Slow going… what to do??

Well it’s 1 1/2 weeks since sowing my seeds and there are only a couple that are showing signs of an emerging radicle. So what do you do in the mean time while you wait for the season to arrive? If you’re like me, you like to read as much as you can about peppers!!

Here’s a list of some of the books in my pepper-patch library:

What about links? What are some of your favorite pepper-related websites? I visit sites like Cross Country Nurseries year-round just to reference the wonderful database of images and information that they’ve compiled over the years. What other hidden-gem websites are out there? Let me know in the comments section below!

Starting Seeds for 2011!!

Well, it’s a couple weeks later than I usually start (Valentine’s Day has always been my tradition), but today I started some seeds for the 2011 pepper patch!

There’s a bit of a story here about some of the seeds… you see, I put a bunch of bhut jolokia and aji chombo pods in a shopping bag to deliver to some people at work and forgot about them… all last fall and all winter. I found them today, moldy and mushy in the bag in the garage. They STUNK! But I figured it would be a worth-while experiment to try and see if I could actually get the seeds from a few of these putrid-pungent-pods to germinate.

I selected two bhut jolokia pods and two chombos and harvested some seeds from them. After cleaning them off a little bit, they looked none-the-worse-for-wear. So who knows? Maybe they’ll be just fine.

I also started seeds that had been saved from last year in a more traditional way, including several Indian and Pakistani varieties.

I’ll update this blog as things progress! Have you started your seeds yet?

Fungus & Bacteria & Yuck!

Well, unfortunately, some of the peppers I did NOT start myself have some type of pathogen in them which is starting to transfer to other pepper plants that are close to them.

The leaves on the store-bought jalapenos started to display spots, yellow, and curl up about a week ago.

I consulted my favorite expert, David Halsey, at the Schedel Arboretum and Gardens, and have taken his advice to clear the patch of affect leaves and then apply some copper fungicide. It’s a relatively mild, and natural fungicide that might be all it takes to knock it out. If I don’t see improvement in a week or two, I may resort to more traditional chemical solutions.

The garden looks great, on the whole. Tomatoes are giant, we’ve already eaten half-a-dozen eggplants, the onions look great, the carrot tops are getting bigger and bigger (my first time ever growing carrots). Here’s a look at some photos from yesterday.

Most of my peppers are in the (expanded) garden!

Pepper Patch of the Past
Pepper Patch of the Past

It’s a great feeling to have a majority of my pepper plants in the ground! Yesterday I planted 19 pepper plants! I have another dozen coming mail-order from the great people at Cross Country Nurseries later this week, and maybe a few more from my good friends at the Schedel Arboretum and Gardens here in the town where I live. In the past, I wouldn’t have had room for all these peppers, let alone even more plants in the garden… what you see to the left is a photo of the garden as it’s been in the past. I’m not sure of the square footage, but it was probably around 8′ x 12′.

After day-one of tilling
After day-one of tilling

So… About a month ago, I purchased a new Mantis tiller with the intention of maintaining the pepper patch a little easier by using it as a cultivator, and also putting it through the paces by converting some of the surrounding lawn to garden space. Mantis assured me it would be easy… and to their credit, it WAS!! I now have a lovely 12′ x 18′ garden, an increase of about 100 sq. ft. The Mantis really made quick work of turning lawn into garden with very little effort in virtually no time! I probably only spent 2 hours total with the tiller running to get that grass whipped into a lovely bed of dark, rich soil. This little sucker can RUN! And the way they have designed the tines, I only had to stop a time or two to clear out clogged clumps of soil.

I prepped the new portions of the garden with compost from my compost bin, layering it on about an inch thick and then just hand “tilling” it in when I put the plants in the ground. I made sure to push a good amount of compost into each hole before putting the plant in. Hopefully this will give them a good start and help them out in the first year soil.

What did I get planted?

  • 2 Chombo
  • 4 Red rocoto
  • 2 Demre
  • 4 Yellow rocoto
  • 1 Bocskor
  • 1 Bogyiszloi
  • 2 PCR
  • 1 Kathari
  • 1 CHOT
  • 1 Dundicut

I’m really excited about many of these varieties because they’re not widely available (if available at all) from seed/plant companies in North America. Several of the varieties are from India directly, others from Hungary, and finally, the Chombo pepper is probably my biggest excitement for this season, it’s “THE” hot pepper of Panama, where I was born! I’ve never seen them for sale before, and have only seen pictures on a Canal Zone website… but a lady in Indianapolis swapped me some seeds and I’m so excited to grow them!

So, that’s the update for now…. keep an eye on this space as the season grows along!

Restaurant Review – Indian Oven, Columbus, OH

I’m in Columbus, Ohio for a few days for a seminar at Ohio State. Thanks to Google maps, I was able to plug my hotel in and have it tell me if there were any restaurants close. Lo and behold, Indian Oven was only about 3 blocks away!!

This is the first in what will be an ongoing series of hot and spicy restaurant reviews on this site. Whenever I travel (which isn’t often) I always seek out Indian restaurants. It’s my favorite cuisine, by far… and you can almost always get it spicy!

I’m in Columbus, Ohio for a few days for a seminar at Ohio State. Thanks to Google maps, I was able to plug my hotel in and have it tell me if there were any restaurants close. Lo and behold, Indian Oven was only about 3 blocks away!!

Indian Oven Facade
Indian Oven Facade

According to its website, Indian Oven offers “both traditional Indian and Bengali dishes, as well as modern takes on cherished recipes…” Their menu was relatively extensive, although maybe not as thorough as some other Indian restaurants I’ve been to.

I was greeted and seated by the very friendly owner, and was brought fresh papadums and an amount of mint chutney within a minute of being seated. Papadums are hard to review, but needless to say, these were fresh, crispy and yummy. The mint chutney was very bright, sour, fresh, and wonderful… with a hint of heat!

After perusing the menu and hearing the specials of the day from my very friendly and informative waitress, I decided to order some pakoras for an appetizer, and the lamb masala for my main course… with a garlic naan on the side. I ordered the main dish “Very spicy” and had to convince my server that I really meant that. 🙂 I appreciate that though… lots of people don’t know how Indian dishes are spiced. Her words of caution only strengthened my resolve.

Pakoras
Pakoras

The pakoras were brought almost immediately! They were hot, crisp on the outside, and tender on the inside. Perfectly done, and wonderfully flavored! Served up with another “thimble” of the mint chutney, these little buggers were a delicious start to the meal. I ate about half of them and had the balance boxed up and have them in the hotel room for a late snack tonight!

Lamb masala
Lamb masala

Next up was the main dish! My eyes popped When she brought me the lamb masala. It was different than I had expected, being more accustomed to a “soupier” curry, but it was really beautiful! The dish had a lovely brownish/red color that was punctuated with the bright red and green of the bell peppers. I dished out about half the basmati rice and about half of the serving of the masala and dug in. The dish was rich, and complex. The garam masala flavor came through and was complimented with a sweet tomato taste… and as is true with all the best Indian meals… every bite was a little different!

The lamb itself was tender, juicy and rich. My only complaint was that some of the pieces were a little bit big for my liking. Also in the mix were the aforementioned peppers, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and sliced hard-boiled eggs. Egg curry was one of my very first exposures to Indian food, so this was a very welcome flavor! The dish was spicy, but it was by no means what I’d call “very spicy.” It left my mouth with a warm tingle, but wasn’t what I was used to. Not saying that’s bad, but it was milder than I anticipated based upon the earlier warnings.

The garlic naan was nice, it wasn’t anything remarkable, and was probably wonderful for most, but it was a little puffy/chewy for my tastes. Still, it did a great job of sopping up the juices and enveloping bites. I think it was a little filling for my liking, I prefer my breads thin and almost crispy.

Rasmalai
Rasmalai

Finally, my wonderful and attentive server asked me if I’d like some dessert. And while I WAS stuffed, I saw my favorite, rasmalai, on the menu, so I couldn’t pass it up!! Again, it was different than I was used to, but make no mistake, it was delicious!! The balls of cheese were round and dense and tasted like an Indian sweet as opposed to a savory paneer. The thick sauce was so sweet and smooth… it was a nice sweet cool-down to a spicy meal.

Interior of Indian Oven
Interior of Indian Oven

I’ve been to lots of Indian restaurants and Columbus’ Indian Oven ranks near the top of that list. I hold Tandoor Cuisine of India in Toledo as the standard to which all others are judged, and while Indian Oven falls short, it’s not by much! Flavor and portions were great! The atmosphere, while nice enough, could have been anything. If it wasn’t for the music, I wouldn’t have known it was an Indian restaurant. And the biggest knock from me was the cost. My meal was $37… which is normally what my wife and I tally up together when we eat in Toledo.

All things considered, if you’re in Columbus and you like great Indian food and don’t mind paying for it, the Indian Oven is a wonderful choice! I’ll give it 4 out of 5 peppers!

Indian Oven
427 E. Main St.
Columbus, OH 43215
www.indianoven.com