I am not known for making reasonable, measured planting decisions. Take, for example, the flower farm. It came into being because I wasn’t wild about cutting flowers for the house from the flower beds around the house. The reasonable solution would have been simply to create a cut flower garden. Instead, I plowed up a flower farm and started a business. The result was that I grew thousands of flowers for other people but was rarely able to keep any for myself.
I am aware of these tendencies toward the grandiose, and I do try to manage them, but I couldn’t tell you that I’m particularly successful much of the time.
The vegetable garden this year could have been submitted as evidence against me once again. I told myself not to start so many seeds. I have an issue with ruthlessly throwing perfectly good seedlings onto the compost pile. So if all of the seeds germinate (they did) and grow on to be healthy seedlings (they did), I invariably end up finding a place for all of them. This year I reassured myself that any excess produce could go to the food pantry at church, and it did. At a certain point, though, I can imagine people shouting, “NO MORE!” I can imagine this because I have been shouting it myself.
Last week, it became abundantly clear that I had a bit of a pepper problem. I must confess to growing 52 pepper plants of five different varieties this year. There is no need to judge me here, folks. I’ve been taking care of that pretty well on my own, thank you. I have donated peppers to church and to friends. I have sliced, bagged, and frozen peppers for winter. We’ve eaten them fresh. They’ve ended up in all sorts of dishes, and we’ve enjoyed them. But when I picked yet another basket of them last week, I realized that I simply needed to get creative.
First, I would like to suggest that freezing peppers for winter use is a great idea and that there is more than one way of prepping them. I have a few gallons of pepper strips in freezer bags, but I often use chopped peppers in recipes, as well. Now I have a gallon of pepper cubes in a freezer bag. That took care of most of the bell varieties of peppers. I always cut them first, place them on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, pop them in the freezer for 30 minutes, then bag them. It keeps them from freezing together in one solid mass.
I then had to cope with a lot of jalapeños. Those usually aren’t a problem. Pickled jalapeños are always a great solution, and if you know anyone who likes spicy food, a jar of those is always a welcome gift. With the holidays soon upon us, I’m thinking about homemade gifts for friends. The jalapeños from last week were a wonderful blend of green and red peppers, so I thought they would make a beautiful, festive jalapeño jelly. Rather than coming out green, the jelly has a lovely red hue to it, so I tucked the jars away for later and checked a few people off of my list.
I still had some bell and Italian peppers left, though, so I decided to stuff the bell peppers. There is someone in my house who does not like your standard stuffed bell peppers, so I made a southwestern version. The trick to stuffed peppers is to get them a little soft before filling and baking them. I just cut the peppers in half (removing the seeds and membrane but leaving the caps on), put them in the casserole dish they’ll ultimately bake in, pour a little hot water in the bottom, cover, and cook the peppers in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. This time, once I pulled them out, I filled them with a mixture of refried beans, onions, fresh peppers, corn, diced chicken, and chili powder, topped them with a little salsa, shredded cheese, and crushed tortilla chips, and popped them in the oven for another 25 minutes (no lid this time). Even my picky eater liked them.
As for the Italian peppers, we were getting closer to Saturday, so football snacks were on my mind. Once again, I stuffed the peppers. They have a slightly thinner skin and don’t need softening in advance. I mixed cream cheese, chopped onions, and a little shredded cheddar, stuffed the peppers, put their caps back on, and wrapped each with a 1/2 strip of bacon, held in place with a wooden skewer. In the oven they went for 30 minutes (this time at 400). They were absolutely delicious.
As for any other peppers that might ripen before the season is officially over? I may just leave them on people’s doorsteps.