A lot has happened in the garden since the last post in July. We are now at the beginning of September and the air is already starting to feel like fall. What a strange summer it has been here in Chicago and I’m assuming in most places. It has been unseasonably cool with about a scattered week of actually hot days through out summer. Despite it feeling like an unusual summer, we have been really lucky to have a lot of rain and enough sun to keep our garden productive and happy. So, Here is an update of the progress:
We’ll start with the peppers because there are so many types and so many peppers growing! Our habaneros started forming around the beginning of July; they seemed to reach full size towards then end of the month and while it seemed time for them to turn orange it took longer than I expected. It wasn’t until mid August when the first few started to change and by now we have already picked 5 peppers and it won’t be long before the next. The other night we made a fresh salsa and a roasted pepper sauce to top our chiles rellenos all using the heat of our home grown habaneros. For such a cute little pepper it sure does create an intense heat, you definitely need to use these sparingly. The plant itself is short and squat the peppers are near an inch large and turn into a beautiful bright orange, but the heat might be the most impressive part of all.
Next, we have ancho peppers as labeled when we purchased the sprouts, they are also known as poblano peppers which are traditionally used to make chiles rellenos. I didn’t realize these two peppers were the same until I Wikipedia’d them and found out that “ancho” usually refers to dried poblanos. Anyway, we have already eaten a few of our anchos so far in our gourstada. They were definitely the largest of the peppers on our porch but not as large as we are use to seeing them at the market. We decided to cut them because the the plant was not creating any new peppers and it seemed to have a difficult time supporting the weight. Since the first harvest a few more peppers are off to a great start and we’re hoping to grow them even larger than the first batch- hoping for 5-6 inches. We will see!
Last of the pepper updates is on our red chilies which are planted in a large pot along with jalapeños. This pot of peppers was the first to fruit. We started seeing peppers at the very beginning of July. When I planted the sprouts I remember doing it in a specific way- one row of 3 jalapeños in the center and 2 red chilies on each side of that row. Once the peppers began to grow I was no longer sure how I planted them; it was very confusing because all of the peppers were seemingly the same! I would see peppers that seemed to resemble a jalapeño, dark green and a bit round at the bottom and then would see others that seemed to resemble chilies- thinner and a bit more pointy, but there was no consistency from plant to plant. All the same color growing from plants that looked alike. As they would grow they would seem even more similar and because of this I felt more confused- I had planted them specifically in such a way that I would know which was which. In the past when I have grown red chilies, in a smaller pot, they would start off as a slightly lighter green and have a distinct chili shape. They also took less time to turn red. Judging from the limited experience under my belt I began to lose hope in that they were actually “red chilies.” I started to assume that they must have been mislabeled and came to terms with it. Whatever the case, this pot bears over thirty peppers (jalapeños and chilies together) ready to eat at any moment.
After going a way for the third week of August we came home to find that our chilies were beginning to turn red! Yessss! And, to make it even more exciting, the first two peppers to turn red were the first two to start growing in the garden- I know this because one of them had a particular mark and an odd shape- within a week a few more turned red justifying my original planting method! Mystery solved, we picked our first 4 chilies earlier today and made my favorite soup Arhar Dal using them- look forward to the recipe this fall!
I’ll make a quick mention of the serrano peppers, I barely have any photos of them for some reason, they seem to get lost among all of the other peppers in the garden. They’ve been growing well throughout the summer but we have not eaten any yet! I’m thinking they’ll have to have a special meal revolved around the first ones we pick.
Let’s breeze by possibly the saddest part of our garden- the cucumber(s). I almost didn’t mention them at all but once I saw the lone stunted cucumber emerge from the vine I thought- how the hell did that happen?- I figure I should mention them too, even if pathetic. I love cucumbers and before planting them I imagined a healthy row of cucumber vines wrapped around the porch rails, and maybe we would even get some food from them. They are planted in 18in wooden cube along with mint. Cucumber & mint, it’s obvious they would go together. The 2 types of mint were quick to get comfortable extending their roots in all directions. The cucumbers however never got comfortable at all. The entire time we’ve had them they looked somewhat alive but never healthy. It’s only promise is the one cucumber that is hanging on by a strand, still slowly growing. I think these sprouts were not doing well to begin with and once the mints took off they hogged the nutrients and the light making it even more difficult for the cucumbers to survive. But, it’s not quite over yet, there is still an ounce of life left but I don’t expect you’ll hear about them from me again.
The cherry tomatoes have been mentioned a few times; throughout August we have been eating them, more and more appear each week and they’re still coming. I sense the plant will be winding down for the season soon, but I expect we’ll see a more tomatoes for a while.
Another unexpected surprise appeared when we returned from our vacation. One giant strawberry (image taken on August 23rd). The last time we saw strawberries in our garden was towards the end of June and I assumed that would be it for the year and put the pot off to the side but continued to water it. By mid July the plant was sending out new vines reaching for the ground in order to sprout more plants. Towards the end of July a few new flowers appeared and by the end of August we received this beautiful strawberry, the largest of the year! 2 days later the strawberry was bright red, for some reason it had gone unnoticed by the squirrel who lives upstairs and is known for meddling in our plants. Because it was a cold and rainy day I decide that I would photograph and pick it the next morning… but by then it was gone. I should have learned my lesson the first time around and pick it immediately when ripe! Perhaps there will be another this fall.
The brussels sprouts are showing some progress. They are not drastically taller, but the stalks are getting a little thicker and the tiny sprouts are getting bigger every week. Joe does not notice the change and worries we will not get sprouts this year, but I am confident that they are eventually going to give us some food even if they’re smaller than we’re use to.
Last, an update of our herbs- mint, sage, lady lavender, thyme, french lavender, and basil. We have been able to use fresh herbs all summer so far and I’ll mention that we have saved a lot of money because of it. I absolutely love basil but I will often choose to not buy it at the store in order to save some money; we bought a our basil plant for $2.99 and have used it in 2-4 meals a week for the past 2 months. I’m interested in continuing the herb garden inside for the winter.
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