The first of this year’s pepper seedlings has sprouted! It’s a Pizza pepper from several year-old Territorial Seeds meant for planting in 2009. After my recent trials with onions seeds, I was glad to see that these held their viability.
On February 15th, I planted six seeds each of Pizza, Fish, Joe’s Long, Matchbox, and Chervena Chujski peppers. In a few weeks I’ll compare the germination rates and seedlings of the varieties.
Pizza peppers from this same pack of seeds did well for us in 2010, growing late into the fall and producing lots of thick-walled peppers with a little zip to them, but none of the sting some of our hotter peppers bring. I love these for fresh eating in dips, in salsa and in summer pasta dishes.
The Fish peppers grow on beautiful multi-colored plants and carry an irresistible bit of heirloom history. William Woys Weaver, author of Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, says, “the Fish Pepper…was an African-American heirloom that began as a sport or mutation of a common serrano pepper sometime during the 1870′s…raised almost exclusively in the black community for use in oyster and crab houses…It was one of those “secret” ingredients favored by cooks and caterers to spike a recipe with invisible heat, for the Fish Pepper was used primarily when it was white, and it could be dried to retain that color. This feature was a culinary plus in the days when cream sauces reigned supreme.”
Fish peppers were prolific on very small plants through our unusually cool summer last year. The six seeds I have started came from Mike the Gardener, and I also plan to start a few more plants from saved seed to compare the fruits at harvest. I like these dried and ground into pepper flakes or powder and added to stews, chili, or barbecue sauces. I may even sneak one or two into the homemade ketchup recipe this year.
Another heirloom, Joe’s Long peppers, are listed as having came over from Italy with the Sestito family. My husband’s family is Italian and that gives me an excuse for lots of wonderful varieties I grow, including this one. Plus they look so darn cool. Check them out on the Bountiful Gardens website where I ordered my seeds. I’m looking forward to trying these fresh and also experimenting with them dried.
I’m planning to grow peppers in containers on the patio this year, a warm and protected spot they should like, and the Matchbox peppers are often recommended as a container variety. I received seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library in an Edible Garden gift basket during the holidays. I’m looking forward to the “sugary-hot” spiciness of these guys. I enjoy adding hints of sweetness to stir-fries, braises and sauces and plan to try these in chili as well. And I hope the plants will complement the colors of the Fish peppers I plan to have growing nearby.
The last pepper in this early batch is a sweet pepper, the Chervena Chujski from Landreth. I was tempted by this variety because it is supposed to be good for both fresh eating and roasting, which we love. Last year I could have used a whole lot more peppers that were good for roasting. I plan to try the Chervena Chujski grilled, hand-roasted over a gas burner, and smoked. If they are productive, I will also pickle some of them.
Which peppers will get space in your garden this year? I’d love to hear what you are growing and what you turn them into once they get to the kitchen!