Cinco de Mayo Has Me Dreaming of the Salsa Garden

It’s Cinco de Mayo and since we’ve been in quarantine we’ve gone through a lot of the salsa that I made last fall. I’m just itching to get out in to the garden and start planting up this season’s tomatoes and peppers, but it is still way too cold right now for those tender crops, especially up here 1,500ft up in zone 5.

Amazingly, our hot peppers did better than our bell peppers last season. And the hot peppers I had on the patio in containers did better than the hot peppers and bell peppers I had in the raised beds in the garden. The sunlight is the same, but I think that the deck may heat up more than the garden, despite being more exposed to the wind at times, although last year I had a lot of the peppers in containers that were on our steps which shielded them from all but southerly winds which usually come in before storms up here.

When I plan out our garden I always keep in mind what I can use for canning. During the quarantine we’ve been going through lots of the tomato sauces and salsas I’ve canned over the years. This season, I plan to put a lot more peppers in the garden and on the deck again this summer and I’m so excited I just looked at the list of what I have planned. I love using a variety of peppers in my salsa and every level of heat from sweet to very hot. On the very hot side, I have coming Barbados peppers which is a type of habanero, very hot with a medium thick flesh that matures pale green to red. Our family vacationed in Barbados once and Mark loved the local hot sauce which was made with a type of scotch bonnet if I recall correctly. But when I saw the name, I knew I had to add it to our garden. Another name I was drawn to and just love and is also very hot – Mark loves hot stuff – is BIlly Goat. A very late season (90+ days) pepper from Brazil that’s prolific and has a hint of cherry aroma to it. Up here on the mountain I tend to shy away from late season, let alone very late season growers since our growing seasons are much shorter than when we lived down at 300ft in zone 6 in Connecticut.

Ring of Fire Peppers

Afghan and Aji Cacho de Cabra are two more hot peppers that are midseason and late season respectively. Both have thin flesh and mature from green to red. Afghan peppers are slightly smaller than Aji Cacho de Cabra peppers which grow to as long as 4 inches. Another great name and hot pepper on the way is Ring of Fire, a hot cayenne which is an early season pepper (60-70 days) with thin flesh that matures green to red a good selection for drying, making salsas and powders. Knocking down the heat a little we are also waiting for some Dragon’s Claws, a medium cayenne midseason (70-80 days) which grows as long as 10″ maturing green to deep red. Dragon’s Claws are good for drying and work well for crafts, as well as making fresh salsas or powders, and they are great for roasting!

On the sweet side we are looking forward to the Candy Cane Red Hybrid which matures from green with yellow stripes to red. It’s a midseason pepper which gets to be 1.5″ to 2.5″ with a medium thick flesh. Sigaretto Di Bergamo is a sweet peperoncini that gets to be as long as 4.5″ marturing from green to a brownish color before turning red. Originally from Italy, also known as the “Cigarette Pepper”, it’s a good choice for include pickling, or having it fried/stir-fried. And finally two other sweet peppers, Yummy Orange and Yummy Red. These peppers sweet grow to be 2 to 2.5 inches long pendant shaped pods with medium thick flesh. Yummy Orange matures from green to orange and Yummy Red from green to red. They are both mid season peppers (70-80 days). Perfect for making fresh salsas or for stuffing, despite their small size.This is the sweet pepper found in the grocery that everyone talks about. They are extra sweet and practically seedless which makes them great for snacking.

I wish I could go out to the garden right now, pick a bunch of peppers and make up some salsa. I’ll have to head out to the kitchen and eat some instead.

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