Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hot Pepper #3 - Hot Paper Peppers

This is the third in our monthly series on the Herb of the Year Capsicum!  This month we picked one with somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 heat on the scoville scale.  In the habanero grouping, these are a good pepper to grow in northern climates.

Herb of the Week - 
             Hot Paper Lantern Capsicum chinense ‘Hot Paper’

To check out the previous two postings, see these:

The Hot Paper Lantern is a habanero type hot pepper. More productive and larger than regular habaneros, these magnificent, elongated and wrinkled, lantern-shaped fruits are 3-4" long. Bigger than our regular habaneros, but they pack the same mouth-blistering heat. The plants are relatively compact & sprawling compared to other Habanero varieties and produce excellent yields. They ripen from lime green to orange and finally to a bright scarlet red. Known for their short growing season, which makes them great for growing in northern climates, the plants are decorative and pretty, and can even be grown in containers. The plants are strong and vigorous. It grows larger and ripens earlier in the North than regular habaneros. The stem is thin and easily broken making it easy to pick the peppers without damaging the plant. The wall of the pepper very is thin, making them great for drying.

Taste: just as hot as orange habanero, except it has a different sweeter initial taste before the heat kicks in, while the regular orange habanero has a sharper heat that attacks the tongue much faster. Great for seasoning, salsa, hot sauce or roasting.  They are delicious in many dishes, including soups.

To Grow
Unless your home is in an arid sub-tropical state, your habanero seeds are best started inside and then transplanted outside after soils warm. The Habanero Pepper is a member of the 'Chinese' family of Hot Chili's.  Typically the plants grow larger than most other hot Chiles such as the Cayenne or Jalapeno pepper.
Habaneros can be troublesome start out kind of finicky as tiny seedlings. Habaneros will grow into sturdy plants that are robust and strong. Start them indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last expected frosts. Habaneros take longer to germinate than smaller pepper plants. It is always better to be a little too late to start your seeds than too early. They will catch up with the other plants once they are in the garden.

Planting the seeds in individual spaces in a tray, or in individual cells or pots makes transplanting easier and keeps failures down too.  Keeping the air and soil humid and damp as well as heated is the perfect environment for germination.  Covering the planting areas with a dome or plastic wrap will speed germination and keep the soil moist as needed.

Uncover the seedlings as soon as they emerge and allow the soil to dry for at least a full day in between watering.  Fertilize the seedlings weekly. Transplant time is at about 8 sets of leaves...although a little more or less won't hurt them.

When transplanting outside, dig a whole several times larger than the root system.  About the size of the shovel width is good.  Peppers like sand, so place a hand shovel full of sand and well-rotted manure or aged compost into the hole and mix well. If you have soil that is too sandy, add top soil and cow manure.

According to Pepper Joe, it is good to toss a pack or two of fanned out matches into the hole.  Your Chili plants will love the sulfur. Sulfur is also a great Fungicide and kills harmful bacteria. This creates a Root Zone that is Habanero plant friendly. It enables the roots to spread out and grow quickly getting nourishment as well.

Water the plant extremely well right after transplanting. It helps prevent transplant shock.
At this point your Habanero plants should be off and running. Fertilize every two weeks as needed with a natural fish emulsion.


Remember to introduce your young tender plants to the outdoors slowly and gradually. This process is called 'Hardening off'.  First day for an hour in indirect sun or shade...then add an hour a day and more sun. The best time to transplant your Habanero pepper plants is at night, or better yet on a cloudy and rainy day. The Sun can be harsh on small seedlings.

You can get seeds to grow these peppers from:


Grilled Salmon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon tequila
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon minced habanero pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
4 (5 ounce) salmon steaks
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons minced habanero pepper
2 teaspoons grated lime zest

In a bowl, stir together vegetable oil, orange juice, 3 tablespoons lime juice, tequila, 1 tablespoon lime zest, 1 tablespoon habanero pepper, and garlic. Reserve a small amount to use as a basting sauce, and pour the remainder into a shallow baking dish. Place the salmon in the shallow dish, and turn to coat. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, turning frequently.

In a small bowl, mix together softened butter, garlic salt, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 2 teaspoons habanero pepper, and 2 teaspoons lime zest. Cover, and refrigerate.
Preheat grill for medium heat.

Lightly oil grill grate, and place salmon on the grill. Cook salmon for 5 to 8 minutes per side, or until the fish can be easily flaked with a fork. Transfer to a serving dish, top with habanero butter, and serve.

Habanero Salsa
This is a variation of regular fresh salsa with the addition of a hot paper pepper. This salsa is not for lightweights.
3 fresh jalapeno peppers
2 onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 1 (7 ounce) can diced green chile pepper
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 limes, juiced
7 (15 ounce) cans canned tomatoes
1 hot paper pepper, seeded

Roast jalapenos over a grill or gas burner until completely blackened. Seal in a plastic bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap, and allow to steam until skins are loosened. When cool, remove skin, stem, and seeds.

Place jalapenos, onions, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a blender or food processor. Pulse to chop and blend, then pour into a large bowl, and mix with the can of green chiles, cilantro, and lime juice. Pulse the tomatoes in batches to desired size, and add to green chile mixture.

Return one cup of chopped tomatoes to the blender along with the habanero, and puree well. Strain the puree to remove any large pieces of habanero, and add to the tomatoes. Mix well, cover, and chill in the refrigerator at least one hour to allow flavors to blend.


Wikipedia - Habanero

Monday, March 28, 2016

Starting a Garden Journal in 2016

It’s that time of year when my garden is on my mind as I sift through seed catalogs and plan my Spring garden. This is actually one of my favorite times of the year for gardening, when the possibilities of the upcoming garden year are before me.  It’s time to shake off the gardening mistakes of the past and look forward to the new year.
How wonderful to sit at a large table, with a warm cup of my own, organically grown, herb tea, and dream about the warmth of the summer sun, surrounded by a smear of catalogs and ideas.

This year I am planning raised beds.  I will create and make lists of crops to grow and where I will put them.  It has been years since I had to plan a garden from scratch and I cannot wait.  But what to plant? and what does it need? and when do I start seed? For those answers I turned to my garden journals from years past.
 This is a page from 1993 
In 1994 I wrote out a monthly narrative of what was happening in the garden.

                                                             By 1997 I was much less organized.

Now the question is did I make good gardening notes those years ago when I had a personal garden? Hopefully your garden notes are some place you can find them this year during planning time and not on sticky notes hidden somewhere. That is why it is beneficial to keep a garden journal.
Lorene Edwards Forkner makes this observation in her book, Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest – “Practice a little citizen science by keeping a garden journal to track what blossoms when; what the weather was doing at the time; and the corresponding appearance, or disappearance of backyard birds and insects. Over time you’ll accumulate a picture of the very unique seasons found in your own back yard and a series of valuable reminders that when you see this happening in the natural world it’s time to do that.”

The purpose of a garden journal is to keep track of what you planted, when you planted it, how to take care of it and if it worked for your garden. Once the pages are created, the information can be recorded by hand and retyped later.  For the past 14 years I have lived in an apartment, so my personal garden has been in pots on the deck. I have detailed notes in a spiral notebook about the successes and failures of containers.  All gardening experiences, good and bad, increase your skill set.

In my garden journal I:
  •       keep growing notes on new plants I’ve never grown before
  • ·         have a place to refer back on things –
  • ·         What was the date I actually planted my garden
  • ·         When was the garden soil dry enough to do a first tilling
  • ·         When were the first and last frost dates for “my” yard
  • ·         Was this a wet or dry spring and fall
  • ·         keep detailed planting notes for crop rotation in my raised beds
  • ·         have notes on new techniques I learn or want to try

These are pages from my Garden Journal available on Etsy
So instead of trying to remember the recipe for that new garden pest technique you tried or that great heirloom tomato you decided to grow, write it down in your garden journal. Make a quick note in a place where you know you can find it later. My personal preference is for a physical book; you can buy one or create your own.  If you are tech savvy, try an online garden journal instead.  Here is one to try:
Making the Journal
You can hand write everything in a spiral notebook or you can make customized pages and place them in a three-ring binder.  I have also purchased a day planner or calendar book and written everything in there.  It is all up to you.  The most important things to record are:

Garden layout and layout key page
The garden layout is a sketch of the garden. A grid created by inserting a table makes drawing easier and keeps everything in proportion. Leave room at the bottom for a key to list the symbols used to represent items in the garden.

First, sketch your home, driveway, patios, sidewalks and pathways. Next, fill in the flowerbeds, trees, shrubs and perennials. Create a key at the bottom of the page. On a separate page, list the symbols and the plants they represent for the entire garden.

Use a pencil so mistakes and changes can be corrected easily. You may need to rewrite or retype your list to keep the symbols in order for easy reference.

Since you’re working on a small piece of paper, you won’t be able to include everything. But be sure to include dominant features and plants.

Photo pages
Photographs keep track of how your garden has changed year after year. Panoramic shots or wide angle shots reveal both the good and bad. Close-up photos of favorite plants lets you can enjoy them year round.

Plant profile pages
Plant profiles keep information about your plants all in one place and at your fingertips. This section identifies plants, tells how to care for them/ and how you cared for them and where they are located in your garden. Find a plant profile page online and print multiple copies if you do not like recopying the same information. Record what you planted, when you planted it and how well it did.

Common name
Botanical name and/or cultivar
Type of plant
Light requirements
Water requirements
When to plant or divide
When to prune

Date seeds started indoors
Date planted in garden
Seed or plant source
Fertilize date and mix

Record of seedlings and cuttings
Keep track of how well your seeds and cuttings perform.
Plant name
Date planted
Seed or cutting source
Date seeds germinated
Total days indoors
Date transplanted
Location planted

TO DO page
Keep track of gardening tasks.
Soil Amendments

Pocket pages
This is a great place to save plant labels, garden articles, postcards, notes and other inspirations.

Daily record Pages Note pages

Keep notes on problems and victories, record rainfall and weather conditions and other notes, drawings or anything else you want to remember, including those recipes I mentioned earlier.
Here are some links to plant sample pages you can download:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Winter Garden Planning

This will be the first full season at my new home and I cannot wait to plant the gardens there.  I have seeds and plans and drawings and photos and a set of directions for making accessories for the garden my husband has not even seen yet!

But if you are thinking about growing a culinary herb garden in your yard this year, you might want to consider some of these.
basil bed at the Western Reserve Herb Garden
Basil, an annual, is one of the most popular herbs, you can use it in salads and to craft pesto sauce.  It has large fleshy leaves an a tall habit.  It is a companion to tomatoes so you can plant them together in your garden.  They need lots of sun and water so don't deprive them of either,  Harvest the leaves and stems often and you will be rewarded with a bushy plant that will produce all summer long.

Sage is an woody shrub that's been used for centuries. It is commonly thought of as a holiday accompaniment to poultry. Yet, it offers far more. Sage works well in heavy soups and stews, adds flavor to root vegetable dishes and even makes a great addition to breads and muffins. The anti fungal properties make it good for tea and for bath items as well.

Thyme is a low growing sub-shrub, that, according to Cole Canyon's Mason: "Goes well in everything. I use it as I would salt and pepper." Have it for breakfast with your eggs or use it to create a savory soup stock.  Make an herbal vinegar with it and enjoy the flavor all year round.  Lemon varieties will give you crisp bright flavors for Spring and summer salads and dressings.

thyme bed

Rosemary is an evergreen shrub, native to the Mediterranean. It is a well-known accompaniment to roasted potatoes and poultry. Rosemary can also be baked into any bread, cracker or pizza crust. You'll want to grow this in a pot, either submerged or above ground, so you can bring it in to winter over.

Oregano and Marjoram are cousins with a similar flavor and use.  They each have a pleasant aroma has even led to its use as a breath freshener. Marjoram works well in a fresh salad and with any recipe that calls for oregano. Legend has it that Aphrodite used marjoram to heal a wound from Ero's arrow, but instead of curing her pangs of love, the sweet herb only increased her passion. Oregano is a staple in pasta dishes but the gentle flavor must be added at the end of cooking or it is lost.

Chives is a succulent, that is an early riser in the garden.  Once you plant it you will love the fact it is the first to pop out in spring and flowers with the most wonderful purple flowers that taste like onion.  You can use the flowers to craft vinegar and the green stems are tasty on salad, and in dips and sauces.  Just remember to cut the entire stem when you harvest.

chives in bloom

If you want to sow seed directly into your garden I suggest cilantro and Dill.  These two different herbs go to seed very quickly when it gets warm so you can start early and sow a new crop every couple weeks to have an unending supply.


Dill is sweet and puckery, perfect in sauces, dressings and salads and the seed can be used to make pickles.  It grows tall so give it a background role.
cilantro at the nursery

Cilantro bolts in warm weather and once it starts to make seed it can no longer be used to make your summer salsa.  But save those seeds as they are coriander and the spice is tasty in baked goods.

Once you start using fresh herbs in your favorite recipes, you’ll never want to go back to use only dried herbs again. You’ll be hooked for life.

This list of the most common herbs used and guidelines for what foods they go best with is a great start, but do not let this deter your imagination from some of the more exotic and just as easy to grow herbs that you can also cook with, like lemon balm, holy basil, lemon verbena, Mexican oregano, flavored mints, etc.  If you want a list of exotic herbs, try this one: Exotic Herb to Grow

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Beginner’s Guide to Growing Basil

Almost everyone loves to eat fresh basil and some people have a hard time growing it.  Basil can be a finicky little plant in the changeable weather that is Spring.  Don’t let the Basil get the better of you with these simple tips.

If you are planning your Spring garden, here is a Beginner’s Guide to Growing Basil to help you out.
Beginners, don’t even think about growing basil from seed. If you do, just wait for the frustration to come out after two weeks. You will be SO excited to see the little guys sprout up and then you will wait, and wait, and wait for them to grow bigger. You will keep waiting. It won’t happen. Basil seeds are susceptible to a fungus on the soil that stunts their growth. It is due to poor air circulation and not keeping the soil’s water level maintained. If you are experienced with starting plants from seed you will be okay, but if you are new, just go over to the nursery or local plant sale and pick out 1-2 basil plants in different varieties. Unless you plan on freezing and drying basil, a 6-pack of basil will produce too much.

Lemon Basil
Purple basils have a smaller more compact habit and take up less space, yet taste the same as sweet basil, so try them if your space is limited.  Lemon basil has a distinctive flavor and many uses in cooking.  If you have never tried it, you should take the plunge.  Sweet basil comes in many varieties.  If pesto is your aim try Genovese or Napaletano. For those wanting to try a basil tea, cinnamon, tulsi (holy,) or thai basil have unique flavors that are great for food or beverages.
Purple Basil

Basil is a heat lover and a cold hater.  Make sure your plants are hardened off before you leave them out overnight.  This means introducing them to the outdoors one hour or two a day for about a week then moving up the time until they stay out an entire day.  Keep them shaded for that transition period.  Once they are ready to stay outside, you still need to protect them (I bring them back indoors) if the temps dip into the 40s (Fahrenheit) at night.  The leaves will turn black if they get too cold and this can kill a young seedling. 
Basil is a heavy nutrient user. If growing them in a container, you will need at least a one gallon container for them to spread out in and you will need to feed them every month. When growing in the ground you may still need to feed them.
Since basil plants produce edible leaves, they need more nitrogen, making blood meal the perfect soil amendment (this is available at your local home and garden center.) Basil also needs a lot of water. It can handle the soil drying out in between waterings, but it really likes to be moist if possible. Basil is also a sun worshipper – give your plant at least 6-8 hours of bright sunlight a day.
Harvested Basil

You can start to harvest basil as early as 3-4 weeks after it has been able to stay out overnight, or once the plant is taller than six inches. Gently pinch all the way down the stem to the union of the next leaf set. You want to remove that stem so that new leaves will grow from that point. Pinch off as much as you need at the time or harvest full stems for freezing and drying. 
Pinching out the center above two branching leaves.
Always remove the flowers the minute that they emerge, especially in the early season. If you don’t, the leaves diminish in size and flavor as the plant sends energy to make seed.

Flowering Sweet Basil
Once the weather man predicts an overnight temp less than 45 degrees F, cut down the last of your basil and dry it or preserve it for winter use. I have several posts on making pastes and pesto with basil, that you can check out once you have enough harvest. 
Most important harvest your basil often.  If you just let it grow, you will not get a bushy plant but a single stalk that will flower early and get top heavy, so pinch and enjoy your basil as soon as it is ready!
Holy (Tulsi) Basil

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

“I do not like Green Eggs and Ham, I do not Like them Sam-I-am.”
 "Try them, try them, and you may! Try them and you may, I say."
"Say! I like green eggs and ham! I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!"
 ---- Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

This is my favorite Dr. Seuss book, probably because it was my final assignment to present the book entirely in sign language for my Sign Language Class in college.

To celebrate the great doctor of  personal change and seeing yourself in a better light! I give a green ham recipe to try.
So Try It! for the 112th Birthday of Dr Seuss!

Ham slices with Green Herb Paste
5 cloves garlic, peeled
About 5 to 7 sprigs rosemary to yield 1/4 cup needles
handful of fresh oregano, yielding 1/4 cup leaves
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 to 3 Tbls. olive oil olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Ham slices, bone in is nice but not required

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  To make the green-herb paste, combine garlic, rosemary, oregano, in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to combine. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube, and process until just combined but some texture still remains. Green-herb paste can be made 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container, refrigerated, until you're ready to cook the ham.

Spread the green herb paste reserving some to use after as a garish on the ham (both sides) and bake in the oven.  If using a cured pre-cooked slice of ham then you simply spread the paste on the ham and bake until warmed through about 15 to 20 minutes depending on thickness.  If it is an uncooked slice of ham you will need to cook longer.  Refer to your packaging or butcher for more instruction, but you want the internal temperature of the ham to reach 150 degrees.

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