Pepper Problems

Red bowl with cherry tomatoes and a green sweet pepper from the garden that Nate planted.  Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

Picking a pepper from the potted patio plants puts me in a perfectly perplexing position.  Nate has planted plenty of particularly identical peppers in one pot, so picking a pepper is puzzling.  If I pick the wrong pepper, the family salad becomes an overpowering ring of fire that sends everyone to the kitchen sink—fighting to stick their faces under the faucet while screaming, “No more salads! No more!”

Here’s how we sometimes end up in this situation:  Nate has planted about three different varieties of peppers in one pot—and they’re all growing abundantly.  One is a mild banana pepper.  The other is a not-so-mild banana pepper. The third variety is a kind of sweet bell pepper.  However, all of these peppers are all the exact same shade of green (banana pepper green—a shade that carmakers have not tried yet and I can’t figure out why.)  They’re also the exact same shape: banana pepper shaped (which would be a fun shape for a department of motor vehicles building).  Actually, the sweet bell pepper variety that Nate has planted is not shaped like a banana pepper when it reaches maturity.  However, it starts out looking like a banana pepper, which is really, really confusing.  Inevitably, when I go skipping into the backyard to pick a pepper, I end up with the super spicy variety, which knocks us off our chairs when we’re least expecting it.

To avoid this trouble, I let Nate pick the peppers because he has a knack for weeding through the complexities of subtle pepper shapes and nuances.  He shares a secret language with them. They whisper their stories, and he listens.  Sometimes they tell him horrible, horrible stories about me.  Here’s an example:

“She stepped on me the other day,” they say.

“Once, she licked me to see if I was spicy. She licked me!”

And Nate comforts each one and gently cradles them in his arms to bring them inside and set them on the kitchen counter. Then, we have the following conversation:

Nate: This one’s not spicy.

Me: How do you know?  Did you do the “lick and pick” method?  I swear by it. Lick the pepper first to find out if it’s spicy.

Nate:  About that. . . they don’t like it when you do that.

Then, I open the sliding glass door that leads to the backyard and I stick my tongue out at them.  Nate swears he hears them screaming.

The other night though, Nate picked a beautiful sweet pepper, which we all enjoyed on our salads.  It was nice to eat a salad together without having to warn one another about potential danger lurking between intermittent pieces of spinach and tomato.  This one was perfect—a perfectly peppy pepper picked from a pot of puckish plants.

Close-up of our steak salad with the sliced peppers from the garden.  There is no recipe for this one–just cook up some steak, slice it, add vegetables, and your favorite dressing. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

Your Turn:  Do you have a method for picking the perfect fruit or vegetable—either in the grocery store—or in your garden?




43 thoughts on “Pepper Problems

  1. I have to admit that your method sounds much more entertaining, but I do the planting here so I know what is what. However I also will only plant hot peppers together in one container and only sweet peppers in another. If there is more than one variety in a container, I will definitely use plant markers…but that’s because we are old and Hubby can’t tell the difference.

    In a grocery store, I am at the mercy of the produce person and trust they know the difference and put the different peppers behind the appropriate signs.

    Your steak salad sounds wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m allergic to peppers, so no peppers for me. Picking zucchini choose firm and small. Apples: make sure the little end opposite the stem is closed, less likely to find bugs inside. Berries, I simply want them not green and not fuzzy. LOL! Bananas blessedly ripen as they go, but look for no bruising and separate them when you get home if you want them to take longer to ripen. When picking tomatoes, citrus, and berries from the vine or tree, if they come easily they’re ready, but if they cling to the plant, they’re not ready. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A practically perfect pepper post in every particular. My kid sister had a slight lisp when she was younger, and walked around doing tongue-twisters her teacher gave her, so I heard Peter Piper a couple thousand times. I still like peppers, my sister won’t eat them. But I love banana peppers on a submarine sandwich.
    I do ok with avocados, melons, etc. but finding a perfect watermelon still baffles me, they seem expressionless to me, and don’t act up in the back of the class, so I can’t tell which ones are immature.
    It’s tough to decide which is more worrisome, licking, or talking to, the produce! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I like surprises. Perhaps that is why we like Padron and Shishito peppers so much. They say one out of ten or one out of twenty are hot. After briefly sautéing them whole with the stems in a little olive oil then sprinkling them with coarse salt we grab them by the stems straight out of the hot pan and bite off the entire pepper. It is mostly with expressions of pleasure that we devour the peppers but an occasional howl of pain (huge exaggeration there) is part of the fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The occasional tomato is good when it comes away at one twist. In the market, aubergines with a dot ( as against a dash) at the bottom end mean less seeds and the same for bell peppers with 3 bumps. I get the ones with 4 bumps to put into salads or eat raw otherwise. More seeds, but sweeter. Females no?!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ok this post made me smile. I would be frustrated if you had three kinds of peppers that look the same in the same pot… that just doesn’t work. In the grocery store I just try to feel them to see if they are firm enough, beyond that it is just a guessing game for peppers and me. I think I’ll skip the licking step since I get my peppers at the store

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I never know how to tell when melons and such are ripe. I could fake it and listen closely while knocking on it like some people do. Are they waiting to hear an answer from inside? I just grab and go, hoping for the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I picked the wrong pepper from a pepper bar once. Back in college, after a night at the club, my two buddies and I went to an all-night place called Two Pesos that had a pepper bar. One of the guys was like let’s have a pepper eating contest! Bad idea. I grabbed peppers and we bit in — Fiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeee. I’d grabbed three raw Serranos which are no way close to today’s real mouth burners but are still plenty hot and I didn’t eat spicy stuff back then (now I love Habanero-flavored food). It felt like I had gargled acid. I felt a bit better because my buddies were having trouble too and they were both Mexican and supposedly (according to them) able to handle the heat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, no! Serranos are very, very spicy. I did a study-abroad program in Mexico for a month when I was in college and I didn’t notice that the food was that spicy. My host mother was an excellent cook. She made sopes and served them with a kind of pepper that I thought was rather mild, so I kept eating the peppers. When she realized that I had eaten many of these peppers she looked alarmed. I assured her I was fine–they weren’t too spicy, but she fixed me some herbal tea and I’m glad she did. The “kick” from the peppers came much later and the tea she made took the edge off just in time. Still, those sopes and peppers were so good, I’d eat them all over again:)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love your opening line 😀
    We tried growing peppers last year but they didn’t come to much. Letting my mum do it this year, but it’s pot luck what we’ll get given to eat! I prefer growing cucumbers and potatoes, much easier 🙂
    We usually buy ‘Wonky vegetables,’ which are reduced because they’re oddly shaped. I try to avoid anything that might be spicy though!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love the lick and pick technique! But definitely best saved to use on your own garden produce. I would have to label those plants though, that would drive me crackers! We have a greenhouse dripping with peppers and chillies, about 40 plants (all labelled 😉 ). My partner loves hot chillies and will make jars of chilli sauce once the hot ones are ripe. I prefer the milder varieties! We’ve never had much success growing bell peppers, probably because our greenhouse used to be on an allotment that we couldn’t get to every day to tend, but now it’s in our garden. We have a lovely yellow variety, though I’m impatient and keep picking them whilst they’re still green!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ha, I like your method, though I’m not sure it would be very welcome at the store! So I go from sight and/or smell, depending on what I’m buying. Though I have to admit it’s 99% smell. So if you ever see the crazy lady smelling fruits and vegetables… that might be me! XD

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha! I actually like the earthy smell of fresh carrots, but I’m a weirdo like that! Also, recently read your barracuda short story (I know, super late) and it’s great! I could totally see it actually happening in your real life! lol

        Liked by 1 person

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