Hello from rainy Chicago! Hopefully the weather has been better wherever you’re reading this from. It’s been stuck in the forties and fifties with intermittent rain and limited sun for a better part of the past week and will remain that way for at least another day or two. Before this rain blew through we had discussed starting to move some of our more mature seedlings into the garden beds due to the unseasonably warm weather. It hasn’t dipped below freezing, but with the way the forecast looks for the foreseeable future I’m glad we didn’t take the leap. I don’t imagine the young plants would weather (pun intended) this deluge of rain very well. The silver lining of this particular weather pattern has that its been cold enough for our radiators to be back on, making it ideal for seed germination! I had desire the other week to try to sneak in a Serrano plant or two yet this year (they’re one of my favorite chilies to cook with) despite how close we are getting to the main growing season starting. Lucky for us, even though the temperature outside is not ideal for growing, it is inside is for seed starting! We also nabbed a few small seedlings from the local garden store (at $1.49 for four how could we not?) that still need some growing up before being transplanted.
Pictured above is our last few pepper varieties we’re going to try and grow this year. The seedlings are Poblano and Melrose peppers; the seed packets contain the seeds of serrano and pasilla baijo peppers.
Poblanos hail from the Puebla state of Mexico and are mildly hot, usually somewhere between bell and jalepeno peppers, and are a very versatile pepper. We use them a lot for fajitas and other meals heavy on bell peppers to give it a little extra heat without changing the flavor profile of the dish. When dried they are called ancho chilies, which is a common seasoning in Mexican cuisine.
Melrose Peppers actually originate in Chicago and are rarely found outside of the city, and accordingly, information on them is relatively hard to find. Their name originates from the Chicagoland suburb Melrose Park and are a staple in the cooking of the Italian community here. Neither of us are Italian, but both love the city and are looking forward to growing and trying them.
Serrano Peppers are also from the Puebla region of Mexico and are named for the highlands present in that part of the country (serrano means “mountainous” or “of the highlands” in Spanish). They are hotter than jalapenos and have a very bright taste that comes out well in salsas and richer dishes. They are a favorite of mine to use in chili and sauces because they add a good amount of heat while imparting their own distinctive flavor on the recipe. Despite visiting numerous garden stores, and the large Hispanic population in Chicago, we were unable to find any seedlings, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to sneak in a few peppers at the end of the year.
The final packet is the best kind of seeds, free seeds! They are of the Pasilla Baijo variety, which is not one I had heard of previously. Apparently, they are one of the main peppers in the dark version (mole negro) of mole sauce. I’m not sure what to expect from these, but I’m still excited to try them. One of the best parts about getting involved in the gardening this year is discovering all of the new peppers I’ll get to incorporate in my cooking this fall and this is another one to add to the list! Upping my sauce game.
We’re out of seed starting pods, so I’ll be placing our serrano and pasilla baijo seeds in this empty hummus dish. I’ve soaked them overnight and hopefully that, along with the radiators, our new seed warming mat, and any hummus I didn’t manage to clean out of the container will speed these along enough to still get a good harvest. Has anyone experimented with ways to speed up germination and early-stage growth? I can’t imagine we’re the only procrastinators out there. Until next time, cheers!