My love affair with hot peppers started somewhere in the 1960’s. My Mom always liked to make spicy dishes and always said that the hot peppers were good for us. Now, it’s hard to imagine a child viewing anything that Mom or Dad says is good for you as anything other than… Eck! I don’t think so. But I was different for some reason, I believed her and I actually liked the warm sensation the hot spiciness offered up. I didn’t like it too hot or anything but I did like the favor of the hot peppers I came in contact with (mainly jalapanos and crushed red cayenne). Oh, let’s not forget the all time staple, Tabasco sauce.

I love the pepper fruit. I have been growing sweet and hot peppers for over 20 years and I learn something new about this magical fruit each year. I add peppers to just about everything I eat and I have created a multitude of recipes for my own enjoyment and my family and friends. I love hot sauce so I have been experimenting for years with all types of hot peppers and methods for producing sauces that I consider top shelf. I have pepper mash fermenting and aging in my basement and each year I make batches of the different sauces I have perfected. I harvest bushels of peppers each year and can, dry,freeze or ferment them. I grind some into powder or flakes and make exotic blends of spice rubs.

I am very careful with this special fruit. With all hot peppers I use gloves and have even been known to wear a face mask with some of the more potent varieties. You really can’t be too careful, the capsaicin in the peppers is unforgiving if it is not handled properly. Be aware of what can happen if you get capsaicin in your eyes or on other sensitive body parts because of the burning sensation it causes. If capsaicin gets in your eyes, immediately flush your eyes with water. To rid other sensitive areas of capsaicin and the burning feeling, wash the areas with warm soapy water. Keep capsaicin out of reach of children.

I don’t just use the hot pepper for culinary purposes, I use it extensively for it’s healing properties. I make salves, tonics, extracts and teas. Ah, and let’s not forget, saving seeds. I am a nut about carefully planting my varieties at a safe distance from each other and at season’s end I carefully collect and save the seeds for next years crop. It is important to make sure none of the hot pepper varieties are planted anywhere near the sweet varieties. The hot does change the sweet, or so I have learned. I currently grow approximately 6 varieties of sweet peppers and about 20 varieties of the hot peppers. I donate a large amount of seeds to a seedbank, sell a number of packets, and use a bunch to grow peppers all year round. I currently have a vast amount of small pepper plants growing all around my home. I have been lucky to have a harvest of my favorites all year. Here’s a tip for avid growers, pepper plants are perennials. hey are semi-tropical plants, and cannot handle cold weather. The reason they are normally grown as annuals is because the winter temperatures in most places will kill them! However, it is possible to keep a pepper plant alive for several years, via a process known as overwintering. Overwintering is a method of providing a pepper with the proper growing conditions to keep it alive and thriving during the cold winter months (the hardiest of mine come inside for the winter).