Earlier this week, I finally took all the pepper plants out of my community garden plot, in anticipation of a predicted frost. It’s ridiculous that I was still harvesting peppers in November, but this is the world we live in.
The final plant to go was a variety called Aconcagua, which I bought seed for and planted for the first time this year. It’s a sweet fryer-type from Argentina that’s described as growing up to three feet tall and producing fruit up to a foot long. I didn’t get quite those results, though I will admit that I didn’t plant it in the best location in my plot (lots of thistle competition). It was, for sure, a big pepper plant, with fruit frequently at least six inches long, with a fresh fruity taste that was great in salads or fried.
Here’s my last harvest (in November, again! From one plant!).
The peppers start out spring green, and turn yellow, orange, and red as they ripen. They are one of those late-to-ripen varieties, though, and I didn’t harvest a huge number of red peppers. But the green ones are so tasty that I’ll definitely grow these again.
Speaking of peppers, another first for me this year was growing Alma Paprika and drying and grinding for homemade paprika spice.
Some of my other early-November harvests are more seasonally-appropriate. I like to try something new in the world of Asian greens every few years, and this year grew Senposai, which is a cross between komatsuna (Brassica rapa) and cabbage (Brassica oleracea). Interspecies crosses are not at all unusual in the brassica world; they happen in nature and can easily be contrived on the seed farm. Senposai was kind of the opposite of Aconcagua, in that it exceeded size expectations. I guess I did read a description that implied it was a large plant, but I didn’t expect leaves like this:
I have… a bunch of these plants, which are producing leaves like this in enthusiastic profusion, and although they are probably frost-hardy, I don’t think they’ll stand a hard freeze. So I suspect some cooking and freezing is in the future. We ate some the other night, and I really enjoyed the flavor: just an edge of mustardy heat, but mostly sweet like collards.
I am also proud to report that I have achieved watermelon radish! I’ve tried a few times and never got them to produce roots, but this year they are doing fine. Here is what they look like inside:
These are the perfect fall crop: they prefer increasingly cool weather and tolerate cold well, but will germinate while the soil is still pretty warm. They need at least two months from seed to harvest, unlike smaller radishes which will grow in under a month, so give them plenty of time. Seeding at the beginning of September seemed to work, although a sudden heat wave in October might make them bolt. The roots are the size of turnips or beets, so space accordingly; they want a nice loose soil with sufficient nutrients and water. Raised beds are ideal.
I am roasting the first harvest in chunks as I type this, but these also make brilliant additions to salads, and of course they pickle well.
How is your fall garden coming along?
(By Erica Smith, Montgomery County Master Gardener)