Food for Soul

What to do with that bounty of peppers in the garden and how to preserve your harvest

Master gardener Laura Simpson shares a handy chart for how to preserve specific fruits and veggies.

Red and yellow or orange chili peppers dry in the sun in a net tray. (Getty Images)
Red and yellow or orange chili peppers dry in the sun in a net tray. (Getty Images)

By LAURA SIMPSON | gardening@scng.com |PUBLISHED: August 22, 2021 at 9:39 a.m. | UPDATED: August 22, 2021 at 9:39 a.m.

Late summer and early fall are the hottest months of the year in Southern California. The extreme heat (often over 100 degrees) is tough to garden in, but good for both bell and hot peppers.

Every spring we kind of go crazy with planting hot peppers and every fall we are inundated with hundreds of fruit. We’ve grown serrano, Anaheim, poblano, jalapeño, habanero, ghost, Carolina reaper and scorpion chilis, to name a few. They really thrive in the heat if they are watered regularly, and they are relatively resistant to pest damage. One notable exception is the tomato hornworm, so we try to spray regularly with B.T. (caterpillar killer or Bacillus thuringiensis).

What can you do with so many hot peppers? You can give them away, of course, but most people will only want a handful. You can let your teenage son and his friends amuse themselves by daring each other to eat them. You can also use them in some of your favorite recipes, but you will still have a lot of peppers left over.

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Probably the best way to preserve chilis is to dry (either in the sun or in the oven) and then freeze them. They can also be frozen undried. If you want to can them, they can be pickled or used in any tested and approved salsa recipe.

One summer, I had so many habaneros and reaper chilis that I substituted 3 cups of chopped chilis for 3 cups of chopped bell peppers in a tested salsa recipe. Most approved canning recipes will specify that hot and sweet peppers are interchangeable if the total volume of peppers remains the same. For instance, if the recipe calls for 3 cups of bell peppers you can substitute with 1 cup of hot peppers and 2 cups of bell peppers. (Always follow the recipe instructions, including the directions regarding how finely the ingredients should be chopped.) When I added the chopped hot peppers to the already simmering tomato mixture I was almost knocked over by the fumes. I knew I had something good!

My kids grew up with hot peppers, so they have a very high tolerance for spicy food. They absolutely loved my “Breaking Bad” salsa and share it with their more adventurous friends. It was so hot that I could barely stand it. One afternoon I found my 13-year-old daughter sitting at the kitchen table with a bag of chips, a little dish of salsa, and a box of Kleenex. She alternated between eating a salsa-dipped chip and wiping tears from her eyes. I stopped in my tracks, and she looked up at me and said, “It hurts, but I just can’t stop eating it.” Such is the strangely addictive nature of capsaicin.

Remember to wear gloves when handling hot peppers since the burning sensation will linger if you contact the seeds or their membranes.

If you eat a pepper and discover that it’s too hot for you, take a teaspoon of honey and roll it around your mouth to calm the burning sensation.

Here’s a quick look at methods to preserve fruits and veggies from the garden:Nourish Your Small DogYour small dog is different. Shouldn’t their food be different too? Bella meals are specially made for small dogs’ unique needs.SPONSORED BY PURINA BELLASee more

FreezingDrying
ApplesNot recommendedYes
ApricotsYesYes
Bell peppersYesYes
BerriesYesYes
CarrotsYesYes
CauliflowerYesNo
CherriesYesYes
Chili peppersYesYes
CitrusJuice onlyNo
CornYesYes
FigsNot recommendedYes
Green beansYesYes
GreensYesYes
PeachesYesYes
PlumsYesYes
PearsNot recommendedYes
Squash (Summer)Not recommendedYes
Squash (Winter)YesNot recommended
TomatoesYesYes

Have questions? Email gardening@scng.com.

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