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Welcome to my daily musings about being in the garden and kitchen. Please get in touch!

In my garden today: chile peppers

In my garden today: chile peppers

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There is no explaining the love of a really hot chile pepper to someone who doesn't love chile peppers. By the way, chile is the correct spelling for the pepper; chili is the spelling for the southwestern dish made with chile peppers. 

There are some real chile nuts out there who spend a lot of time daring each other to try one explosive chile or another, but most of us are pretty happy to just eat the ones that are fairly safe, such as the tried-and-true jalapeno. The mark of a good chile pepper, even one as hot as a habanero, is flavor, something that will make you want to taste it again.

Peppers all have alkaloids called capsaicin that give them their burn. When this compound comes into contact with the nerve endings in your mouth, it sends neurotransmitters to your brain, informing it of the pain. The brain then makes the heart beat faster and cells begin releasing the painkillers called endorphins. This is accompanied by turning on the body’s watering system – salivation, nose running and sweating. The secret that chile-lovers all know is that endorphins give you a rush. Intense pain brings on a buzz as they say. 

The heat of chiles is measured in Scoville Units. Each pepper is given a range so you can make your choices based on the amount of heat you can tolerate. 

With chile popularity increasing, it’s possible to find all kinds of varieties in garden centers these days, and it seems every garden center at least carries jalapeno and cayenne. However, if you want more exotic varieties, you may have to order seeds and grow your own.

Pepper seeds may take up to a month to germinate, so it’s critical to use sterile medium and watch for mold and damping off while they are germinating. Sometimes soaking in warm water overnight helps speed germination.

Warm soil, plenty of sun and a well-drained spot and average fertility are all you need to grow peppers well. Be sure not to transplant until daytime temperatures are in the 70’s and nighttime temperatures don’t go lower than the mid-50’s. A mid-season side-dressing of compost or composted manure and plenty of water while the peppers are ripening will give you a bountiful harvest. Harvest by snipping the stem when the peppers are fully colored. 

Chiles, as all peppers, are self-pollinating. This means that you can save seeds from a pepper you like (unless it is an F1 hybrid - this information will be on the seed packet), and it will produce peppers of the same kind the following year. Sweet peppers and chile peppers do not cross-pollinate, so there’s no risk of ending up with a sweet pepper that will actually be spicy. 

In my kitchen today: eggplants

In my kitchen today: eggplants

In  my kitchen today: the wonder of farmers' markets

In my kitchen today: the wonder of farmers' markets