Peppers for 2021

Oops, I had this post mostly done back in February and clearly forgot to post it, so here we go… I sowed these on February 8th and just potted these up yesterday (March 22) into 4 inch pots.

Last year was such a fantastic year for the Cayenne Peppers in my garden. The Alma Paprika I grew also did quite well, as did the random assortment of other peppers I grew… but nothing could hold a candle to the Cayennes. I have a completely different lineup this year, with the exception of the Cayenne. So without rambling on for 8 more paragraphs like this is a food blog, I’m going to do my usual lists.

  • Cayenne Long Slim Hot
    • Days to Maturity: 75 days
    • Seed Source: MI Gardener, from 2020
    • Description on the Seed Packet: “Do not be deceived by the size, these peppers pack a lot of heat and flavor. This variety is high yeilding and grows 4-6″ long and 1/2″ wide. Slightly hotter than jalapenos, this variety has a multitude of uses in the kitchen. Fresh, canned, used in pickling, or dried, cayenne is the perfect type for adding a kick to any recipe.”
    • NOTES: My plants from this seed packet in 2020 were INCREDIBLE. I have more than a quart jar of dried peppers on my shelf just waiting to be ground into homemade/homegrown Cayenne Pepper.
  • Large Red Cherry
    • Days to Maturity: 75 days
    • Seed Source: MI Gardener, from 2020
    • Description on the Seed Packet: “Other wise known as the cherry bomb, this pepper packs a punch! Plants produce small round peppers that resemble cherries. The production on the plants is average, but on good years they can produce 70-80 peppers per plant in a northern growing season. Southern states would have even better yields. Tolerates shock very well in comparison to other pepper varieties. It doesn’t drop flowers when moved outside, and it can be cut back and brought inside without a problem.”
    • NOTES: I started these last year, but they didn’t survive the neglect that happens when I get obsessed with my tomatoes. They get a do-over this year to see if they are worth adding to my “regulars” like the Cayenne.
  • Peter Pepper
    • Days to Maturity: Its not on the seed packet, but a quick google search of “peter pepper days to maturity” comes up with 60-80 days
    • Seed Source: Richter’s, from 2021
    • Description from the Richter’s website (since there is no description on their seed packet, just growing info): “(Penis pepper) An heirloom pepper that undeniably looks like an uncircumcised penis. It is perhaps not for everybody, but if you are growing this in your garden for all to see, it does help to have a healthy dose of humour. This unusual chile is actually quite edible and hot. 10,000-23,000 Scoville units”
    • NOTES: I have a weird sense of humour and as soon as I saw these a couple years ago, I wanted to grow them. This year, I finally took the plunge and ordered the seeds, so we’ll see how they grow here.
  • Paprik
    • Days to Maturity: 90 days
    • Seed Source: West Coast Seeds, from 2021
    • Description from the Seed Packet: “The deep red colour and distinctive flavour remain intact when the fruits are dried and ground into paprika. The pods have small seed cavities, and turn from a scarlet to dark brown as they dry. Fruits average 12cm (4″) long. 90 days, OP”
    • NOTES: I grew the Alma Paprika pepper last year, and while they grew pretty good, because of their round shape and thick skin, they didn’t dry evenly or consistently… So when I saw these, I wanted to try them and see how homemade/homegrown paprika turns out with this much different variety.
  • Shishito
    • Days to Maturity: 60 days
    • Seed Source: West Coast Seeds, from 2021
    • Description from the Seed Packet: “They may be the perfect bite-sized pepper for blistering under the broiler and serving with a sauce. The 60cm (24″) tall plants produced buckets of slender, mild peppers in our field trials, and they kept producing into October. 60 days, F1”
    • NOTES: I grabbed these on a whim. They won me over with the description and the fast maturity time. Typically I try and stick with OP/Heirloom seeds, so this is the only F1 Pepper that I’m growing. Not that there is anything wrong with F1’s… I just have an interest in seed saving and as a general rule, F1’s don’t grow true to type, and they are more expensive than heirlooms.
  • Aji Charapita
    • Days to Maturity:
    • Seed Source: Baker Creek, from 2021
    • Description from Seed Packet:
    • NOTES: When I read about these in ‘The Whole Seed Catalogue; 2020’ That Baker Creek produces, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So when I put in my seed order in the late fall (to beat the inevitable rush again this year), of course these made the cut. I always like to add in a few things that are different into my garden each year, so we’ll see how these do.
  • Purple Beauty
    • Days to Maturity: 70-75 days
    • Seed Source: West Coast Seeds, From 2021
    • Description from the Seed Packet: “The best purple pepper around. The short, bushy plants produce up to 12 blocky fruits each. The colour transforms from greeen to purple to deep red, and the fruits are edible in each phase. Purple Beauty is resistant to Mosaic Virus. 70-75 days, OP”
    • NOTES: I was going to stick with growing my hot peppers from seed and just buy some sweet/bell peppers as plant starts, but then these caught my eye and I couldn’t resist. We’ll see how they do on the patio this summer, and hopefully I’ll have some homegrown peppers for fresh eating this summer, and adding to sauces in the fall.

So that is the rundown of the peppers I have started from seed this year. As usual, I started them in peat pellets, and there are 2 each of the Cayenne, Paprik, Purple Beauty, Aji Chaparita and Peter, and 1 each of the Shisito and the Large Red Cherry. Ideally, I will keep 2 little plants together to grow on, as I have found that they tend to grow better with a friend.

Peppers of Previous Years:

2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 & 2016

Previous years cayenne or jalapeno
Alma paprika pepper from last year
Cayenne from a previous year
drying Cayenne’s a few years ago
Big Dipper or California Wonder peppers from a few years ago
Cayenne

Going through all the old photos from previous years on this blog, I realise that I need to get back to documenting my garden with more than just words. We’ll see how it goes this year, because I know work is going to be crazy. But its so nice to look back at those photos and remember how good things in my gardens were doing… especially at this time of year, when we have extreme cold warnings and windchills in the -40’s.

Onions for 2021

Old photo of an onion I grew in 2014 (I think). I planted 2 entire bags of sets (over 200!!) that year and I think I ended up with maybe 5 decently bulbed onions. The rest were small and mostly they all bolted. This is my main motivation for growing from seed this year.

Its been a hot minute since I last posted anything here, but the season is slowly starting again now that we are in January.

Zebrune Shallots in 2020 before being cured

I have never really had successful onions growing from sets. They are small and not really suited to storing. (…and I never get many decent sized onions)… Which is fine if you just want a few onions for fresh eating, but my goals have shifted more to developing my skills in putting up food for the winter. Last year, I was able to braid up about 20 of my Zebrune Shallots last year and it has been fun using my own produce while its -20 and snowing outside. So this year, I decided to step up my onion game (or at least attempt to). I bought a few different varieties that are more suited to storage. Before I keep rambling on though, I’ll get to the varieties I will be (attempting) to grow this year.

  • Zebrune Shallots
    • 110 days to Maturity
    • Sowed January 17
    • Description from West Coast Seeds: “This french heirloom combines the ease and texture of an onion with the delicate gourmet flavour of a shallot. The long lasting bulbs have pinkish brown skins over crisp white interiors. The flesh is sweet and mild for gourmet cooking.”
    • Goals: to have 30-40 shallots to put up this winter.
  • Rossa di Milano
    • 110 days to Maturity
    • Sowed January 17
    • Description from West Coast Seeds: “This is an unusual Italian heirloom onion with a barrel-like shape, flat bottoms, and thin purple/red skins. Sweet and pungent in flavour, with very good storage. These onions look marvellous when braided for winter use.”
    • Goals: to have 15-20 of these braided to put up for the winter.
  • Rossa D’Inverno Rubino
    • 110 Days to Maturity
    • Sowed January 17
    • Description from West Coast Seeds: “This long day storage onion has a globe shape with deep red skins streaked with even deeper red longitudinal lines. Rossa d’Inverno is perfect for the home gardener or fresh market, its an excellent choice for late summer harvests.”
    • Goals: to have 15-20 of these braided to put up for the winter.
  • Ailsa Craig
    • 95 days to Maturity
    • Sowed January 17
    • Description from West Coast Seeds: “These huge, straw-yellow globes grow up to 20cm (8″) in diameter, with a firm texture and mild, sweet flesh. Ailsa Craig keeps fairly well, but is grown as a sweet, rather than a storage onion. Enjoy the fine flavour in soups and salads.”
    • Goals: to have around 10 onions for fresh use in late summer and fall.

Before I get back to the rambling, These seeds are all fresh this year, and are all Open Pollinated varieties. Also all are West Coast packets.

So Why am I trying so many different onions? Well, I want to find what works for me. I like trying new things. My goals are a stretch given my small sized garden, but I still hope that they will work out. I haven’t quite decided where they are all going to grow this year, but the top of the list right now is in containers.

How I’m starting these: I’ve put them in 4″ pots in seed starting mix to germinate and get started. The plan after they get some true leaves and a decent amount of roots is to put them into some plug trays that I have saved until its time for them to go out. Space is going to get to be an issue in April while we are waiting for warm weather to be able to put things out.

Why am I starting these in January???: They are slower growing and I want to put out some strong plants come spring time. Our average “days without frost” is only around 117 days. So the stronger plants I can have during that short amount of time, the better. I can stretch this with my micro-climate yard that is quite warm, and covering things while watching the forecasts. Second reason: I want to play in the dirt.

Other rambling: I’m covering the 4″ pots with some plastic wrap to keep the moisture/humidity up while the seeds germinate. As soon as they do germinate, the plastic wrap will come off and they’ll be able to grow on in the warm house til its warm enough for them to go outside.

One last note, I will also be growing some scallions, they just don’t need this much time to grow in the house. But to keep more organized in my notes here, I’ll throw the description here too.

  • Apache Scallions
    • 65 days to Maturity
    • Description from West Coast Seeds: “Mild flavour and crisp texture make Apache a great candidate for adding colour to salads. Apache grows just like all the other scallions, but forms a small bulb with a surprising purple/red skin and intensely red core.”
    • Goals: I mainly just want a few small clumps of these dotted around. I would love if they become a perennial in my garden like the other scallions I have. I mostly bought these to add some change. We don’t use a ton of spring onions, but occasionally they are a nice addition. I’m just not a huge raw onion fan, I like them for cooking with, but I don’t like them raw. However, these are gorgeous and I cant wait to see if they do good here. I’ll likely sow some in late march or early April for putting outside in mid-late May.

October 2020 Update

I have NOTHING written up and I am 10 days late getting this up. So, what I am going to do is do a quick breakdown of what I can remember what I’ve done in October… which honestly… its up in the air how much I can remember.

I harvested my carrots on Halloween. They were tiny. But still delicous.

I added in some cool perennials, so hopefully they all survive winter. Adding in all the flowers that I did last year seems to have improved most of my harvests.

I honestly can’t remember what else I did specifically this month. Mostly I put the garden to bed and covered everything with leaves. If I find some time and my memory of Octover, I will come back and add to this post, but if I put off writing this any longer, It will never happen.

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September 2020

HOW IS IT ALREADY OCTOBER????

I have nothing written for you. Work was busy and I was busy harvesting and putting things up and I don’t even know when or how or what. I honestly don’t know how it is already October or where all of September even went.

As I mentioned in my last update. I had to harvest tomatoes early in September or risk losing them to frost/snow again. And while it never really got as cold as the forecast said, and the snow was only in the upper elevations in the mountains, I wasn’t taking the risk of losing another tomato harvest to snow. I let all those green tomatoes sit in the kitchen for a few weeks and then finally last Saturday (September 26) I managed to make 2 rounds of Tomato sauce and can it. All together, I got 12 Pints of sauce… so around 6 L of my own homegrown tomato sauce for the Pantry. The left over sauce that wouldn’t fit in the canning jars, was boiled down even more and I have a nice jar of tomato paste in my fride (because I wasn’t about to heat the canner up for one tiny jar)… and the tomato skins, I have been dehydrating and I’ll pulse them up for a tomato powder to add an extra punch of tomato flavour to dishes over the winter…. And I am so very proud of it all, especially given that I grew every single tomato in those jars! I can’t wait to use it on a cold winter day and remember watching them grow all summer long.

I do still have some tomatoes left that are ripening still, and Even some still outside… in OCTOBER…. That is basically unheard of around here! and something I have never been able to do. Especially without covering them or having a greenhouse. We have actually been blessed with a beautiful fall here without a taste of winter and I am so grateful for that.

Next year I wont grow so much celery. But I will grow it. It hasn’t been great for fresh eating, but for adding to soups and sauces, it is fantastic. The problem is how much the slugs also love it, so I’ve mostly just been dehydrating the leaves and composting the slug-devoured stalks. The celery powder from the leaves is fantastic and adds a ton of flavour to whatever I use it in. This is what I will be growing it for next year. I am going to leave a few plants in the ground and see how they survive winter. Fingers crossed that they do and I can have my own saved seed from them next year.

I also made Applesauce with all the apples from my tree. I don’t remember if that was in August or September, but i did it! I didn’t follow any special safe-for-water-bath-canning recipe, so I ended up putting it in containers and freezing it.

My Mayflower beans are actually producing and I should get at least a handful of fully formed and dry pods to store for winter, and save for seed for next year. The Painted Lady runner beans didn’t get going until later in August and they are just out of warm enough weather to produce anything. They have been flowering though. The flowers alone are reason enough to grow them!

Strawflower are amazing and I hope I can add other colours to my seed collection. They have been so much fun and the bees and butterflies have adored them too.

I will try and get a proper update for you for October. No promises, because I have swapped rolls at work and it is basically learning a whole new job, so It has been a bit chaotic, given that I don’t know much about tropicals/house plants, and my brain has been in over-drive trying to soak up as much info about them as possible. That sentence should be proof enough how well my brain is working right now.

Also, sorry for no pictures… If I attempt to start adding them now, I will never get this posted… and I’m trying to stay consistent with the posting and I’ll get better at the actual content after I have some better consistency. Baby steps

August 2020

…So I’m a week late in getting this posted… I’m sorry. I for sure thought I hit publish from my phone, but I guess it didn’t work. My bad. Maybe I’ll get September’s update posted on time… But without anymore blabbering… here is the August 2020 update.

Wow. August is gone already??? Wasn’t it just May like 2 days ago?

I have been better about taking pictures this month (because it is much more fun taking harvest pictures), so I’ve tried to do a more photo heavy update post rather than a word heavy post. AND because work is slowing down a bit, I can catch up on a bunch of the posts I have wanted to get written all summer… Like tomato variety specific posts that I started early in the Spring.

August 1- harvested my Potatoes. The plants were starting to die back so I just gave in and dug them up before I lost them.
Zebrune Shallots. Harvested this batch on Aug 1. Left about half of them to keep growing.
Blue Cream Berries Tomato. So sweet and delicious! I’ll definitely be growing this one again next year.
Celery is jamming
Baby ‘Royal Burgundy’ Bush Beans!

I’ve been getting a decent amount of herbs dried and put away for using over the winter… and I’m chomping at the bit to get some tomatoes put up and do the whole canning thing… but now its the waiting for them to ripen before the snow falls game… This will end up being in the September update… However, I have had a few random ripe tomatoes…

  • Silvery Fir Tree – despite struggling to get these to grow for the last few years, these have been doing fantastic this year. My first tomato to ripen outside, They have been a decent size. I’ve harvested about 10 of them from 2 plants and I have plenty more green tomatoes still on the plants.
  • Blue Cream Berries- These are great. So sweet, and a real taste of summer. I have 4-6 plants and they are all covered in tomatoes. The sun-ripened ones are the best, but I’m sure I will be bringing plenty in to ripen inside. I don’t trust that Mother Nature will be kind to us and give us a nice long warm fall.
  • Tasmanian Chocolate – Much like the Silvery Fir, I have struggled to grow this one for the last few years, but this year they are performing fantastic. I have just the one plant and it has been covered in fruit. And they really are a chocolate toned red. One comment on my instagram (@thecraftycultivator) was “It looks like a painting of a tomato someone dreamed about”. Infact, this tomato has done so well this year that one branch full of fruit snapped partially, and it has just kept on growing with half the tomatoes upside-down. I havn’t tasted it just yet, but just looking at them is enough to make me try them again next year.
  • Chernobyl – I had one ripe one of these so far. Not quite as electric yellow as they are portrayed on the seed packet, but still a nice bright change in the garden. They went from green to orange and then to a bright yellow, and between 3 plants, I have at least a handful of tomatoes still to come.
  • Tiny Tim – these are just starting to ripen outside, and I’m kind of hoping that they will just all ripen all at the same time (across the 4 plants I have outside), so I can just roast them almost immediately after harvesting. (Saving a few to save seed from obviously)

Not that I grew them myself, but Peaches were on a really good sale, so I’ve been able to do a run of Peach Jam, and some sliced peaches in light syrup. I do still have some peaches to do something with, and may just end up making some food leather.

I harvested my garlic a little early… I wanted the space they were in for lettuce… which I would love to show you a picture now of my beautiful growing lettuce heads, but the slugs devoured them already. For the Garlic, I grew the 2 kinds… from Chesnok, I got 15 heads, and from the Purple Glazer, I got 13. Since they are quite small, I won’t save any of them for re-planting, but they will be wonderful for cooking with. I would like to try a few more types again as soon as we get them instock at work… I just need to find a spot to put them and get some decent soil going.

…September me again… I guess I didn’t hit publish because I ran out of words and pictures…. So let me give you a sneak peak into September: We had potential snow and frost in the forecast last night so I had to harvest all my tomatoes or risk losing them… So that was fun, but I did get a decent amount of tomatoes that should all ripen inside that I can make the sauce that I’ve been planning since March… I thought that once my rational brain took over, I would regret tripling my tomato growing, but I don’t. I’m glad I did, and I will not be reining my tomato-brain in come next March either. I have too much fun growing a bunch of different types of tomatoes and seeing how they cope with our weird weather. I still want a greenhouse though (just putting that out into the universe as much as possible)