. After he completed it, we had a little more space in our garage and a mini plot on our deck. A variety of crops grew in our salad table this year. In early summer, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce and arugula grew in it. My son helped me pick the tender leaves. The table is the perfect height for him to reach and pick without bending over or standing on his toes. We ate lots of mixed salads and swiss chard this summer. I sautéed the swiss chard in olive oil with garlic, salt and pepper then tossed with pasta. Swiss chard is good in minestrone soup, too.
The fall crops are now growing in the salad table. Recently, this wild fennel shoot popped up unexpectedly. I learned that wild fennel can be an invasive plant. It does not have the celery-like stem of sweet fennel. Its delicate leaves have a strong anise or licorice flavor. Clippings of fennel leaves in a salad are a happy surprise to taste buds. Along with the wild fennel there is spinach, radishes and two mystery greens growing in the table. The mystery greens are transplants from my husband’s coworker. Our mini plot’s first growing season was a success. It grew some gregarious greens!
Here are some of the green tomatoes that I picked from my toppled tomato plants. I had a grocery bag full of these green rebels. I could have put them in a bag with a banana to ripen, but tomatoes ripened off the vine are not as tasty to me. Not wanting to waste them, I searched for green tomato recipes. Most of the recipes had too much sugar so I adapted A Green Tomato Cake.
My changes: 2 cups white flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour instead of 3 cups white flour; ( 3/4 cup sugar, 1 ripe banana, 1/3 cup Agave ) instead of 2 cups sugar; 2 and 1/2 eggs instead of 3 eggs and 1 cup raisins instead of 1/2 cup raisins.
It was yummy! My son liked it so much he hugged me for making it. He did not know it had tomatoes in it! My husband savored it over coffee after dinner. Don’t wait for the green tomatoes to turn red. Enjoy them now. A good little lesson from the garden ….live in the present with those around you, don’t wait for them to change.