JEFF TIEDEMAN: How sweet it isRoasting red bell peppers brings out their best.
Real hot weather doesn’t exactly appeal to me as it does to some people. I would rather see it in the mid-70s to the low-80s rather than approaching 90 — or even higher.
It’s like I say in the winter when the thermometer is in the below-teens or colder and people start to complain and yearn for hot weather: You can always put on more clothes, but you can take off only so much.
But anyone who grows peppers (sweet or hot) probably can understand why I’m relishing this summer’s sometimes sizzling temperatures. As most gardeners know, all types of peppers love hot weather, and that’s not been the case the last couple of summers.
But this year has been a different story, and the dozen or so sweet bell peppers plants as well as a couple of sweet bananas, four Hungarian wax and four chilies are loving it. I planted my bells (mostly reds with a smattering of green, orange and brown) a week before Memorial Day, and they already are loaded. I expect to be eating some within days.
(The red ones have more vitamins and nutrients and the antioxidant lycopene than the green, and the level of carotene, another antioxidant, is nine times higher in red peppers than the greens. Red peppers also have twice the vitamin C content of green peppers.)
A few weeks later, I put in the Hungarians, and they have a ton of blossoms and a few small peppers that have begun to form. I planted those because I want to try my hand at making some hot pepper mustard. I have a recipe for it that was given to me by Gary Brundin, East Grand Forks. His mom, Mona (wife of Don), passed it on to him. And the couple of samples of Gary’s mustard that I’ve tried were very tasty. (See recipe at www.grandforks herald.com/event/tag/group/Life/tag/food/.)
I sowed the chilies on a lark after my gardening buddy, Darrel Koehler, said his drop-dead date for planting veggies such as peppers is Bastille Day. So, on July 13 (one day before the French holiday), I bought the four chilies along with eight kale plants at Pamida (for just $1.58 plus tax) and found spots for them in my garden. To my good fortune, it rained late that night and early the next morning.
Hopefully, the late planting will be productive. I’m looking forward to trying the kale with potatoes in an old Irish favorite, colcannon, which oftentimes includes cabbage. And the chili peppers would come in handy when I make salsa.
Salsa is just one of the uses for my peppers. Therese likes to include some of the sweet ones in her salads, while one of my preferences is to stuff them with a meat-and-rice mixture. I’ve also used chopped-up red bells in my grandma’s bread-and-butter pickle recipe in lieu of canned pimentos (made from the large, red, heart-shaped cherry pepper).
This year, I’m also hoping to roast some of the red bells. Not only are they are a great addition to salads and pasta dishes, you also can:
n Puree them in a food processor and serve as a dip. They’re fat-free and low in calories.
n Serve slices of them with fresh mozzarella, a drizzling of quality olive oil and some fresh herbs as an appetizer.
n Mix pureed ones with low-fat mayonnaise and use as a sandwich spread.
That’s what I call sweet.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.