One of my favorite crops to grow in My Urban Farmscape is peppers. You can get a lot of bang for your buck out of these compact plants. Historically, peppers have been used throughout the world to flavor some of our favorite dishes with their crisp, tangy, sweetness or their hot, spicy, heat. Think about it. What would chili be without the pepper? How boring would your veggie trays look at the summer picnic without a bright orange, yellow or green bell pepper? Would tacos or fajitas exist?
I have started to pick sweet peppers and I’m sure that you will soon if you haven’t started already. As I begin to get an overabundance, I will share some, but I will also freeze or grill them. For bell peppers, you harvest them when they are ripe, which is when they reach their mature size. They will feel heavier and may start to turn color. As you gently pull, twist the stem. Or use scissors or pruners and cut the stem about 1/2” from the fruit. For the colored bell peppers, wait until they turn their color (yellow, orange or red).
Freezing Bell Peppers
It’s simple. Slice the pepper in half, stem to blossom end. Remove the stem and seeds inside. Wash, and dry. Place in a freezer bag or freezer container and toss into the freezer. Use for cooked dishes. They get soft once frozen so they won’t work well for fresh eating.
Roasting Sweet Peppers
Also easy. These larger red sweet peppers give just the right flavor to some otherwise boring soups or stews. Cook these directly on the grill or over an open flame on your gas stove. You could also use the broiler in your oven. As they cook they will get soft and their skin will char, that is when you know they are done. Remove from the grill and allow to cool some making it easier to handle when you remove the skin. After the stems and skin are removed, chop and place in a freezer container what ever you don’t use. Yum!
For hot peppers, most of them can be harvested in the green stages up to their colored stage. These will be ready for harvest later in the season as they LOVE the heat. Of course you can use any of the hot peppers fresh however you like.
Freezing or Jam
You can freeze jalapeno peppers like bell peppers, removing the seeds. WEAR GLOVES! One of my favorite things to do with jalapeno peppers is to make pepper jelly. The recipe I have used is on the Sure-jell box. I like to spread this over some cream cheese and serve with crackers. Secret: Want to give it a little more bite? Leave in the seeds. Watch out though if you take some for a holiday gathering and grandma tries some. She might scream out some words you have never heard from her before. Most grandma’s don’t like hot spicy foods!
You can dry all chili types. I like these to turn red on the vine. You can spread them out over a screen, string up on fishing line or heavy thread, or use a dehydrator. It’s fun to make decorative gifts or ristras. Once you know they are dry, you can grind them in a coffee grinder, not used for coffee of course, but just for your peppers, and then store in a glass container. These make nice gifts, and who knows, maybe you could come up with your very own famous chili spice mix! I love peppers. How about you? What is your favorite way to preserve peppers?