Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oh Yea, They're Hot!

Well, Summer has gone. Fall is fast approaching. Winter will soon rear it's ugly head. I do have a little something that will make some of you smile, I know my mother will.....Only 64 more days until the days start getting longer again!
Like most of you, I use the Winter to start planning my next years garden. The catalogs come in and I start drooling over everything. I want at least one of each and sometimes two.
One thing that I love to grow is Hot Peppers, and boy, I had a great crop this year. So, to give you some ideas of what to start dreaming about, I thought I would give you some pictures of and information about, Hot Peppers.
Chili peppers or hot peppers have been a part of the human diet since at least 7500 BC. There is archaeological evidence at sites located in southwestern Ecuador that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago,and is one of the first cultivated crops in the Americas that is self-pollinating.
Christopher Columbus called them "Peppers", because they had a bite similar to white and black pepper, incidentally there is no botanical relationship between the two. Hot Peppers are in the genus Capsicum spp. and the black and white pepper are Piper nigrum.
There are only a few common species of peppers, those being:
Capsicum annuum, which includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalape├▒os, and the chiltepin
Capsicum frutescens, which includes the chiles de árbol, malagueta, tabasco and Thai peppers
Capsicum chinense, which includes the hottest peppers such as the naga, habanero, Datil and Scotch bonnet
Capsicum pubescens, which includes the South American rocoto peppers
Capsicum baccatum, which includes the South American aji peppers.
Even though there are only a few species, there are many cultivars and hybrids. However, peppers are commonly broken down into only three groupings: bell peppers, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. I like the hot peppers and I usually end up with the C. chinese, C. annum and C. frutescens. The hotter the better.
I did a blog sometime ago on Scoville units, so I won't go into great detail here on them. Just a quick overview, Bell peppers rate a zero. Jalapenos rate between 2,500-8000. Tabasco peppers rate 30,000-50,000. Bhut Jolokia (Ghost peppers) rate 800,000-1,000,000. Yes, you read that right, One Million. That's a hotta peppa!!
I use some of those as dehydrated flakes on my scrambled eggs. These ranges will vary according to growing conditions, heat, soil, water and a host of other things, so take them with a grain of salt.
Want to see some pictures so you know what to look for in the catalogs?
CHILE HABANERO

JALAPENO

ATOMIC STARFISH

DOLMALIK (From Turkey)

BHUT JOLOKIA

Peppers take roughly 70 – 90 days to mature and during this time they like to be kept as warm as possible. 80 degrees is where they like it, they can and will handle lower temperatures, they just won't do as well. I think I had such a great season because of how freekin hot it was this year!
They want full sun and in their early part of life, a good amount of water. A well drained soil helps to avoid root rot.
Peppers are ready to be picked as soon as they are big enough or you can leave them to change color and flavor gradually. I like to see what color they are going to change to. The Atomic Starfish turn a really pretty shade of Orange. Many will turn Red, Yellow, Orange, Black and all shades in between. Habanero Peppers can even come in Brown or White.
One thing that you should remember when handling these little packets of fire, the oils will get on your hand no matter how careful you are. I know a person that was working with peppers last weekend. She was telling me that if she happened to be biting her cuticles even 6 days later, it burned her lips and tongue. I found a little secret that worked for me if my hands are burning. My wife uses these wipes to remove makeup at night, I rub them all over my hands and it seems to help. Give it a try sometime.
Harvesting your peppers will cause you to have many more. The plant will continue to try and reproduce until frost kills it. Not a bad problem to have I think.
So when the Winter blahs really start to get to you and the catalogs are starting to pile up, look up some hot peppers. If you have saved any or canned any from the Summer, they will warm you up on a cold Winter's night. Just writing about them makes me want some of my Jalapeno poppers, time to eat!
Happy Growing!
Darren

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