The end of the summer season is a time to take serious stock of what you grew this year, but sometimes it’s just all about the WOW.
These are the Sherwood Red okra plants that reached over 8 feet tall in my garden. They bore moderately well, with pods that started green and finally turned red when pretty large (6-7 inches long) at which point they were still tender enough to eat–and very tasty, too, with only a small amount of mucosity. (I learned somewhere that the best way to fry okra (okay, the second best way, but the best way without coating and deep-frying) is to make sure it’s dry when it goes into the pan, without even a drop of water combining with the oil. I cut mine into the size pieces I want and then pat them dry between dish towels. Much less gooey using this method.)
And yes, I could still pick from the tops of those plants, since the stems bent down nicely without snapping. It just took a little effort. Possibly they violated the height limitations of my community garden, but I bet they impressed my neighbors too.
Read on for some pepper news…
I last posted about my Corbaci peppers when they were just starting to ripen. Here’s an update:
To review, these are sweet peppers despite their spicy appearance. I did end up making some refrigerator pickles with them, but the tops of many of them are too thick to be palatable whole, and they’re also too long to fit whole into a quart jar. If I pickle again next year I’ll figure out ways to cut them both vertically and horizontally and still take aesthetic advantage of the wacky curves.
What ended up working much better for me was preserving by drying. I have a food dehydrator; you could also use an oven but it would have to be on a very low temperature and basically going all day and night. I cut the stems off and cut the peppers into 2-4 inch sections, just so they’d fit better on the tray. Here’s what I ended up with:
The dried peppers make great crunchy snacks, though they tend to pick up humidity and go soft if left too long (more reason to eat them all now). Most of them were ground in an electric coffee grinder (we don’t use it for coffee), seeds and all, and stored for use as a spice.
I also used the dehydrator and the grinder for paprika peppers, which I removed the seeds from and cut into sections before drying (they have much thicker flesh). The result looks pretty much the same as the Corbaci powder (label immediately!) but is just a touch spicy.
Most of my other peppers that couldn’t be used fresh (since I had LOTS of them) were cut up raw into small pieces and put in freezer bags.
One of the peppers I grew for the first time this year was Nadapeño, which as you might guess is a heatless jalapeño.
It basically gave me what I wanted, and the only quibble is that (in contrast to many other peppers) it turned red awfully fast. These are peppers you want to harvest green, though there’s nothing wrong with the red ones. There should just be a longer stage between “green but too small” and “oops, red already.” The flavor is best when cooked, especially roasted; it’s pretty bland when raw. They also make great pickles.
The shishitos are great as always, and I almost managed to hit the right number of plants for two people in the household who enjoy being surprised by the Scoville Roulette of a one-in-ten chance of moderately spicy pepper eaten whole and fried. For us, that seems to be two-and-a-half plants, and the third plant got a bit shaded, so there we are. (Oh, and you can pickle shishitos as well, turns out. Should you have extra.)
The sun-blocking aggressor of the shishito was a poblano, which got pretty tall but didn’t produce heavily. I could have done with more stuffed mildly-spicy peppers. Some of these also got cut up for the freezer, and while most were still green, a couple had reached the rich brown stage on the way to turning red. The flavor at this point is fantastic, so I think next year I’ll let more of them ripen and experiment! If I can get more of a crop I could also dry them (which would then be called anchos).
I tried again with the Aconcagua sweet peppers, and had the same problems as before: a) the seedlings are slow-growing and weak; b) the peppers take forever to turn. I did get a couple of red ones, and the pale green ones are quite tasty (see below) and nice and big. I may try one more time, getting the seeds going at the end of January or the beginning of February, to see if I can produce seedlings rugged enough to go into the ground in May. But if not, it’s not a huge loss.
I’ll also recommend the yellow frying pepper Escamillo, which gave me a heavy harvest and ripened promptly. For a bell pepper, I grew Big Red, which was okay, but a bit tardy in ripening. Impatience kept me picking them while they were still partially green, which defeats the purpose entirely.
So that’s my year in peppers and enormous okra! I’m taking it easy this fall, with only turnips remaining in my plot. (I also planted some lettuce and radishes in a trough planter in my deck, but the squirrels have decided that’s where you bury the nuts, so OH WELL.)
Happy fall, all!
By Erica Smith, Montgomery County Master Gardener. Read more posts by Erica.