Thursday, October 10, 2013

Well it's at least acting like fall

Welcome back to another episode of Lost in the Farmer’s Market. This week’s discussion covers the successes and failures of the Pepper crop. Additionally the first weekly precipitation report is being released, which will be a regular feature as long as there is anything to report. Also at the end of this episode you can expect the plant list, and stuff about the market including a new booth picture. But first let’s get into the precipitation report for 10-2-2013 through 10-8-2013.

Regular rains can bring out all sorts of critters. In this case a Green Tree frog was seen Saturday afternoon hiding out in the White Ischia figs.

For the first and hopefully not the last time, I present the localized precipitation report. The information as presented is gathered from three equidistant rain gages positioned about the test gardens to represent the average range of the topography. One gauge is out in the open with no obscuring objects another near the hedgerow and the third close to the tree line. The results of the total precipitation will be noted below along with the number of times precipitation in any noticeable amount was found in the gauges. The gages themselves are checked about 5pm every night and the range of study is in a seven day period from Wednesday of one week to Tuesday of the next. In the case of this week we had meaningful precipitation on the 7th and 8th

Rain 10-07-2013: 0.51”/0.49”/0.51”
Rain 10-08-2013: 0.15”/0.10”/0.15”
Average Precipitation: 0.65”

Obviously a little over a half inch is better than nothing; however the last useful amount of rain to fall was back in September on the 22nd (Avg. 0.78”).  This does not necessarily mean we should act as if it’s a drought as the cool weather means your crops are transpiring a bit less. It is however a sign to be cautious and use your irrigation responsibly, as it may be a somewhat dry winter which poses a new set of problems.

Now in terms of the Peppers, I have to start by saying this year was somewhat of a flagship year. Numerous varieties were tested, and a few supposed winners turned out to be utter duds. As some of you know I always have some variety of pepper in the test gardens as a rule because I consider them essential as a spice element to cooking. Indeed all varieties add a certain sort of flavor to the mix that can’t be replaced. Their inherent heat tolerance and drought toughness is also commendable. With that said below is a list of what was grown and a listing /description of what worked and why.

Carolina Wonder, Green
Carolina Wonder, Red
Cayenne, Red
Cayenne, Purple
Chinese Ornamental
Devil’s Tongue
Lemon Drop
Paprika, Pritamin
Paprika, Cecei
Paprika, Leutschauer
Pasilla Bajio
Red Peter
Sweet Yellow Banana
Tobago Seasoning

Quite a list isn’t it? The list in truth tells half the story as with every sowing of any seed you expect some never to germinate for whatever reason and some others to have troubles after or outright fail. Likewise with all the optimism of this list the following notes indicate where the success and failures lay. Would I give some varieties a second go next year? Absolutely I would, and in the case of the Sangria, Chinese Ornamental, Pasilla, and Purple Cayenne they will return next year in novelty status. The following peppers were very successful in the test garden and warrant a full return next year.

Lemon drop peppers take a while to mature but are heavy producers once they do.

Lemon Drop
The LD pepper has been one of the most consistently productive flavor peppers in the garden two years running. It withstands heat and drought well and is very dramatic about wilting when it needs water so not surprisingly it gets taken care of rather early and often. In trade it’s 2-3” long peppers are bright yellow when mature are spicy but not hot and add a citrusy flavor to anything they are added to without being overwhelming. Excellent for use in pots by itself, tends to suffer when put it with other plants. No pest problems as seen.

This specimen was jokingly called the 'Ugly plant' because it for some reason had massively warped leaves and seemed to only produce 'ugly'. it wasn't until this pepper started producing fruit did I realize it was a Tobago seasoning pepper. I plan to save some seed to see if it's a unique genetic trait.

Tobago Seasoning
TB peppers are slow to produce and once they do the round peppers are best picked at a color range from orange to red. The flavor is a sort of smoky spice with more kick then a paprika. Over all the plants in the garden grew well had no real problems, they just were not heavy produces so upwards of three plants were needed to match the output of one Lemon drop pepper plant. Pests were not an issue though last year we did have a horn worm or two but the way this pepper grows the damage is easily visible. TB is best grown in a pot by itself as it is somewhat slow growing early on, but matures to a plant as big as any late season pepper.

Sweet Yellow Banana peppers are edible at almost any stage of fruit maturity with a differing flavor depending when and  you eat them.

Sweet Yellow Banana
Honestly SYB is practically the test garden’s replacement for any sort of bell pepper if 2013’s info is an indicator. SYB produces regularly, has that trademark pepper aroma and flavor when used and its only issue is that the peppers cant in theory be stuffed as one might with a bell pepper. Even so, this variety grew well in the ground and in pots and produced well in either situation but more so in the pot because of course pots get more attention. Either way this particular variety will return next year in numbers.

This pair of Sangria peppers survived the season to be brought in for the winter. Strangely enough the plants never developed much of the trademark purple leaf coloration.

Sangria Ornamental Pepper
SOP was a slow start; with a number of duds in the seed and the few plants that madeit to the gardens and the market did alright. In fact a pair of such late germinating seed will be overwintered this year to serve as a ornamental center piece and a mother plant for seed collection next year. What makes sangria so nice, is that it bears blue-purple foliage and fruit that are almost purple-black at their prime. It visually goes well with light or equally dark foliage and planted in with Thai, blue African and traditional basil it can be a striking cluster of colors. The plants are rather resilient once they get going and do well once they are about 6” tall or so.

Chinese Ornamental Pepper
Much like SOP, these peppers were slow starters but also had an odd branched growth habit. I tried a number of things to get these guys going but in the end only time prevailed. The mature specimens were quite nice looking in a Christmas tree sort of way with their triangular form and little red peppers that resembled Christmas bulbs. These plants seemed to shrug off most of the summer’s heat and lack of watering but reqired regular fertilizing to do their best.

The Paprikas (Pritamin, Cecei, Leuschauer)
All three noted paprika species above were not sold this year but rather purchased as a experiment to see what the big fuss was. Amazingly I found these peppers uniquely slow to produce but the wait was worth it, dried paprika has nothing on a fresh paprika pepper used in substitute. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Pritamin for its heavier production, shorter maturation time and excellent flavor. You can bet if I can get some seed for these they will be in the list next year.

Rainforest (Capsicum baccatum)
Devil’s Tongue (Capsicum chinense)
The two peppers in this case deserve a special mentions as both came into my possession though another vendor at the farmer’s market Laura Bradley. The special mentions is specifically because both grew incredibly well and Rainforest wound up being added to the hot mix of peppers for use in chili, whereas Devils Tongue, well I threw one at a vagrant once and watched him burst into flames upon contact so it’s an ornamental, yeah that’s it! Either way I liked both and wouldn’t mind doing more with them next year so special mentions to both. I might add Laura also sold me the paprika trio.

The booth of sustainable goodness, yep look for that rooster tablecloth folks!

As you can figure this just covers the successes and more so what you can expect to see next year. But of course I could probably talk peppers for an article or two  however the need to get to the plant list and farmer’s market stuff looms large as the weekend nears so with that in mind  remember the following. The Fayetteville City/Farmer’s Market occurs on Saturdays from 9:00 am through 1:00pm at the Fayetteville Transportation Museum grounds at 325 Franklin Street in downtown Fayetteville. More so, there is TONS of parking nearby and you can find a wide variety of stuff at the market ranging from essential oils and crafts to the freshest produce and of course cold season plants. So come on by and check us out, below is the plant list for Saturday October the 12th 2013.

House Plants:
2x Silver Aloe

Salad & Fixings:
4x Romaine Lettuce
4x Black-Seeded Simpson Lettuce (bibb type)

Cole Crops:
6x Georgia Collards
6x Morris Heading Cabbage-Collards
2x Savoy Cabbage
3x Mustard-Spinach ‘Senposai’
6x Dinosaur Kale
6x Napa Cabbage

Available Soon:
2x Blushing Philodendron
12x Spineless Prickly pear
6x Japanese Red Giant Mustard

As you all may know the plant list concludes this post; the second post of October. Keep in mind as the weather cools your time is running out to get those cool season plants in the ground. The extra rail will help you a great deal however the sooner you get the crops in the better. If you’ve got questions about where and what to plant feel free to contact me through this blog or in person at the market. As always folks keep ‘em growing!

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