Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wondering about Peppers

Over at a very inspiring and informative Northern California blog I've been following, Kendra of A Sonoma Garden, is wondering about her pepper plants. To her practiced eye they are mysteriously bereft of fruit and pathetic looking when compared to her photos from this time last summer.

So I rushed out to take a look at ours. Out of three varieties, two are showing some fruit. I don't have any documentation from last summer but remember it as a normally good year for peppers -- at least by our standards.

The Pimientos de Padron plant (on the left) is more than a foot tall, albeit rather spindly, and has one pepper that is actually harvestable, since they are supposed to be picked "when about the size of olives." Picking just one of these little conversation pieces is, however, like eating one potato chip. They are meant to be sauteed in batches with olive oil and salt and served as "tapas," a generic Spanish term for bite-sized yummies. They are mild and savory and much prized in Spain and are now a gourmet item in the foodie mecca of San Francisco. There's just one little proviso: every twelfth pepper or so is NOT MILD AT ALL. Eating them is a game of Spanish roulette.

H. and his friends in Berkeley were greatly intrigued and, having the try-anything-once mindset of young adults, took most of our abundant crop last summer. We ate the rest cooked into B.'s Yorkshire-pudding-like egg-and-cottage-cheese "puff." I always made him test them out first, not wanting to have my head explode at the dinner table. We never found a really really hot one. They are delicious once you get over the feeling of wariness.

The second pepper plant (on the right) is a sweet bell called Cal Wonder. We've never grown it before. It's just under a foot tall and looking pretty decent. The third plant (not pictured) is another sweet bell, Yolo Wonder, which is about the same size as little Cal but has no fruit showing as yet.

And that's the story so far.

This is a report from one of the thousands of micro-climates in the Bay Area. Whatever is affecting Kendra's peppers does not seem to be a problem here, a bit closer to the coast.

However, we also do not have ripe tomatoes. And, as usual, I'm worrying about the yellowing leaves on most of the tomato plants . . . .

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