|Playing With Fire|
That great British poet once intoned: "Don't Play With Me, Cause You're Playing With Fire." And that's good advice. But what does Mick Jagger know about hot peppers anyhow? Hot women? Yeah, I guess he knows about them. He should. But hot peppers? Please, Mr. Jagger, move aside. Because Bill and the wife that is Venus are ready to "roll those tumblin' dice."
That picture to your immediate right is our latest foray into "playing with fire." This represents the really hot stuff that will be growing in the Bird Back 40 come this summer. We got an early start on these seeds -- mid January to be exact. Because if you want hot peppers in a summer garden? You need to start them in the dead of winter.
|Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Salsa|
Provided everything goes hunky dory in the summer garden, these seedlings should start delivering a bounty of the "fire hot" stuff by mid July. That's right about when the main crop of heirloom tomatoes will begin to ripen up. So what's the big deal? I'll tell you what the "big deal" is. Hot peppers and heirloom tomatoes are the essential ingredients in the moderately famous and always in demand Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Salsa.
You've got to have a bounty of fresh tomatoes for salsa making in the summertime. And you can't go without a bounty of hotter than hot, burning hot peppers. Because salsa that rocks like Mick Jagger demands fire. And in the Bird Back 40, we play with that stuff (we also wear gloves).
|Mick Jagger-Salsa Fanatic|
The varieties you see planted under our special grow lights in our home-office-turned-greenhouse include the following: The always popular Bhut Jolokia, also known as the "Ghost Pepper." If you guess that a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper might be a part of this year's mix -- that would be one fine guess. Other varieties popping to the surface include the Caribbean Red Habanero and the Assam Hot Pepper.
There's also a Pasilla Bajo thrown into this year's mix, which isn't really hot, but that smoky flavor adds a lot to the moderately famous and always in demand Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Salsa.
|Bhut Jolokia Peppers|
This will represent the third year of usage for the Ghost Pepper. These were originally a gift from South Natomas Gardening Zen Master Nels Christensen. Last year we graduated to growing our own, but made the mistake of starting seeds at the same time as the sweet peppers. But this year we followed the advice of hot pepper fanatic Dave Jesse up in Brownsville. Start those seeds early, son.
This photo below, to the right, is from his seed starting setup in early January. Notice the hot stove to provide heat? One of the first things I noticed is the cat located under the hot stove, boiling his brains. Any normal cat would have socked Dave's hot pepper starter plants to the moon and back. But Dave assured us that kitty was at that tender age where all he cared about was lying under the hot stove and boiling his brains.
|Dave Jesse Hot Pepper Seed Starting Setup (plus cat)|
Mental note: Cats are not the smartest of creatures. But they sure do like hot stoves.
A big test still awaits. Will the Scorpion pepper hold up to the processing time our salsa demands? That processing time includes a steady boil for at least one hour, followed up by 30-35 minutes of time in a pressure canner. Many so-called "hot peppers" turn into absolute wimps when exposed to this kind of abuse -- and that includes the mighty Habanero. The Ghost Pepper held up well to this abuse, which is why we are growing the Ghost Pepper again. But will the Scorpion?
The owner of these Scorpion Pepper seeds assures us that his Scorpion pepper acts like a Timex Watch: It takes a licking and keeps on ticking. The seeds for this pepper came from Joseph Brophy, an attorney and gardening fanatic located in the great state of New York. How did I come into contact with someone like Joseph Brophy? It's called the internet children, and forums dedicated to all things related to growing heirloom tomatoes.
|Scorpion Pepper in a New York Garden|
I traded Mr. Brophy some seeds for a champion Black Cherry tomato plant and in return he shipped over his special Scorpion seeds. And if Mr. Brophy can get the Scorpion to not only grow and produce in a place with a shorter than short growing season like New York, can you imagine what this pepper might do in California? The land of nine month summer growing seasons?
OK, so I'm being a tad facetious. But you get the idea. It's not like Sacramento gets covered with a blanket of snow in November. Not hardly. If the Scorpion can produce a bundle of hot peppers in some place like New York, it should absolutely go to town in gardening-friendly Sacramento.
Time will tell.
It might still be a touch cold outside -- but be assured of this: It's hot pepper season in Sacramento. Let the summer growing season commence!