Wednesday, August 21, 2013
In Late Summer, Clown Pepper Steals the Show
Right now the star of our vegetable garden is definitely our 5-foot clown pepper "tree." It's loaded with shiny green, orange, and bright red bells that dangle from the branches just like Christmas ornaments. It's really a sight to see. I call it a clown pepper because the fruits remind me of clown noses, but it's probably more commonly known as a joker's hat, bishop's hat, Christmas bell, or chapeau de frade.
My source for clown peppers is my trusty mom, who is a very patient, thrifty gardener (unlike me). She saves seeds from her own clown peppers, which she grows in big pots on her driveway, and plants them in spring. Every April I’m presented with three or four little potted seedlings. My beloved 5-foot pepper tree started life this way, in the spring of 2012. It survived the mild winter of 2012-2013, so now it’s more than a year and a half old, an old, old man by pepper standards.
This is one tough plant, and it’s so productive. It’s a late-season pepper and will fruit until frost. Last year I had so many clown peppers at Christmastime that I picked a whole basket and brought them with me to St. George Island so they could be a part of my family's Christmas feast. (We always go to St. George at Christmastime.) I made tacos with them, and my brother-in-law, Matt, used them in his fancy sweet-potato quesadillas.
The fruits are three-lobed and very shiny. They start out green and ripen to a beautiful Santa's-hat red. The flavor is really delicious. The lobes are mild, sweet, and fruity, with a subtle citrus note. The closer you come to the seeds, the hotter the pepper gets. If you eat the seeds or the seed chamber, your tongue will definitely be burning.
One day I was at work and I’d forgotten my lunch. I was starving, so at lunchtime I headed over to my sister Bunny’s house and “stole” some clown peppers out of her garden. Bunny’s house is pretty close to my office (unlike my own house), and she has clown peppers galore. So, yes, what I'm saying is I stood there in my business attire in Bunny's yard while she wasn’t at home and ate plain clown peppers for lunch. That’s how tasty clown peppers are . . . and how weird I am.