Transitioning between the Seasons

Author: Meera, January 2, 2013


California chili turns red when ripe

California chili turns red when ripe


Now that we’ve entered a new year and a new season, I’ve reluctantly pulled the last of the chili pepper plants from my garden. This past summer I grew Anaheim, ancho, chiles de arbol (hot and related to cayenne), banana (also known as yellow wax peppers), and jalapeno (called chipotle whenever the chilies are smoked). I save the seeds in white paper envelopes for replanting and use the chilies in cooking my Hispanic, Caribbean, Indian, Southwestern, and Thai dishes.



Cooks the world over love chilies for the flavors they add to their cuisines, however, chilies contain oils that canĀ  irritate skin and eyes. When harvesting seeds from chili peppers, I wear latex gloves (like surgeons wear). The gloves protect my fingers and hands from the oils but allow me to easily work with the chilies.


Chili peppers contain oil that irritates skin and eyes

Chili peppers add terrific flavor and heat to many of the world’s cuisines


A little tip about gauging the heat of chilies is to look at the top (shoulder) and tip (pointed end). If the top is wide and the tip is blunt, the chili will be milder than a chili with a narrow top and a pointed end. See,


I opted not to put in winter season crops this year. The clay soil needs turning (with a rototiller) and more amendments. With the vegetable garden devoid of plants now except for vagrant lettuces, carrots, and potatoes, I do winter clean-up chores such as composting, pruning, and preparing beds for spring.


The Bay Area forecast for the inland valleys last night predicted plunging temperatures and a hard freeze. I covered the citrus trees with blankets and a heavy sheet of black plastic. At sunup, the temperatures still hovered around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and white hoar frost covered everything in the garden, including the sheeting.



Narcissus jonquilla have yellow or white petals

Jonquils (Narcissus jonquilla)



A garden needs winter–a time of rest, dormancy, and chill. Some plants require many hours of chilling to perform well. Freezes also eliminate some garden pests.


Our neighbor graciously gave us some bulbs a year ago that we planted in the fall. Now they’ve sprouted and are blooming. These white jonquil blooms are similar to those grown in my mother and grandmother’s gardens (although their jonquils were yellow with orange-yellow centers). The blooms add welcome color to the otherwise monochromatic winter landscape. These and other bulbs we’ve planted will eventually render some color in the garden and hopefully a little pollen for the honeybees while we wait for winter to transition into spring.





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