Peppers come in every size, color and flavor.

Photo by William Stadler

Photo by William Stadler

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?

Most of us have either quoted this little riddle or have had it told to us by a parent or grandparent, but do you really know how much a peck is?

Peppers come in all sizes, colors, and flavors, and don’t forget heat units.  Yes, heat units.  You might think of heat units for your oven or wood burning stove, but in the case of peppers there is a scale to grade the intensity of “heat” that a pepper produces from the oils of capsaicin found within a certain pepper:  This is called the Scoville Scale.  The Scoville scale ranges from zero, Bell Peppers, which contain no capsaicin, to the world’s hottest pepper recorded, the Bhut Jolokia, originating from Assam, India with a rating of just over 1,000,000 heat units on the scale. Now that is hot.  Your hottest Habanero pepper has a rating of 580,000 heat units, and your standard Jalapeno only has a range of 2,500 to 8,000 units. Does anyone want to try a Bhut Jolokia?

Just like with the tomatoes I planted, I have planted peppers by the masses too.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I ordered and then planted all of the varieties that I did. Curse those seed catalogs!

However, I have to reassure myself that I had a purpose for each variety, though my wife has told me that hottest peppers are NOT going in her salsa. Maybe I will have to put up a sign asking for volunteers to take away the hot ones or better yet sell them at the local Farmers Market.

Remember that when starting peppers from seeds, you want to start those seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost of the spring and before you are ready to plant them outdoors. So what have I planted or started for my garden? Let me share my “peck” of peppers with you.

Sweet Peppers: I am most excited about a variety called YUM YUM GOLD, a miniature sweet pepper that I found from Territorial Seed Company. FLAVORBURST is another sweet or bell pepper that says that it offers a citrusy flavor in every bite. This sounded interesting; I will have to report on its true flavor later. COLOSSAL Hybrid is reported to grow as large as or even larger than a softball and is great for stuffing, can you imagine a stuffed pepper that size; a summer meal to share for sure.  Yes I am even trying a pickling type pepper called SWEET PICKLE.  These varieties I found in the Park’s Seed catalog.

Mildly Hot Peppers: ANAHEIM, HUNGARIAN WAX, and JALAPENO are standards in our garden and used specifically for homemade salsa. Don’t forget that these varieties are also used in making stuffed chili “poppers” and are also used in making Chili Rellenos. You shouldn’t have any problem finding these varieties at your local greenhouse/garden center.

Hot Peppers: SERRANO’S add just enough kick for us to enjoy in our homemade salsa, however this year I am trying KUNG PAO and HOT LEMON, which I ordered from the Burpee seed catalog, to try in cooking various culinary dishes. However, I didn’t plant any Hababero’s. They are just too hot for my taste and liking.

All right, I might be a wimp when it comes to hot and spicy foods; I just don’t feel like I have to try and impress anyone at how spicy my food is, and then have to suffer from the consequences later. However, I am willing to try new dishes and I am eager to explore their flavors; that is why I am trying some new and different peppers this year.

Just as an added note, if you find your mouth on fire due to the heat of peppers, try drinking milk and/or eating some bread or crackers, or just more chips without the salsa. These items help counteract or neutralize the oils of the peppers that are causing the burning in your mouth. Just remember that water and oil don’t mix and that is why drinking water after something spicy just doesn’t offer a true soothing effect for the palate.

Photo by Jessica Brockardt

Photo by Jessica Brockardt

If Peter did pick a peck of pickled peppers, he only got about 2 gallons or a ¼ bushel of peppers. A peck was once used to measure both liquid and dry volumes of an item; however now it is used to measure mostly dry goods. In a garden, a peck could easily be the amount of peppers you would pick from one or two plants, depending on what variety you planted and were harvesting. I just can’t imagine what I was thinking when I ordered and have planted over fifteen different types of peppers. I know I will be picking more than a peck of peppers.  I just don’t know how to pickle them yet.

What are you planting in your garden this year?  Are you trying anything new and exciting? Please share with us something from your garden.