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Posts Tagged ‘sweet peppers’

Sweet Pepper Relish Service Variation

Classic service of homemade sweet pepper relish

Sweet pepper relish on cream cheese makes an attractive addition to an hors d’oeuvres table. Learn how to make your own at my blog post, Red Pepper Relish from Your Home Kitchen Garden

My Mother-in-law had guests. She served the delicious sweet pepper relish with cream cheese and crackers that I wrote about over at Home Kitchen Garden (and included in my book about home preserving—which you can buy by clicking the book cover in the left margin of this page). I got the recipe from my Mother-in-law in the first place, and over the past several years I’ve been her supplier: I give her a case of 4oz jars when we visit my in-laws or they visit us.

Four ounces of homemade sweet pepper relish

When I first wrote about this relish I called it Red Pepper Relish. Since then I’ve taken to making it with various fully-ripe sweet peppers—red, yellow, orange, and even purple (which, given time, turn red as they ripen). A 4 ounce jar of relish, a block of cream cheese, and crackers make a fine appetizer.

But credit for this post goes to one of my Mother-in-Law’s guests who, apparently, suggested an alternative to the classic “relish-on-cream-cheese-on-crackers” service. She thought simply to mix a four ounce jar of relish into eight ounces of cream cheese and serve it as a spread.

Simple. Genius. Should have been obvious.

The procedure is as you’d expect: Set out an 8oz block of cream cheese or neufchatel to soften at room temperature for at least an hour. Use a fork to combine the cream cheese and a jar of pepper relish; be thorough. If you prefer, use an electric mixer to stir the two ingredients together. Load a small serving bowl with the mixture and set it out with a butter knife or two and some crackers.

This treatment is tidier than serving a block of cream cheese with relish dumped on it… and every crackerful is delicious.

Cream cheese blended with homemade sweet pepper relish

Thoroughly blending a jar of sweet pepper relish with an 8oz block of cream cheese makes a delicious spread. The spread is easier to handle than the more traditional service, and it tastes just as good.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Sweet Pepper Relish Service Variation

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The Bigsby Market for Produce in Ithaca

Crysanthemums at The Bigsby Market

If you’re a farm stand, produce market, or garden center in the northeast, you sell chrysanthemums in autumn… which begins, apparently, during the last month of summer.

On my many forays to Ithaca over the past three years, I noticed and grew fond of a farm market just northeast of the city. The Bigsby Market is on route 13 and 366 just beyond where the two converge on the way to Dryden.

When I’m in Ithaca, I’m not about to invest in large amounts of produce, but I still stop to enjoy the displays and I try to buy something I can use. I’ve chatted with various employees there, and learned that some of the produce they sell comes from central Pennsylvania. In fact, they often have produce purchased from the Buffalo Valley Produce Auction which is about eight miles from my house.

Canarie melons at The Bigsby Market

The bin of canary melons was quite a mix of sunny orange and deep shadows.

I was in Ithaca two weeks ago, and I stopped at Bigsby Market late in the day. The market was decked out for autumn, and the late-day/late-summer sunlight provided the kind of illumination that excites all photographers.

I bought one delicious, perfectly ripe Bartlett pear, and I captured a whole bunch of photos from which I chose a handful of favorites to include in this post. It seriously looked like autumn at Ithaca’s Bigsby Market. Please have a look.

Canary melons at The Bigsby Market

Cantaloupe snuggled against watermelons in one of the produce bins at The Bigsby Market.

Pumpkins and winter squash at The Bigsby Market

Employees at the Bigsby Market stack pumpkins and winter squashes to make small towers. Some of the squashes avoid the fate and end up in heaps or bins.

Farm stand in Autumn

Sometimes things just fall into line. The Bigsby Market had an astonishing amount of produce; this is a modest sampling.

Sweet peppers at the Bigsby Market in Ithaca

Sweet peppers at The Bigsby Market shown in the evening sunlight. It won’t be long before local growers no longer have fresh produce to offer. At least for a little while, we can enjoy the colors and textures of autumn’s harvest.

 
Small Kitchen Garden – Ithaca’s Bigsby Market

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Sweet Pepper Roulette

Ripening sweet orange bell peppers

The first peppers to form on my “roulette” pepper plants were obviously bell peppers. These will eventually ripen to a gorgeous bright orange.

Last season I grew sweet orange bell peppers, and sweet Italian peppers. I collected seeds from both and included them in a giveaway mid-winter. Unfortunately, I lost track of which seeds were which, so I described the giveaway as “roulette.” I told participants they might receive orange bell pepper seeds, they might receive sweet Italian pepper seeds, or they might receive some combination of both.

I faced the same uncertainty, so I started a whole lot of pepper seeds. As the plants matured in my garden, I saw lots of bell peppers form. Then, finally, I spotted longer horn-shaped peppers on several of my plants.

The good news for people who got pepper seeds in my giveaway: You very well could have some of each type! I hope you do; I find both varieties special.

Ripening sweet Italian peppers

Only in the past week did I notice some of my pepper plants sporting elongated fruits that clearly will grow into sweet Italian peppers. These will become bright red and deliciously sweet.

And the hot chili peppers

Last season, my son visited his girlfriend’s family and returned with a string of dried peppers sent by his girlfriend’s father. About all I know about those peppers is that they’re supposed to be hot.

I started four seeds, and all made it into a windowsill-style planter on my deck rail. Those plants have gone crazy and have just produced my first fully ripe peppers of the season. The plants look more as though they were bred to be ornamental; they hold dozens of tiny fruits that should make quite a display once they turn red.

In the meantime, I’ll harvest the red ones in the next week or two and use them to season a curried bean dish I love to serve as a side or as a main course. The dish usually gets heat from beriberi, a hot spice mix I believe originates from Africa.

I maintain it’s risky to rely on peppers to add seasoning heat to a dish; from a single pepper plant you can harvest five-alarm hot peppers right alongside milktoast sweet peppers. That’s OK. Cooking with your own homegrown produce ought to be a bit of an adventure.

I’m seriously looking forward to harvesting my first ripe sweet peppers.

Hot chili peppers

Upon learning of my gardening fervor, my son’s girlfriend’s father sent me a string of dried hot peppers. I’ve grown out four seeds and one of the plants is already producing ripe chilies. These plants will be stunning when most of the peppers are ripe.

 

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Chili Pepper Seedlings Under Lights

First chili pepper sprout of 2015

My first chili pepper sprout of the year is a sweet pepper, but I don’t know what type. Last year I collected orange bell and sweet Italian pepper seeds from my harvest and managed to store them unlabeled. I’ve two distinct packs of seeds, and planted as many from one pack as from the other. Nearly all have sprouted. I’ll find out in August which plants are which.

Just a week ago I reported on the success of my tomato starts (Tomatoes Under Lights). Two days later, my first chili pepper seedling of 2015 emerged.

You might surmise I get a special rush when my seeds start each year. I used to wait until my garden soil warmed and then I’d buy flats of seedlings at local garden stores. Year after year I’d choose from among a very limited variety of plants. Starting my own seeds changed so much.

  • I now select from among hundreds of varieties of tomatoes and peppers rather then from the dozen or so available in local garden centers.
  • I now try varieties of plants that simply aren’t available as seedlings at local stores. For example, I’ve started artichokes and cardoon this year as well as quince trees all from seeds.
  • 100 percent chili pepper germination

    I planted 16 sweet pepper seeds in this container and every one sprouted. That’s a very tolerable percentage!

  • My gardening season becomes “real” some 2 months earlier than it used to. Perusing garden catalogs from January until April used to make up my entire “pre-season.” I still peruse catalogs, but in February and March I mail-order seeds, fill planters with soil, and start plants under lights. My growing season is way longer because I get to tend seedlings
  • for a month or so before I set foot in the garden.
  • I get to enjoy near problem-free gardening leading up to spring planting. Starting seeds indoors under lights controls for nearly every problem I face in my garden: light, water, insects, disease, marauding rodents, birds… I decide how these work on my seed-starting shelf.
  • My sense of accomplishment is way bigger when I start my own seedlings indoors under lights. I marvel that a seed the size of a bread crumb under my care grows to a plant more than 10 feet tall and produces 20 to 100 lbs of food containing seeds that can start it all over again next year—perhaps several thousand times over, depending on the food.

Do you start your own seeds? Perhaps this is your year to try.

 

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