Uncle Samuel decided to remit us some of the tens of thousands of dollars that we have unwillingly sent him over the years. It truly is a paltry sum, but I have decided to invest some of it in pepper futures. It’s a better use than sending money to defense contractors, or bailing out giant banks.
The amount I chose to invest was a total of $8.05. That gets me seventy five pepper seeds, more or less. My rate of return is likely to be enormous, as a small bag of fresh peppers at the Festhalle usually goes for around three bucks. At any rate, these are the three heirlooms I bought.
Another of the official peppers of the Basque region of Spain. Mildly hot, it has only been around since 1523. Strangely enough, that was the year when I was born.
Sigaretta De Bergamo
Let’s go to the Lombardi region of Italia, virus or no virus. A long sweet pepper, which surprisingly is the diameter of a cigarette. Try and find these at your local market.
Time to go to Nippon! That would be Japan. Another slim sweet pepper, and I can’t wait to try this one.
Moral of this story: grow your own, grow your own.
I am now at sixteen different peppers. Life is good. Thank you to the Federales for floating me eight bucks for pepper seeds. I threw in the nickel.
This plant really is sweet. Like the parent that finally has to confess to having a favorite child, this is my favorite native azalea. It blooms late, has spectacular blooms and foliage, and smells like honeysuckle. We also rescued this specimen from our own waterfront.
The entire riverbank this was growing on washed away in two floods, though we still have one plant down there, up the hillside. We managed to salvage two in total.
They do need a good bit of water, but they will get as tall as twenty feet. Hence the translation of the Latin name: “tree azalea.” The one in the picture is probably more than twenty years old. We water it in dry weather, but have never fertilized it.
These bloom about a week later than my other favorite native shrub, Mountain Laurel, which is one tough cookie. Ours almost died out three years ago during a two month drought, the longest in recorded state history, and then all re-sprouted from the ground, or miraculously grew leaves from what appeared to be dead limbs.
Our many, many, wild plants are at the end of the blooming cycle, and will make thousands of tiny seeds. I’m looking for a forest full of laurel. It’s also a fine carving wood, if it weren’t too pretty to cut down.
My Nicaraguan pepper seeds turned out to be sold out, so I compensated by ordering two more heirlooms on Fleabay. These are both from Europa. Now I will have a lucky thirteen pepper varieties.
Szegedi 179 Hungarian Paprika–From the city where Paprika originated. Said to be moderately hot, I got this from the same great grower in Georgia that I have been dealing with.
Antohi Romanian Sweet Peppers–a palm sized pepper, that looks phenomenal. It’s like a giant pimento. I had to order some mini pumpkin seeds from this seller in Arizona as well. MJ loves her some mini pumpkins.
We are finally having pepper weather, with temps in the eighties. We should have more than a hundred plants, if I can keep my stupid Aussie Shepherds out of my pots. Fortunately, the hot weather slows the furry jackals down.
Though people have been pickling garlic scapes (blooms and stems) for centuries, I may be the first to try the traditional Italian method of doing so with so-called Elephant Garlic. It’s really a type of leek, but it was renamed Elephant Garlic by the person who rediscovered it, the owner of the Nichol’s Nursery, out in Oregon. They also reintroduced it to the commercial market.
It has naturalized itself in my semi-abandoned veg garden, which was left dormant after two record breaking droughts. Now three alliums are taking over, including softneck garlic and Rakkyo, the famous Japanese delicacy. We are gradually bringing back other crops, and have a nice patch of potatoes coming on. But to keep the place from being overrun with Elephant Garlic, I have begun harvesting some of the scapes. The recipe is very simple.
Elephant Garlic (or Garlic) Scapes
Cook the scapes for five minutes or so, in the salted vinegar. Then bottle them in olive oil and let age a day on the counter, and a week in the fridge. Be aware that they have a short shelf life, so eat them in a week or so.
The taste of Elephant Garlic is intermediate between Garlic and a Leek. It is a plant that requires eternal vigilance, to keep it from overtaking your property.
I probably need professional help on the pepper growing front. After bragging about the eight varieties I have, MJ noted that we haven’t had our favorite, pimentos, in a couple of years, and that I had neglected to plant any seeds. That lead me to the evil Fleabay to buy some.
I found some great sounding pimento seeds from a grower in Cleveland, TN, a town we have driven through a few hundred times, on the way to going fly fishing for trout. Then I made the mistake of staying on there, and found a real specialist in heirloom peppers from Toccoa, GA. Naturally, he had a package deal on three packs of seed, so I was compelled to buy them.
I bought one variety that originated in each of the following three countries–Hungary, Spain, and Nicaragua. That brings me up to an even dozen different peppers.
Pimento–probably the best sweet pepper. We have grown these for years, and like the soprano Maria Callas, they always put out their best effort. The rest are all new to me.
Alba Regia–another sweet pepper, this a Hungarian. In the picture, it looks more blocky than a pimento. My friend George had parents from the Hungarian capitol, and he was impressed when I asked him if they were from Buda, or Pest. He had never met anyone who knew they were on different sides of the Danube.
Piquillo de Lodosa–from the Basque region of Spain, and it is one of their official varieties. Said to be very sweet and mildly hot.
Criolla de Cocina–Sandinista! was one of my favorite albums by The Clash. This pepper looks like a giant habanero, but is described as having a flavor practically without any heat. Came from a Nicaraguan farmer in 1988.
There are my twelve peppers, and I managed to get my two favorite genres of music, opera and punk rock, into this post. Kind of like peppers themselves.
One of my favorite movies is Major League, the goofy baseball movie about the Cleveland racist name/racist logo franchise. My favorite character is Pedro Cerrano, a power hitting Cuban player who worships a voodoo god named Jobu. At the end of the movie, Pedro famously says fornicate you to Jobu, after he thinks his bats are not being protected by the voodoo god anymore, and made into magic bats.
In his honor, and because I can’t stop buying plants, I added a Serrano pepper to my veg list, bringing my pepper total up to eight varieties, with about sixty plants. I also bought my wife a Jobu’s Rum T-shirt as an anniversary present. Jobu loved his rum. “Is not good to steal Jobu’s rum.”
Serrano-Most are three times hotter than a jalapeno., though some can be even hotter than that
Tabasco-The dwarf yellow variety, which is a new one for me
Sweet Banana–We freeze these by the dozen, if they survive our devouring them fresh
Cayenne–No Southern kitchen is complete without a bottle of Cayenne pepper sauce
Poblano–The best mildly hot pepper. Dried when ripe, it makes Ancho powder
Royal Black–A new one, said to be really hot. It goes in the pepper sauce. Some of our seedlings have purple leaves
Early Jalapeno–Early is good
Jalapeno M–A mild Jalapeno. Why did I buy these? They must have been cheap
No regular bell peppers here, but who wants to be a regular pepper grower anyway. I probably will want to stock up on antacids.
It’s been almost a hundreds years since scientists discovered that ethylene gas could artificially ripen fruit. That’s the reason why most supermarket tomatoes taste like yuk. They’re green tomatoes, turned fake red, and sold as “vine ripened.” There are very limited penalties for lying, especially in the food industry.
That’s why I am officially declaring war on Big Tomato. ( I have previously declared war on Big Chicken.) In the spirit of ’76, I now have 76 tomato plants, with more seedlings probably coming. I have fifteen varieties, which I will list below.
Plants in the ground–We found a great seller only about four miles away. These are all new varieties to us.
Bella Rosa–A hybrid that already has a tomato on it, and is blooming like crazy
Atkinson–Developed at Aw-burn U, the bitter rival of my Crimson Tide
Roma III–Had to buy three of these hybrid Romas, because it is Roma III
Juliet–“It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.” A mini San Marzano! I was going to buy a couple more of these,but I actually bought three more
Roma-the heirloom variety, not the hybrid. Bought at the Festhalle, as were the rest of these. We’ve grown this before, and all of the below
Wild Cherry-the real wild mater.
Brandywine-the classic heirloom, with great tasting maters
Cherokee Purple-Perhaps the classic heirloom Southern variety
Seeds in the ground–Some are our saved seeds, including a couple of chance hybrids. We have grown all of these before also. All these have now germinated
Purple Calabash–The cabernet wine of tomatoes. Ugly and exquisite
Rio Grande–Why an Italian tomato is named Rio Grande, I have no clue
Creole–From LSU, and this is one Ragin’ Cajun, for hot weather. LSU has the craziest fans in college football. They came to T-town one year, their team beat the hide off the Tide, and then one sorority stole most of the furniture out of their sorority sisters’ house on sorority row, and carried it all back to Louisiana. They eventually returned it.
Black Truffle–We love dark colored tomatoes
Amish Paste–Same with the paste tomatoes
Red Cherry–Saved seed, probably Matt’s Wild Cherry, which grows wild in Texas and Mexico.
Hard Round Red Tomato-More than likely a chance hybrid, this plant has some seriously tasty tomatoes
I only have forty something pepper seedlings, so I have a truce with Big Pepper. I do have three more pots of seeds that have yet to germinate. The cease fire could be temporary, and I do eat a bottle of hot jalapenos every month. Everyone has a weakness.