Hot pepper flakes, anyone?

Ripe red tomatoes and green tomatoes

Having a go at gardening

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

Those of you who know me will get a chuckle out of this: I’m going to make my own hot pepper flakes, from peppers I harvested from the garden (note that I did not say I planted or grew them). Also, I blanched and froze an excess of kale, to keep a good supply for green smoothies. And I am going to slice and freeze green tomatoes so that I can, as one website states, “enjoy their zesty flavor all winter.”

A moment here for your recovery…

Well, I know I don’t do much in the kitchen or vegetable garden. (Those of you who don’t know me, rest assured I am no Suzie Homemaker.) But I’m staying in a really lovely house just outside Chapel Hill, N.C. and it has a garden. Mark, the homeowner, planted it and uses the produce in family meals.

Now that Mark, Shari and the kids have gone to India, I couldn’t let the remaining bounty go to waste (and not to the deer, either). So I ventured out today to harvest, disturbing the early evening meal of a young-looking doe. She escaped through an apparent hole in the netted fence.

Jalapeno, banana and hot red peppersThere were peppers galore. Tiny red peppers, jalapenos, banana peppers and some other kind of green pepper. I’d already Googled how to make pepper flakes. The first entry said something like “Making pepper flakes in 15 steps.” Pass. The next one, from Old World Garden Farm, is much simpler.

Basically, you cut and clean the peppers, put them on a cookie sheet in the oven for 8 to 10 hours on low heat, then throw them in the blender. Or was that a grinder? If you’ve a mind to try this, go directly to the instructions.

To my surprise, there were several ripe tomatoes on the vines. I’ll have a tomato salad tomorrow. I do love tomatoes, but I have a problem with produce–it goes bad before I can eat it all. Right now, there is a half bag of spinach wilting in the refrigerator. It will take a yeowoman’s effort to consume all those tomatoes. I don’t know if I’m up to it.

As for the green tomatoes, I remember reading in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” that you can wrap green tomatoes in newspaper and put them in the basement and they will slowly ripen. As I write, though, I realize I must be wrong–I don’t think they had newspapers on the virgin prairie.

Never mind. Now that I’m in the South, I understand the thing to do with green tomatoes is slice them, bread them and fry them for breakfast. Again, there are a lot of green tomatoes. The good news is, I can freeze the slices. I’m exhausted already at the thought of the slicing. I will, though, persevere.

Kale from the gardenNow to the kale. Abundant. One of nature’s wonder foods. Deeply green, harboring mega-doses of phytonutrients. A key ingredient in healthful green smoothies (which taste a lot better when they include fruit, sweet peppers, cucumbers and a little coconut–all for zing and less of that sludgy green taste and texture.)

However, again with the wilting problem. Again with the Googling. Turns out you can freeze kale. But first you have to blanch it which, for those who don’t know, involves plunging it into boiling water for two minutes, then shocking it silly by plunging it into ice water. Pat the poor leaves dry and throw them in the freezer.

I was loathe to do it. Not for the plants’ sake but because I didn’t feel like boiling the water and preparing an ice bath. (There, does that give you a very clear picture of my culinary ambitions? I find it hard to believe, myself, that I used to make puff pastry.) But I blanched (the kale, that is). Now, all I have to do is stick to my resolution to drink a green smoothie every day.

This simplified life isn’t exactly as simple as I envisioned. More later…

The Resale Evangelista is simplifying, clarifying and living a more artful life.


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