The nightshade family is full of vegetables that we love to grow here at the farm. These include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and last but not least...peppers! The first pepper most people try is a sweet one: bell peppers. These garden jewels come in many colors including red, yellow, purple (pictured!), white and striped. Green bell peppers are actually the unripe version of any bell pepper, and have a slightly spicy character (without the fruitiness and sweetness of a red bell) that can add interest to dishes. Store bell peppers at room temperature or the warmest part of your refrigerator (if you store them at room temperature they’ll need to be used more quickly). Shishito peppers can also fit into this category. They are often picked green and have a lovely, sweet vegetal flavor with thin walls in a bite-sized package. One little known fact: shishitos have a unique genetic characteristic where a very small percentage can be spicy! It rarely happens but this fun trait is part of what makes them so interesting (and a good thing to know just in case).
Hot Hot Hot Peppers!
The heat from spicy peppers is caused by capsaicin, a naturally occurring compound that comes in varying concentrations depending on the type of pepper. Ripe hot peppers (which come in a rainbow of colors like red, orange, purple and yellow) will generally be spicier and fruitier tasting than their unripe green counterparts. Tip: The stem end of hot peppers tends to be the spiciest part while the tip is usually the mildest. When cooking with a hot pepper you’ve never used before it’s helpful to try a tiny piece to see how hot it is before adding it to a recipe. Mouth on fire? Keep some bread and milk on hand when pepper tasting to save your tongue from the burn. Store hot peppers at room temperature or the warmest part of your refrigerator (if you store them at room temperature they’ll need to be used more quickly). However you store hot peppers, it’s best to keep them in one layer to discourage spoiling. We’re growing a lot of hot peppers on the farm (including three different kinds of spicy jalapenos!). Check in with us to see which are the spiciest and which are best for fresh eating as a garnish.
Paprika is one of the most common kitchen spices and, you guessed it, is a pepper. There are a variety of peppers you can use for seasoning dishes besides paprika, including aji dulces and other no heat habaneros. A few new varieties of these that we're growing this season include roulette and numex suave, both of which have fantastic flavor and very little to no heat. Here on the farm we grow paprika peppers for fresh use and also dry them for year round flavor.
Frying peppers are best for, you guessed it, frying! Many of these pepper varieties come from Italy where they’re fried in olive oil or sometimes butter until soft. The thinner walls of these peppers let you fry many of them whole or simply cut lengthwise, but julienning them is perfectly fine too. Frying peppers also shine on the grill where you can char their skins until their flesh is soft and smoky flavored. Cubanelles, Italian frying peppers and Jimmy Nardello peppers (pictured to the left!) are all delicious examples of these summertime beauties you’ll find in your shares from us! Store these on the counter for use within a few days or in the warmest part of your fridge for keeping a little longer.
Long Term Storage
Locally-grown peppers can still be enjoyed year round, it just means an extra step or two. The easiest way to enjoy peppers after the growing season is to dry them. Using a food dehydrator is best, but many peppers can be air-dried in ristras . To make a ristra you simply use a needle and thread to pierce thin walled peppers and string them together in a long chain. Then they are hung in a dry area until crispy to the touch. Once peppers are dried it’s best to store them in a clean mason jar at room temperature in a dark place. Also, don’t forget about hot sauce! There are many recipes for hot sauce, and most don’t involve much more than blending a few key ingredients and storing in a clean glass container (refrigerated). Just don’t forget to wear gloves if you’re process a lot of hot peppers! Lastly, pickled peppers are a long-time favorite and can range from spicy sweet sandwich relish to sour salty pepperoncini!