IS THAT A HOMEGROWN PEPPER OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME?
Let’s talk peppers! If y’all are like me, you will buy this on the regular if you aren’t growing them in your yard. Why, I factor I had spent at least 50 bucks per year just on colored sweet peppers for everything from black bean and corn salad to fixins for meatloaf. I’m not sure why some plants won’t grow for me—I reckon I’m not the only little witch out there that has some that are not fond of birthing fruit when I’m the caretaker—and others gush produce over the garden fence. But: bell peppers were a big, fat no. And then . . . I ran into:
Dulce Italiano Pepper
Literally the sweetest pepper I have ever tasted!
Now, these glorious, glossy reds can get quite large—the one pictured here matured early. They don’t have that bell pepper “twang,” but are saturated with sugars and just a hint of a fruity pep. The only grumble I have is that the damn thing becomes a tree—and peppers weigh down the branches fast! But, we’ll get to how to address that.
Of course, I also grow Jalapeños (yellow and green), and recently added Trinidad Spice to the party. We have habaneros, tabasco, and even a ghost or two—but the other big producer I wanted to bring to table today is:
Scoville heat units (SHU):1,000 - 2,000
These are the smallest I could find! They are prolific—lightly spicy when green, a little heat when dried—perfect for stuffing!
Oh, the humiliation I have suffered learning that there are different names for fresh and dried peppers. Here I was, knocking around the idea of making my own mole sauce when BAM. To have Anchos, I need to grow Poblanos . . . but of course, the biggest wtf moment was the Jalapeños/Chipotle correlation. Sheesh. These are FREAKING FANTASTIC fresh, dried green or red, smoked, or flaked/crumbled. But, just for fun, let me tell you a bit about:
Scoville heat units (SHU): 2,500 – 5,000
One of the sweetest peppers! Part of the holy trinity of peppers in Mexican cooking.
Isn’t she a beauty? Starting green, she gets sweeter, hotter, and more red with every day. Unlike cayennes, she’s best left to turn red on the vine on account of her fleshy exterior. Oh, but Batchildren, we ain’t done yet. Let me introduce you to the lead singer in this holier-than-thou trinity:
Scoville heat units (SHU): 1,000 – 2,500
Also known as Mexico’s “Little Raisin,” these start dark green, go to brown, and dry black.
This pepper ain’t got no shame: it goes right for my little witchy heart. Even dried, you can’t ignore the sheen of that ebony gal! More, this particular pepper has been the subject of confusion for some time (to read more about that, CLICK HERE), yet remains the original “pasilla” when dried. Our little family was recently gifted two new members who hail from Mexico—and so, my hillbilly ass is learning to head a little south of the border in the kitchen!
All together, these last three peppers are the base for authentic mole sauce—and as soon as my anchos are done drying in the sun, I’ll holler back at y’all over on the Southern Magic Recipes blog!
We got going crazy late this year, having been knee-deep in building a high tunnel (from a state grant) and a new, all metal chicken run, not to mention completely overhauling the house roof with corrugated tin. And dang it, the pepper babies got leggy waiting on planting day. If y’all know me, then you won’t be surprised that I went ahead and restarted thirty plants—just in case. For the first time, I had to prune pepper plants . . . and if you have never done this, never chopped off sweet little growing tips with flowers and baby fruit for the health of the plant, then you have not felt full-tilt-boogie meltdown of a garden-mom. It’ll make you day-drink, y’all. Here’s this little plant, all green and lush just a’ throwin’ out pretty little nubs of fruit, and here you are, all: “I’m sorry! You’re too young to support your kids!” But it had to be done; otherwise, the energy that needed to be going to building a strong “trunk” and side leaves would go to the making and bearing of fruit. Not only could this waste away the little fella, if it did live it wouldn’t be able to sustain wind, heavy peppers, or its own arms. So . . . I did it. And cried. And it was really scary. But then, I went back out only three days later and:
Recently pruned, new growth!
Side leaves! Yes! And hopefully—this is a long shot, considering the time of the year—these will have time to pop those flowers again before the first freeze. If not, there’s always Tawanda, otherwise known as: overwintering.
Every fall, I promise I won’t do it. Nope. Not gonna run around digging up my favorite plants, shoving them into buckets, and paying to keep them warm all winter. Uh-uh. Ain’t happening this damn year. And then . . . I can hear them. My babies know, don’t they, that they are going to die? Ugh, I know: must allow the wheel turn—so, I only save four or five. And while I have been told that it’s useless, and that next year’s production will be low to nill, all I have to say is:
Aka Tawanda, two-years old and still going strong.
This particular gal was born March of 2018, pruned March of 2019, and has made fifteen pints of tabasco sauce. She still lives in the pot she inherited in Fall of ‘18, just on account of I’m thinking about trying for a third year. Tawanda!!
Never tell a witch it can’t be done, y’all. This method also works when you want to keep a certain plant—a direct clone through propagation. While a lot of folks will go on and propagate in the fall, why struggle to keep that many plants alive? Hell, wait until spring-thirty, pull out your saved favorite plant and BOOM. (Yes, peppers propagate just fine!)
One last word of advice on pruning peppers—wear gloves. Duh. I was just a’ pinching along, plant to plant (mostly habaneros), then wiped the sweat from my upper lip. I’m just gonna leave that here.
Back out to the field I go! I’ll be dancing around my green kids manifesting fall mole. Y’all spread your wings and grow something? It’s the witchiest thing you could do.
P.S. The health benefits of peppers are nearly innumerable. Click HERE to learn more about what they can do in your body!