Thursday, August 19, 2010

Two New Great Peppers

Allow me to introduce Yellow Mini Bell and Chichen Itza
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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 loud.....how 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!
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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!

3 comments:

Leigh 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. =)

Swamp Thing 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!