2014 Hot Pepper Plants for sale

We are selling more hot pepper seedlings this year! Each plant is grown from an American seed supplier that specialized in the world’s hottest peppers so we can guarantee  the plants are from the best stock. Each plant is in a 4″ pot and were started back in January/February to ensure they are a good size for the spring.

SAMSUNG

Right now, only the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers (hottest available in Canada) are available. In the next few weeks, we will also have limited numbers of Purple Jalapeños, White Yucatan Habaneros and some Bhut Jolokia (non-Canadian greenhouse strain).

Plants are $10 each or 3 for $25. We also have hot sauce bottles with caps in drip inserts for $12/doz or $10/doz with the purchase of plants.

For anyone needing fertilizer, I have bags of rabbit/quail manure that was rotted over the winter and ready to be worked into the garden. Come pick up your $hit free of charge.

Canning Garlic Scapes

Back in the fall we planted about 300 hundred hardneck garlic and they’ve been nothing but happy. They are so happy, that they’ve decided to shoot up scapes for us! A scape, in case you’re wondering, is the delicious stem and seed pod that is often overlooked as an edible that forms atop the growing garlic plant. In the spring, the scapes must be removed to prevent the plant from dedicating energy to forming a seed pod rather than the bulb below the ground. Some people leave them on (and complain about small garlic later in the season), some cut them off and let them compost back in, but why waste what is essentially an extra crop?

The happy garlic with their scapes removed. There was some whimpering coming from a few of them.

The happy garlic with their scapes removed. There was some whimpering coming from a few of them.

The scapes can be used as a garlic substitute but seeing as they are seasonal and only last a week in the fridge, you might not be able to get through a glut of them. We harvested 2½lbs, so using them in a week is beyond impossible. My long suffering wife’s grandmother gave me a recipe for jarring them that I’ve modified to create a safer pH level.

Ingredients:

Fresh scapes
3 cups white vinegar (5%)
4 cups water
¼ cup pickling salt

  1. Rinse the scapes. Don’t go crazy scrubbing them. Any bugs will get processed and you’ll never even know they were there. Just remember, accidents happen; there are no true vegetarians. Rinsing just removes any debris holding on.
  2. Put jars onto boil. I add a glug of vinegar to the water which stops minerals from building up on the glass.
  3. Cut the tips above the pods off and compost. The tips are fibrous and not as nice as the rest of the plant.
  4. Cut the remaining part into sections that will fit, stood up, in the jars. To keep things consistent, I put two pieces of tape on the cutting board spaced out at the ideal length for my jars. This anal move will keep your OCD alive and well. Keep any short bits in a separate bowl.
  5. Mix the vinegar, water and salt in a pot and bring to a boil.
  6. Once your jars are sterilized (after 20 minutes of boiling) pack them with scape lengths. Pack them in as tight as you can.
  7. Ladle boiling brine into jars until it covers the tips of the scapes, leaving some head room.
  8. After a minute, or so, the scapes will soften and more can be carefully added to each jar, including the short pieces kept aside.
  9. Wipe the rims of the filled jars, add lids and bands, put them back in your water bath, and process for 45 minutes.

Let them store for a few weeks, crack the seal and enjoy! If you get botulism (and survive) don’t blame the recipe, blame your filthy kitchen.

Scapes cut to length ready to be jarred.

Scapes cut to length ready to be jarred.

I have some extra scapes, still whole, if anyone wants to come by and grab a few to cook with this week. Just let us know in the comments below.

Hot Pepper & Sweet Potato Plants

Before I open up sales to the general pop, I thought I would post on here first. We have pepper plants in 3″ pots available that are from American grown seeds in isolation to avoid cross pollination. All plants have been grown using organic feed only. We started the plants back in February as most hot peppers take a long time to sprout (up to 12 weeks). Varieties available are:

Hot Peppers

 

Moruga Scorpions (hottest peppers in the world)

Bhut Jolokia aka Ghost peppers (former record holder)

Yucatan White Habanero (jelly bean sized spicy peppers)
Peter peppers (tasty, but mainly grown for novelty)

Each plant is $10 or 3 for $25.

We also have sweet potato slips ready to plant. Each slip was produced from a Canadian grown sweet potato. The slips were started back in March. They have been removed from their mothers and have fully formed roots. We have not used any feed on these plants, just fresh clean water. Each slip will product large flowing vines and multiple edible sweet potatoes.

sweetpotatorootslip

Each slip is $3 or 2 for $5.

Last, but not least, we are splitting our hop rhizomes up since they’ve gone bananas this year. Hop vines grow up to 30′ tall and need support from a fence, trellis or line. Ours reached nearly 20′ last year and we had a good crop off the plants. Our rhizomes are organic and they have never seen any chemicals. We are offering Chinook and Willamette varieties. Each rhizome is $10. We are only offering 2 rhizomes of each variety, so be quick.

You can pick up plants at our house or we can make arrangements as we are all over from Hamilton to downtown Toronto to meet up with you. It’s first come, first served.

Indoor plant gallery

With a broken right hand (table saw attack, I lost), things have been a little slow moving in the garden outside. Doing everything one-handed is a little less precise as well (see poorly taken photos below). Even though I’m out of the game for a couple more weeks, it hasn’t stopped all of the indoors plants from going bananas (literally in one case). All of our seedlings are doing well, but they aren’t nearly as interesting as the below plants.

Something we grow an ornamental variety of every year is sweet potato. As tempting as the psychedelic tubers were to eat, our flower beds weren’t organic until this year and I think we would have stood a better chance of poisoning ourselves from fertilizer build up than getting high. This year we’ll be planting these edibles with the flowers for a late season harvest.

As sweet potato slips can be hard to find, I started our own in February by suspending some half tubers with skewers in jars of water. After a few weeks in a sunny window they produced some eyes which quickly grew into leafy slip vines once we transferred them to an artificial light environment.sweet potato Another interesting plant that I’ve failed at growing many times in the past is the pineapple. After some more trial and error and error and error, I found a way to get them rooting and growing. Although the below plant looks like it’s dying, it’s just the old growth dying back while more fresh leaves push out from the centre. Within 24-36 months, fingers crossed, we’ll have a couple of pineapple fruit. I think that we’ll have to hold a pineapple party for all the locavores to taste what they’ve been missing.pineapple

The next photo is a little hard to understand at first. At Christmas I was given a mushroom growing kit in a box. With the winter being so dry, it was impossible to keep the spores damp enough to grow, so we just left them. Now with the moist spring here, they’ve been growing really well.

mushrooms

Last fall I cut back our raspberry bushes and in my laziness, I left the cuttings where they fell, for the winter. Last weekend I started cleaning the garden and noticed that the cuttings, which were sitting on the ground, had green buds and cores. I cut them to manageable lengths and potted them. So far so good. raspberries Probably the best plant we have growing right now is our banana tree! This was a gift from my mother a few weeks ago that has almost doubled in height. Once the weather cheers up a bit, we are going to transplant this -25°C hardy plant right in the garden. Again, if we get bananas, we are having a party. Bring your monkey.banana

 

Starting seeds indoors (& in the greenhouse)

Instead of waiting for the weather to get its act together, we took matters into our own hands in the propagation department. With the addition of the greenhouse last fall, we’re able to start plants indoors very early knowing that they are afforded some safety later outside. So last Sunday, during a snowfall, we starting planting under lights in the basement. The snow was outside, not in the house, otherwise the carpets would get wet. As well, I managed to dig out the door way to the greenhouse and plant some radish seeds inside. With a temperature of 6-12°C inside, the radish should work out fine.

Reaching for the light

Reaching for the light

This year we’ve decided to grow some VERY hot peppers, and they need up to six weeks to germinate. We are growing Bhut Jolokia (ghost peppers), Moruga Scorpions (hottest in the world), Jalapeños, Yucatan White Habanero, bells, and Peter peppers (look it up, SNSFW). We’ve also started the tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

When planting seeds indoors, there are a few factors to consider:

1. Planting medium
Depending on the seeds you are starting, you may need to use a special mix. There is always the option of bringing soil in from the garden, but at this time of year the ground is solid and you can’t be sure what else you may be bringing in the house (bugs, disease, turds the cat left for you to find in the spring, etc). For peppers and tomatoes we used a soil-less medium, although a little more expensive, it’s worth the extra money to ensure our special pepper seeds actually germinate.

2. Light
This is a very confusing topic. There is a lot of information out there for what lights to use. You can buy special grow lights that are meant to offer better light for plants, but in actual fact, these lights are usually just overpriced and don’t necessarily do a better job than any other. Using cool white T8 fluorescent bulbs 8-12″ above your plants will stimulate them enough to grow. Cool whites offer the plants light mainly from the blue light spectrum. This light will not stimulate flowering as red spectrum does, but will instead help seedlings grow stocky and strong, ready for transplanting outside.

A light fixture, such as the aforementioned T8, can easily be hung from a ceiling by chain to allow for height adjustment as plants grow.

As in the outdoors, indoor plants need the lights to go out for a period each day. The darkness of night is an important part in a plant’s daily cycle. To keep the seedlings happy, plug the lights into a wall timer set to switch off over night for 7-8 hrs.

These tomatoes are only 4 months away from being salsa!

These tomatoes are only 4 months away from being salsa!

3. Water
Plants should be well watered but not kept drenched (more on that below). Always use water from the cold water tap and let it warm in the room with the seedlings before watering. Avoid using the hot water tap as the mineral deposits that collect in your hot water tank can be harmful to young plants.

4. Air circulation
To strengthen the root systems and stems of your seedlings, you must simulate the wind they would be subjected to outside. A simple fix for this is to set a fan on low in the room to  blow over the seedlings. Your plants aren’t looking for gale force winds, so moderate the flow through the fan’s placement in the room.

Using a fan also prevents the seedlings from damping off. Damping off is caused by seedlings being too wet which allows different fungus to grow and attack the young plants. The last thing you want is to see all your plants die from damp.

5. Heat
Seeds need a certain level of warmth to germinate and grow. All plants have different temperature needs and when growing different species together, you’ll have to decide what temperature will suit them all. We are growing all of our seeds in the same room where the quail chicks are kept. This room in always nice and warm for the chicks so it makes an ideal place to start our seeds. If you don’t have a room in your house like this, heated seedling mats work quite well. I suppose you could also try a space heater, but leaving these unattended always scares me a little. Early plants are of no use if your house has burned down.

For anyone who can’t be bothered with starting seeds indoors, we are selling started pepper plants later in the spring. If you don’t want the plant, just come by this summer and help yourself to some very hot peppers. You can have as many Moruga Scorpions as you can handle before you pass out.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

This time of year the chives are growing well and sending up lots of scapes with flowers atop. We let ours grow in this year to add some colour to the herb garden. With such a bounty of flowers, I started to wonder what they could be used for. A friend of mine had the same thought so I did a quick search online for possible uses.

After typing “cloves” in google and obviously getting the wrong plant in my search results, my brain starting working again and I realized that I had taken dyslexia to a new level. There are lots of recipes out there for making chive vinegar, but I found that quite a few missed some key steps in preserving so I’ve added my version here.

First thing to do is locate chives in bloom. If you don’t have any in your own garden, I’d recommend permanently borrowing some from a friend. To do this, call said friend, invite them out for dinner, and don’t show up. While they are waiting for you, simply let yourself into their back garden and pillage their crops. Cut, don’t pull, the flowers right at the top of the scape. A little green won’t hurt, but too much and the colour of the final vinegar may not be the desired shade.

Once you have a good collection of blossoms, do not wash them. A lot of the recipes online specify washing that flowers. Why? Apparently people are afraid of bugs. Chives are a great insect repellent for your garden and if you do find any creepy crawlies on your flowers, just blow them off. If it really bothers you to think that a tiny insect may be in your vinaigrette, run back into the bubble you live in and breathe in the purified air, and take your medication. If you do wash them, you’ll lose the essence of outside and some of the flavour that the pollen will provide.

Sterilize a glass mason jar by either submerging in cool water and bringing to a boil, or by using a sulphite spray. When you are using even new jars, you must wash them well with soapy water before sterilizing. There is residue from the factory, and this should worry you more than insects.

In a saucepan boil some vinegar. I used white distilled vinegar (p.s. all vinegar in Canada is distilled by law) but you could also use white wine vinegar. Avoid apple cider vinegar as the taste is overpowering.

Stuff your blossoms in the jar and fill within half an inch of the lip with the hot vinegar. When filling your jar with blossoms, it really is the more the merrier. Push down any blossoms that won’t sink.

To create a seal between the jar and the lid, boil the kettle and pour some of the water in a dish with the lid of the jar dropped in. After two minutes, the rubber gasket will soften and then you can place the lid on the jar. Screw on the band (not too tight) and wait. Now stop waiting, and have a look at the liquid. It starts to bleach the flowers of their colour and take on a lovely pink hue. Leave the jar to sit in a dark place for a few weeks before enjoying.

Clove......errrr....... Chive vinegar

If you try this recipe, let me know how it works out for you, or how you dealt with the botulism.

Garden is planted!

The last couple of weeks have been a little mad around here. Between work, the garden, the kitchen and all of the usual events that pop up, neither of us have had much time to do anything. Luckily, today we took some photos (finally) to share of the progress in the garden.

Taking advantage of the Victoria Day weekend and having a pickup truck, we moved a lot of soil, plants and wood. Last year we had three raised beds on the vegetable side but left space for two more 4×8′ beds. After visits to three Home Depots for 1x8x8’s (for some reason, Home Depot doesn’t like to carry common cedar planks, and the ones they do carry are so warped, you could wrap them around a corner) we built and installed the new boxes. We moved about 1 1/2 cubic yards of triple mix but fell short of filling both. We did however fill the cedar boxes I made a few weeks ago for our bean wall. Originally, on our patio, we had bamboo blinds hanging that were left behind by the old owners. We never used them, and we aren’t really worried about hiding from our neighbours so we pitched them. To get the most out of our garden, I built the boxes and strung glow in the dark rope for the beans to climb in a diamond pattern. If the cat will stop relieving herself in the one end of the box, we should get quite a crop of beans and a nice living wall.

This photo brought to you by Costco.

After planting the jalapeños and hot banana peppers in a raised bed, we planted the red hot chilli and scotch bonnet in hanging hot pepper planters. Special thanks to the person at my work who decided to throw away hundreds of dollars worth of cedar planks in the skip round back. This salvaged timber has helped build a lot of things around the garden this year, including the brackets for the pepper planters.

The idea behind the hanging pepper planters is that it receives more heat as there is more surface area which enables the plants to produce more peppers, faster. Downside to these planters is that they dry out easily and with the heat we have already had this year, it’s been hard to keep up. Each planter has seven holes around the sides which you plant 7-14 started plants in. Doubling up plants in the holes is supposed to help them root better, but we’ll have to see how that works out. Within the next 6 weeks I’ll start the first batch of hot sauce. If it’s any good, there will be plenty to share with those who don’t mind it being as hot on the way in, as on the way out.

Five bags of heat!

 

On a sad note, our artichokes didn’t make it through the winter. We were really looking forward to them fruiting for the first time this year, but they just couldn’t hack it. Forgetting that miserable thought, our raspberries are going bananas. I don’t mean long and yellow either. We had to weave them to keep the plants off the ground, and if the birds permit it, we should have a nice bounty of them as well. Our neighbours we back onto gave us a rhubarb to transplant. At first it didn’t look good for our latest addition, but over the last couple of weeks the plant has perked up and started some new stalks and leaves.

Raspberries or triffids?

There isn’t a whole lot to see on the vegetable side of the garden as most are still little tiny plants without any fruit. The other half of the garden is devoted to all things flowery and pretty. This is the side to see. First off is the shade garden. We added some hostas, lilies of the valley, bleeding hearts and periwinkle.  The ferns even came back from last year that we thought we had lost to the bastard squirrels.

Shady business

We were lucky to get some nice planters this year from family and friends. My mother gave us an old galvanized wash basin, and a good friend of our gave us two of her concrete creations. She is a furniture designer/maker and uses concrete in some of her pieces. These two were meant to be bedside tables with drawers but didn’t make the cut. (For more on her work, visit http://www.jeanwilloughby.com).

Planters galore!

So with most of the plants in, there was just one piece of business to take care of; the cat who keeps emptying her bowels and playing in the plants. Pretty simple really, we rung her neck, waited for rigor mortis to set in and we now leave her out the back door to brush the mud off our shoes.

Your boots will never be cleaner!

Once we have more growing and worth looking at, we’ll post more pictures. There is still a lot to be done in the next few weeks, but once things get going, it will be time to sit back and eat the proceeds of our hardwork.

P.S. I was joking about the cat, but if do have a dead cat lying around, you should read 101 Uses for a Dead Cat by Simon Bond.

Potato time!

The last frost for our region is typically no later than April 29th, so it’s time to put out some of the hardier plants. One plant that can sustain the odd frost is the potato.

Potatoes can take up a lot of space in your garden beds and are great at creating back-breaking work to keep them happy and to harvest them. As potatoes grow, earth must be mounded up around the growing plant to stop the sunlight reaching the tubers and turning the edibles green. You probably don’t want to eat the green ones as they contain the toxin solanine. If you want, give it a go, and let us know how it works out for you. If you don’t make it to a computer, I’ll come to your funeral.

Back to mounding. Why bother creating giant, unsightly hills in your garden when you can grow them in bags! In England people started experimenting with growing potatoes in different containers and have now settled on tarp bags. These reusable bag can be found at the dollar store and have a spring hoop running through them which helps keep them erect. Using a cigarette, burn drainage holes in the bottom. The burning melts the tarp and stops the hole from getting larger. Dispose of cigarette as it now has plastic melted to the end. You wouldn’t want to inhale any of the dangerous toxins in the plastic, so just stick to the ones that come with the cigarette.

This year we are doing four bags with two different varieties. The first variety is the Norland red potato which has a shorter growing season and produces small and medium-sized tubers. The other type we are trying is the Yukon Gold, a yellow potato good for baking and chip making. You can get potatoes from Canadian Tire for under $5 but make sure you check each box for mold. Introducing mold and other disease to your garden will ruin your growing season for a lot of your crops.

Norland and Yukon Gold

In your bag, add three or four inches of good soil, free of stones and weeds. Make sure that you have already placed your bags in their final resting place. These bags get quite heavy with all of the soil and disturbing the plants with a move could snap off shoots.

Dirt in a bag. Wow, really, wow!

Have a look in your box of potatoes and take out three or four very happy looking specimens. Luckily, we were spoiled for choice. The nursery that produces these ones must give them a spray of anti-depressants before packaging.

A few more days and they would have opened the box themselves.

Gently place the potatoes, with all growth pointed up, on the soil. Add another three inches of soil, or until the tops of all the growth is covered. At this point, you’ll realize you’ve run out of soil and have to nip out again. Swear a bit, get the soil, and top up the low bag. Pat soil, water, wait. Nothing happens. They’re potatoes. If you want fast growing, you would have planted bamboo (which attracts pandas, hence why bamboo growing isn’t popular in Canada).

Moments before being buried alive.

As the plants grow, you have to add more soil. Once the plant is 12″ tall, add another 6″ of soil. Repeat until the soil reaches the top of the bag. At this point, just let it go. Eventually the plant will die back and this is a sign that the potatoes are almost ready for harvesting. If you ever want to get an idea of how the potatoes are progressing, feel around the sides of the bag for potatoes. When they are ready to harvest, you just dump the bag out on a tarp and rifle through picking out the potatoes.

In no time you’ll have a nice collection of potatoes ready to be stored for the winter, or cooked up right away. Any small potatoes that aren’t worth cooking can be saved and used for potato wine or you can throw them at the pandas now occupying your backyard bamboo garden.