As I sit at the computer, I hear the drone of the tractor outside. Larry’s preparing the fall garden plot, preparing to plant all the traditional fall greens—mustard, turnips, collards, rutabagas, and cabbage. Larry and I grew up eating those staples, but he’s added broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and spinach—sometimes chard. We’re hoping and praying that this garden won’t drown as the summer garden did. We lost just about everything except the peppers. The cayenne and bell peppers produced profusely all summer. I’ve frozen and canned enough to last a good 20 years at least, but Larry doesn’t want to waste even the tiniest of the cayenne peppers.
On average we use one, maybe two jars a year of pickled peppers. Traditionally, folks in these parts serve the peppers with those fall greens I was just talking about, and I, good southerner that I am, find them right tasty that way. I remember Mama telling me that you only have to grow peppers about every 4 years or so. One summer’s produce canned will last several years. I conveyed her wisdom to Larry, but he doesn’t listen. He’s gone pepper mad.
Last summer he grew (against my advice) a row of habanero peppers. We like to try new varieties, so I agreed to a few plants. Now, I understand that the word few is ambiguous. I was thinking 2 to 4 plants; he planted 12 to 24. We had so many that he was picking them into trash bags. I pickled some, but they were too hot to eat. I tucked some into the pickled okra, making the okra too hot to eat. We dried some in the oven at low temperatures, and when they were drying, the air in the whole house made my eyes water. Needless to say, we handled those peppers with gloves. On a scale of 1 to 10, they were about a 19.
This year I told Larry that I expected him to eat all the habaneros that he grew. He planted not one. We have a few jalapeños and several cayennes, which are still producing prolifically. I’m chopping the red cayenne peppers into green pickled okra for a festive appearance, so I can set them around the house for decoration. I’ve pickled them and given many away. I’m getting desperate though, and desperate times call for desperate measures. When Larry brings me in one bucket too many, I wait till he’s sleeping, take my shovel and those peppers out behind the old shed, and bury them. What’s a farmer’s wife to do? I’ll bet this practice is not new either. I can imagine a long line of desperate women sneaking around in the dark with shovels and peppers.
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