a plague of peppers
Tags: bell pepper, cross-pollination, finding a home for unwanted produce, food allergy, food waste, green bell pepper allergy, green pepper, jalapeno peppers, likelihood of a cross when planting peppers, orange bell pepper, planning the kitchen garden, purple bell pepper, red bell pepper, ripe bell peppers, serrano pepper, Waste, waste and the kitchen garden
For those of you who don’t know, I’m severely allergic to green bell peppers. So of course part of our CSA share last weekend was a ton of gorgeous, fragrant green peppers. They smelled so strongly I felt nauseous every time I opened the fridge.
I’m not allergic to all peppers, thank goodness. I can eat red, yellow, orange, or purple bell peppers. These colors represent the ripe stage of the vegetable. The green ones are not yet ripe, which is why they cost so much less than their fully developed siblings that the farmer had to leave in his field at least 15 days longer to develop their color and sweetness. I did not plant any of these species because I wasn’t sure I could stomach the smell of the unripe peppers.
I can also eat hot peppers. Unfortunately, these have a tendency to cross, so I could only plant two varieties total, one in the front yard (jalapeno), one in the back (serrano).
(Two plants are said to “cross” when their DNA gets mixed by bees spreading their pollen to each other. Supposedly some plants, like tomatoes, are virtually immune to this, or it is so rare as to not need to be taken into account when planning your garden. However, as you will see in a future post, I have ended up with a cross-pollinated tomato this season! If you’re planning to plant peppers in your kitchen garden, you can put a sweet pepper and a hot pepper in the same general area — maybe not smack up against one another. It is good to separate with some sort of legume, for instance a couple of rows of beans. But you should carefully avoid putting two different hot peppers or two different sweet peppers in the same area.)
Back to my plague of peppers.
F. said he’d love to eat some. Since he started dating me, he’s had precious few. But he’s also been really busy with the start of the new semester at the university, and so there they sat in a Walmart bag in my fridge, accusing me.
Yes, they talked to me — in pepper language, which is very poetic and kind of spicy. They said, “Bill went to all that trouble to raise us. Look how fat and juicy we are. We’re full of organic nutrients and the best intentions. We soaked up all that Carolina sunshine, and integrity, too, and here we sit, languishing in your crisper, ignored and despised.”
I felt I was disappointing every small farmer in America. Food waste has taken on different connotations for me this year, now that I understand exactly what needs to happen to get something as basic, and taken for granted, as a spring onion onto my table.
My neighbor Pam was walking down our little one-way lane yesterday evening. I leaped up from my desk, my abandoned vegetables crowding my mind, like kittens at a shelter who all seem to be mewing “take me, take me!” Maybe she would adopt them. (And why didn’t I think of this before??) In desperation I yelled her name out my window. She paused patiently on the edge of the woods, and I flew out the door, hollering, “Do you like green bell peppers? Please say YES!”
So now my poor peppers have found a home — in someone else’s stomach. Don’t you just love a happy ending?