Peppers

Peppers come in all shapes and sizes and variations in heat. My personal favorites are Hungarian hot wax, hot chili,  jalapeño and habañero. I can the wax peppers for flavor and long-term storage, while I dry the chili peppers, using the jalapeño and habañero fresh for summer salsas and winter tomato sauce. Yes, I said fresh in winter. Remember: I’m in Central Florida where I can grow until the air freezes. Even then I can prolong my garden peppers if I cover them adequately.

peppers in summer

Sweet bell peppers are nice, too. If I don’t consume my green ones fresh, I chop and freeze. Wonderful for my Cuban-style black beans, the perfect compliment for yellow rice.

black beans for dinner

As previously mentioned, peppers like it warm. And they like to eat. These heavy feeders also like their water–until the fruit show up on the stem. You can ease back on the hose as they mature. You can start these indoors as they transplant well, important for my Arctic Amigos who live in the cold land.

Hungarian hot wax peppers not ready for ground yet

My perfect potting concoction contains:

1/3 organic black top soil

1/3 compost

1/3 worm poop

The rich dense top soil helps retain the moisture while the compost and worm poop provide the nutrients. The seeds are fairly small and flat, so only plant them 1/4″ deep. You can also plant these seeds direct in the garden where they’ll thrive.

Wax peppers near ready for canningOnce you have fine, sturdy sprouts, take them out to the garden and plant fairly close together, about 10-12″. They like to snuggle. They also appreciate it if you plant them deep, beyond the two cotyledons, or “first leaves.” Peppers, like tomatoes, are part of the night-shade family and like an added nip of calcium to their soil. My favorite mix is to combine crumbled eggshells and Epsom salts and mix into the soil around the base when you transplant.

To harvest, simply snip from the vine when ready!

Problems: Bugs love peppers–sweet peppers. Not too many bugs are fond of hot peppers, except squash bugs, which is why hot peppers make a great insect repellent spray for all your garden plants.

Good Companions for sweet peppers: Carrots, tomatoes.

Good Companions for hot peppers: Okra, tomatoes.

Bad Companions for sweet peppers: Fennel, kohlrabi.

Bad Companions for hot peppers: Beans, brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels), fennel.

Health Benefits for sweet peppers: Old eyes? Sweet peppers might be your answer to staving off those dreaded cataracts. Heavy on the vitamin C and beta-carotene, the combination is bad news for eye problems. One study showed those eating diets rich in beta-carotene, including sweet peppers, had a lower occurrence of cataracts. And, the redder the better. Why? Seems the beta-cryptoxanthin, an orange-red beta-carotene in red bell peppers, has been found to significantly cut the risk for lung cancer. Definitely worth the grow.

Health Benefits for hot peppers: Hot peppers can help clear the sinuses, that’s for sure, but they can also stop ulcers. Huh? Yep. You read right! The capsaicin is said to shield the stomach lining from ulcer-causing bacteria by stimulating digestive juices. Capsaicin can also prevent dangerous heart rhythms due to a natural calcium channel blocker similar to some heart prescription drugs. And get this–you might be able to shed pounds by eating hot peppers. You actually burn calories consuming the fiery peppers AND they might reduce your appetite.

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