September 26, 2005

The Harvest Continues

I managed to harvest a small handful of ripe cayenne and pequin peppers from my garden. There might have been one more habanero in there, but for the most part those plants seem to have fulfilled their destiny. I set up my dehydrator outside and what little I picked is now being dried. I don't think that I have enough cayennes to fill my spice jar as yet, but there seems to be a few more peppers out there so I will continue to watch and wait.

My gypsy frying pepper has set three more pods even though the plant got bent up when I recaged it two weeks ago. Of all the bells I grew this year, it is the only one that set any pods out there. I think that I will try the gypsy pepper again next year. I am hoping that it will continue to produce fresh peppers for the next month or two, but for the most part, my pepper garden is slowing down.

The Tepin Chile continues to do well and there are many tiny peppers on it. My cherry bomb seems to be developing its very first pod at long last. I don't know if I will get many pods from the cherry bomb, but I hope that there will be enough for me to do a test run of the pepper shooters that I had wanted to make. At least I will be able to know if I want to grow this pepper next year again or not if that happens.

I also potted up the parsley plant that I purchased a few days ago. In a nice thailand patterned blue and white pot. I had bought the parsley to use in my deviled egg platter for the party on Friday night, but there are still plenty of leaves and life left to the plant. We'll see how it does on my windowsil. As much as I love my patio pots, it is now fall and winter is approaching. My herbs are better off inside for the next few months.

September 19, 2005

First Rain Storm of Autumn

While autumn will not be starting for a few more days officially, I feel that it has arrived here in Southern California. Early this evening, we had our first rain storm of the season after many long months of dry hot weather. The thunder and lightning alarmed my animals and my dog spent a great deal of time with her eyes scanning the ceiling as the sound of rain beat overhead. I wonder if my dog even knows what rain is? She is only two years old and hasn't experienced rain for the past four to five months. She might have forgotten what it is. I dutifully turned my computer off while the lightning hit outside, but honestly, this was not that bad of a storm. While we took out candles to be prepared, neither my husband or myself thought that we'd truly need them. Compared to what the poor people of the gulf coast have suffered, we can hardly even call this a storm.

For me, the rain is most welcome. When the rain falls, I like to make a pot of green tea and sit on my front porch settee to watch it fall. Natural entertainment at its finest. About the only drawback is that I was hoping to do another load of chiles in my dehydrator tomorrow. There are a few more cayennes and piquins ripening on the chile plants and I'd like to get them dried. I used some of my new homemade habanero powder in my soup for lunch. I'm not sure if I will grow the red caribbean habaneros again, but they do have a good heat level when it comes to using them in a powder. I thought that the soup was very good with the powder added to it.

September 16, 2005

Back Home in the Garden

I've been on the road at work the last few days so it is always a pleasure to come home to my gardens. My roses have all sprouted new canes and buds. No doubt due to their recent feeding. All they needed was a little deadheading to get them back in order. My Altissimo Climbing rose has been left alone to form rosehips and I'm happy to note that the hips are turning beige and even a little red in places. Hopefully I will be able to harvest a few hips for tea infusions this late fall.

I spotted a few new ripe cayennes that I want to pick when I have my next free day. I'm determined to pick enough of them to replenish my spice pot of cayenne powder. The Tepin Chile plant is starting to come into its glory. The tiny transplant that I thought I had lost at one point, is now a 3 foot high chile plant and lots of tiny green pods are starting to form on it. They are so small, I wonder if I will get enough of them to even make a powder? I'll have to wait and see.

One of my vegetable beds was starting to be overrun with vines and grass and I had made a note to go and weed it. Today I discovered that the work had been done for me! It put a smile on my face. I guess my husband had done it to surprise me. It was thoughtful of him. When you do square foot gardening, there is not a great deal of weeding to be done in the garden...that is part of its charm! However, you still do need to go through the beds at least once a month to pull out a few volunteers. It is nice to know that I probably won't have to do any further weedings for a couple more weeks.

September 09, 2005

Manzano Chiles

I was excited to discover that my local supermarket was selling a box of fresh Manzano Chiles. In Mexico, they are known as "chile apples" due to their round shape, golden color and the hard black seeds inside. The walls are very thick and juicy, reminding me of a bell pepper, but the heat from this chile is between that of a serrano and a habanero. Manzanos are related to the rocoto chile that many chileheads rave about and which has piqued my curiosity more than once. In the few recipes that I discovered that listed this chile as an alternate, it usually subbed for habanero chiles.

I used four of these unusual chiles as the base ingredient for a "Grilled Jerk Chicken" marinade. It is made with all fresh ingredients such as onions, thyme and scallions and lots of different spices. All of it was pureed together in my blender and now waits in the fridge for the chicken breasts. According to the instructions, the chicken has to marinate for a full day. I'll be popping the chicken into the marinade tomorrow morning before I leave for work.

If I find that I like these chiles, I'm going to go back to the supermarket in a few days and purchase a few of the pods for their seeds. I'll dry them and put them into my garden next spring. It is going to be an interesting experiment.

September 07, 2005

Weeding Time

As I do about once every month, I spent a short amount of time weeding my pepper garden. The vines that come through the fence were poking through in places and a few had established in the good soil that I plant my peppers in. Out they went, along with a few grass weeds. This is one of the things that I really love about square foot gardening; there is hardly any weeding to be done at all.

I also pulled out one of the bell peppers that was not performing well and those four anaheim chile plants. They were healthy and putting out pods, but since I seldom use anaheims, I didn't see any point in continuing with them this year. I'd rather give the peppers that I like and that are producing more room in the garden.

I was busy with harvesting as well. A few more trays of cayennes, piquins and habaneros finished drying in the dehydrator and are now waiting to be turned to powder. I'm glad to see that my cayennes are starting to put out more pods. In time I hope to have enough cayenne powder to refill my spice jar this fall. The powder this year is a rich red and a smooth grind. I'm looking forward to using it in my cooking later in the year. I go through a great deal of cayenne powder!

Finally, a confession. I -bought- Fresno peppers from the grocery store for my breakfast. I have been missing my favorite peppers all summer. Store bought ones are not as good, but at least I'll have them once or twice this year for my cooking.

September 02, 2005

Preparing Hot Chile Oil

My enthusiasm for creating my own hot chile oil was dampened over the last day or so. I posted the method and recipe that I was planning on using to both the harvest forum at gardenweb and on the hot pepper forum at MSN. I was told that to make this oil might be dangerous if I included garlic and fresh herbs. I was disappointed, but it was pointed out to me that chinese food restaurants always seem to have hot chile oil on their tables. The key in making the oil is to use dried pods -only-. Also, I've been advised to always keep the homemade oil in my refrigerator and store it only for a few months. If it will keep for at least a month or two, that is more than enough time for a small batch of oil, so the project seems feasible again.

Therefore, I am making a small test batch of hot chile oil this afternoon. I took 1/2 cup of peanut oil, heated it until it was smoking and then put in around 3 to 4 of the dried habaneros. The oil doesn't have that red color that I was expecting, but I have a different recipes that also uses paprika that probably would give me the color that I want next time. Currently, the cooked oil is cooling in the pan and I will strain it into one of the small self corking bottles I purchased at CostPlus Imports the other day. So far, it has been a fun use of my garden chiles.

September 01, 2005

Mortar and Pestle for Making Chile Powder

I bought a little marble 4" mortar and pestle yesterday at Marshall's. It was very inexpensive and small enough that it won't pose a problem finding a place for it in my kitchen. Last year, when I was making my first batch of cayenne powder with pods from my garden, I used an electric coffee mill. This resulted in powder that was more a mixture of fine powder and flakes. We used the powder last year, but it was not quite what I wanted in texture.

This time, I went straight from my dehydrator to the milling process, using only the mortar and pestle. I discovered that the chiles crumbled easily and I was able to grind them into a uniform powder. The picture above is the final result of red carribean habanero powder that I made for my pantry this morning. I also ground up the five cayenne pods that I have dried and have started a fresh pot of cayenne powder. I will need many more cayenne pods to fill my bigger spice pot, but I'm glad to be rid of the older, not well ground powder and leathery pods of last year. There are more cayennes ripening out on my two chile plants, so as the next few weeks go by, I will start to refill my cayenne powder spice jar.