What to do with that abundance of peppers in the garden, and how to preserve your harvest – press enterprise

Late summer and early fall are the hottest months of the year in Southern California. Extreme heat (often over 100 degrees) is difficult to garden, but good for peppers and hot peppers.

Every spring we go crazy planting hot peppers and every fall we are inundated with hundreds of fruits. We have grown Serrano, Anaheim, Poblano, Jalapeño, Habanero, Ghost, Carolina Reaper, and Scorpion peppers, to name a few. They really thrive in heat if watered regularly, and they are relatively resistant to damage from pests. A notable exception is the tomato hornworm, so we try to spray regularly with BT (caterpillar killer or Bacillus thuringiensis).

What can you do with so many hot peppers? You can of course give them away, but most people will only want a handful. You can let your teenage son and his friends have fun by challenging each other to eat them. You can also use them in some of your favorite recipes, but you will still have plenty of chili peppers left.

The best way to store peppers is probably to dry them (in the sun or in the oven) and then freeze them. They can also be frozen undried. If desired, they can be marinated or used in any tested and approved salsa recipe.

One summer I had so many Habaneros and Harvest Peppers that I replaced 3 cups of chopped peppers with 3 cups of chopped peppers in a tested salsa recipe. Most approved canning recipes will specify that hot and sweet peppers are interchangeable if the total volume of peppers remains the same. For example, if the recipe calls for 3 cups of peppers, you can substitute 1 cup of hot peppers and 2 cups of peppers. (Always follow recipe directions, including directions for finely chopping ingredients.) When I added the chopped hot peppers to the already simmering tomato mixture, I was almost blown away by the fumes. I knew I had something good!

My kids grew up on hot peppers, so they have a very high tolerance for spicy foods. They loved my “Breaking Bad” salsa and are sharing it with their more adventurous friends. It was so hot I could barely take it. One afternoon I found my 13 year old daughter sitting at the kitchen table with a bag of crisps, a small dish of salsa and a box of Kleenex. She alternated between eating a crisps dipped in salsa and wiping the tears from her eyes. I stopped dead and she looked up at me and said, “It hurts, but I can’t stop eating it.” This is the strangely addictive nature of capsaicin.

Remember to wear gloves when handling hot peppers as the burning sensation will persist if you come in contact with the seeds or their membranes.

If you eat a chili and find it is too hot for you, take a teaspoon of honey and roll it around your mouth to calm the burning sensation.

Here is an overview of the methods for preserving fruits and vegetables from the garden:

Frozen Drying
Apples Not recommended Yes
Apricots Yes Yes
peppers Yes Yes
Berries Yes Yes
Carrots Yes Yes
Cauliflower Yes No
Cherries Yes Yes
Chili peppers Yes Yes
Citrus Juice only No
But Yes Yes
Figs Not recommended Yes
Green beans Yes Yes
Green vegetables Yes Yes
Peaches Yes Yes
Plums Yes Yes
Pears Not recommended Yes
Squash (Summer) Not recommended Yes
Squash (Winter) Yes Not recommended
Tomatoes Yes Yes

Have questions? Send an email to [email protected]


Looking for more gardening tips? Here’s how to contact the Master Gardener program in your area.

Los Angeles County

[email protected]; 626-586-1988; http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu/UC_Master_Gardener_Program/

Orange County

[email protected]; 949-809-9760; http://mgorange.ucanr.edu/

Riverside County

[email protected]; 951-683-6491 ext 231; https://ucanr.edu/sites/RiversideMG/

San Bernardino County

[email protected]; 909-387-2182; http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/

About Francis Harris

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