10 Peppers for your 2013 Heirloom Garden

Friends Drift Inn Farm – Gardening

10 Peppers for you heirloom garden


Picking the Peppers

I may be a Master Gardener, but I confess that the last few years our pepper crop has not garnered me bragging rights. You remember in the Wizard of Oz that scene where the companions have almost reached the Emerald City in a seemingly lush summer setting and suddenly it begins to snow? Scarecrow queries, “Weird weather we are having isn’t it?”

Boy howdy, that is how it has been here in Kentucky Appalachia’s USDA Zone 6b. Now I could rant and rave about the weather, I could shake my head at the USDA who says we are Zone 6b, or I could just shut up and figure it out for myself.

This year I am going to throw the peppers a bone. Well, actually a little more bone meal which adds calcium to the soil nutrients. I cannot fix the crazy weather, but I can jazz up the dirt. I am going to mulch around the peppers this year hoping to even out the soil moisture. We have gone from sloppy wet to parched dry in a matter of weeks two years straight, and that has caused my pepper plants to stress. But I love peppers and I will not give up the quest! Giggles

Here’s my Pepper Picks for 2013

Jimmy Nardello Peppers Sweet for Frying!

Jimmy Nardello Frying Pepper is one of my favorites. This pepper has a fruity sweetness when eaten raw; and man does it hold up well to frying. The peppers plants take anywhere from 80 or 90 days to come on; but when they start producing you can count on plenteous harvests no matter what the weather. Plants get about two feet tall. The peppers are about ten inches long.

We slice Jimmy’s lengthwise and freeze to make deep fried peppers long after the garden is a summer memory. Jimmy Nardellos are on the Slow Food Ark of Taste and once you have bitten into one you will know why.

Tabasco Peppers are hot! They are the same peppers made famous by Louisiana’s Mcihinney family. Books will tell you maturity is about 90 days. Good luck with that. I start these pepper plants early, coaxing them along under the lights. I feel vindicated if I get fruit set in 90 days, with peppers ready to harvest in about 110. I push my luck each year with these; they almost require more days than my climate provides but the upside is the taste, and the ability of these babies to produce at least 100 peppers per plant. he plants get tall, mine are usually close to 4 feet. The peppers are about the size of my pinkie. We make our own hot sauce; it’s one of the most popular recipes on this website. Three plants of this will make enough hot sauce for you with plenty to share as gifts.

Shishito Peppers are new to my garden experience this year; prompted by Chef Jeremy Ashby’s penchant for these spicy sweet peppers. Shishitos mature early, about 60 days from setting the plants out according to the reference books. They get about three to four inches long. Ashby uses these the way I use jalapenos; for just that little kick up of flavor but ever so subtle. If you have grown these before, I would love to hear from you!

Sweet Bell Peppers for salads, sauces and freezing!

Marconi Peppers have not performed well for me, but I am going to give them another go. An Italian sweet pepper with thick walls and a seven inch elongated shape, these are fine peppers for fresh eating and freezing. They take about 80 or so days to maturity and the plants produce best with the addition of stakes or cages for support. I hope these will be my go to pepper for freezing.

I should probably have my butt kicked, because I insist on hanging on to California Wonders the standard sweet bell pepper for fresh eating and stuffing. For generations these have been my family’s favorites, but the past two summers they have been nothing but a disaster. Sluggish growth, blooms that fall off without producing and plants that just sit and sulk all summer. I am going to try a different seed source this year and keep my fingers crossed. Tradition is tradition!

This year I predict pickled peppers will be a huge trend. I will be growing Hungarian Yellow Wax, Banana Peppers, and Jalapenos for pickling. I talked about these in previous posts.

For drying, I depend on Cayenne Peppers. Not very imaginative, but they are a favorite in our family. I grow plenty of these, using single peppers to flavor many canning projects including okra pickles, hot cucumber pickles, and even some of my chutney and pepper jelly.

I am skipping Fish Peppers this year, but for those of you who are looking for landscaping plants the foliage of Fish Peppers offers a white and green variegation that is nothing short of spectacular.

What peppers are you growing this year?

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About Joyce Pinson

Joyce Friend Pinson is a regional farm-to-table columnist for the Appalachian-News Express. She is a local television host. Her column show and blog, Friends Drift Inn, explores food, gardening, and real life farm-to-table stories from the perspective of a baby boomer in Appalachia. Joyce has a background in agriculture, media, and small business. Joyce is an heirloom gardening addict and home canner. She has a penchant for big hats, pointy toed shoes, and bourbon. Along with her husband Charlie, Joyce really does live in a barn where they ballroom dance. And laugh. And cook. And giggle.