Chinese Five Color Hot Pepper

I have never successfully grown a pepper from seed until very recently. A few years ago, I bought a jalapeno plant from the local nursery and was able to harvest one pepper from it. Somehow that tiny little bit of pathetic success went to my head. The next year I started a few pepper plants in the house from seed in the late winter and planted them in my raised bed in the spring. And I got nothing. You would think that would deter me from trying again. Last year – same story except I moved them out into my newly built greenhouse, planting them in the greenhouse’s raised bed. And NOTHING HAPPENED. Even the plants themselves didn’t get much taller than 5 inches and I had no flowers at all. I decided to try digging a few plants out in the fall, plopping them in some plastic pots and bringing them in the house to overwinter. Then some time in February, I decided to start a bunch more little peppers under lights. For some strange reason, those little plants lived for months in the house and even survived a renovation – by the time they went outside, they were covered in a layer of who-knows-what renovation dust. I transplanted them all into their own individual 8″ terra cotta pots and stuck them in the greenhouse. And I guess the pepper gods were shining down on me because I have a million peppers, including a ton of Chinese Five Color hot peppers.


I purchased these seeds from Urban Harvest a few years ago. They are a rare hot pepper variety, although I have seen them popping up a bit more online in the last two years. Although they look very similar to the ornamental pepper plants that you see occasionally in the houseplant section at the grocery store and Home Depot, these are actually very different taste-wise. It is a very beautiful plant – medium sized, green foliage with purple veins and loaded with stunning rainbow colored peppers. The name is a bit obvious but in various stages of development, this pepper will be purple, yellow, pink, orange and red. The purple stage is the longest – it starts out as purple and matures to bright red. The peppers themselves are fairly small, about an inch long and 1/2 inch diameter but make up for their size in taste.


I always make a point to read the reviews of hot peppers before I try growing them and I’d read mixed reviews of this one. Some people described it as weak and bland, while others said it is flavorful and very hot. I guess, like anything, it depends on your climate and growing conditions – and I’m sure it might even vary in taste from season to season. Like I mentioned, mine were grown in terra cotta pots in a hot greenhouse. My experience was good – I should mention that I am somewhat of a wimp when it comes to spicy food. I’m not a total baby and it is mostly due to a weak stomach, but I am nothing like my husband who loves burning his face off with spicy food. But yeah, these little guys pack a bit of punch. On the scoville scale that I viewed, this one is 30,000-50,000 which I interpreted as “sort of hot”, but I was a bit wrong after tasting it and have changed my interpretation to “hot but I’m not dying”. I also popped the whole thing in my mouth, seeds and all, in order to get the whole affect and flavor. It was good though and I would actually recommend pepper lovers to try this one out – it was easy to grow, the first hot pepper to ripen out of all of my peppers, and has a good amount of hot flavor.

I’m really glad that I stuck it out and kept trying to grow hot peppers. I know it’s different for everyone but what worked for me was the terra cotta pots – it allowed the soil in the pots to warm up really quickly and they seem to respond really well to that. Success! Oh and I mentioned above that I had overwintered a few of last year’s pepper plants in the house. And I will report that this made no difference whatsoever to crop timing. I was able to keep these alive throughout the winter and they even survived the move out to the greenhouse, but they ended up flowering and fruiting the same time as the peppers that I’d started indoors in February. And the yields were about the same. The only real difference is that last year’s plants are a little taller than this years. So I probably won’t bother with overwintering again.

I have a handful of other hot pepper varieties that I will feature in the next few weeks – including the Filius Blue hot pepper next week. And I’ve got a really exciting project in the upcoming year that involves a video camera, my partner in crime, and some scotch bonnet and ghost peppers.


Covet – My Imaginary Urban Farm

I’ve got chickens on the brain. Our neighbors, the city of Edmonton, just this week approved a backyard chicken pilot project. If you know me at all, you know that I am a huge supporter of urban farming, including backyard chickens. So this morning when I read that two city councilors from Calgary were hoping to bring a pilot project back to the table in the near future, I squealed in excitement. I may already have Chicken Land plans and a list of hen names stored in my brain – but maybe not because that would be something a crazy person does, right? Anyway, it got me thinking about urban farming, so I put together a little covet (wish-list) of things I would love to have if I had some extra money to blow and I didn’t have to worry about adult things like paying bills.

Copy of 1(2)

1. Overalls – American Eagle Outfitters $76.24CND but on sale right now for 50% off.

2. Raised Bed – Williams Sonoma $475CND

3. Barred Plymouth Rock Chicken – My Pet Chicken $2.45USD

4. Galvanized Steel Trough/Raised Bed – UFA $129.99-179.99CND

Looking back, nothing on this list is outrageously priced except maybe the Williams Sonoma planter (I actually have plans to build something similar with a cold frame attachment for my deck). I already own a galvanized steel livestock tank that I use as a raised bed and I love it, so I highly recommend it to anyone. And I seriously just ordered those overalls because every urban farming girl needs a pair of hip overalls but I’d held off on buying them because I thought they were too expensive (apparently I’m really cheap). Anyway, happy dreaming! Next time we’ll get back to reality with a post about my first ripe hot peppers!

Little Green Caterpillars from Outer Space

It might be more appropriate to call them Little Green Assholes. Little green caterpillar assholes that have ravaged my brassica crop, leaving it looking like the ends were sucked into a garburator and pulled out halfway through and then little drops of acid burned holes through the remaining leaves. In other words, they look terrible and I want to kill all the Little Green Assholes.


Two of the caterpillars feasting on a broccoli leaf. And they blend in quite well!

I did a bit of quick internet research and came to the conclusion that these are cabbage loopers. Little green caterpillars that live on the leaves and munch their way through. At first, I thought the holes were from hail damage – we’d had two minor hail storms that didn’t do much damage to the garden, but did tear holes through some other plants. Then last week I noticed that the brassicas really had a lot of holes and it wasn’t from hail damage. That was when I looked a bit closer and noticed these little green caterpillars all over the leaves. I went through a flood of emotions, first shrieking “ew ew ew!”, then anger, then rationality. I found out what they were and why they were eating my broccoli and cauliflower. And then I read about how I can murder them and their entire family and prevent them from ever stepping foot on my property again. Basically, they love brassicas – so broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, etc. But when they are finished with those, they may go ahead and start feasting on your tomatoes. No god damn way. Yeah sure, take my broccoli, whatever. Think about touching my tomatoes and I’m going postal on you.


So what did I do? Well, I don’t like using insecticides, but I felt like it was a bit too late to deal with them by planting other things that would attract beneficial insects that may or may not eat the caterpillars. So I filled a bucket full of hot soapy water, threw on a pair of gloves and picked them all off the plants one by one until I’d destroyed the entire population (or at least the population in my yard). When I was sure that they were drown, I drained out the water and squished the little bastards, leaving the mashed pile on the ground as a warning to their friends (not really). Then I burned my gloves and stuck my hands in a bucket of sanitizer (also, not really). I’m pretty sure that my broccoli and cauliflower is done with and I’m probably best off pulling it out and throwing it right into the garbage bin, destroying any eggs that the caterpillars may have left behind.


At a glance it really does look like it could be hail damage but even the young leaves are ripped to stripped almost clean to the veins.

I read that the best way to prevent cabbage loopers and other brassica loving insects from attacking your crops is to throw cloth row covers on as soon as you plant them (ugly but apparently effective). I’m not convinced that I will invest in row covers as I’ve never actually had any luck with brassicas, besides kale. This year was an experiment, so it’s not like I was looking forward to an amazing crop. But at the same time, it is very disappointing when anything doesn’t work out in the garden. I also mentioned that you can deter these insects and attract other beneficial insects by planting specific things, such as marigolds. The funny thing is that I did have marigolds planted in the same bed, but at the end near the tomatoes to deter aphids, so perhaps more strategic inter-planting would have helped a bit. The good news is that the tomatoes seem to be unharmed. If you’ve had any experience with cabbage loopers please leave your feedback in the comments section – I’d love to hear how you dealt with the little savages!

The Garden August 2014

I can’t believe that August is half over and it will soon be autumn. This season has whizzed by and I feel like I planted the garden just yesterday. It definitely doesn’t look like that though. Everything is full and lush and in an overall insane state (but good insane). We’re working hard on keeping up with the garden bounty, which is definitely not something I will complain about. I’ve also started jotting down some notes for next year of areas I would like to work on or things I would like to try planting (my seed list is up to like 30 things, somebody stop me now).


My only non-alpine clematis (variety unknown) that I have managed to keep alive in my garden. I’m so glad I decided to keep a few non-edible perennials in my vegetable growing spaces, especially vertical plants. 

My staycation has ended so work in the garden has slowed down quite a bit, although I am basically going directly from my car in to the garden when I get home every afternoon, desperate to get my gloved hands dirty. This week I was able to prune and tie back my tomato plants, pull the spent delphiniums, as well as finally finish mulching the front yard with cardboard underneath fresh shredded cedar (that is of course until I rip out more lawn – NO LAWN IS SAFE, YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED!). I still have about a cubic yard of mulch left in the alley, so I’ll spread a fresh layer in the back yard and throw some around Compost Land in the back alley to keep things looking a bit neater. What a difference the mulch makes – I love the way it looks and smells, not to mention that it keeps many of the weeds down, making maintaining the garden just a little bit easier.


One of the raised beds overflowing with corn, runner beans, squash, tomatoes, zinnia and marigolds. Lettuces planted in the ground in front. A few holes in things from either hail or insects, but most everything still looks great. 

And no doubt you’re sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for me to tell you what else I actually accomplished on my staycation. So here is the final update on that:
– Processed 12L of sour cherries. I am saying right now that I will never bring home 12L of sour cherries again. But I only half believe that statement. The most painful part was pitting them one by one “click…click…click”. And it looked like a murder scene outside where I’d sat and pitted them all. Pitting cherries is a long and dirty job. I ended up freezing about 4L, baked an amazing clafoutis, made homemade maraschino cherries using liqueur (delicious little alcohol soaked gems), infused sour cherry bourbon, and then spent a few hours over a boiling water bath making jam and preserves. It was a lot of work, but well worth it. I can say that now that its been a week and my resentment towards the cherries has dwindled.
– Planted a new sour cherry tree. Or rather, bush. Yeah because apparently I want more sour cherries. The variety I planted was a Romeo and I already have a Juliet, so it seemed fitting to get the other star-crossed lover.
– Stained and installed the new privacy lattice. Staining lattice is the worst, it needs to be said. In retrospect, getting a can of spray stain would have been a really good idea. Regardless, the lattice is up and it looks pretty good – it has given me an extra foot and a half of height on my fence for about 12 feet of width starting where the fence meets the house. I planted 3 alpine clematis along the fence as well – I’d originally wanted to plant 6 but my wallet just didn’t allow it at the time. I’ve kept space open for 3 more plants and I’ll try to buy them at end of season sales. It might not be totally necessary because alpine clematis fill in pretty well over time, but I’m feeling a bit impatient about this project and I’d like to see results next year. It won’t give us a whole lot more privacy, but it will give us a little bit and that is pretty important to me in that particular space. It was also important for me to get the privacy lattice up this month – our current duplex neighbors are a short term rental and I didn’t want to feel like I was snubbing the next occupants by putting up privacy panels first thing when they moved in. Maybe I’m over-thinking it.
– Cleaned up the front yard – edged the lawn along the public sidewalk, weed whacked along our side walk and chopped off the dandelion heads before they go to seed. I don’t tend the lawn in my front yard except for the occasional mow – it is horribly neglected and I could really care less. As I mentioned above and in earlier posts (and if you know me IRL, you’ve most likely heard me moan about my hatred for sod in casual conversation), the plan is for all of the front lawn to go and be replaced with perennial and food growing space. So caring for the lawn in the meantime is pretty low on my priority list. Regardless, I spent a couple of hours cleaning it up a bit and it does look much better.


Coming from the front yard into the back – everything is so lush!


Rare shot of the front yard with all of its fresh mulch. The perennial gardens in the front yard are relatively new, about 3-4 years old, so this is the first year that a lot of perennials are really becoming established and full-looking. I’m sure as time goes on and more of the lawn goes, I will be more inclined to post wide shots of the front gardens.

That’s it. So between all of those things and the mulch, I’ve gotten quite a bit done. I still have a few little projects like painting the wheel barrow and the front door, but there really isn’t much. I won’t be planting any flowering bulbs this fall because until I pull out more of the front lawn, there really isn’t much space available. Plus I always forget where my bulbs actually are, so the chances of digging up some bulbs in the process of planting new ones is highly likely. I am planning to plant some garlic in October (that reminds me that I need to order garlic bulbs), but otherwise my planting is done for the year. I’ll just continue to weed the garden, keep up with the harvests and then get ready for the autumn clean up.

Bush Beans

My plan was to complain about how many sour cherries I had and all the work I put into picking, freezing, canning and baking them. But then this morning I decided I would head on over to the community garden and harvest the first of the bush beans. Good idea. I’ll come back to the sour cherries later on, I still have a bit of resentment towards them if you hadn’t picked up on that. 

I’ve almost always had great luck with bush beans, except once. Beans need to be planted after all danger of frost has passed and when the soil has warmed up a bit – they do not like cold and damp weather. So I’ve learned that planting them in May is pretty much out of the question, so I usually end up putting mine in the first week of June. The reason why they failed that one year is because I planted them the May long weekend with everything else. That was also the year it snowed the first week of June. So the moral of the story is wait until June to plant them, but be prepared for disappointment because it might snow in June anyway. 

So here is the haul from this morning – a 4L pail full of bush beans, every color of the rainbow. 


Almost half of my plot this year at the community garden was bush beans – about 15 or so plants. I usually disregard the rules and sow the seeds closer than the packages instruct – real estate is valuable when you garden in small spaces! It doesn’t seem to affect the harvest though because I always get more beans than I know what to do with. For some reason no one has ever tried to steal my beans from the community garden – maybe it is because they are a little bit hidden underneath the leaves, or maybe because the unusual colors weird people out. My sister and I used to add food coloring to pancakes when we were younger and left to our own cooking devices and I remember once a family friend being completely turned off by eating green and purple pancakes upon offering, even though they still tasted exactly the same. Maybe it’s like that. Regardless, I am pretty attracted to vegetables that are not “normal” colors. Unfortunately all the colored beans, except the yellow ones, turn green upon cooking. 

The other great thing to point out about beans is that while most other vegetables suck the nutrients out of the soil like little green vampires, beans enrich the soil with nitrogen. It is debatable how much nitrogen they actually add back into the soil – I’m not a scientist and I’ve never bother to do soil testing before and after planting beans. But if there is even a slight chance that they are good for the soil, it’s an added bonus in my books. I am really good about amending my soil at home with compost and manure, but at the community garden I am a horrible, neglectful gardener who fails to amend my soil. Shame on me. But if the beans help in any way, thank you little friends. 


Here is a list of all the bush beans I planted and where they were purchased incase you were interested:

Blue Lake 274 (green) – Botanical Interests
Pencil Pod (yellow) – Botanical Interests
Royal Burgundy (dark purple) – Botanical Interests
Red Swan (red/light purple) – Seed Savers Exchange
Tongue of Fire (green/red striped) – Urban Harvest

So what did I end up doing with this haul? I made a few cans of mustardy bean pickles (photo below) using a recipe from my Mom. And I saved the rest for eating fresh this week. I expect to have another significant harvest next week so I’ll be making some more (different) pickles from a recipe made up by myself, although not completely original (I had a habit last year buying expensive jars of pickled beans, cauliflower and carrots on a weekly basis from the local farmer’s market and ended up forcing myself to figure out how to replicate the recipe). I will share that recipe at a later date so that you too can become addicted to what I refer to as “crack pickles”. 

IMG_3464Mustardy pickled beans featuring onions, green peppers and turmeric

I don’t think that there will ever be a year that I do not plant bush beans. They are one of the easiest crops to grow anywhere (even in containers), don’t mind neglect and a little bit of drought, and are always prolific producers. Plus you can pick them, steam them, and be eating them in 10 minutes. What’s not to love?