Bug damage on our first crop of cayennesBug damage on our first crop of cayennes
Cayenne peppers drying in our kitchenCayenne peppers drying in our kitchen
  • Bug damage on our first crop of cayennes
  • Cayenne peppers drying in our kitchen

This was our first year growing hot peppers. We have one jalapeño plant and one cayenne pepper. We picked several jalapeños at a point when I thought they were ripe, but when we prepared them fresh they weren’t hot at all, and were more like a sweet pepper. I haven’t looked into this yet, so I don’t know if I picked them too early or what might have happened. Has anyone else experienced this?

The whole first batch of our cayennes got eaten up by some bug. It ate holes in the walls of the peppers, and they eventually all went bad. I figured our cayenne crop would just be a loss, but after I picked the first wave of bad peppers off, a new wave came on that wasn’t touched by pests. The peppers grew perfectly and turned a brilliant red on the plant.

Hot peppers are handy in terms of food preservation because they can be dried and used much later in the season, either in their pepper form or they can be ground into spices.

An easy way to dry hot peppers is to hang them on a string, called a ristra. There are a whole variety of ways to make ristras, including tying string around the stems or pushing a needle and thread directly through the stem or pepper itself.

I wasn’t as careful as I should have been when I harvested the peppers, so the stems weren’t long enough to tie the string around them. Instead, I used the needle and thread method. I used some hemp twine I happened to have on hand (left over from my hemp necklace-making high school days), which meant I had to use a really large upholstery needle to thread it through. This didn’t work quite as well as I had hoped, because the hole was big enough to damage the stem substantially in some places and I ended up having to put the string through the pepper itself for a couple of them. Next time I would use just a regular needle and thread to minimize the size of the hole.

Even after only a couple days, the peppers appeared to be drying successfully, so I’m pleased with this method. Late in the season the plant really started cranking out the peppers, so we should have a decent crop for this winter.

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