Posts Tagged: Peppers
Air drying peppers can be a fun activity to do with children. For the best results, select only firm, fresh peppers free of any blemishes or other damage. Wash them thoroughly. Then use a knife to cut a slit in the stems. Using a large crafting needle, thread light string or a heavy thread through the stems of the peppers. Hang the string of peppers in a well-ventilated room since high humidity can cause the peppers to spoil. The peppers should dry within about four weeks.
Peppers can also be sun dried. Drying peppers in the sun requires a minimum temperature of 90°F for several days, with a humidity level below 60 percent. To sun dry peppers, first rinse them to remove any dirt. Then lay them on screen trays made of stainless steel, plastic, or Teflon coated fiberglass. Do not use galvanized metal, copper or aluminum screens. Place the trays on blocks to increase airflow and cover the peppers with cheesecloth to protect them from birds and insects. Once the peppers are dried, pasteurize them to kill any insect or insect eggs that may have gotten on the peppers. To pasteurize them, either seal them in a freezer bag and place the bag in the freezer (set at 0°F or below) for 48 hours, or lay the peppers out single layer on a tray and place them in the oven pre-heated to 160°F for 30 minutes.
If you have an electric food dehydrator, first thoroughly rinse the peppers and remove the stems and cores. Cut the peppers into 3/8-inch disks and place in a single layer on the dehydrator trays. The peppers generally take 8 to 12 hours to dry in a dehydrator.
You can also dry peppers in your oven, although you may not want to heat up your house using this method in the summer. To dry peppers in your oven, first make sure your oven can be set to 140°F. (Any higher temperature will cook, not dehydrate the peppers.) Place washed peppers single layer on an oven drying tray (note: cake cooling racks placed on a cookie tray work well). Make sure the drying tray clears all sides of the oven three to four inches. If you are placing more than one drying tray in your oven, make sure they're spaced two to three inches apart for air circulation. The oven door needs to be propped open two to six inches during the entire drying process. You can place an oven thermometer near the drying tray to get an accurate temperature reading and adjust the temperature as needed to reach 140°F. Since oven drying takes about twice as long as an electric food dehydrator, it will take approximately 16 to 24 hours to dry peppers using this method. Just be sure to let the peppers completely cool before packaging them for storage.
Dried peppers can be stored for several months in a cool dark place. They should be stored in moisture proof packaging such as a glass jar or freezer container. Plastic freezer bags can be used but be aware that they are not rodent proof. Rehydrate dried peppers for use in dishes like casseroles by soaking them in water. Or you may opt to crumble or turn the dried peppers into a powder to use as a seasoning.
Source of information and more reading:
For more information on drying peppers, see Peppers: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve and Enjoy from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources accessible at https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8004.pdf and Preserving Food: Drying Fruits and Vegetables from the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service accessible at https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_dry_fruit.pdf.
For more information about the UC Master Food Preserver Program, including the Food Preservation Video Library, visit mfp.ucanr.edu.
“Tomato spotted wilt virus spread by western flower thrips is a big problem for peppers,” said Shimat Joseph, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. Tomato spotted wilt can cause a plant to produce discolored fruit that is unmarketable and it can kill the plant. Joseph advises pepper growers on integrated pest management methods to control insects.
“We believe it is critical to manage thrips early in the season because when the plants are small, they are more vulnerable,” Joseph said, “and the disease may not show until later in the season.”
He is currently studying the effects of applying insecticides a month after transplanting to discourage thrips from feeding. He also recommends removing weeds, which can host the virus.
“Some people think the seeds make it hot, but capsaicin is what makes chile peppers hot,” said Baameur, who works with vegetable growers in Santa Clara and San Benito counties.
Baameur is trying to grow a hotter jalapeño by studying the variables that raise the Scoville units, which measure a pepper's heat. For the past four years, he has been documenting the effects of different rates of water, potassium, sea salt and nitrogen applied to the jalapeño crop at George Chiala Farms in Morgan Hill.
“We're trying to find a way to raise the capsaicin level of the jalapeño and raise the Scoville units, which will then allow us to have spicier peppers,” said Jeff Sanders, raw product coordinator for George Chiala Farms.
The relatively cooler climate of the Santa Clara County area may be the reason the pepper plants produce different results. “I think it's more a relation to heat, ambient temperature, much more than just water,” Baameur said. “Cool years and hot years will result in different heat units for the same jalapeño variety.”
The amount of potassium hasn't made a difference, but adjusting nitrogen fertilizer seems promising.
“High nitrogen is promising because it produces a hotter pepper and also allows for high crop yields,” Baameur said. “Low nitrogen also resulted in higher pungency, it brings a lot of heat in the peppers,” he said. “However it is correlated with lower yields.”
“The trend lately is toward hotter items,” said Sanders, noting a growing popularity of foods containing habanero and even the Bhut jolokia, or ghost pepper. “Both of those are significantly hotter than jalapeños, but the jalapeno is still sort of the standard bearer for a hot pepper,” Sanders said. “Those are the items people consistently want. A jalapeño chip still has more name recognition than a habanero chip. And the hotter you get the pepper, the easier it is to adjust your end product.”
“When you're talking about a small amount of that pepper in your product, just a slight citrus flavor can overpower the heat very easily,” said Sanders. “So it's more important that we reach high heat levels with the flavors that our customers are requiring.”
Consistency of pungency in the peppers is also one of the pepper grower's goals.
“We're trying to get a consistent heat level so that our jalapeños going to the processing plant always reach the same Scoville unit score,” Sanders said. “This makes our end product more consistent, which makes our customers happy because then the product they receive to go into their items is more consistent.”
Analysis for the crop is based upon hypothetical farm operations using practices common in Ventura County. Data regarding production practices, inputs and prices were collected from growers, UCCE farm advisors, agricultural institutions, and supply and equipment dealers.
The studies describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for the crop, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead, and profitability analysis. Ranging analysis table shows profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.
The four new cost studies are:
- Costs and Profitability Analysis for Bell Pepper Production in the Oxnard Plain, Ventura County 2012-13, Bell Pepper Production for Fresh Market, by E. Takele, O. Daugovish, M. Vue
- Costs and Profitability Analysis for Bell Pepper Production in the Oxnard Plain, Ventura County 2012-13, Bell Pepper Production for Processing, by E. Takele, O. Daugovish, M. Vue
- Costs and Profitability Analysis for Cabbage Production in the Oxnard Plain, Ventura County 2012-13, E. Takele, O. Daugovish, M. Vue
- Costs and Profitability Analysis for Celery Production in the Oxnard Plain, Ventura County 2012-13, by E. Takele, O. Daugovish, M. Vue
These cost studies and cost of production studies for other crops are available online at on the UC Davis Cost Study website, at UC Cooperative Extension offices and by calling (530) 752-3589.
“Fifty-two varieties is a wonderful candyland for me, but it’s just a few of the many varieties in the world,” said graduate student Ildi Carlisle-Cummins, who works on a partnership project between the Student Farm and researcher Allen Van Deynze.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the pepper project is meant to educate students and the general public about the importance of plant diversity and career opportunities in plant breading.
“Peppers make it easy because they leave such a strong impression,” said Carlisle-Cummins, who has been organizing field trips for students from second grade and up. “Students become fascinated with plant diversity and variety, and want to know more about molding and shaping it.”
While Carlisle-Cummins’ personal research is focused on sustainable food systems, she is delighted to explain cross pollination to show students how to develop new varieties of plants.
Plant breeding allows humans to select for certain desired traits, such as flavor, yield and pest resistance.
Agricultural has always been a dynamic, innovative industry, Carlisle-Cummins points out. Peppers originated in South America, in the region around modern day Bolivia. Over the centuries, a few species were taken by explorers all over the world. Farmers developed a kaleidoscopic array of subvarieties to suit their needs. Today, researchers are focused on developing new varieties to address new issues, like climate change.
“The world is changing,” Carlisle-Cummins said. “It’s pretty critical we have crops that can survive new places and climates and continue to feed us. It’s critical that we continue to inspire people to go into these fields of research so we have people who know how to work with plants, so they adapt along with a changing world.”
The chile pepper program continues throughout the year. Contact Ildi Carlisle-Cummins at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about upcoming events.
An array of peppers.