Pepper Plans

In last week's Grow It Forward Friday post, I wasn't kidding when I said that I use cookbooks just as much as I use seed catalogs in my garden planning.  My stack of seed catalogs is interspersed with canning and garden cookbooks and my Pinterest boards are of full of bookmarked inspiration for the upcoming harvest.  As I deliberate over which varieties or vegetables to include in the garden, I'm constantly consulting recipes to determine how I can use what I plant.  

It all stems from the fact that I garden with a purpose: to eat what I grow. This year I'm being especially conscious and deliberate in those kitchen plans in order to really maximize every benefit of growing the food we eat (and our investment in the garden).  In fact, this week I started to compile a checklist of all the various recipes I want to make with my garden produce this year, so when I'm in the thick of things, I won't forget about that strawberry-rhubarb-jalapeno spread again.  

Personally, I think one of the most exciting sections of this checklist is the peppers.  This year I am growing a total of six different pepper varieties, half of which are heirloom peppers.  In keeping with last week's broccoli post, here's a look at my heirloom pepper plans (with a few more gratuitous seedling photos for good measure): 
The first variety to germinate were the Santa Fe Grande hot peppers. I picked this variety for the bright colored yellow, gold, and red peppers.  I plan to roast some of them up for a batch of homemade hot sauce and pickle the rest of them along with some of the banana peppers for a year's supply of hot pepper rings.  I'm sure they will also find their way into a batch of salsa or two as well. 
The next variety to pop up: the Cyklon peppers.  This Polish heirloom has very thin flesh, so it's perfect for drying (something new to learn this summer!).  Suddenly, my tendency to add a pinch of red pepper flakes to just about everything got a whole lot more affordable.  I'll be using them in everything from pasta dishes to a batch of homemade spicy ketchup. 
Last but not least, is Topepo Rosso, a sweet Italian heirloom with really thick red flesh.  This is a pimento-type pepper that looks, well, freaking adorable.  I can't wait to see these little tomato-shaped peppers that sometimes have gorgeous ridges and folds.  We'll be eating a lot of these fresh, but they'll also be perfect for summer veggie pizzas, pastas, salads, and salsas.  Apparently they are also a great addition to tomato sauce!  

Are you hungry yet? What's your favorite way to cook with peppers?

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