Thursday, August 19, 2010

Two New Great Peppers

Allow me to introduce Yellow Mini Bell and Chichen Itza
Among the assorted "garden fails" of 2010 - there have been several of those - I have also enjoyed a lot of success and a lot of food. One of the best things about this year's garden is that its high productivity (for some crops, at least) has forced me to expand my culinary boundaries - both on the preparation and the consumption side. I've had to change how I define "the food I like." It's been great, actually.
Two neat successes were trial runs I did for peppers I had never grown or eaten before, the yellow mini-bell and the Chichen Itza Habanero. The yellow mini-bell has been a most spectacular find. Information on it is sketchy, except that it's a recent heirloom discovery by the Ohio Seed Savers Exchange. I bought my plant from Home Despot, so I have no idea where their grower got the seed. Supposedly, the little yellow peppers have been used for stuffing and canning for several generations. The yellow mini-bell is absolutely perfect. 2" long with relatively thin walls (for a bell pepper) and very few seeds. The taste is very aromatic and just sweet enough. We've been using them in recipes, nachos, and salads since they started ripening. Unfortunately, I planted it in a poor spot (was quickly shadowed by tomatoes) and it's not been super productive.
The Chichen Itza Habanero has a much different tale. A new hybrid habanero from Seminis Seeds (a division of the dreaded Monsanto), it's less potent than many other habaneros (but still blistering hot), and requires a shorter growing season (85 days instead of the 115 typical of habaneros). I know Monsanto will probably sue me for not using the proper name of their seed variety so here it is: the variety was coined "Chichen Itza Burning Bush"tm by Seminis. Back to the useful information!
Slicing open Chichen Itza produces an amazing smoky aroma that I don't think I've ever experienced before. The pepper is a beautiful peach color and it just begs you to take a solid bite, which I did, because it's almost pink for crying out hot could it be? Funny - turns out that it's really hot! Easily 4-5x hotter than a jalapeno. My lips instantly burned and my mouth instantly watered, and then it was like swallowing fire, which is now burning a hole in my stomach. I jokingly say "so much for a mild habanero!" but in reality, Seminis has done a good job recognizing an actual need - instead of constantly striving for a hotter pepper (anybody try Bhut Jolokia yet - the pepper with the heat of 200 Jalapenos?!), they created a pepper variety that people can actually use for preparing food (and I don't mean putting half of one pepper in a 6-serving dish). Ladies and gentlemen, I think I've found the hottest pepper that I can use on a regular basis for regular meals!
So those are two experiments that went well this year in the garden. I had one plant of each and do not regret growing them. Next year, I will plant several more yellow mini-bells, and will probably plant one Chichen Itza, or something very similar. Hope your garden experiments are going well too!


Leigh, Andrea Leigh Gil said...

Im glad to hear your garden has done well this year. I bought from seed savers exchange this year (my first time). I found some really cool heirloom seeds that are definitely "keepers" but unfortunately the rain and humidity really damaged a lot of our crop. Hoping for a better season next year.

biobabbler said...

Wow, those are BEAUtiful. Great shot (look SO nice against black). I agree re: peppers folks can actually, normally use. Much more my speed. =)

Kirk Mantay said...

Leigh, it has been a challenging year for sure. Warm April temperatures, a May 1 frost, wet May & early June, and then temperatures between 93 and 115 from mid-June to mid-August, with 2 week dry spells punctuated by 3-inch rain storms. I've easily lost 40% of my native plant stock. Cucumbers and watermelon straight up just did not grow. Tomatoes and peppers struggled MIGHTILY until June 1 or so.

Thanks babbler - the color of the habanero is a little distorted because I used the flash, but we have some white countertop (where I do most of my veggie shots) and one section of black countertop (shown in this shot). I thought I'd change it up a bit. Pretty happy with the result!

Thanks for checking in, both of you!

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