A Time to Sow
It's the end of March and with that the beginning of Spring and, as the Book of Ecclesiastes says, a time to sow (gotta get at least one bible quote in, and it may as well be early!). Our seedlings are doing exceptionally well this year - the Ghost Peppers are plentiful and the plants look super strong and healthy. The habaneros are not far behind both in quantity and quality. Our super hots (as if Ghost Peppers weren’t hot enough) are a bit behind in their growth but that’s to be expected.
It’s a funny thing about hot peppers - the hotter they are the long they take to germinate, grow and produce. Life is a bit like that, isn’t it - especially life with kids. The germination process is pretty much standard for us but as a parent I remember being caught up in where my new born was “on the chart”. I can remember conversations with the pediatrician that started like this: “Well, Mr. Ferretti, your son is in the 97th percentile for height and the 63rd for weight.” OK, great. What does that even mean? Are you telling me that he’s not going to be an astronaut or a cop? Does it mean that Harvard is out? Of course not. I know ‘why’ they measure and ‘why’ they track and even ‘why’ they tell new parents where on the scale their kid is, but I wish they would have started out with a little more of an explanation. Maybe they do now, my experience is, as my kids like to say, from the Pleistocene Age.
- It’s fun to watch them grow - to see first two, then four then six leaves grow out of the stem. I know I’m supposed to only keep one of the plants per container to allow for optimum growth and strength of the plant but I have a hard time cutting one down even though I will eventually do it. In case there is any doubt, I am talking about the pepper plants again.
- The Trinidad Scorpions have about 50% germination rate but the plants look pretty healthy. I am going to ‘baby’ these little guys and girls - they are one of the main ingredients in our Ghost Dragon Elixir and add the wonderful fruitiness to the sauce.
- Our Carolina Reapers surprised us this year with a 76% germination rate. They are the other ‘super hot’ in the Ghost Dragon Elixir and as the certified “hottest pepper in the world” they are the star of the show - adding both the extreme heat and a great fruit taste. This week we saw the second set of leaves (or “true leaves”) on most of the plants - always an exciting observation.
- The Ghost Peppers (Bhut Jolokia), or Ghosties as Doug from Hillsborough Farm calls them, are the real surprise - 100% germination and rapid growth. The plants are looking healthy enough to plant outside - not really but I’m a proud parent. They form the base of our Ghost Dragon Elixir and set a good foundation for heat and taste.
Once we are ready to plant these seedlings in the garden another phase of their life will begin - one fraught with danger and uncertainty. Planting outside is a big step. Did we let them go too early? Will they survive the night? Is there a frost coming? What about predators - large and small. they see a tender stalk and are ready, willing and able to cut it down without any thought to the fruit it will produce if it is left alone to be cared for, nurtured and fed. I’ve taken many precautions against all the known evils out there - especially the mice, moles, deer and groundhogs - the drug dealers, thieves and murderers of the gardening world - but there is no guarantee that my little babies will survive. (I am talking about peppers but the metaphor works for my kids as well).
Let’s assume success - all our pepper plants have made it to maturity. Congratulations. Well, what’s that mean? There are two basic types of pepper plants - the early bloomers and the late bloomers Generally speaking, much like the germination times, the hotter the pepper, the longer the time to maturity. Our jalapeño and poblano peppers will start producing about 90 days after we put them in the ground but the super hots (Ghost Peppers, Trinidad Scorpion, Caroline Reaper) may take up to 110 days or more but once they get there they are pretty prolific.
I guess you could say the two categories of peppers are male and female - and remember, I am talking about peppers here:
- Males - take a long time to germinate, go through intense periods of growth, take a LONG time to mature and are prolific for a short time. Intense, bold and very hot.
- Females - germinate quickly and are when ready to move out into the world do so with confidence. Very attractive to predators but mature rapidly, produce over long periods of time, add wonderful flavor to our lives.
Whatever your heat level, however long it takes you to mature and whatever you produce - do it with passion. Give it 100%. Spice up someones life, add flavor to the world.
NJ Hot Sauce Competition- #HotNJ - Saturday, March 28 Rutgers Day, Saturday, April 25 Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market - Every Friday through November