The Snarky Gardener has a new experiment for the winter. He’s growing jalapeno peppers at his office.
I’ve had much success growing indoor plants with my AeroGardens over the years. An AeroGarden is a small hydroponic garden with a grow light attached at the top. It’s designed so the light comes on first thing in the morning and shuts off 16 or 17 hours later. Once your seeds are started, just add water and (unfortunately chemical) nutrients every two weeks or so. Pretty straight forward even if you don’t know much about gardening.
Over the last 10 years or so (has it been that long? Wow!), I’ve grown a variety of edible vegetables and herbs in my 4 AeroGardens. The list includes cherry tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, basil, lettuce, spinach, thyme, chives, and arugula. They also have an insert you can use to grow starts for your outside garden. I’ve even started leeks and Swiss chard this way, so growing some peppers should be no big deal.
The twist this year is that I brought my AeroGarden 3 into work. This is the smallest of the AeroGardens I own, and fits in my cubicle nicely. Most of my co-workers know that I have a gardening blog and that I’m “the Snarky Gardener”. I had kept that fact under wraps for the longest time until this summer. People knew I was an avid gardener, and often ask me lots of questions (which I don’t mind at all). Once everyone heard about my blogging and such, it sort of hit a whole new level. It’s my own darn fault for passing out my Snarky Gardener business card to my boss.
My experiment this time is a social one. I’m seeing how my co-workers react to having peppers growing in the office. I chose peppers because people know what they are when they see them. Added to this is the fact they are fruit, so there will be flowers and tiny little peppers. I also like that pepper plants are prettier than tomatoes (at least in my opinion). Basil was my second choice, but wasn’t sure I wanted to be smelling basil every day.
Think saving pepper seed is difficult? Think again.
Saving pepper seed is really easy. The most important step is the first – leave the pepper on the plant until it gets very ripe. This will mean the pepper will turn color from the standard green to its final hue, either red (like the above jalapeno) or yellow or orange or whatever. The fruit will feel a little soft when squeezed.
Important note: If the pepper plant is a hybrid (aka F1), it was a cross between 2 different varieties and your saved seed may not produce the same fruit as its parent. Also, there is a small chance your pepper was cross pollinated with other nearby peppers, so again, your results may vary. Ah, plant sex.
Once it’s ready, pick your pepper Peter Piper style and cut it up. You will want to have something the seeds can be stored in for drying, like this medicine bottle cap. Be careful not to slice through the center as that’s where all the seedy goodness is. If you cut up peppers on a regular basis for cooking, it’s the same, except you keep the seeds instead of tossing them. Remove all the seeds from the pepper and membrane, and put them in your drying vessel. Then cut up the pepper for use now or bag it up and freeze for later (they freeze really well).
Warning: If you are saving hot pepper seeds, be careful with burning your skin. You will want to wear gloves if you can. And if you’re like the Snarky Gardener, you won’t and then you’ll need to use dish soap, rubbing alcohol, milk, or yogurt to wash away the hot irritating oil.
Leave the seeds out to dry for about a week or two, shaking them back and forth every couple of days. Now they will be ready for storing or planting.
With the start of fall comes my seed saving efforts. With a bounty of seeds, I’ve been considering setting up some type of Internet-based sales site, but that might have to wait until late in 2014. For now, I’m going to limit my myself to trading, swapping, and time credits from the Kent Community TimeBank.
I was at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market in Kent Ohio this winter and ran across some Jacob’s Cattle beans from Breakneck Acres (located just around the corner from Snarky Acres – aka my house). I had read about Jacob’s Cattle beans in one or two of my many gardening books and wanted to eat (and grow) some myself. After a Google search, I found a recipe I could adapt to make my own special local chili. Converting it into a crock pot recipe made it quick and easy.
Note: I saved back one bag so I could plant them this spring. Maybe in the fall I’ll be doing this same recipe with my own beans.
1 pound (aka bag) of Jacob’s Cattle beans
1 or 2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp. Garlic powder)
Olive oil for frying
1 pound ground beef
3-4 T. chili powder
2-3 T. cumin
2 Jalapeno peppers
Dash of cinnamon
Large can crushed tomatoes (2 1/2 cups fresh)
1 tsp. local honey (instead of brown sugar)
2 T. vinegar (white, red wine, apple cider or balsamic)
Salt and pepper to taste
Turnip Greens (optional)
Soak the beans in water about 2-3 inches above the beans in the crock pot or a non-metal bowl for 6-8 hours or overnight. Discard the soaking water and cover with fresh water an inch or two above the beans. Cook the ground beef until nicely browned and crumbled, set aside. Sauté the onions in a oil until soft, then add everything to the crock pot and stir well. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours.
– Jalapeno peppers – fresh from the AeroGarden
– Turnip Greens – frozen from last year’s garden
– Tomatoes – frozen from last year’s garden
– Onions – fresh from the garden
– Garlic – fresh thinnings from the garden
– Cilantro – fresh thinnings from the Front Yard Herb garden
– Jacob’s Cattle beans – from Breakneck Farms
– Ground beef – from Sirna’s Farm CSA in Auburn Ohio
– Local Honey
– Olive oil
– Chili powder
– Salt and pepper