Thursday, February 25, 2016

End of Season Review - Peppers


Two years ago, I grew 2 varieties of pepper – one sweet, one hot – and I had so much fun, especially with the productive Hungarian Hot Wax pepper, that I decided to expand the number of varieties I grew this past season….to 10.  Quite the jump!

Pepper harvest in early September
 
In 2014, I had a few issues with germination on the hot peppers so I decided to pre-germinate all the seeds last year, which worked out well.  I still had a couple of issues and had to sow additional seeds for 3 of the varieties, but overall, things went fairly smoothly.

I did goof, however, when I planned the pepper beds.  I grew climbing beans on one side of the bed (just like in the previous year) but because of how this specific bed was positioned, the peppers ended up being shaded for a good portion of the day.  The problem is that I miscalculated the orientation of the beds - the "south" side of the bed (where I planted the peppers) was not exactly south, it faces more towards the south east.  This meant that they were shaded by the pole beans much earlier in the afternoon than I anticipated.

Pepper plants (left) with pole beans (right)
 
The second bed with peppers did much better as it had bush beans growing down one side instead of pole beans.

Pepper plants (left) with bush beans (right)
 
This was quite by accident (a fortunate one) as I didn’t realize that those particular dry bean varieties were bush types when I sowed them.

All of the peppers were new to the garden except for the Hungarian Hot Wax, although I did purchase new seed from a different supplier this time round.  The Hot Wax took a very long time to germinate back in 2014 and I wasn’t sure if it was variety or seed related.  As it turned out, it seems to have been the seed as the new ones purchased at William Dam took a much more reasonable length of time with 50% germinating within 5 days vs. 20 days for those I purchased at Baker Creek the year before.

I decided to compare the plants/fruits from both of these sources and noticed one interesting thing.  The William Dam peppers grew pointing up while the Baker Creek were pointing down.

Hot Wax from William Dam

Hot Wax from Baker Creek
 
Other than the differing growth habit the peppers themselves tasted the same, with the same level of heat, and their production was similar as well.

Hungarian Hot Wax

When it came to taste, I enjoyed all of the peppers.  However, I don’t have a dehydrator so I didn’t properly “test” those varieties that are used primarily as dried peppers, specifically the Ostra-Cyklon and Corne de Chevre.

Ostra-Cyklon

Corne de Chevre

I did attempt to dry some in the oven, but that didn’t work out very well so most of these were simply used fresh whenever I wanted to add a bit of spice to a dish.

The Tam Jalapeno – which is supposed to be a very mild Jalapeno – was hot, with pretty much the same level of spice as most jalapenos I’ve tasted.

Tam Jalapeno

We did have a very hot summer last year, which may have accounted for their level of spiciness.  And the same can probably be said for the Padron peppers, which were pretty much blistering hot, even when I picked them small.

Pimiento de Padron

The first time I cooked them I prepared them in the traditional way – tossing them in a skillet with hot oil until they were blistered.  I popped one in my mouth and whoa….pass the yoghurt please, my mouth is on fire!  I ended up roasting and freezing most of them & they were quite delicious, if used sparingly(!) to spice up this or that dish.

The Anaheims were amazing!  They were a little late to get going, the first harvest not being until the third week of August, but once they started, their harvest was beyond impressive - a whopping 800 grams (1.8 lbs) per plant.

Anaheim

And did I mention that they were delicious too?  I grilled, seeded & skinned them before adding them to dishes where they imparted a moderate amount of heat and lots of flavor.

The other favourite in the hot pepper category was the Pepperoncino.  These little guys were pickled and I use them primarily in salads & on pizza – they are not super spicy, but a little definitely goes a long way.

Pepperoncino

As for the sweet peppers, we loved Melrose, which I used as a stuffed pepper.  One bonus in our short season area is that they were equally delicious at both the green and red stage.

Melrose

Jimmy Nardello was very sweet & we enjoyed it raw in salads & veggie trays as well as in stir-fries. 

Jimmy Nardello

The latest producer in the sweet pepper category was Stocky Red Roaster.  But considering the harvest didn't start until mid-September, their yield of almost 1 lb per plant was very impressive.  These were used primarily stuffed, just like the Melrose peppers.

Stocky Red Roaster

And now for the numbers:







































In a short season area such as mine, one of the biggest considerations is date to maturity.  Hungarian Wax was the winner in terms of an early harvest, being almost 2 months earlier than the latest variety, Corne de Chevre.  And, as I mentioned with Melrose peppers, it also helps when a variety can be harvested (and enjoyed) while still at the green stage.  Anaheim, Padron, Tam Jalapeno and Pepperoncino all fell under this category.


Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year

The overall yield per plant was actually down a bit from 2014, when I harvested a total of 4.1 kg ( 9 lbs) from only 16 plants (vs. 28 this year), but the variety of peppers harvested was what made 2015  a great pepper year in my mind.

I’m so glad that I decided to grow so many varieties - I quite enjoyed seeing all those different shapes and colours in the harvest basket.  I have a feeling that peppers (like tomatoes) will be one of the more difficult veg when it comes to picking and choosing which to grow each year - I just want to grow them all!

Much will stay the same when it comes to growing the peppers this year.  I am, however, redoing the bed layout - no pole beans in the bed this time round!  I’m hopeful that positioning the peppers so that they receive more sun and installing the new drip irrigation system will result in a larger overall yield.

I enjoyed the varieties I grew and will be growing them all again this coming season.  We normally have fairly hot summers, but this past year was hotter than average.  This likely contributed to the spiciness of some of the hot peppers, and it will be interesting to see how they taste when grown during a “normal” summer – if we ever have one of those again :)

I’m growing so many varieties already, but couldn’t resist adding a couple more to the list.  Michelle wrote about a variety called Odessa this past year and her description had me placing it at the top of my “to try” list.  In addition, last year I ordered "Orange Blossom" tomatoes from Lindenberg Seeds and they ended up sending me "Orange Blaze" peppers by mistake (when I called them they immediately sent out the correct seeds but told me to keep the pepper seeds).  Even though these are a bell pepper, which don't seem to do very well in my garden, I decided to give them a try.  Lindenberg Seeds is in Manitoba which has a much shorter growing season than we do, so you would think that any seeds they sold would grow well there (and here).  My experience, however, has taught me that seed houses don't always sell seed that is appropriate to the climate they are in.  Nonetheless, I figured it was worth a try.

And there you have it.  Only one review left to go and I've saved one of my favourites (I seem to have so many of those now!) to last...tomatoes.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

20 comments:

  1. We don't really use chilli peppers in cooking but I've grown them in the past for their ornamental value, they're such lovley plants when they're adorned with fruit, so colourful. I found that the longer type of sweet peppers ripened faster than the more rounded bell type, Corno di torro rosso was a good one as it produced a good crop but they really need to be grown in a greenhouse here so I stopped growing them as they take up too much space.

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    1. I've also found that about the sweet peppers, which is why I'm trying to avoid bell peppers. I always thought that hot peppers would be the difficult ones to grow as I've always associated them with tropical climates. I was quite surprised when it turned out that the sweet ones were trickier.

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  2. Very impressive list of peppers! If you have room please try to plant couple of Carmen peppers - it's a sweet variety, very meaty and large and plants were loaded with peppers.

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    1. Well, that's high praise indeed! You know what, when I wrote this review, I had actually forgotten that I had purchased a few more varieties than I noted, including Carmen. In fact, they were from a purchase last year, but something happened (??) & I never ended up sowing them. I'm looking forward to those oodles of peppers!

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  3. Wow-that's a fine variety of different peppers.
    I'm so boring--only growing one variety of sweet bell and the standard jalapeno-which didn't even produce last year.
    Great notes, Margaret.
    Can't wait to see this year's garden. Won't be long now--as fast as this winter has gone!!

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    1. Thanks Sue - now is when I get quite antsy for winter to be over and spring to arrive. Of course, we received another winter storm yesterday and today so my glimpse of green in the garden (some daffodils) is now covered. I knew it wouldn't be smooth sailing after those few warm days, but still, one does hope.

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  4. I love Anaheims, too. Skin'em, saute'em and eat'em with eggs and tortillas for breakfast. Droolin' already.

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    1. Yum! I hadn't tried them like that - it's now in my list of ideas - thanks!

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  5. I'm really enjoying reading your end reviews about your veggies. Lots to read about and learn from- thank you! I love peppers and they are high on my list for this year- we sure have the climate for them! Hang n there with your sock knitting, it's all about your gauge and the circumference of your foot! Hope you aren't getting an artic blast like Toronto is

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    1. Thanks Chris! You do have a great climate for peppers - I'm really looking forward to seeing how your garden develops (and expands!) this year.

      Ah yes, socks. I recently purchased "Custom Socks" by Kate Atherley and am in the process of knitting a swatch...I'm optimistic!

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  6. You're a pepper junky for sure now! As you said, it's so much fun to see all the different shapes, colors, and sizes. And it's also fun to try the many different ways to use them. I hope that Odessa grows well for you, I think it should since it's always one of the first to ripen in my garden and it's also one of the tastiest and most productive ones as well.

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    1. Yes...a definite pepper junkie :)

      I'm really looking forward to Odessa - I was so happy when I saw it listed at Baker Creek and popped it right into my cart. Fingers crossed that it is as productive for me as it has been for you!

      And welcome back!

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  7. Ah, this is a subject dear to my heart! I find it difficult to grow only small numbers of chillis. I have so many varieties I want to grow, but I have to limit myself to about 25 plants each year. Did you let any of the Hungarian Hot Wax ones ripen? They go through a very beautiful range of colours - green to yellow to orange to red. I really enjoy seeing how your garden (and your gardening skill) develops through experience. You'll know where to plant the pole beans now!

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    1. Narrowing it down to a "few" varieties is always the problem isn't it? I did a lot of shuffling when it came to the peppers this year and decided to grow only 1 or 2 of most varieties so that I can squeeze in as many different ones as possible. I'm also going to try a "pepper only" bed this year instead of combining them with another crop, although they did do rather well when grown with the bush beans.

      Hungarian Hot Wax are one of our favourite peppers, so we are rather impatient when it comes to picking them, usually only waiting until they get to the yellow stage. I did have one pepper get to the red stage the previous year - and you are right, it was lovely - but unfortunately it ended up with some type of rot so it was unusable.

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  8. My experiences with Padron and Tam Jalapeno were the same as yours - very hot peppers! Anaheims are one of my favorite peppers, so versatile. I roast some, dry some, smoke some, etc. The Corne De Chevre sound interesting but I am truly MAXED out on peppers this year. I'm blaming Michelle and Mark for fueling my pepper addiction! ;-)

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    1. I'm not surprised that you can't squeeze in any more. In fact, I couldn't believe how many varieties/plants you grow - puts my measly #'s to shame! And I think that Michelle and Mark are not the only ones to blame (as I sit here looking online at Excalibur dehydrators) ;)

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  9. Hi Margaret, That is a lot of peppers to grow and use! We are not big pepper eaters and don't use hot peppers. Therefore my pepper growing is not very interesting! Nancy

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    1. Sounds like you are smartly saving valuable garden real estate for those veg that you do use! Sometimes it's hard to restrain ourselves and we end up growing veg that we don't use or a ton of a certain veg, just because it grows well in our garden. I recall something that Michelle said once and it's so true...just because we CAN grow something, doesn't mean we SHOULD grow it :)

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  10. Nice summary Margaret, it's great to see the yield per plant (which I don't track myself). I have always found Hungarian Hot Wax to be the easiest to grow with a high yield. But last year, mainly because I have the greenhouse now, I had a huge yield of jalapenos like I've never had before. But you are so right on sweet peppers - I keep trying but wow, they are challenging.

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    1. Thanks Susie! Sweet peppers are deceivingly difficult to grow aren't they? Well, at least compared to hot peppers. It's no wonder the fully ripe ones sell for such a premium. I can only imagine the bounty of ripe peppers that you'll get out of your greenhouse now that you have a bit more experience with it!

      Yield per plant (when they are large plants) or per sq. foot for things like lettuce, is much more useful than overall yield when it comes to comparing productivity of different varieties. It's such a useful stat when you are trying to get the most out of your garden. Of course, taste trumps yield, but when choosing between two similar varieties, I'd want to know which one gives me the most bang for the space it uses.

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