I’m a Pepper

24 10 2008

Lessons learned … I should start keeping a list somewhere.  One of this summer’s major lessons learned was that one family — regardless of how spicy they like their food and how many bean salads they can make — needs only about three pepper plants.  Not six jalapeno plants, two poblano plants, and two sweet pepper plants.  You always hear stories about home vegetable gardeners having zucchini out of the wazoo, but not us.  We had a lifetime supply of peppers.  So, I gave peppers to the neighbors all year long.  I asked houseguests to pick some peppers on their way out.  Our maid took a boxful of peppers every two weeks when she came to clean the house.  I brought a grocery bag of peppers with me to visit my mother so that she could give them to her friends.  And today, when I went out during Masher’s nap to clear the plants of their final few fruits, this is what I gleaned:

Pepper Harvest 2008

Pepper Harvest 2008

In case you needed to be sure about the size of the peppers, I added the bananas for comparison.

In case you needed to be sure about the size of the peppers, I added the bananas for comparison.

So, we’ve got a lot of peppers.  Good thing we like ’em.  And you can chop ’em up and freeze ’em.

This was our first year having a vegetable garden, so we knew it would be a learning experience.  My parents were especially pessimistic about the whole idea.  “You won’t get anything to grow,” they said.  That was their experience.  But my husband was gung-ho, and I figured we might as well do something with the half of the lawn where the grass was dead anyway, so we got to work digging the beds and bought a few little seedlings.  Our secrets, I believe?  Really good sun and building up the beds with good, organic topsoil (as opposed to the Virginia clay most of us have around here).  

And we watched the plants grow!  Over the course of the summer, in addition to the abundant peppers, we harvested at least 20 big tomatoes and countless cherry tomatoes, 3 eggplant, two zucchini, and a constant supply of basil.  So, I’d say it was a pretty good investment.  What’s particularly interesting is that we’ve noticed that a surprising number of our neighbors also have at least one tomato plant in their front yards.  I think our neighbors are choosing the front, as we did, because most of us have too many trees in the back.  But it’s nice to see and made us think of people having Victory Gardens back in the ’40s.  These days everyone’s all about the local food movement, getting your grub straight from the farmer down the way, but I guess we’ve found it’s pretty easy to take local food one step further and just grow it right in your front yard.  Obviously, we’re not going to have room for a cow, a couple of egg-laying hens, and a fishing pond, but growing a few veggies and herbs right outside your front door sure makes dinners a delight all summer long.

Michael Pollen, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, wrote an interesting piece for the NYT Magazine earlier this month and said that USDA actually opposed Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden campaign on the basis that it would adversely affect the agricultural industry.  That’s called voting with your pocketbook.

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