Hot Things Come in Little Packages

comments (4) November 4th, 2010

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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Casabella peppers start out as small, yellow peppers and then ripen to a brilliant red.
These Casabella peppers were too hot to eat raw, so they were dried and crushed into pepper flakes to use on pizza.
Casabella peppers start out as small, yellow peppers and then ripen to a brilliant red.Click To Enlarge

Casabella peppers start out as small, yellow peppers and then ripen to a brilliant red.

Photo: Jodi Torpey

I’m thinking of making labels to slap on the jars of freshly-crushed pepper flakes I have sitting on the kitchen counter. The labels would read: “Danger! Use with extreme caution!”

Casabella was just one of the pepper varieties I grew in containers on my patio this summer. The plant produced cute, yellow peppers that belied the level of heat hiding inside each one.

We love spicy-hot food around here, but these babies were just too hot to eat raw. A teeny-tiny bite from the very tip of the pepper was cause to sound the alarm. Nothing could douse the flames, either.

As if to taunt me, the Casabella produced more peppers than all the other pepper plants combined. More peppers than the jalapeno plants, more than the paprika, and many more than the ‘Holy Mole’. Long after the other plants stopped flowering, the Casabella kept on producing its fiery little peppers.

As each pepper ripened to a brilliant red, I’d pick it and place it on the drying screen. By the end of summer, I had a nice batch of dried chile peppers, but I was afraid to use them in my cooking. I couldn’t be sure of how much heat they'd add to a dish.

Then I decided to crush the little devils into pepper flakes to use on pizza. I figured a pinch or two would be plenty to add a little “interest” to any pie.

I waited until the peppers were crunchy-dry, removed the stems, and placed a few at a time in my spice grinder. Instead of grinding them to a fine powder, I pulsed the grinder for a second or two until the peppers looked like flakes and the seeds were still whole. Grinding too long would have turned the flakes into a dangerous chili powder.

I’ll store the crushed pepper in well-labeled jars in a cool, dark place. At a few pinches per use, this may turn out to be the most cost-effective pepper I’ve ever grown.

As the night-time temperatures started to drop into the 30s, I noticed the Casabella was still in full bloom. Because dozens of white blossoms covered the plant I decided to bring the container indoors, place it in a sunny southern window, and see if it will produce more peppers.

I’m just not sure what will happen if it does.

posted in: peppers, crushed pepper flakes

Comments (4)

texastitos writes: The cascabella pepper is a very hot pepper but actually not much hotter than jalapenos used to be before a lot of the heat was bred out of them. They are great for pickling and then the juice from pickling them is great too. These little peppers have a ton of unique flavor which is great. More information can be found at:
Posted: 3:44 pm on July 21st
Lex_Madera writes: Hi, this is my first season growing Cascabellas, looking forward to it. I'm doing container gardening, how tall do these get? Would a hanging basket work with this variety?
Posted: 10:19 am on February 8th
WhatsTheMuck writes: If this is the same as the 'Cascabella' pepper I have grown in the past, I will add another testament to their 'prolificness' (and heat)- there were bajillions of them on each plant! OK, well, at least a few dozen. Very pretty and very productive pepper.
Posted: 10:27 pm on November 16th
PeterGarnham writes: Although we grow them as annuals, peppers (Capsicum spp.) are perennials and will continue growing if the "climate" we give them is OK. Remember that plants in containers need watering, but not too much! Let the surface soil dry a bit between waterings.
Posted: 12:03 pm on November 6th
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