Strawberries from the Garden

Strawberries from the Garden

Mar 12, 2015

Spring Thaw

Yesterday, I took Luna, our Border Collie, outside to take a look at the garden. The snow and ice are finally starting to melt. Luna and I both spent our time just poking around and looking. It was too muddy for her to play and too muddy for me to do anything in the garden. We just sat and soaked up the sun. No complaints here! Luna and I both are ready to dig in the dirt but it seems we'll have to wait for a few more days! 

Mar 6, 2015

Fish Pepper; A Pepper With a History

The Fish pepper is one that has a history that intrigues me. It is a pepper with a strong African-American history. This is a pepper that is not found in every garden, but efforts are being made to keep it alive! William Woys Weaver writes of Horace Pippin giving the seeds to his father, who in turn gave them to the Seed Savers Exchange.

Horace Pippin was an African-American artist who was well known for his paintings of the African-American experience. He was from the Westchester, PA area, but was part of a larger community, or network, that included people from the Baltimore area. African-American slaves and freedmen in Antebellum Maryland used the pepper as a 'secret ingredient'. At one point, it was believed the Fish pepper was almost extinct due to the decline of the fishing industry in the Chesapeake Bay. Since that time, the seeds have been distributed and shared over the years and they have spread to gardens all over the world.

The Fish pepper is very different than most peppers. It has a variegated-leaf and is quite stunning in the garden. The plants usually are about 2 feet high, but I have had them reach about 3 feet. They are striking! Their leaves are almost like someone splattered a cream-colored paint on them and the peppers themselves actually start out a light, cream color. This color is why they were so well suited to the cream-based sauces for seafood. As the peppers mature, they get a nice variegation of green and cream and then ultimately, they will turn bright red. I have found that you can use them at any of the three stages and you will have variations in terms of heat!

The Fish pepper actually originated in Baltimore where they were used to make white paprika for the cream sauces used with fish and seafood. Raw, the peppers are quite hot, but they do seem to mellow with cooking.  I let the red peppers dry and then I crush them for the 'red pepper' I use in my recipes.

So, needless to say, when I saw my Fish peppers were starting to sprout, I was absolutely excited! I try to due my part to help keep this wonderful plant remain a part of the garden scene. If you are interested in trying to grow them as well, I think they would actually do quite well in a container if you do not have the garden space. I will share seeds that I have, and if I don't have enough now, I will by the end of the growing season and you can have them for next year. If you want to try them right away, I would go online to John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds. You will not be disappointed!

Mar 3, 2015

The First Signs of This Year's Garden

 One of the highlights of gardening is having the ability to start your plants by sowing your own seeds. I like the variety you can get and I love the fact that I can stagger when I plant which then allows me to stagger and prolong the harvest of a variety of plants.

I have a confession. All of my seeds are an heirloom variety of one sort or another except for my Sweet Bell Mix. This sweet bell pepper has a nice number of peppers on each plant and they tend to range from yellow, to orange, to a red-orange. It's a hybrid, but I just love it!

My eggplant is something that I have been experimenting with. It seems to produce quite a bit and I just love how much you can use eggplant in different recipes. This year, I have 5 different varieties! I am excited to see how they all compare to one another.

Most of the seeds that I have started were started on February 17th. Some of the seeds were started on February 20th.

At this point I have seedlings for my cabbage, eggplant, chile peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet peppers, and a couple of varieties of tomatoes.

I have found that I really like the seed starting mix from Henry Fields. My seedlings are kept in that until they reach pretty good size with good root development.

Once the seedlings have a pair of true leaves set, then I will transplant them so that there is just one plant per cell or peat pot.
I will be looking at my seedlings this weekend, unless we get another snow day, and then it will be sooner! When I look at how the seedlings have developed, I will decide which ones I should replant. Some of my seeds were packed for 2014, so I want to be sure they are still viable. Unfortunately, it seems that as soon as you carry over seeds to the next year, they only germinate 50% of the time. So far, it looks like I have a pretty good success rate. Time will tell.
I have a plant rack that I set up in the kitchen. I ended up getting aquarium hoods to use for my lighting and I have found that this system works pretty well.
I'm looking forward to seeing how these seedlings develop and I'm looking forward to transplanting them soon!