December 30, 2005

A Final Chile Harvest for 2005

Although the sky was overcast, I decided to pick the last seven pods of cayenne chiles out in my garden and put them into the dehydrator to dry. A few hours later, the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day. So the chiles are now properly dried and the machine is back in the garage. A good thing too, we are due for heavy rains starting tomorrow and this storm front should last several days.

I was able to show off my chile operation to a guest. My plummer was here to on fix our backyard hose bib. The new bib had to be soldered onto the copper pipe. He noticed my little dehydrator running on top of my cooler next to the kitchen door and smiled. He had to take a look at my chile garden and then told me how his mother grows chiles from seeds that she had brought from Mexico. He says that they are the most flavorful and hot chiles he has ever eaten. From what he described, they sounded like fresnos or jalapeƱos. Chile growing is such a pleasant hobby. It is nice to hear of others that also grow them.

December 28, 2005

Weather Delays

I was planning on harvesting more of the cayenne pods today and starting them in the dehydrator, but something made me suspious of the sky. Sure enough, around noon it started to rain. I'm glad that I didn't put the machine outside after all.

So I gathered in my dog and settled her on the couch and we are in for the day. One good thing about the rain: I won't have to do any watering this week. Always a plus!

December 27, 2005

Cayenne Powder Makin'

I removed the cayenne pods from my dehydrator that I dried before Christmas. Fortunately, I remembered to remove the machine from its place outside before the rain fell on Monday! I could have ruined my little $15 machine since I doubt it is waterproof.

I took these cayenne pods and the few pods that I had saved from this fall and made my first real batch of cayenne powder for the year. Some of the pods had gotten leathery. I was forced to pull out my old electric mill to do the initial grinding and then put the results into my marble mortor and pedstle for hand processing. The final product is a smooth powder of an earthen red hue that should be excellent for my cooking this winter and spring.

I have another half dozen of cayenne pods just turning red outside. There is more rain predicted, but I think that I have a few clear days that I could possibly dry more pods! I just might risk the rain tomorrow...and get a few more cayennes for my spice jar.

I also have more habaneros ripening out in my little raised bed. It is amazing to see them flourishing after Christmas has passed. I also have a few red beauty bells forming. They are all still green, but I will wait and see if they ripen to red. If they do, it will be the first bells that I will have harvested from these plants. Talk about slow starters! It will be a pleasure to enjoy them in a salad this winter if they make it.

December 21, 2005

Winter Cleanup Begins

It is a bright, sunny day outside, atypical for this time of year. The temperatures are warm and it seems to be a shame to stay indoors working. Now that the Christmas rush is over for my business, I am finding my way back outside into the gardens. There is a certain pleasure to be out tending my plants and garden spaces during a time when most of the United States is dealing with storms and snow. It is one of the reasons that I love Southern California.

My pepper plants have faired well despite my seasonal neglect. The fall rains have kept the soil moist and the shelter the plants receive at the side of the house have protected them from the wind storms that have blown through our area on and off during this December. I pulled many of the pepper plants from my garden and began my winter cleanup. Mainly the bell peppers. They are still producing, but I've been so disappointed with the flavor and quality of this year's crop, that I don't want to waste more time on them. I'm leaving in the chiles since I'd like to harvest more cayenne pods and would like to overwinter a few of the more unusual chiles. Particularly, the piquin pepper. I'm debating if I want to grow the red caribbean habaneros again. They are certainly hot and make a good powder, but the flavor is not quite what I like for my cooking. I'm finding that I am missing my more familiar cayennes this year instead. I ended up giving most of my later habanero harvest to one of my neighbors. So at least the pods didn't go to waste.

I did manage to harvest a dozen cayenne pods this morning and they are busy drying in the dehydrator outside. The weather will be with me and my machine should remain dry from the elements throughout the day. I might have enough cayennes to grind up a small pot of powder for my kitchen. Next year, I will plant four cayenne plants instead of merely two.

The final step was to pull any weeds from the chile garden. There were not many, but I don't want to allow the vines to overtake my plot again. I'm still paying for that year when I neglected my gardens and let them get a foothold. Now they pop up no matter what I do.

Merry Christmas fellow Chileheads!