My final post about the garden on November 4 is about the pepper bed. Or, I was tempting the weather gods by thinking, evidence of the bliss of growing in a mild climate. All that bushiness is hiding treasure. The tall plants on the right are the Pimento de Padrons.
Looking closer at the Padrons you can see plenty of peppers and flowers. These peppers are harvested immature. I'm still harvesting about 1/2 pound of peppers about twice a week. At the height of the harvest I was picking up to a pound about every other day. As the days have shortened the peppers are sizing up more slowly so the time between harvests has been lengthening. The Padrons get a bit sneakier late in the season - it's more difficult to cull out the spicy ones. At the peak of the season the spicy ones tended to be misshapen. But now there are more perfectly formed, perfectly innocent looking peppers that turn out to be hot. The best indicator of heat now is size, the bigger ones might be spicy, which was not necessarily true early in the season. At this time of year I'm careful to harvest while the peppers are still small.
The Marconi Purple sweet peppers are loaded with ripe and ripening pods.
Here's a baccatum species pepper called Aji Angelo, medium hot but sweet. The baccatum peppers tend to be late producers but they are also more cold tolerant than other species of peppers since they are native to the Andes. It is not unusual for baccatum species plants to overwinter in zone 9. The one thing I need to remember about growing these plants next year is that they are tall and gangly plants, I really need to use cages and plant them so that they won't overshadow the lower growing varieties.
I harvested a bunch of these earlier this week and experimented with making a pepper paste. I screwed up one batch and ended up with some crispy but still very tasty slow roasted pods that I ground into flakes. I was pleasantly surprised by how good they ended up, but it wasn't what I had envisioned. I was more careful about keeping an eye on the next batch and it came out more like I wanted. But more on that later...
Another baccatum pepper called Christmas Bell. This pepper started producing early and is now loaded with ripe and ripening pods. I haven't quite figured out how to preserve this one. It's very sweet and flavorful with just a touch of heat. So far I've been chopping it raw to add to salads and slicing and cooking it also. Maybe I'll slice it, saute it a bit and freeze it. I did save some seeds from the very first pods I harvested. I didn't isolate the plant but it was one of the very first to bloom and set pods so it may not have had a chance cross and if it did maybe I'll end up with something new and interesting.
Here's Aji Dulce Yellow, a sweet chinense pepper. This species of pepper is better know for the blistering hot Habaneros, which the Aji Dulce certainly looks like. Chinense peppers are also renowned for their wonderful fruity aroma and flavor. I don't know about you, but I've never been able to get beyond the heat of a Habanero to experience the aroma and flavor. Their sweet cousins, the Aji Dulces, have all the aroma and flavor and a lot less heat, some have almost no heat.
Piment Doux Long des Landes, a sweet pepper from France. Delicious!
There's more than just peppers in the pepper bed. Diamond eggplant has been a wonderful producer. Other than having a problem with munching rabbits early on, these plants have been a breeze to grow. They have had spider mites and a touch of powdery mildew which I have done nothing about they still grow and produce some of the best eggplant I've ever grown.
Coriander (cilantro) seeds nearly ready to harvest. The coriander flowers have been a magnet for beneficial insects. Last year my eggplant and pepper plants were infested with aphids. The aphids showed up again this year but the populations have never boomed, there have been enough beneficials around to keep the little sap sucking pests in check. I also have sweet alyssum, another beneficial magnet, growing all around the garden.
At the far end of the pepper bed are the cucumbers, beets, and frisee. The cucumbers are pretty much done now but there's a few big ones left on the vines. These are hybrids and won't come true, but I'm tempted to let one ripen so that I can show my fellow volunteers at the aquarium how the Warty Sea Cucumber got its name. The beets are struggling along but I'll get a few. The frisee, dang it, is starting to bolt - must have been that hot spell we had a while back. Darn, it was just starting to whiten in the center of the heads. It may not be too late to start a few more for winter/spring harvests, I'll give it a try.
And down at the very end of the pepper bed are the winter squash. The oldest parts of the plants have lost their leaves to powdery mildew but the younger growth scrambling up the fence is still doing ok.
I got two good Magdalena Big Cheese. These have passed the fingernail test and could probably be harvested but I'll leave them on the vine for now. There's a couple of younger Magdalenas on the vines but they haven't hardened yet. One good Berrettina Piacentina squash set and is nearly ready.