Last year was a not a great year for peppers here. I had insect problems with the seedlings, and many of the plants just never really took off like they should. As a result, we had barely enough sweet peppers to keep us supplied for fresh use. The hot ones did a little better, though the ones that did do well weren’t always my favorites.
For fresh eating, we have really come to enjoy the Italian bull’s horn peppers. My favorite four were all bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and three of them are AAS Winners as well. The red Carmen and Cornito Rosso and the yellow Escamillo and Cornito Giallo all have done well for me here, and we find them very useful in the kitchen. We like them so much, I have stopped growing bell peppers, which in my garden are sometimes difficult to get to ripen without having issues. I do still grow a couple of orange mini bells, Glow and Orange Blaze. I am sure dreaming of grilled Italian peppers, and hopefully there will be some for dehydrating as well.
Speaking of dehydrating, I also do a lot of preserving of the peppers, and I grow quite a few specifically for drying and making into paprika or chile powder. My favorite paprika pepper has been Dulce Rojo, which has fairly thin walls and a deep red color that makes it great for drying. It’s also not too sweet, which means we aren’t tempted to eat them fresh. I didn’t get very many of them last year, though Hungarian Magyar from Renee’s Garden Seeds did a little better. I’m growing both of them again this year.
A new favorite paprika pepper is one called Nora that I grew last year for the first time. This plant was one of many that struggled, but I managed to get six or seven ripe peppers which I dried and ground into paprika powder. This is a Spanish variety that is used for making the smoked paprika Pimentón. The fruits have thick walls and look like a pimento or cheese pepper to me. I’m dreaming of getting lots more of this one in 2018, and I will try smoking a few of them for paprika.
I use a lot of chile powder here, and I’ve been making my own for years. I’ve used NuMex varieties like Anaheim and Biggie Chile and ancho types which are usually quite productive. But all of those wind up having a certain sweetness to them when dried, at least the ones I grow here. They also can get quite hot here, too much so for my tastes. A few years back I began growing guajillo type peppers, both open-pollinated ones and the hybrid Minero. They make a flavorful mildly hot chile powder that doesn’t taste sweet to me, and are my new favorite for sure. I did get quite a few of them last year, but I could always use more, and I’m dreaming of a bumper harvest this year!
I grow a lot of baccatum peppers here, and one of my favorites is Aji Angelo. I ferment this one and use it to make a mild hot sauce that has incredible flavor. I also dehydrate the fermented peppers to make into flakes, which are a tasty way to add a little heat to many dishes. Another one we use a lot is Malawi Piquante, which I pickle to make the peppadew-style peppers you see on salad bars and in groceries. Aji Golden is another one I use a lot. The baccatum plants actually did quite well last year, at least the plants that I overwintered. Ironically, the overwintered plants were likely the source of the aphids that attacked the seedlings. This year I sprayed the pepper plants with a pyganic and neem oil mix before bringing them indoors, and that seemed to help keep the plants bug free. I’m dreaming of getting ripe Mad Hatter peppers this year too. It’s a 2017 AAS Winner that made lots of green ones but due to the insect issues with seedlings didn’t have time to ripen many. I overwintered one plant of it, and it should take off quickly once I put it outside.
Lately I’ve become quite fond of my homemade kimchi. At first I used a commercial gochugaru pepper powder, but of course that led me to try growing my own peppers. Last year I tried a few in containers, including Lady Choi and Lady Hermit from Kitazawa Seeds and Korean Hot from Refining Fire Chilis. While they did well, they made gochugaru that was hotter than what I bought, so the search is still on. This year I am trying one from Adaptive Seeds called Korean Hot, and one from Sherwood Seeds called Kimchi. We shall see how they compare, and I am still dreaming of my very own kimchi peppers that aren’t so blazing hot!
Those are a few of my current dreams and hopes for peppers in 2018. Are there any pepper dreams in your future, or any other veggie dreams for that matter?