Last September I wrote a post, Chili Peppers in History and in Your Garden
about a presentation I saw by Dave Baumler. Last year he grew 50 different types of peppers here in Madison. This year he is starting over 100 different types, and he told me all about it yesterday.
When you’ve already got 50 kinds of peppers in your garden, do you really need 50 more? Baumler feels certain there is a lot more to learn from peppers. He has started seeds gathered from around the world.
“One of the things I’m noticing is the subtle flavors in peppers,” he says. “Once you get past the hot, I’m starting to find there are a lot of different fruity profiles in the various varieties. For example, there is a pepper variety that has a lemony flavor. Some are more like apricot or green apple. Some remind you of a sweet raisin. There is a variety we grew that actually started to taste like melon. I’m starting a variety I ordered from Malaysia that supposedly has a pineapple flavor.”
With most peppers the heat hits instantly in the front of your mouth, but with habanero peppers, it hits a little later in the back of your throat. That gives you time to appreciate its nuance.
In some peppers, you don’t even have to dodge the burn to appreciate their flavors. Last year Baumler was given two varieties of habanero peppers that have been bred to have no heat.
“There is a really great flavor profile in these peppers,” he says. “Last year my wife was making an Italian orzo dish, and asked me for some peppers. We roasted these mild habaneros in the oven. The whole house smelled fantastic, and it was the best orzo.”
This year Baumler has tracked down more heatless habanero varieties. “You can boost the flavor without having to boost the heat,” he says. “I have red, yellow and orange varieties, and I also have a jalapeño that has been bred to have no heat.”
“I’m training my pallet to pull those flavors out and note what they are,” he says. “There are so many pepper flavors that have not been appreciated here. If the only peppers you have tried are bells from the grocery store — you have no idea! These peppers taste nothing like that.”
Because peppers are also ornamental, he is also expanding the color range of his peppers. Last year there were no blue or black peppers in his garden. This year he is starting a black habanero. It should look interesting growing next to his white peppers. And he will also try a Filius Blue Pepper. The entire plant is supposed to be blue.
“Right now I have started 104 varieties, and my goal is to have at least 10 plants of each.”
His hopes to have over 1,000 of these hard-to-find pepper plants for sale.
If you are curious to learn more, he’ll be presenting a workshop, “The History and Evolution of Chili Peppers,” Saturday May 21 at 10 a.m. and noon at Paradigm Gardens, 4501 Helgesen Drive in Madison, WI.
For anyone interested in seeing what’s really possible , this workshop could be your ticket to Pepperland.
Here are the details:
Workshop pre-registration is $15 ($20 on the day of the event) and includes an interactive lecture, appetizers and a jar of one of Dr. Dave’s tasty chili pepper jams, salsas or jellies.
Call (608) 241-3800 to reserve a spot.
Participants will leave with handouts full of pepper-growing tips, and will have the first opportunity to purchase many of the amazing peppers Baumler is starting right now. Any peppers not sold at the workshop will be available at Paradigm Gardens for the rest of the weekend. Baumler’s collection might represent the broadest selection of peppers available in the Midwest.
Baumler will also be speaking about peppers Saturday April 2 at a fund raiser for the Sauk County Master Gardener Association. The event takes place from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at West Square Building, 505 Broadway, Baraboo, WI.
Wherever you get your pepper plants, Baumler has some advice for pepper growing success here in the Midwest.
Don’t put them out too early.
“The ground needs to be at least 55 degrees – that means night time temperatures above 55. If you put them out too early, they will just stall and never mature,” he says. “ I learned that the hard way.”
Everyone gets the planting bug in April, but the last week in May is probably the time to put your peppers outdoors.
all photos courtesy of Dave Baumler
Categories: SUSTAINABLE FOOD