Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

Plant of the Week: Peppers (Capsicum sp.)

Hungarian Wax Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
Peppers are a staple in many kitchens and backyard gardens.  They come in 'sweet' and 'hot' varieties, and a rainbow of colors, but are not to be confused with the spice, black pepper (Piper nigrum).  Peppers join tomatoes and potatoes in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) and most are native to South America.  American's recent love of salsa has brought an already popular veggie to new heights in popularity.  We enjoy sweet peppers raw, stuffed, sauteed, or cooked into sauces, while hot peppers are most often pickled or used to flavor spicy ethnic dishes.  The spicy heat of peppers is measured by the Scoville Scale.  The hotter the pepper the higher the rating number it has.  As you choose peppers for your garden, remember that the ambient temperature and weather conditions will influence the relative heat of spicy peppers so that it will vary from year to year.

Peppers do not tolerate frost and cold, so plant them after all chance of frost has past and the soil has warmed.  Northern gardeners will need to start seeds indoors about 8 weeks before they plan to plant or purchase started plants from a garden center.  Plant individual peppers in full sun about 18-24 inches apart and support them with a 2 foot cage or stake as large fruit will weigh down the plant.  Maintain an equivalent to 1 inch of water/rain per week.  Pepper fruit are susceptible to blossom end rot if they are exposed to extreme moisture fluctuations (especially deprivation).  Mulching the plants after the soil is warm will help maintain an even moisture and reduce the potential for blossom end rot.

Peppers can be harvested green or ripe whether they are the sweet or hot varieties.  Ripe fruit will easily break away from the plant, but it is best to use a garden clipper to snip the fruit's stem rather than chance damaging a plant.  Handle the fruit with care as the capsicum that produces the heat can also be irritating to skin and mucus membranes (eyes, nose).  Pepper plants will continue to flower and produce new fruit as long temperatures are moderately warm. 

Happy Gardening! :)

Stone Soup

We studied the letter R in school last week & the book Stone Soup by Marcia Brown was assigned home reading that went with it.  The kids were intrigued with the idea of stone soup and asked if we could make our own.  My response? Why not?! :)  So we read through the book again to create a recipe, went through the pantry, and then headed to the store to gather the remaining ingredients.  It was a fun activity for all of us and cooked veggies have never been enjoyed more by my picky kidos! ;)  I thought I'd share our new recipe with you and let you enjoy some story and cooking time with your kids. :D

Stone Soup

6c water
3 smooth, round stones
1 tsp salt
1/2 pepper
3 carrots (coined)
1 c cabbage (coarsely shredded)
1lb beef stew meat
3 medium potatoes (cubed)
3/4c pearl barley
1/2c milk
opt. 1 tsp beef bullion (not in story but fills out the flavor)

In a large iron pot bring water to a boil.  Add washed stones, salt, pepper, carrots, cabbage, beef,  potatoes and barley.  Add optional beef bullion if desired.  Cook until veggies and barley are tender.  Add milk just before serving.

I do have one suggestion.  I used red cabbage in our soup (pictured at the top) and it turned the broth an unappetizing greyish color.  I would highly recommend  using green cabbage!

Enjoy cooking with your kids & using some more of last seasons garden produce. :)  While you are at it, why don't you invite some friends or neighbors over and have a party like the soldiers and peasants did in the book.  Happy Garden Eating! :)