Tribute to the Pepper

pepperI happened to be at a client’s home today who has a garden filled with beautiful vegetables. Before I left, I made sure to take a photo of a handsome green pepper plant. It is surprising that more people don’t have a back door garden where they can at least have fresh vegetables while in season. Naturally grown bell peppers are my favorite because they have so many culinary uses. They can be sliced fresh and used along with carrots and celery as an appetizer. They can be kept whole and used as a main course of stuffed peppers. They can be chopped in small pieces and used for flavoring and texture in potato or macaroni salad. They can be sliced thin and placed on a barbecued hamburger along with onions. One of my favorite uses is in nearly every type of stir frying.

When I was young, my mother had a monster garden from which she sold fresh fruits and vegetables to local markets and private customers. The peppers we grew were some of the most picture perfect and very aromatic. We also grew purple peppers which were even more popular. The skin on the purple pepper is more firm and doesn’t get as soft when cooked. Coming from a farm where we used little or no chemicals actually spoiled me. For a very long time I found it hard to eat vegetables that were sold in the stores–especially carrots. For some reason, even to this day, they have slight taste of mold. I never found that when eating home grown vegetables.

When we grew peppers, we started them in a hotbed from seed. Their seeds take longer to germinate so one must be patient. Since peppers are related to tomatoes, they look a little bit like each other when they first start growing. One of the tricks to growing peppers is to plant two of them together. They help support each other from the wind and create a better canopy of growth. Many times when looking at someone’s garden, I find they’ve planted everything too close together. I guess people don’t realize that plants need room for root growth and sufficient ground moisture. Lawn clippings are a good ground cover as long as the grass hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals. Remember, chemicals leech into soil and is absorbed by plants. More people really should take the time to grow their vegetables from seed as sometimes the plants that are purchased could possibly contain blight which will affect a whole garden. If you have to water your peppers, try to create a rain water reservoir from one or two of your downspouts. Vegetables that are watered with city water will not taste as good due to their absorption of the chlorine and fluoride in tap water. When choosing a site for planting your peppers, make sure the soil is well drained and they are planted in an area of full sun. Tomatoes and peppers are considered hot crops. They love the heat as well as the sun.

I hope I’ve given an adequate tribute to the pepper. The photo above is the one I snapped today.

Joe Chodur

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