Homegrown peppers spice up any dish

By Conelia Dixon - Contributing columnist

One of the most popular crops at The People’s Garden right now is hot peppers. We grow a lot of them, and they always go like hotcakes in the pantry. We have been working to keep up with the production this year…so many, many peppers! We have had habaneros, jalapenos, cayennes, poblanos, and we have banana peppers and some green peppers too. Mild peppers are usually four to 10 inches long and can include Anaheim, Ancho, College, Colorado and Hungarian Yellow Wax. Hot peppers are usually smaller — 1 to 3 inches long. Jalapeno is the most popular hot pepper. Others can include Cayenne, Habanero and Tabasco. What I find in researching is that the longer some peppers are on the plant, the hotter they get, like cayennes. They start out green (and can be used) but turn red and get hotter. I use gloves when harvesting the peppers, and you should use gloves when processing them, too. Some peppers are skinned when making the salsa and seeds are removed from most and can be used as a garnish when dried. Always follow your recipe closely so you end up with a safe, quality salsa. This year at the garden, we started most of our plants from seeds, but many of our pepper and tomato plants were donated. In fact, we received about 200 to 300 donated plants for the pantry garden! Thank you! We used them all. In addition to the tomatoes and peppers for salsa-making, we also started tomatillos from seed. They grow very well here, as we found out last year in a trial planting. We will have those available in the pantry very soon. Come visit and see how they grow!

We always encourage anyone to visit the garden, and of course we can use your help in weeding, harvesting and other work to keep the garden beautiful and productive. You are welcome. Even if you don’t know much about gardening, we are teachers and love to help people learn about all facets of gardening. We have our monthly community work day coming up on Aug. 17 and I hope to see you there. We have plenty of different types of jobs to go around for all skills. We may even have some freshly made salsa to share!

The People’s Garden, a place of peace and community fellowship, is located at Agape Distribution where the mission is to “Feed Hungry People.” The People’s Garden helps to do this by planting and harvesting fresh vegetables for the food pantry. It is also a place where community members can plant a garden and harvest some of their own food if they want. The raised beds are pretty accessible to most people and pretty easy to work in. Wheelchairs are welcome too. The ground around the beds is grassy but kept mowed and is a fairly hard, smooth surface. Sometimes we don’t have enough space at home for a garden, or we live in an apartment or rental and cannot have a garden. There are 54 raised beds at The People’s Garden and in addition to growing food for the pantry, a garden bed can be rented for $10 (just enough to make it yours). All seeds, tools, water, fencing, Master Gardener assistance and sometimes plants are provided. The food you raise is your own to do with what you want, eat it, donate it or share with neighbors. Twelve 4X8 raised beds were rented this season by community members and pantry shoppers. Come and visit us, walk around or sit on one of our lovely benches and enjoy the birds, flowers and the beauty of the woods and garden.

Mission Statement for The People’s Garden – “Planting seeds of change and harvesting hope through community gardening and education.”

By Conelia Dixon

Contributing columnist

The writer is a Master Gardener and a coordinator of the People’s Garden. Reach her at 937-726-9525.

The writer is a Master Gardener and a coordinator of the People’s Garden. Reach her at 937-726-9525.