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!


Anonymous said...

I am growing cayene peppersfor the first time to make my own cayene powder. How do I do this? I have one drying but seems a little leathery. Do you pick it right from the plant and throw it in the dehydrator? If so, how long do I dry it for? My dehydrator hasn't given me much to jump about since I bought it- if it can dry my cayene peppers then I can smile again :) Anyhow, after drying, is it just a matter of grinding the pepper into a fine powder? Do I cut the seeds out first? Thanks for your help!

indigogarden said...

Cayenne pods are the best ones to start making powder with. I like to cut mine in half and remove the seeds before popping them into the dehydrator. This makes a richer colored powder. Make sure you set up the dehydrator outside because the pods get very pungent and will fill your house full of eye watering fumes otherwise.

I generally leave my pods in for a full day. I like to get them dry and crackling. So just put them into the dehydrator and check them every couple of hours until you think that they are done. BTW, my dehydrator is not a fancy one, just a $15 model from Wal-Mart. It works just fine.

I use a mortor and pedstle to grind the pods into a fine powder. I've used a dedicated coffee grinder too, but I find the hand method gets a better quality powder and I only process small batches at a time. If the pods are dry enough, they should crumble up quickly.

Good luck with your powder making! I think you'll be pleased with the end result. I have several different chiles that I grind into powders and love them all.