The rains arrived in earnest last month, and for the second year running there wasn’t a single ripe pepper to show for months of effort. How frustrating was that? We’d gotten so close this time, and I wasn’t feeling ready to capitulate. Better to dig up the best plants and move them to gallon pots, I decided, knowing full well it might well be a fool’s errand. I gave them each a haircut then sent them to a warm Southern window to live out their days.

To my surprise, some of the peppers were soon showing wisps of brown and purple; couple of weeks more and most had brightened to crimson, a rousing enough success that I’d have potted up every plant in the garden had there been more room at the inn. Similar intelligence emerged from the remaining pepper plants that had been hung out to dry. At outdoor temps in the 40s and 50s, the fruit shriveled but stayed green, and some rotted. With indoor temps in the 70s and nights in the 60s, they colored nearly as fast as their potted brethren.

cayennes

The lesson, I guess, is how much work it takes to recreate the optimal growing conditions for peppers in our cool maritime climate. Not that I’m done trying. But I can see why all the peppers at our farmers markets come from the other side of the mountains, where it’s hot and dry, and where they grow without fuss. Seems that the cost of driving them a few hundred miles is still cheaper than re-engineering the climate, at least at current retail gas prices.

Meanwhile the unexpected pepper crop raises a new “problem” — just what to do with the bright red Jimmy Nardellos, which are fryers. I’m thinking of chopping them for a thin-crust pizza with sausage and thyme, but I’d love to hear suggestions.

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