The story of growing food and bringing it to the table is one that I thought was out of my reach a couple of years ago. The obstacles in my path seemed huge: small space, a shady garden, poor clay soil, a fairly limited knowledge of how to go about it plus a restricted budget to get me started.
However, my enthusiasm outweighed the negatives and I persisted. Bit by little bit I have built our yard up to a stage where every single day now we are eating something I have grown. Most days it is simply a handful of herbs – oregano or basil – that make their way into a dish we are cooking, or a salad. Other days I can create a substantial meal from the vegetables I have harvested from my tiny patch of land.
After playing around the edges, experimenting with straw bale gardens and potted gardens, this season I have amped it up and planted out sections of my garden that were previously the terrain of weeds.
Through composting and worm castings I am changing the hard dry, sandy dirt sitting on a clay base into moist rich soil and the result has been the best growing season to date. The cucumbers I grew from seed have been incredible; delicious and abundant. There are pumpkins galore, and so tasty; eggplants that are quiet easily the loveliest I have tasted and the list goes on.
This week I was able to harvest the first lot of these little peppers. (I had to Google their name, and I think they are called bishop's crowns, or bishop's cap - also known as christmas bells, fryer's hat or monk's cap.)* I bought the plant as a seedling a season or two ago and nothing happened. Zilch.
Then, in winter after I had returned from Ella’s hospital treatment, I decided to move the plant to the front garden where it would get more intense sunlight. In fact it gets harsh sun out there coping with the blistering afternoon sun. It was a hunch that being a chilli plant it would cope with that heat, but I didn’t expect it would, in fact, thrive.
While other plants caved in the heatwaves of the past couple of weeks, this plant went from strength to strength and the little peppers ripened almost overnight in the 40C heat. I adore the look of them, both ripe and as they ripen. They change from green to an almost fluorescent orange then into this hot red tone.
When I was looking up the name I discovered that these types of peppers originate from the West Indies and are used as a base for many Caribbean hot-chilli sauces. I would describe mine as medium heat, but they have the added sweetness of a capsicum.
I made a version of a Caribbean sauce using oregano instead of cilantro (coriander) which some recipes called for and it basically went like this:
MEGAN'S HOT PEPPER SAUCE RECIPE:
In a food processor wiz up:
1 x onion
1 x clove of garlic
3 x bishop's cap peppers (or you can use one large red hot chilli)
500gm peeled tomatoes
A handful of fresh herb leaves (I used oregano)
When it is blended put it in a pot and simmer until the onion softens a bit and the sauce is reduced to your liking.
You can sieve out the pepper seeds at this stage if you like, but I left mine it. (I like the chilli heat!)
We have used this sauce as the basis of spicy pizza toppings, pasta sauce and spicy Mexican dishes so far. I plan on making an extra big batch of it this week then freezing serves of it for ready-made meals -a simple way of preserving the harvest. I might also try drying a few peppers, and I'll definitely save some seeds and grow a few more bushes. After all the work tending that little plant, I don’t want a single pepper to be wasted.
What’s “On the Table” at your place?