In addition to falling leaves and temperatures – the mountains of hot peppers that appear on our kitchen and dining room table this time of year are another sure sign that fall has arrived.
Our hot peppers are the last to be harvested from the garden and landscape each year – as they fully ripen with their final crop just as the first few light frosts of the fall season chill the air.
It’s always a little sad to begin the hot pepper harvest – not only because it signals the end of the growing season – but because we begin to lose so much of the color and texture they provide all throughout the landscape.
We plant many of our hot pepper crops in hanging baskets and pots, or as groupings of accent plants in our flowerbeds – much like most people do with more traditional annuals such as petunias, begonias or geraniums. Not only are the peppers just as colorful and durable (if not more) than the typical annual flowers – they are edible! (see: Using Ornamental Peppers In The Landscape)
So, even though the pepper harvest signals the end of the summer growing season – on the bright side – it also means that it’s time to make our homemade spices and seasonings!
If you have never tasted a truly “fresh” version of hot pepper flakes, taco seasoning or hot pepper grind – you have no idea what you are missing. The flavor simply cannot be duplicated with anything purchased in a grocery store. In fact – most spices in the grocery store have long ago passed their “best days”, with some already having a year or two of “shelf-life” before ever being purchased – not to mention a healthy dose of added preservatives.
I will never forget the first time Mary made Chili Seasoning from our own garden fresh peppers – we both took a bite of the resulting chili and knew it was the end of buying packaged mix!
The best part of drying and making your own pepper spices – you can try almost any combination of peppers from your garden to create your own unique flavors. Although we do make some cayenne powder from our cayenne peppers – we have found that the powder made from drying our Chinese ornamental peppers is far more flavorful and has a better level of heat – so it has become our pepper of choice for powder.
This year – one of our new favorites is making our own version of Harissa – a spicy condiment that originated from North Africa. It is amazing on top of eggs, mixed in with hash browns, fried potatoes or as a spread on top of sandwiches or baked potatoes. We make ours by simmering a combination of minced Chinese peppers, olive oil, garlic, cumiin and coriander on the stove top – and then keeping in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 weeks.
Here are a few of our favorites to make with our hot peppers:
Chili Seasoning and Powder:
One of my favorites – we use it in everything from seasoning our own chili, to taco’s, fajita’s, and more. It so much more flavorful than any of the store-bought versions – with no preservatives!
Hot Pepper Flakes and Powder
One of the easiest things to make – we use our hot pepper powder nearly every day in something – whether on our eggs in the morning, to make our spicy V8 -style tomato juice – or anywhere where a recipe calls for a pinch of hot powder.
Now – if I just need to convince Mary to help me with my latest thought for a recipe – Homemade Chocolate Cayenne Peanut Butter spread! I know, it sounds a little crazy, but it’s worth a shot!
Jim and Mary – Old World Garden Farms
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