Grow your own hot peppers

These peppers are hot! Baker Creek Seeds' Death Spiral hot pepper has a unique, wrinkled, bumpy skin.

It’s April and that means it’s time to start the vegetable garden, if you haven’t already.

I’m kind of jealous of those of you who have a large, flat piece of ground that you can rototill and mound up in perfect rows for onions and green beans and corn. The vegetable garden has its own kind of allure and beauty that I really miss. Still, not wanting to miss out on the delight and gratification that comes from growing your own, I use large containers in a sunny section on the south, side yard for a few things, such as tomatoes, strawberries.

Last spring while at a plant sale, my daughter found a zucchini seedling called Astia. The tag said it was compact and good for container culture, so I bought it. It proved to be the best zucchini we’ve ever grown. A small thing, about 30 inches tall and wide, it produced just enough dark and glossy, 5-inch zucchini squashes for our family. And because the leaves don’t get so big, there were no hidden zucchini monsters to discover. We’ll be growing it again this year, only from seed this time. Both Territorial Seeds and Renee’s Garden have seeds for sale now.

I always enjoy seeing what novelty vegetable varieties the seed companies sell each year. In my search, I discovered a new-to-me seed company called Adaptive Seeds, located near Sweet Home. They offer a very nice selection of vegetable and flower seeds that do well here in the Pacific Northwest.

My mouth was watering while reading about ‘Sweet Freckles’ melon. On the inside it looks similar to a cantaloupe, but the outside has a unique pear shape with a green freckled husk. ‘Sweet Freckles’ is a vigorous, early Crenshaw type melon with delicious, juicy meat. If only I had the space to grow this.

Adaptive Seeds also carries an impressive 14 different kale varieties. One that intrigued me is ‘Bear Necessities.’ Looking similar to fennel and endive, it is a finely serrated, frilly purple or green leaved kale with a tender texture making it suitable for salad mix at all stages of growth; a cold tolerant variety that is mild, very sweet and adds volume to a salad. The seed can be sown in spring for summer harvest or in September for winter harvest since it winters over successfully here in the Pacific Northwest.

For peppers, Baker Creek Seeds is offering ‘Death Spiral’ hot pepper. Ranking among the world’s hottest peppers, this fruit has a unique, wrinkled, bumpy skin. It can be harvested while green or allowed to mature to bright red. Even if you’re not a fan of spicy peppers, you must admit this looks really cool.

Baker Creek Seeds lists an intriguing edible hibiscus called ‘Red Roselle’ (Hibiscus sabdariffa ‘Red Roselle’). Apparently, this fast growing plant has been cultivated and used in the tropics for centuries but little is known about it up here. While the leaves are edible like spinach and used in cooking, it is the bright red calyxes (or sepals that surround the flower) that are most coveted. They are used to make drinks and added in fruit jams. The calyxes can also be dried. ‘Red Roselle’ grows easily from seed started indoors with heat, similar to tomatoes. Planted in the garden or in a large container with full, hot sun, the plant will grow quickly and can top out at seven feet! When the calyxes are red, they’re ready to harvest.

Baker Creek also sells a Chinese bok choy called ‘Purple Lady’. With glossy, dark purple foliage and a bright green midrib, the plants top out at seven inches, making it a pretty plant for mixed containers. Loaded with high levels of antioxidants and anti-aging properties, it has a rich flavor, perfect for the wok, the grill or in salads.

Of note

Territorial Seeds:

Baker Creek:

Adaptive Seeds:

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