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This month we chose to showcase chili peppers. Yes, we know they're not technically an herb. But they definitely have their place in the kitchen and they grow like crazy in the hot summer months!  Peppers thrive in the heat and the more you pick the more you'll get!  Sometimes more than you could ever possibly use fresh.

They freeze well and can be made into hot sauces, chutneys, chili sauce and a myriad of other delectable and spicy condiments. Some like it hot, some mild. Whatever your preference we hope to provide you with information, recipes and links to tantalize your taste buds and get you to try some of these fiery jewels.

The Botany of Peppers:

All peppers are members of the genus Capsicum, and the family Solanaceae, which include tomatoes and eggplant. The name Capsicum comes from the Greek kapto, which means "to bite". There are 26 species of peppers categorized at present; however there is much discussion and argument involved. Most of these are only found in the wild.

There are five species of domesticated peppers:

Annum, from "annual; this includes most of the common peppers found in markets including bell peppers, jalapeños and New Mexican.
baccatum, from "berry-like"; these are the aji peppers found commonly in South America.
chinese, meaning "from China"; this includes the famous habanero, Scotch Bonnets, etc.
frutescens, meaning "brushy" and are the tabasco peppers.
pubescens, from "hairy"; these are the South American rocoto peppers.

The more common names seen in seed catalogs and in markets are usually the cultivar, or variety names. References to
annum species often include the pod type. Due to easy inbreeding between annum, chinense and frutescens, there are hundreds of different varieties found throughout the world.

All peppers originated in the New World. The origin seems to be in the area of Bolivia and Paraguay in South America. Wild peppers were spread by birds, who are apparently unaffected by the heat of the fruit.

rhchili.gif Recipes rhchili.gif (1870 bytes)

Spicy Tomato Soup (from Home Grown Tomatoes)

This recipe is a very different kind of tomato soup (definitely NOT the kind your mother made for you when you were a kid)! Even people who generally don't like tomato soup seem to like this!

Ingredients:

4 cups of chopped tomatoes (try "Brandywine" or "Pruden's Purple")
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons dried basil (or 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lime juice (or more lemon juice)
1 small pepper, chopped (try "Ring of Fire" or "Hot Cherry")
3 tablespoons chopped green onions
1 small package thread noodles

Bring the broth to a boil, add tomatoes, and simmer for 12 minutes. Add lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, pepper, basil and onions. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, then break up and add thread noodles. Simmer an additional 3 minutes, or until noodles are done. Garnish with additional chopped basil, if desired. Serves 4.


Herbal Vinegar

Like a different flavor for your vinegar? Here's a really easy one! You can vary the taste by changing the herbs.

Ingredients:

Container for vinegar (glass bottle is best)
White Wine or Cider vinegar
Herb(s) of your choice!

Here’s how: Prepare the herbs by making sure that they are clean and
dry. Place the herb(s) in the clean container, and pour in the
vinegar. Let steep for about two weeks in a cool, dry place, shaking
every day or so. Strain and discard the herb. Taste. If not enough
flavor, add more herb and repeat the procedure. Label the bottle!
Suggestions: Rosemary with cider vinegar; thyme with white wine
vinegar; garlic and basil with white wine vinegar; lemon balm with
white wine vinegar; Calendula petals with white wine vinegar.


Chunky Salsa

Looking for some fresh salsa? Make it as hot or as mild as you wish by varying the kind and amount of hot peppers! (The recipe shown makes a medium salsa.)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup coarsely diced yellow or green bell pepper
1 35-ounce can tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped (reserve 1/2 cup juice)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
2 green jalapeno peppers, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or Italian parsley

Heat oil in large heavy saucepan over high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and sauté 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Add tomatoes and juice; bring to a boil over high heat. Add chopped jalapeno peppers. Reduce heat to low and simmer 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until salsa is slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice and salt. Cool to lukewarm; stir in cilantro. Spoon salsa into clean jars. Keep refrigerated up to 5 days.

Makes 3 1/2 cups.


Salsa-lotta

Are you game for a hotter, more authentic salsa? It's a little more work, but the taste is great! If you want, you can add crushed and/or chopped tomatoes (but try the original recipe first -- you might be surprised).

Ingredients:

4 cups water
2 tsp. salt
2-3 cloves of garlic
2-4 Serrano peppers
1 lb. tomatillos (husks removed)
1/2 cup cilantro
1/3 cup chopped onion.

In a saucepan, bring the water and one teaspoon of salt to a boil. Then add the garlic, peppers and tomatillos. Simmer uncovered until the tomatillos start to turn a lighter shade of green. Drain but reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid. Transfer the garlic, peppers,   tomatillos and reserved liquid to a blender. Add the cilantro and remaining salt and puree. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the onion and let the sauce cool before serving. Makes a nice green salsa!!!!

Makes about 3 cups.

LINKS

Mike's Pepper Garden - Almost ALL you need to know about the fiery gems!