This is my favorite time of year. No, not because of pumpkin spice, but yes because of spice. We’ve been rolling in peppers! I’ve been runny nosed and teary eyed at every meal, not because of Covid or anything like that, but rather from habaneros, jalapenos, thai dragons, and all kinds of spicy treats. My pepper plants took off a bit later than most of my neighbors’ pepper plants, which is funny because I supplied all of my neighbors and started them all from the same seeds, but I’m glad pepper abundance is finally here for us.
Over the past two weeks we’ve made: Jalapeno poppers, sofrito (with sweet habanada peppers), and two kinds of hot sauce. With some Thai Super Chili Hybrid peppers I made this Sriracha style hot sauce recipe. It was great, and yellow, due to what I believe were mislabeled seeds from Gurneys.com (The peppers I got didn’t match the description on the website: They were yellow not red, fat not skinny, slightly hot not scorching). I’ve also started fermenting a batch of mango habanero hot sauce. This is my second time trying to ferment a hot sauce. Last year I threw a batch out because I believe I found some mold on the lid of the jar, and my food safety philosophy is always when in doubt throw it out. I did buy a special fermentation jar, lid, and spring kit, so I’m hoping without having to open the jar to burp the ferment there will be less of a chance of bad microbes thriving by creating an anaerobic environment.
I love the habaneros we grew this year (West Indies Red Habaneros from our spring plant sale) and the Habanada peppers we also sold. My wife is not into very spicy food, and habanadas are a truly unique sweet pepper taste. To call them “fruity” like seed catalogs do is an understatement. They are fruity, but so much more. We have a couple of other varieties of sweet pepper growing (Panamanian Creole Peppers and Bell Peppers), but by far habanadas have the most unique flavor. If you get a chance to try one, please give it a try! The plants are also very prolific and the pods themselves are much larger than typical habaneros.
In addition to eating lots of peppers I’ve also been starting seeds for the fall garden. I’m not doing much this fall, just lettuce, cilantro, and culantro. I’m very happy to have been able to track down culantro from Trade Wind Fruits. Culantro is a key ingredient in the kitchen in my wife’s native country, Panama, so it is an ingredient we like to have around. However, I didn’t find any culantro seeds earlier in the year and just got a notification that it’s back in stock now. Culantro is a perennial in the tropics, and I’ve managed to overwinter it indoors in Pittsburgh, so I will try to do that with these seedlings this year, and I’ll start more to have an to sell in the spring. If you’re not familiar with culantro, it’s like cilantro but better. They are not botanically related. Culantro stands up to heat, has the same flavor as cilantro, and doesn’t bolt (it does flower but you can still eat the leaves at the base of the plant. Never eat the jagged leaves on the top). Other than moving some plants into our greenhouse to prolong the season, these are the only things I’ll really be growing for fall this year.
As far as the nursery, we are propagating perennials and shrubs for spring next year. We have 3 kinds of weigela, 2 kinds of arborvitae, 2 kinds of bush cherries, and more! We will most certainly have the veggie and herb starts too, but we are trying to (slowly) expand our offerings. We will of course keep you posted on all of the plants we will have available. Also, is there something you want to find but can’t? Something you want us to start from seed? Let me know, we’d be happy to give it a try. Just like culantro and many of the peppers we grow, if it isn’t us starting it from seed, I wouldn’t know where to get it. If you have a challenge for us to grow, let us know!
What are you all doing in the fall garden? I know there are many other things we could be doing. Please share what you’re doing this year in the comments below!
P.S. I referenced a few Panamanian ingredients in this post. I’m very excited to have acquired some Aji Chombo seeds from Jimmy Pickles Peppers. While we’ve been growing Panamanian sweet peppers for 2 years now but have been unable to find Panama’s hot pepper. Luckily local vendor Jimmy Pickles sells Aji Chombo seeds (as well as many more unique pepper seeds). We are very excited to have these for 2022!