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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Growing and Using Hot Peppers

What initially got me interested in gardening is hot peppers. Nowhere in my small town could I find a good selection of peppers, so I thought I'd grow my own. It took three seasons, but I've finally got that good selection.

Naturally, peppers prefer a warm climate and longish growing season, both of which are unavailable this far north. So, I got creative. I started the seeds early. After much trial and error, I found that germinating them in a moist paper towel is among the easiest and most effective methods. By starting them in March and keeping them in a sunny window until early June, I found I could extend the growing season significantly.

The next problem was pests. Peppers are prone to a variety of pests, depending on location. I had aphids. Thousands and thousands of aphids. I tried everything I could the first two seasons...commercial pesticides, soapy water, and even trying to freeze the darn things off, but in the end, my poor plants were consumed by the ravenous insects. The solution came from an unexpected source in the third season: rosemary. I kept a potted rosemary plant near my peppers. While the aphids thoroughly devoured the fruit trees in the yard, my peppers went unscathed. I had quite a sizable harvest by the end of the season as a result.

Using peppers can be...interesting, depending on the hotness. Mild varieties, like jalapenios, can be used as a versatile topping. They can be grilled, sliced, diced, incorporated into recipes, and the like. But when it comes to, say, habaneros that are ten times hotter than jalapenios, the chef must get creative. Stews, soups, and slow-cooked creations work well in my experience. My personal favorite is chili verde, which has a nice tang and dilutes heat nicely. The recipe follows.

Chili Verde

6-8 Tomatillos
1 large red onion
1 pork roast, approx. 1-2 kg (2-4 lbs)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
some ground black pepper
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 jar salsa verde, any commercial brand
peppers to taste (two habaneros makes for something moderately spicy. Try adding a variety for better flavor)

NOTE: I use a crock pot slow cooker. I highly recommend it, as it is very easy and extremely versatile.
Place pork roast in crock pot or roasting pan. Add finely diced tomatillos and onions. Season with cumin, salt, pepper, and others to taste. Add garlic cloves and peppers, then top with salsa verde. Slow cook for 6-8 hours. Serve over a bed of rice or in a wrap. Enjoy!


  1. How did you come up with the name?

  2. A friend of mine suggested the name. It comes from both venus flytrap and Venus the goddess. He said it was a good fit. =)

  3. I prefer reading about hot peppers to watching the superbowl.

    My friend is growing ghost peppers, supposedly the hottest in the world. Gonna get some seeds from him when I'm feeling bold.

  4. Oh jeez, those things are absolutely insane. When you get the seeds, handle them carefully. Even when completely dry, they can leave your hands burning for hours. =P

  5. That recipe sounds like it would be awesome, you must be a good cook :)

  6. Thank you. I learned mostly from watching my dad in the kitchen. He's a great chef. =)

  7. Sounds Yummy! I must try, with soy stuff though as i am a vegan xD

  8. I hope to see more recipes! keep it up! :)

  9. there's no way to explain how much I love peppers, they're good with everything lol

  10. I really wish I could stand to eat spicy foods. I'm hispanic, so you'd think I'd have been born with some sort of immunity to the hotness. I'd love to see what other recipes you have, so I'm following :D

  11. I order praying mantis egg cases every year and release them into my garden to control pests. So gross/cool.

  12. That's a really good idea, Hart. I shall try that.

  13. peppers are the greatest food to ever exist.