Category Archives: Organic Gardening Tips

How To Dry Chili Peppers – Part Two

Drying Hot Peppers Indoors

This is the “easiest” method of drying peppers, yet probably the most time-consuming. Place whole or sliced chile peppers single-layer in a bowl, plate, or sheet and set them in a very dry, warm, and extremely well-ventilated area with loads of sunlight. Rotate the peppers regularly and discard any that show signs of softness or spoilage. If at all possible, place your bowl or sheet outdoors when the forecast calls for hot, sunny, and dry weather (this will speed up the drying process). Within one or two weeks, you should start seeing your beloved chiles get dry and brittle.

Drying Hot Peppers Outdoors

There are a couple of different methods for drying hot peppers outdoors. One, you can dry the aforementioned way of laying them out on a sheet and placing them outside when there’s a long string of hot and sunny days. Sun-drying can be very effective if the weather cooperates and if you’ve picked a spot where you can get maximum exposure to direct sunlight. If you’ve sliced the peppers, you may wish to place a screen over the sheet or bowl to provide protection from insects.

Another good way of drying chile peppers outdoors is to hang them from a string. Grab some whole peppers with the stems still on, take a long, sharp needle, and string them together with strong thread or fishing line through their stems.

Unlike decorative ristas (which clump several hanging chiles together in a tighter space), you’ll need to leave plenty of room in between peppers for proper airflow. At one end of the string, tie a small stick or wooden dowel to prevent the peppers from sliding off. Hang up your strand of peppers securely in an area where they’ll get plenty of sunlight and fresh air.

It can take up to two weeks of drying time in good weather.

How To Dry Chili Peppers – Part One

The main reason to learn how to dry hot peppers is simply to enable you to keep them for a long time. Peppers can last for several days to a few weeks at room temperature or in the refrigerator before they start to rot. Freezing peppers, if done right, can make them last several months, but the thawing process can be a tricky one where often you’re left with overly soft and mushy chiles. Dried chiles can last from several months to a few years if store properly.

Removing moisture from peppers will magnify and intensify the heat, flavor, and natural sugars it contains. Dehydrated chiles pack more fiery punch and ferocity in both solid food and hot sauce recipes than fresh peppers. Plus, if you grind or crush dried peppers, you can use it as an all-purpose flavoring and seasoning for any occasion.

Drying in the Oven

You can dry peppers in any regular kitchen oven. It’s convenient that this method of drying can be done in just about any kitchen in the western world, but there is one big disadvantage; it may take several hours to a few days for the peppers to fully dry, depending on the size. It can also heat up your kitchen considerably if you’re drying on warm spring or hot summer day.

Simply position the peppers on a pan or cookie sheet in a single layer and place it in the oven. Set the oven to its lowest temperature setting, which is usually labeled as “WARM”, or just below 150 degrees Fahrenheit (120° to 140° is desirable). To allow moisture to escape, keep the oven door slightly open at least a couple of inches (now you know why it can make your kitchen hot). Every hour, rotate and/or flip the peppers over for even drying.

If you find peppers getting soft, brown/black, or extremely hot on the side where they touch the pan, then they’re getting cooked; you certainly don’t want this, as you’re just trying to dry these to use at a later date. To prevent this, try one of the following:

  • Turn down the temperature slightly. Not all ovens are calibrated the same – some may be off by 10° or more from the “real” temperature.
  • Flip the peppers over and move them around more often
  • Open the oven door wider

As soon as they’re fully dry, remove from the oven and place in an air-tight container. Larger, thicker-skinned peppers will take longer to dry than smaller or thin-skinned chiles.

How To Grow Organic Chili

Pepper should be started indoor approximately 8 weeks prior to the last frost of the spring. Sow ¼” deep in a well-drained starting medium. Seeds require lots of warm to germinate; medium should be between 80-85 degrees F. Using a heat mat, available at home and garden store and elsewhere, can help to ensure ideal conditions. Additionally, young starts will fare much better with additional light. Place in a window or sunny location that receives lots of southern or southwestern sun exposure. Consider supplementing with artificial lighting if possible.

Set plants out 2 to 3 weeks after average last frost when the soil has warmed and the weather has settled. Peppers can be temperamental when it comes to setting fruit if temperatures are too hot or too cool. Night-time temperatures below 60 F or above 75 F can reduce fruit set.

Plant them 12 to 24 inches apart, in rows 24 to 36 inches apart, or spaced about 14 to 16 inches apart in raised beds. Do not rush to transplant your starts outdoors. Select a location that receives plenty of light and heat, and has not been used for tomatoes, potatoes or other members of this family for several years. Peppers will do best with soil that is fertile, lightweight, slightly acidic (pH5.5-7.0) and well-drained.

Wait until soil temperatures exceed 50 degrees F at all times before placing into the ground. Pepper plants should be fairly close to one another, so that there is slight contact between plants.

 

 

Winter Garden Plants Ideas

Snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii)

When most other plants are hiding away from winter’s chill, snowdrop is eager to get going. One of the first blossoms of late winter, snowdrops are still shy, preferring to hide away in rock gardens and under taller shrubs. Plant these bulbs in fall.

Boxwood (Buxus)

Your winter garden will come alive with shapes and forms that add texture. Evergreen boxwood hedges are easy to grow and shape, and make terrific borders for paths and garden outlines. Along with a quintet of arches and some tall conifers, boxwoods have turned this snowed-in landscaping into a fairy tale.

Camellia (japonica)

Like an unexpected gift, some varieties of camellia will surprise you with a showy display of rose-like blossoms in the middle of January. Check with your local greenhouse to select types that are winter-blooming. Evergreen camellias have thick green leaves, will easily grow 10 feet tall, and can live 50-100 years.

Christmas rose (Helleborus niger)

Looking for that special decoration to impress holiday visitors? Try planting Christmas rose in shady spots along your walkways. This winter-loving plant blossoms from late December through early spring on stout stems that rise above modest snowfalls. Plant this perennial in springtime.

Mock rush (Pennisetum glaucum)

Tough, upright ornamental grasses, such as this mock rush (a member of the fountain grass family) poke through winter’s snows and give your garden lots of visual interest. Those tall flower spikes are full of seeds that attract cardinals, juncos, and other over-winter birds. Plant this annual in early spring, and use the seeds to start next year’s crop.

Why Is Fall Planting The Best?

In the wild, as wildflowers bloom and ripen into seed all summer and into fall, the seed simply falls to the ground and is “planted”. Of course, in general, Mother Nature has unlimited wildflower seeds to sow. In the wild all kinds of things happen; Seed falls on rocks, on other plants, etc., and never reaches the soil. This is the price a wild-sown seed pays, and billions are lost each fall.

When a wildflower gardener tries to emulate this process, we do all we can to “help nature along.” That means, we clear the area, open the ground, provide good seed-to-soil contact for every seed, water if necessary, and do anything else to assure our seeding’s success. It’s easy and the work is the same as required for a spring planting. In fact, some people think fall planting is easier.

Like fall-seeded lawns, fall-planted wildflower seed has a chance to “settle” into your site during the winter, and is ready to burst into growth in early spring. This is why fall-planted wildflower seed is up and in bloom about two weeks earlier than spring-planted seed.

Every fall-planting advocate mentions it. In the fall, the gardener has far more time to get work done for two reasons. First of all, there is a longer period and far more “good days” for planting in the fall than during the tricky weather in spring. Secondly, the gardener always has more time during the fall than during the spring rush to get everything done after winter. (Many wild-gardeners combine wildflower seed planting with fall bulb planting, and that’s always a good idea. The times for both are identical.)