So, today let's finally take a look at this season for sweet peppers like Bells & Italian Fryers.
It was actually a pretty terrible year for peppers. Without a doubt, my Italian frying peppers and hot peppers did better last year. The bell peppers didn't do so hot last year either, b/c I'm pretty sure there is something lacking in my soil that they need. But, that said, despite the cold and rainy weather in the beginning of the summer, and bouts with blossom end rot (or something), I still got to eat some sweet peppers.
I bought three flats full from the nursery, which only came in packs of 6 so I had 6 green bells, 6 yellow bells, and 6 Italian Frying peppers. They barely fit in the garden. What you see on the above left is two rows of the Italian Fryers immediately behind the basil on the left side of my garden, and then a row that was half green and yellow bell behind it.
Here on the right is a close up of the Italian Fryers on Oct. 4th, which are tiny. The big difference from last year was that I kept picking all through August and Sept last year, but this year not so much. I wasn't really able to pick them until right before frost, since they weren't exactly ripe.
Then, on the other side of the garden I had the rest of the green and yellow bells (along with all the hots). Here they are on August 1st, still pretty small:
Then, a not so great picture of them (best I have), again on Oct. 4th:
They're definitely bigger, but still struggling. They were a bit better looking than this a few weeks earlier, but after a few bad rain/wind storms, most of the branches fell off. It seemed as if the peppers were too heavy and pulled the branches down, even though they had some bamboo supports. I'm guessing this is because the plants had such a slow start, the foliage was small, so it just wasn't enough to support the weight of the peppers when they finally grew.
The biggest problem was with the Yellow Bells. The green ones were fine, but until early October I couldn't get a yellow bell to ripen without a blemish. You can see the problem below. On the left is the yellow color the peppers should be, but it has those weird brown spots. On the right is the unripe version of the yellow bell, which looks fine. I had to compost so many b/c of brown spots that I ended up just eating them while they were still light green. Which wasn't that bad - they still tasted fine. I just really need to get a soil test to figure out why this is happening.
But, as I said, I was able to harvest at least enough to use in various recipes over the summer. In fact, the brown spot problem seemed to decline over the season - which is exactly what happened to my peppers last year, so that's why I think it has to do with the soil, and not just the bad weather.
You can see here finally, on Oct. 10th, a yellow bell actually ripened fully without a single brown spot! WUHOO!
And really, who uses that many bell peppers anyway, right? They're usually either roasted or diced up in the trinity, not really a stand alone ingredient. Even with a crappy harvest I had to slice and freeze a whole large baggie full of peppers. I also used them in sauces, and salsa.
Then I even got to make my absolute favorite green pepper recipe, which is another one of these recipes that is so simple yet so good. It is just:
2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, minced
1 bay leaf
2 cups cooked black beans
1 tsp dried sage (or 3 tsp fresh)
hot sauce, to taste
All you do is put a bit of olive oil in a pan, then saute the garlic, green peppers and bay leaf until the peppers have just begun to soften, about 4 minutes. Then add the beans, sage and hot pepper sauce and saute until heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve hot as an appetizer or side dish with garlic bread, corn tortillas or even corn bread. It is even good cold the next day!
I also made stuffed peppers for the first time ever. I used the recipe in Veganomicon for Creole Stuffed Peppers, except instead of 2 cans of black eyed peas, I used half bep & half brown rice. Now, stuffed peppers is something I would have never eaten growing up - just seemed so yucky. But wow, were these delicious!! I've even made them again since then. They are definitely now in my regular rotation. Finally, in the end, I still picked more peppers than I knew what to do with. The harvest before frost was overwhelming, as pictured here and here. I gave a huge bag to my neighbor, dehydrated some, stuffed some more, made a double batch of pepperonata from Nonna's Italian Kitchen - half we ate with polenta and the other half I froze- and still have two bags left in the fridge! Luckily, my Mom gave me some green bags, which do seem to work. I hope to roast them on the grill today, then freeze them. Phew! Here's two pictures of the dehydrated peppers, before and after:
Next year, I don't think I want 18 pepper plants! If this was how much they produced in a bad year, I'd be drowning in them in a good year! I think I might try buying seeds and starting them myself. That way I can have several different types of peppers, but only 2 plants of each type, not 6.