Friday, August 12, 2011

In the Garden

I'm thinkin' Fall is in the air: it's cooler in the mornings, the days are noticeably shorter, there are different birds at the refuge as various migrations begin, and maybe, just maybe, it's starting to cool off a bit. The local forecast:
93°F | °C
Isolated ThunderstormsIsolated ThunderstormsScattered ThunderstormsPartly Cloudy

Wind: S at 3 mph

Humidity: 30%98°74°97°71°93°70°95°70°

Ahhhhh... rain. Please rain.

This week the garden delivered its first baskets of peppers, specifically Pimientos de Padron and Shishito Peppers. Yes, I noticed that too, Intrepid Reader, they are both capsicum annums. The Padrons are from the Spanish town of Padron and the Shishitos are Japanese. The Shishitos hit farmers' markets in about 2009 (we 'discovered' them last year...yeah, we're a little slow here) and at about the same time the Pimiento de Padron became a favorite in tapas restaurants. They both taste wonderfully green and are a little spicy, with an occasional hotter pepper making an appearance. To further confuse things, the two peppers are cooked similarly: fry whole peppers in a little olive oil until slightly charred and sprinkle with salt. For us they are still a stand-alone treat*, served hot, cold, or room temperature as a side with grilled meats or on an appetizer plate with cheese, crackers, etc., we haven't used them as an ingredient yet. We were buying them several (expensive) pints at at time from the farmers' market last year and knew we would try to grow them in our very next garden.

Reading through the seed catalogs, the descriptions about size and flavor for these two capsicum annum varieties are slightly different (and there is a price difference!) but I wasn't sure if it was product differentiation, traditional use, or true variants of the same plant. You know me, I bought seeds for both and planted them far enough apart in the garden to discourage any cross-pollination. Would there be a taste difference? Would one grow better than the other? Unfortunately the experimental design was flawed as one group wound up watered by a double soaker hose and the other by a single, can you tell the plants apart?

mystery pepper 1 foliage

mystery pepper 2 foliage
The differences in color are an artifact of the light in the garden so don't go on that. MP 1 has more fruit and blossoms so you might have guessed they are on the double soaker hose. Hum... maybe these will help:

mystery pepper 2 fruit
mystery pepper 1 fruit

They do seem to grow through their blossoms differently and have slightly different pod shapes; a botanist might be able to tell use more but alas, I don't have one in-house. In the taste test the very slight differences in flavor could have been the result of the amount of water they received. Although both batches of peppers had a few hot ones, MP2 had more (probably due to increased capsaicin, related to environmental stressors like little water) and a deeper green flavor. For now it looks like we'll get a pint every other day so the taste tests will continue (I love science!). In the end I'm not sure if the peppers actually are different; guess we'll have to try again next year to find out. (MP1 are the Shishitos; the hotter and less prolific Padrons are MP2.)

And just because... this is Lemon Grass, given to us as a golf pencil-sized root by a local farmer.

look past the lemon grass... and the weeds... what's that?! a very happy Chessie

There is a certain kind of synchronicity (or is it just seasonality?) to the Garden Life, Tiffany is harvesting peppers, too.
Happy Friday!
*Be forewarned, they can be slightly addictive so buy lots at  your local market or better yet, plant a few rows next year!


  1. Wow. Your lemon grass is really impressive.
    We decided to use a bunch of our jalapenos on the grill this weekend -- a bit similar to the cooking method of your peppers. Just charred them a few minutes, stuck them in a plastic bag for about 10 minutes to cool, then peeled the black skin off and removed the seeds, then ate them. They were quite delicious but the occasional super spicy one was certainly a surprise :)

  2. Yum... that's how we handle green chile -- by the bushel-- where we live. Almost every grocery store and road-side stand has a rotisserie barrel roaster set up to roast green chile for you to take home, peel, bag, and freeze. The smell is absolutely incredible, distinctive and a sure sign of fall. If you're roasting at home with your friends it's an all-afternoon party fueled by beer and quesadillas.

    The size of the lemon grass was a (nice) surprise! There should be enough to dry a few stalks for winter use, we'll see.

  3. Maybe mine need more water...hmmm... now you have me thinking.