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Warm Season Wrap-up

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment
Mowing the Garden

Mowing the Garden

The warm season is almost over, and I decided to mow down all of the nearly lifeless plants that remained. I used the 8N tractor and the finish mower to chop up all of the remaining plants so that they will begin rotting back into soil sooner. If I hadn’t chopped up the stalks, they would not begin rotting until  the plant matter met up with the soil in the spring, so I’m really giving the worms, and everything else that feeds on this matter a jump start on the spring. If the garden was flat I would have it rototilled in the fall, but the slope is steep enough that I worry the soil will wash away.

Garden Mowed, Ready for Manure Spreader

Garden Mowed, Ready for Manure Spreader

When I was finished, I found it hard to believe that dozens of pounds of tomatoes, potatoes, and arm fulls of celery had grown in this space. If not for the black weed blocker that remains spread out along the ground, it would be easy to believe this was simply the back yard that I was mowing. I’m now left with a more traditionally sized garden which contains the winter crops I’ve begun to experiment with. I have an approximately 20 by 20 foot space very close to my house where Chard, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and Garlic are growing.

Pepper Plants

Pepper Plants

I decided not to mow over the pepper plants because they still looked very healthy, and continued to grow new peppers. It takes these plants a long time to get started producing peppers, but once they grow to full size, the plants sets peppers fairly quickly. I figured that if we didn’t get a frost for a  few more weeks, I could potentially get several extra shopping bags full of peppers in that short amount of time.

Experiment to See If Covering Peppers is Worth the Effort

Experiment to See If Covering Peppers is Worth the Effort

The weatherman called for frost and I wanted to learn all I could while I had the opportunity. I’ve rarely tried to extend the growing season in the fall, so I  thought I would find out just how effective covering plants to protect them from frost would be. We already have plenty of frozen peppers to last many months, so I’m doing this more for the sake of knowing if it will work, rather then trying to grow extra peppers. I only covered one section of plants, and I left the others as they were.

Covered Peppers Survive, But Will the Set New Peppers ?

Covered Peppers Survive, But Will the Set New Peppers ?

I found out the next morning that a simple sheet will protect the plants. You can see just how bad the unprotected plants were harmed by the frost. The protected plants have upright leaves, whereas the unprotected plants look terrible with dropping leaves.

Now, I’ll keep an eye on the protected pepper production, and see if it’s worth the effort in the future.

Celery and Peppers

October 4, 2011 Leave a comment
Celery after Harvest

Celery after Harvest

After a long summer of hot days, the clouds spread out their reach and allowed the cold air to descend. The weather man predicted frost, which is a last call of sorts for any gardener. The name of the game this time of year is pick it or forget about it.

Picking peppers and celery isn’t that hard, unless the temperature is barely above freezing like it was when we began our harvest. We filled our bags till the weather chased us indoors, which is were the real work began.

Celery After Processing

Celery After Processing

After cleaning each of the stalks of celery and removing the leaves, we used a food processor to chop the stalks into small pieces. These will be useful in soups or as an additive to tuna fish.

Peppers

Peppers

After plowing through the celery, we moved onto the peppers which require a bit more attention.

Pepper Processing

Pepper Processing

First the tops are removed, then the pepper is sliced down the center vertically. Next all of the seeds are removed.  At this point, the pepper halves are feed into the food processor which spits out evenly chopped slices. Slicing these peppers by hand would have taken far too much time, but with the chopper things moved along pretty quickly.

Chopped Peppers

Chopped Peppers

The food processor has a good assortment of blades, but one in particular worked very well on the peppers, leaving the perfect size chunks for soups, salads, or fried peppers.

Celery Packed - Ready for the Freezer

Celery Packed - Ready for the Freezer

When we all got sick of processing veggies we cleaned up our mess, and packed the celery and peppers in boxes. These will help greatly to organize a freezer that is about full 0f veggies from the garden.

Peppers Packed

Peppers Packed

We finished up Saturday, and before calling it a day, we weighted the processed peppers and celery. I was pretty surprised to find we had 34 pounds of veggies ! The next day we finished off the remaining peppers filling an additional box.

This bounty was provided with 36 celery plants and about 100 pepper plants. Next years garden will probably contain fewer celery plants, but about the same number of peppers, perhaps a few more.

Now we just need to survive picking and processing apples and it will be time for some cool weather veggies.

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Tis the Season for Picking

September 26, 2011 2 comments
More Tomatoes to be Picked

More Tomatoes to be Picked

I’ve been trying to keep up with the ripening tomatoes since the first red alert cherries appeared, but somewhere along that timeline I fell pretty far behind, and my garden that used to be a sea of green has been blanketed with reddish orange romas and brandywines.  Davy, Sandy and I spent about 30 minutes to an hour collecting the tomatoes that we hope to give away. You see we are all pretty sick of processing tomatoes, and now that we have 120 jars full, we see no need to continue stocking up.

A Good Harvest

A Good Harvest

Now that I’ve grown more tomatoes then I ever thought I’d see in a lifetime, I’m wondering just how many of these plants I should start in next years garden. While we got far more tomatoes  then we need, none of them will go to waste. I may trim the plant count a bit, but I don’t think 100 plants would be too many.  I can then use the space that would have gone to tomato plants for starting fruit trees in the greenhouse this spring.

Peppers

Peppers

After cleaning up the tomato patch, Jessica and I moved onto the pepper patch, and quickly filled a crate with Chablis, Flexnum and California Wonder peppers. Somehow a Purple Kohlrabi wound up in the mix.

Concord Grapes

Concord Grapes

After a cup of coffee or two, it was time to move onto picking grapes. We picked Concord grapes from three native vines, then sorted them out removing all of the rotten and dried out grapes.

Straining out the Pulp and Seeds

Straining out the Pulp and Seeds

Instead of making wine we decided to try out grape juice production just to see how hard it would be, and how much work was involved. As the photo shows, many hands make quick work. I haven”t yet tried the taste of the juice once it’s been chilled, and if it’s worthwhile, I’ll share the recipe.

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Life Beyond Tomatoes

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Cart Full of Tomatoes - Photo by Sandra Macpherson

Cart Full of Tomatoes - Photo by Sandra Macpherson

The valley is awash in a sea of ripening tomatoes. At one time it was acceptable to pick tomatoes every week or every 4 days, but that time has come and past. It’s become one of those occasions when all hands are required on deck, to pick, and pack this win-fall of healthy food. I try to help as much as possible, but the work continues even when I’m at work. My Mother, Sisters and Davie have been picking and washing off the tomatoes the last few days, and the cart above is full of tomatoes thanks to their effort.

I was told that if I would have stopped by while everyone else was helping, they were planning to pelt me with mushy red projectiles as I headed towards the front door. I’m reasonably sure the statement was in jest, but I’m glad I didn’t get to find out first-hand.

Jessica Looking at a Lot of Tomatoes

Jessica Looking at a Lot of Tomatoes

I was showing my niece, Jessica, and my nephew, the little gardener, just how much food we had produced in our garden. I’m sure both of them were just as amazed as I was to see sooooo many tomatoes.

Some of these tomatoes still need to ripen, while others have already been packed away in jars. The boxes on the floor to the right contain mostly canned tomatoes, some spaghetti, and a few boxes of other things.

The blue box labeled “Light” contains Pennsylvania home grown plums. They were a gift from a neighbor, and I hope to start a bunch of little trees from the pits.

Peppers

Peppers

There is life beyond tomatoes however, and it starts with my other big crop for the season: Peppers. The ones shown are still a bit young, but I picked them anyway. There was a tiny chance that a frost was coming our way, and I didn’t want to loose out.  While picking, I may have found a pepper plant that rivals Chablis Hybrid peppers in production. I don’t know what the name of these peppers are, but I planted them at least two weeks after the rest, and they are producing comparable amounts of peppers. I’ll be saving the seeds from these long green peppers and replanting them next year.

Saving Seeds

Saving Seeds

I’ve also been busing saving even more seeds. The peas that died a month or so ago left lots of seeds behind in dry, blackened pods. The trick to saving them for next year is simple. Take them out of the pod and keep them dry. I’ve been doing the same thing with my Ying-Yang Beans and Brown Crowder Beans. The Ying-Yang beans have been more of a pain to shell and so, I haven’t yet freed them from their pods.

"Dwarf" Bananas

"Dwarf" Bananas

My “Dwarf” Bananas are still growing very well, but with no sign of edible bananas. One of the plants is about four feet tall, and the other is at least five feet. They collect more light in my kitchens bay window they they let past, and I’m wondering what I’ll do in a few years when they have grown to the ceiling ? I guess I’ll have to add on a new tall sun room.

Opportunity Salad September Edition

Opportunity Salad September Edition

The best part of a garden is the hope it gives you in the spring, and the reward it provides you in the fall. I wanted to eat something good the other day, but I’m about sick of lettuce, so I decided to make a salad without lettuce. Instead, I added some Swiss Chard, colorful tomatoes, cucumber, celery and onions. Add to that a touch of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and you’ve got yourself a snack that would make any gardener smile. I was quite proud to notice that only the olive oil was from the store; I planted the seeds that grew the rest.

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September Peppers

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment
Jenny Holding a Large Pepper

Jenny Holding a Large Pepper

I set out to pick more tomatoes the other day, and I soon found a few helpers. While they were looking for tomatoes, I decided to have a look at my pepper plants. I’ve only gotten a few early surprises so far this year, but this time it was different. I found about twenty peppers that were large enough to pick, and quite a few that were just starting to grow. If I remember correctly, the pepper plants were growing well into October last year, so I should be getting lots more green and red surprises in the next few weeks.

Assorted Peppers

Assorted Peppers

Chablis hybrid peppers have stole the show again this year, with a flexnum hybrid peppers coming in a close second. I’ll plant both of these types next year, but I hope to place a lot of effort trying to develop a new variety.

I planted quite a few pepper seeds directly into the soil as one of my many experiments. Several of these plants have grown large enough for peppers, and one has already succeeded in passing on it’s genes. I’ll take good care of the seeds till next year, and encourage them to grow directly from seed once again. The long term goal is to develop a pepper plant that grows faster, and is more compatible to the growing season this far north.

Garden Stromboli

August 9, 2011 Leave a comment
Peppers, Onions and a Hamburger

Peppers, Onions and a Hamburger

Finding something to eat for one person often is very easy, but unhealthy.  This little recipe to pretty easy to work through, and I imagine it’s quite healthy too. The ingredient list is short:

1.) One or Two hamburgers

2.) A chunk of butter

3.) One or Two large peppers

4.) A medium to large onion

5.) One roll of Pillsbury Bread sticks with Garlic.

6.) One small jar of spaghetti sauce.

7.) Shredded Cheese

8.) Olive Oil

9.) Optionally add minced garlic and other veggies such as tomatoes, celery, zucchini, etc.

To begin, cook the hamburger meat in a frying pan with a chunk of butter, carefully crushing the patty into ground meat with a spatula. Add in chopped onions and peppers when the meat is nearly cooked. At this point you could add other veggies and chunks of a garlic clove.

Garlic Sticks

Garlic Sticks

Next, place some aluminum foil over a cookie sheet, and spread some olive oil on the foil. Make sure to spread it around evenly. Unroll the bread sticks mix onto the foil. You may wish to cut the dough along the lines in order to make two smaller Stromboli.

Sauce, Hamburger, Onions, Peppers and Onion tops

Sauce, Hamburger, Onions, Peppers and Onion tops

Spread the spaghetti sauce on the uncooked dough, then add the chop meat and fried veggies, even distributing them. I’ve added some chopped up onion stems to the mixture, as well as lots of garlic salt and a bit of pepper.

Fold Over and Pinch the Dough

Fold Over and Pinch the Dough

Next, fold over the dough, and pitch it together. You may notice in the photo how I had used tomato paste and added Swiss chard to the mix. Don’t do that ! The paste and chard together made these Stromboli taste like a bar of iron.

When you’ve sealed up the pockets, place them in the oven and bake until the dough turns a nice brown. I long ago lost the temperature setting knob from my stove, so I’d recommend you use the same method I did, start with a low temp, and slowly turn it up till the dough cooks.

Light Brown Color Means it's Done

Light Brown Color Means it's Done

You may wish to add additional veggies to your Stromboli, but I’d recommend you cook them before placing them on the uncooked dough. The stove doesn’t cook the veggies in the amount of time it takes for the bread to darken.

Some things to remember:

1.) Do not use Tomato Paste in place of the Spaghetti sauce. It’s gross.

2.) Swiss Chard will overpower all of the other tastes, and in my opinion ruin the Stromboli.

3.) Use olive oil on the aluminum foil. Without this protection, the dough will stick to the foil and make a mess.

Hope you like this recipe as much as I did when I got it right !

First Peppers

July 22, 2011 4 comments
Chablis Pepper

Chablis Pepper

Just like last year, the Chablis peppers are the first to produce. These are a really neat pepper, starting off yellow, then sometimes turning green and finally ending with red tones. They are edible through the whole process, but do not usually grow as big as the bell variety.

Pepper Rows

Pepper Rows

Instead of planting so many tomatoes this year, I got more serious about peppers, since we were not overwhelmed with them in the past. I used my last bag of frozen peppers long ago when the ground was very cold.

I have six rows of pepper plants that are nearly a foot tall, and four rows of experimental directly seeded plants which are only an inch or two tall. I really don’t expect much from the direct seeded plants, but once again, if you never try anything new, you’ll never learn anything new.

Eggplant

Eggplant

I’ve also discovered that the eggplant I wrote off long ago as dead, due to a thousand flee beetles, has recovered. It has little hope of producing, but with enough water and the hot temperatures that have descended onto the east coast, I might just get one eggplant from this stem.