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Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> gardening

Tour the Ultimate Chilehead Garden

Posted by: Lois Manno

Tagged in: science , gardening , chile peppers

 

Whether pepper gardening is your passion, or you’re just getting started with that first pot of plants, from now through October you can visit the gardens at New Mexico State University’s Fabian Garcia Science Center in Las Cruces. There you’ll see peppers being grown the way the pros do it, and possibly pick up some growing tips to take home! Read more about it on the Burn! Blog here.


Mark and the Beanstalk

Posted by: Lois Manno

 

Before we go on, let’s get a few things straight. I didn’t trade three hundred pounds of steak to a slick city peddler for a few magic beans (it was jalapeño seeds). Nor did I gain a goose that passes precious metals. If I did, I’d be writing this from my personal moon casino.

Read more about Mark's chile-growing adventures on the Burn! Blog here.


Presto, It's Pesto!

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: recipe , gardening , fiery foods

Greek Minature BasilOne of my favorite summer things is fresh pesto—spiced up, of course.  And one of the main ingredients is basil, although cooks substitute spinach, Italian parsley, and cilantro for the basil on occasion.  There are more than 60 species and varieties of basil, and one of my favorites is 'Greek Miniature Basil' at left.  I shot this photo in a greenhouse full of Italian chile pepper varieties in Torre del Lago Puccini on the northwest coast of Italy last year.

Dana Bowen, writing in Saveur, noted:  “From its humble beginnings in Liguria, pesto has gone far: not only can you find it in jarred form all around the world, but it's used to flavor everything from pizzas to fast-food sandwiches to chips. It's now a household name, up there with marinara and mayonnaise. But unlike those sauces, pesto has always conferred a certain gourmet status in the States; its rise in popularity in the 1980s coincided with the period when Americans started exploring regional Italian cooking and embracing all things Mediterranean.”

Saveur's online pesto articles are here and their pesto recipes are here.

Here are two spicy pestos for you to try!

Green Chile Pesto

Of course we have our own New Mexican version of pesto! It’s a topping for pasta but also can be added to soups, stews, and rice. Although we have specified cilantro in this recipes, you can use the traditional basil or even Italian parsley. Pecans, another New Mexican crop, can be substituted for the piñon nuts.

1 cup chopped green New Mexican chile
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup piñon nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup virgin olive oil

Place the chile, cilantro, nuts, and cheese in a food processor and, while processing, slowly drizzle in the oil to form a pesto.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Heat Scale: Medium

Chipotle Pesto
Chipotle Pesto

From our friend J.P. Hayes of Sgt. Pepper's Hot Sauce Micro Brewery in Austin comes this excellent pesto designed to be served over homemade bread, pasta or use as a pizza topping. Mix it with mayonnaise or ranch dressing and it's a tasty dip. J.P. gave a dramatic demonstration of preparing this pesto without electricity at the 1996 Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival.

1 can chipotle chiles in adobo (or 1/2 cup chipotles rehydrated in wine vinegar)
1/4 cup tomato paste
8 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons cider vinegar or lime juice
1 cup grated Parmesan or romano cheese
1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or piñon nuts, toasted
1 cup canola oil

Combine the chipotles, garlic, and vinegar in a food processor and puree. Add the cheese and pumpkin seeds. With the processor running, drizzle in the oil until the desired consistency is reached (you may not need all the oil).
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Heat Scale: Medium hot


Popular Plates Fiery Foods Cover

 

Mail-Order Copies Now Available!

My popular bookazine on chile peppers and fiery foods will be on the newsstands of all the big box stores for another month, but for convenience it is now available for ordering single copies internationally, or a 9-issue subscription to Popular Plates, the real name of the magazine.  There are many foods covered in the single-subject ongoing series, like grilling, barbecue, pizza, and my forthcoming title in October, Popular Plates Soups & Stews.

To order your copy both domestically and internationally, go to the Popular Plates website, here.


Scorpion Fields Doing Great

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Marlin Bensinger in Scorpion FieldMarlin Bensinger reports on his field of 'New Mexico Scorpion' chiles in a field near Las Cruces: "The peppers are starting to get their growth spurt.  Most peppers are 9 to 10 inches tall. No blossoms yet but probably will see some in a week or so. No signs of disease or pests so far. The biggest problem is always weeds. This field had alfalfa on it before this. So, the weed population was quite substantial. The tractor/cultivator gets most of the weeds between the rows but there is still need for hoeing and hand pulling of weeds between the plants.  Weeding will become less of a problem as the peppers get taller and bushier. We expect the majority of the peppers will grow to be about 30 to 36 inches tall (hopefully by the end of July).  This field is looking very promising for a couple of non-farmers participating in the details of growing."  My plants in Albuquerque are just a couple of inches behind Marlin's and I have some blooming '7-Pot' chiles!

									
			
		

 

Naga Viper, Courtesy of Gerald FowlerWhenever someone tries to lay claim to the biggest, best, or most intense record for pretty much anything, they run the risk of being challenged.

When the subject is the world's hottest pepper, the stakes are high, both monetarily and in terms of publicity. If you've ever dealt with chileheads, they can be every bit as fanatical and obsessed about their chosen passion as the worst lovesick stalker.

That being said, it's not surprising that a storm of controversy currently surrounds several chile growers who are vying for the "world's hottest chile pepper" title. Read this article on Popsci for more about the conflagration, what happens when you ask a beer company to rule about peppers, and an answer to the question, "can eating them kill you?"


Home Gardening Infographic

Courtesy of MNN


Bedding Plants from Cross Country NurseriesHere's what my superhot chiles ('Trinidad Scorpion' and '7Pot') look like after they arrived from Cross Country (chileplants.com).  They are healthy and vigorous, and are now hardening off under the semi-shade of my potted Meyer lemon plant (which already has small lemons on it).  I've been doing business with Cross Country for a decade, and they never disappoint me with their 500 chile varieties and 275 tomato varieties.  There's only a couple of weeks left to order yours!


Charleston Pepper SunIn an article posted on The Atlantic’s website last week, Gary Paul Nabhan, co-author of Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, addressed the relationship between farming in the Southwest and climate change—both food production and food security have been cast into question with the growing scarcity of water and unpredictable growing seasons and weather patterns, such as drought.

Nabhan points out that with water capacity near its limit for cities and rural agricultural areas, “food security in the Southwest depends upon the security of water supplies being delivered to irrigable land. That capacity, we can now see, has been severely impaired by urban growth in the Sunbelt since World War II, and is likely to be further impacted by the vagaries of weather shifts.”

The burden of addressing such trends, says Nabhan, falls on both the consumer and farmer, and while individual responses may not be enough to reverse the trends. Sustainable agriculture and good farming practices may be the best way to counter the growing threat of food security in the region.

In Chasing Chiles, Nabhan, along with co-authors Kurt Michael Friese and Kraig Kraft, set out to discover the history and potential of America’s heirloom chile varieties. Their journey reveals the chile pepper’s dynamic role in understanding climate change and the future of food production.

So how can food producers and eaters in the Southwest improve their “foodprints?”

“Eat and farm as if the earth matters, as we should have been doing all along,” says Nabhan in Chasing Chiles. “Regardless of how quickly we can implement the specific fixes proposed to mitigate climate change, we all need to reduce our carbon [footprint] and adapt to change in ways that keep the earth’s bounty as diverse, as delicious, and as resilient as possible.”

As an orchard keeper and chile grower, Nabhan has committed to do his share to curve the growing trend of climate change by conserving water between rainfalls, growing regional-appropriate crops, such as drought and heat-tolerant heirlooms, and soil-building.

For the rest of us, Nabhan, Friese, and Kraft have these suggestions in Chasing Chiles:

  1. Explore, celebrate, and consume what diversity can be found locally.
  2. Farmers’ knowledge and problem-solving skills are assets for coping with and adapting to climate change.
  3. Eaters (chefs and consumers) need to vote with their forks, wallets, and ballots in support of more diverse and regionally self-sufficient food systems.
  4. Climate change is best dealt with as one of many compounding factors, not as an environmental impact apart from all others.
  5. Empower local food communities to be “co-designers” of local solutions to global change, and then to creatively transmit their solutions to other communities.

If nothing else, says Nabhan, “I get down on my knees and put my hands into the earth.”

Read more about the history of chiles in America, and their tenuous relationship with biodiversity and climate change in Chasing Chiles, available at Amazon. Click here to read the full article from The Atlantic.


Sources:

“Farming in the Time of Climate Catastrophe,” by Gary Paul Nabhan, www.TheAtlantic.com

Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft & Gary Paul Nabhan, © 2011 Chelsea Green Publishing


The top seller of live chile bedding plants in the country, Cross Country Nurseries, dba ChilePlants.com, has listed their top five best selling varieties, and it's no surprise that superhots dominate the list.

 

Bhut JolokiaThis position figures because of all the superhots, Bhuts have garnered the most publicity over the past few years, and it doesn't seem to matter that it's been dethroned as the hottest pepper in the world.

 

Trinidad ScorpionComing on strong is this variety, now generally thought to be the hottest, at the upper levels measuring 1.2 to 1.4 million Scoville Heat Units.  It has a better name and a more interesting pod shape.

 

7-PotThe third Trinidad variety in a row places in the top 3, showing the remarkable trend of superhots originating in the country of Trinidad & Tobago.

 

Habanero Red SavinaThis plant-patented variety is generally thought to be a variation on the 'Red Caribbean' varieties that are spread around the islands.  It never tested as hot as 577,000 SHU in any other laboratory tests except the one that got it the Guinness record.

 

Bhut Jolokia YellowA bit of a surprise in the number 5 position is this yellow variation of the 'Bhut Jolokia', which is becoming a favorite of chile gardeners.

 

Hats and caps off to Janie and Fernando of Chileplants.com for helping us all out by providing 500 chile varieties.  And what am I growing out of all these superhots?  Scorpion, of course!


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