Round Robin: Stretching the Light

Wyoming gardener Pat Herkel needs more daylight hours to work with chile peppers in her garden.

| March/April 2000

RIVERTON, Wyoming — Even with the longer days of spring, there are still not enough daylight hours to finish my gardening chores. I could borrow my daughter’s camping headlamp and work into the evening, but my back and legs protest.

Seedlings started under lights are hardening off in the greenhouse, and the garden has been tilled and raked. My most pressing task now is to dig the grass and perennial thugs such as asters and clary sage out of the borders. When it’s too cool to take a break in the shade of the porch, I find myself sitting in the greenhouse contemplating the future harvest.

Although we’ve talked about reducing the size of our vegetable garden, it just expands further as we succumb to the lure of the seed catalogs. The greenhouse is filled with seedlings of varieties whose descriptions were too tempting to pass up.

Chile peppers have become a favorite. Our growing season is too short for habañeros, but there are plenty of other fiery varieties that mature earlier. The hottest we have grown is ‘Bulgarian Carrot’. A friend, sure we exaggerated about its intense heat, popped one into his mouth and turned bright red as tears streamed down his cheeks. I can only nibble the point of one of these peppers, but my husband eats them, feeling the sweat drip down his neck. For those of us who can’t tolerate the burning heat of thousands of Scoville units, these bright orange beauties also add a decorative touch to the garden, wreaths, and flower arrangements.

The hot, pungent flavor of ‘Thai Dragon’ is outstanding in Asian stir-fries, and the 3-inch-long, half-inch-wide red chiles brighten up Christmas wreaths.

‘Czechoslovakian Black’ produced well in our garden, and the erect fruits developed a delicious spicy flavor. They ripened from dark purple to black but never achieved the promised “Ferrari red.” They, too, are worth growing for their ornamental value.

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