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Fishing for Peppers

I’ve missed blogging but have been unable to write these days.  Now that cooler weather is rolling around, I’ve decided to make an attempt to blog again.

The very tasty fish pepper comes in a rainbow of colors

During the last year I have become increasingly involved with a community garden.  I am the Garden Directress of Love & Peas Community Garden.  My work at the garden has been loads of fun.   The garden is a “Teaching Garden”  Our policy is that when volunteers come to work in the garden, they learn to grow food.  At the end of every work session we divide the produce among our group so everyone takes home whatever produce is in season.  Richard and I have been eating really well, by the way.

At our last work day, I scored a bucket full of hot peppers. Among these were one of my favorites – fish peppers.

Fish peppers are an heirloom that was used by African American fish merchants in the Baltimore area. These entrepreneurs chose the pale creamy white ones and used them to make a white paprika that would not “muddy” the color of their seafood sauces.

Here is the finished product.

Today I decided to make some pepper sauce using my fresh fish peppers.

I used a whole rainbow of fish peppers for my hot sauce so that it would look really pretty in the jar.

Fish peppers are not extremely hot.  They are milder than cayenne peppers. So my sauce will probably be pungent instead of smoking hot.

The peppers were so pretty with their variegated streaks I had to stop and do a photo shoot.

The plant itself is lovely too,  The foliage is a dark healthy green and is marked with creamy white.

I stuck a few cloves of garlic, whole peppercorns and a bay leaf in with the peppers and vinegar.

We used sprigs of the plant in the flower arrangements for a recent Volunteer Appreciation Dinner.

Next year I think we will plant this very ornamental pepper plant in the front “flower beds” at the garden.

I love growing food but am limited in what I can grow here at home.  My garden is nestled in the woods and that is a wonderful thing for an old Tree Hugger like me.

Vegetables need full sun.  Instead of struggling to grow them in my few sunny spots, I’ll just keep on heading to Love & Peas.  I’ve been blessed there by the friendships I’ve made as well as by the food I’ve harvested.

Frienships, food and fish peppers are hard to beat.

Trick or Treat

Our Halloween pepper harvest included jalapeno, bird pepper and the very productive fish pepper in all its color permutations.

Every year around Halloween I harvest the last peppers from my summer garden.  Most of the peppers seem to step it up when the weather gets cooler so I often have a very productive last picking.

This year my fish peppers out-produced all the other hot peppers in the garden.

I first discovered fish pepper when a  student brought seed she had purchased from  Seed Savers Exchange to one of my Greenhouse Production classes.

I was intrigued because I wrongly thought that the pepper must look or taste like a fish.  I even imagined cute little sardine shaped peppers dangling from the branches.

It turns out, however, that the fish pepper was named because it was a staple of African American fish merchants in the Baltimore area.

The peppers became popular because the immature fruit is pale green with a few cream or yellow stripes. This allows the peppers to be used in white sauces without causing unsightly discoloration.  They can even be used to make a white paprika.

As the peppers age, they become deeper green with purple or brown markings.  At maturity they are firey red marked with orange.   The peppers are dimpled with thin walls and are almost always variegated.  Foliage is also variegated with creamy white.

When I do an internet search, recipes for Fish Pepper Soup invariably pop up.  I’ve never made the traditional soup but I do like the flavor of fish peppers.  They have a wonderful heat and I use them in much the same way that I use fresh cayennes.   They have about the same scoville rating and can be used in sauces, salads or salsas.  However if they are cooked the heat does diminish somewhat.

This year, the seed strain I planted had more purple coloration than normal.

I’m going to try making a traditional southern pepper sauce with a few of them.   I think it will taste great.  It should also be a treat to see the medley of purple, red, green and yellow peppers gleaming in the jars.


 

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