Peppers are always a great pick for home gardening. The types that are easy to find at the grocery store tend to be expensive, and there are so many varieties that you’ll never find as plants in nurseries or even as fruit at farmers markets.

They’re a pretty amazing plant from a historical perspective – they’re native to the Americas, but quickly found their way around the world and implanted themselves in national cuisines everywhere. Can you imagine Thai food without tiny, super-hot bird chiles? Hungarian or Spanish food without mild, smoky paprika? Moroccan food without the spiced/spicy condiment harissa?

This year, I’ll probably end up with 8-10 varieties of peppers. Depending on whether I get that community garden plot, I’m not sure where I’ll put them, but I will probably give them more space in an 8’x4′ bed rather than the 1’x3′ boxes I had them in last year. I know most of the traditional Mexican varieties I like to cook with, like ancho, poblano, pasilla and jalapeno, can be found as plants at a few nurseries around town, so I’m not bothering with starting seeds for those. But I am sprouting two each of five different varieties of peppers – three are hot, and two are sweet.

Making a return from last year is the Leutschauer paprika pepper. They were slow to produce fruit – I got most of my harvest in late September and October last year, but they’ve sprouted much more quickly this year, even using two-year-old seeds. Mine came out incredibly spicy, but are nice, thin-fleshed conical red peppers with a ton of paprika flavor. I’m hoping to do well enough with two plants to dry some for homegrown hot paprika. A similar pepper I’m trying this year is the Tunisian Baklouti pepper. It has a slightly thicker flesh, and some of the heat disappates with cooking. These should be pretty great stuffed with goat cheese and thyme and grilled.

Leutschauer Paprika plants last year

I also started the long-winded Paradicson Alaku Sarga Szentes pepper – a Hungarian yellow sweet variety that produces thick-fleshed small round fruit prolifically. That should be nice for salads and maybe pickling. Finally, I started some yellow Cayenne peppers. Red cayennes aren’t hard to find as plants, but I haven’t seen yellow in the nurseries. These will be nice for salsa and also add some visual interest to the garden. Finally, I added a $1 packet of Sweet Pimento Apple peppers to my order from Johnny’s Seeds, and these will be great slow roasted and made into romesco sauce.

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