Welcome Spring

Edible Garden BeginsToday thin green spinach seedlings popped out of the seed starter soil, a perfect start to Spring. During our late winter snowfall last week,  I planted seeds for our summer kitchen garden.  I found this wire rack at the Goodwill and thought it perfect to hold our seedlings.  This year I plan to make our raised beds more visually appealing with a mix of flowers planted among vegetable plants.  I picked attractive vegetable plants including peppers, eggplants and spinach for our garden below the deck.  I will grow patio tomatoes in pots on the deck to keep them from getting unruly.  I learned my lesson from last year.  My son requested his favorite flower, Forget-Me-Not, so we started those from seed, too. My husband planted garlic last fall, and tall green stalks are appearing around the raised beds already.  They will be harvested in July, so I am hoping they will not detract from the plan to have a more beautiful garden that invites relaxation.  The snow in this photo has melted.  Spring is here bringing many garden dreams!

Roasted Peppers

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!

Garden Gifts

We are overflowing with peppers (bells and cubanelles), eggplants (neon, Italian, Chinese and globe varieties) and another 40 pounds of tomatoes.  We can not keep up with the processing of all these veggies.   We  shared with friends, family and the food bank.   I spend my free time searching for recipes, chopping, freezing or canning.    We canned 30 quarts of tomatoes and 11 pints of salsa.  We have several gallon freezer bags filled with chopped peppers and roasted eggplant slices (some plain or coated with bread crumbs).  The eggplant slices can replace the noodles in lasagna.

We are grateful for this wonderful veggie bounty, but the best gift from the garden came today.  It was not the 45 more pounds of veggies we picked (not in the photo).  It was when my son eagerly helped me plant the fall crops of broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, kale and fennel.  He put on gloves, tucked in each newly planted seedling with a handful of fertilizer and a smile!

Plenty of Peppers

“May I have a pepper?” I slice the top off one of our homegrown cubanelle peppers, take out the seeds and give it to my son for a snack. I hear him crunch and mumble, “mmmmmm, this is good!” My gardening heart fills with joy. All his complaints about the plot – “I do not want to go there! It is dirty, stinky, hot, and boring!” – are quieted for the moment. I can give up the idealistic dream of my son working beside me, picking, watering and weeding (he would rather pound dirt and find bugs). He is eating fresh vegetables and learning how good food is produced, that is what is important. We will keep our garden plot growing!

This is our best year for peppers! They are large and prolific. We are amazed. What did we do right? Maybe it was the hot and stormy summer? Could it be the organic fertilizer – fish emulsion and Garden Tone? My husband threw handfuls of organic fertilizer (10-2-8) into the soil when he turned it over in April. I gave the pepper plants a quarter cup of Garden Tone (4-4-3) in June, when I planted them and again at the beginning of July. We also put organic black plastic down around each plant after we planted them. Once the peppers are picked, it is best to store them in the refrigerator if they are not going to be eaten or preserved immediately.

Harvest totals last week:
Bell Peppers: 0.65 lb,
Purple Peppers: 1 lb,
Cubanelle Peppers: 9.75 lb,
Tomato: 8.0 lb,
Eggplant: 5.0 lb,
Red Onion: .75 lb.

Overall produce: 47.25 lb (mixed veggies)

Preserving harvest: Cubanelle peppers: canned 8 pints marinated and 5 quart bags frozen.

Harvest Monday – July 23, 2012

Eggplants and peppers are abundant in our garden plot. We have plans for all these veggies. The eggplants: stuff and roll up – slice, dip in egg and bread crumbs, broil, spread with mixture of egg, ricotta and parmesan cheese, roll up, place in baking dish, cover with tomato sauce and bake; transform into spaghetti – slice and sprinkle with olive oil, broil, cool and cut into strips, top with sauce; pickle and spread onto bread or crackers, roast, grill and saute . The peppers: chop and freeze, pickle and preserve in jars, stuff and bake and slice in salads. Some of the peppers and eggplants will be donated to our local Food Bank. But I must admit my favorite plan for the peppers is … slice and give to my son. He eats the sweet crispy cubanelle and bell peppers like a sliced apple. I am thrilled! They are loaded with vitamin C.

Harvest totals for this week:
Cubanelle Peppers 4.5 pounds
Bell Peppers 2.25 pounds
Eggplant 7.0 pounds
Zucchini 8.5 pounds

To see amazing harvests from gardens around the world, stop by Daphne’s Dandelions, the host of Harvest Monday.

New Crop of Peppers

new crop of green cherry bomb peppers

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.

stuffed cherry bomb peppers

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.”

Harvest Monday – August 22

Cherry and grape tomatoes getting a bath.

Thanks to Daphne’s Dandelions, the host of Harvest Monday!

Tomatoes were our harvest winners again!  We picked over 40 pounds of tomatoes from our weary tomato plants this week.  On Saturday, my husband and I got a lot of work done at the garden plot while our son stayed at his grandma’s house.   I turned over the soil and planted fall crops. My patient husband picked the cherry and grape tomatoes.   He had the most arduous job of picking and holding the small fruit while crawling and twisting through a jungle of 6 feet high tomato plants and dirt peppered with smashed, split and slimy dropped tomatoes.  We learned two lessons….use black plastic and do not plant tomatoes only 18 inches apart!   The tomato plants with black plastic on the ground around them had less split tomatoes than the plants that did not have it.  The black plastic prevented the plants from getting too much water from recent heavy storms.

Harvest Totals:
Beefsteak and Plum Tomatoes 36.5 pounds
Cherry and Grape Tomatoes 7.75 pounds
Cherry Bomb Peppers .25 pound
Hot Banana Peppers .75 pound
Bell Pepper 2 pounds
Yellow Squash 1 pound
Figs 3 pounds
Cucumber 1 pound
Eggplant 1 pound
Leeks 2 pounds
Shallots .5 pounds

Harvest Preservation:
8 quarts of Tomatoes
3 pints of  Pickled Peppers
2 pints of Fig Jam
2 quart bags of frozen oven-dried cherry and grape tomatoes

Frozen Peppers and Cherry Tomatoes

green peppers and cherry tomatoes from 2010 garden

Only in winter can we enjoy last year’s harvest while starting this year’s garden.  We still have about 2 bags each of frozen peppers and cherry tomatoes from our garden plot harvest 2010.  We use the frozen cherry tomatoes and peppers on homemade pizza and in soups, chili and tomato sauce.

Last summer, we had an abundance of tomatoes and peppers in our garden plot.  Along with canning, we tried freezing these veggies for the first time.  The frozen veggies still taste sweet and fresh.  I will use the same freezing method for this year’s harvest.  To freeze the peppers… chop, blanch in boiling water for one minute, soak in ice cold water, drain, dry, freeze individual pieces on a cookie sheet then toss all the  frozen pieces into a freezer bag.  To freeze the cherry tomatoes…. cut in half, roast on cookie sheet for several hours in a 150 degree fahrenheit oven, cool, freeze on a cookie sheet then place in freezer bag.

While enjoying last year’s harvest,  we started planting seeds for this year’s garden.  This week we planted King Richard Leek, Genovese Basil, Italian Parsley, and Hybrid Shallot seeds in starter containers.  In a few weeks we will plant our tomato, pepper, eggplant, swiss chard, escarole and lettuce seeds.

A Peppery Thanksgiving Thought

My Pepper Guard Dog

A couple week ago I pulled out the last of the pepper plants in our community garden plot.  I collected several pounds of small to medium-sized, but crisp and tasty bell, banana and cubanelle peppers.  It took a little creativity to use all these peppers.  I made pepper and cheese casserole,  Italian turkey sausage with sauted peppers and onions, tortilla chicken soup with peppers, and roasted peppers marinated in garlic and  extra virgin olive oil.  I blanched, then froze about eight cups of chopped peppers.  Finally, I took a grocery bagful of peppers to our local food bank.   I am happy to say that we did not waste our last crop of peppers!

Here is my peppery Thanksgiving Day thought….just like my peppers, I do not want to waste  the gifts, big or small that God gives to me.  In God’s economy a grateful heart grows and produces more fruit.

May we all give thanks and celebrate the blessings in our lives this Thanksgiving holiday.    Have a safe and joyful Thanksgiving Day!   (and enjoy the leftovers!)

Habanero Peppers and Pumpkin Chili

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?