Last week I told you I got the chance to visit Home Sweet Farm, settled by gentleman Farmer Brad and his adorable wife Jenny along with their two daughters and various beasts – both tame and not-so-much – including horses, dogs, and chickens. Everyone at Home Sweet Farm not only pitches in with chores, they are multi-multi-taskers. Even the chickens do more than just their regular chicken stuff. They are an integral spoke in Brad’s wheel of pest control.
At my house, I use I.P.M. I usually pick off the grasshoppers and relocate them…..to the trashcan. (Sorry. They should have gone to my neighbor’s house for supper!) When I picked up a grasshopper - the bain of typical farmers - at Home Sweet Farm, Brad told me I was holding lunch for the hen-party! No chemical pesticides allowed on this farm. Pesticides are usually non-specific, meaning they kill anything. The balance of life sways violently in one direction and the whole thing gets even more out of kilter. But what if the chickens are a little hungry, say, without as much food GIVEN to them? Instead, they’ll munch on grasshoppers. Once there aren’t as many grasshoppers, the supplemental food can be ramped back up. Now, that means Farmer Brad and Jenny have to pay attention to what’s going on at the farm where they “grow righteous food.” The reason it truly IS righteous is because they DO pay attention. Broad spectrum pesticides are often the lazy man’s way out. All life is a wonderful system with the potential of imbalance. Sometimes all it needs is a little LESS of something on one side to get the scales back where they need to be, not MORE heaped onto it. I’m not saying I’ve never been guilty of being lazy, I’m just hoping I remember the importance of the systemic balance next time I’m tempted to reach for Rx in a spray bottle.
Okay, off the soap box and back on to the scales. The reason I went to see Farmer Brad? Peppers. TONS of ‘em. His great-grandfather – “Great Papa” Joseph DeFino – immigrated from Italy to Des Moines, Iowa by way of Argentina. We are trying to hunt down exactly where he got them, but Great Papa DeFino brought thin-skinned sweet pepper seeds to this country, either from Italy or Argentina, for using in traditional Italian dishes. When Brad and Jenny went full-time into farming, he asked his uncle for those family favorite peppers seeds, which they call ‘DeFino’s Sweet’ pepper.
When he showed me the pepper bushes, I was amazed. Peppers in the Texas heat are known as the rabbits of the gardening world when it comes to being prolific, but these were makin’ babies all over! And apparently they are just as rampant in their procreation up Nawth. Because of the relatively short growing season in Des Moines, veggies have to get down to business quickly. However, these keep producing till frost for us, which means a L-O-N-G time enjoying peppers for Home Sweet Farm C.S.A. members. Brad picked a pepper for me that was just blushing from green to red and we munched on it, right out in the field. It was delicious! He told me one of his memories of eating the pepper was going down into the basement at his Nana’s house in Des Moines and getting some of her blanched vinegar peppers. They spread them on good ‘ole hard crust home-made Italian bread or put them into salads when fresh peppers were no longer available. Instead of giving all your extra sweet bell peppers away, try this recipe Farmer Brad sent for YOU to enjoy. Or send me YOUR FAVORITE PEPPER RECIPE to share!
Blanched Vinegar Peppers By Lucretia Cimino (my Nana)
INGREDIENTS: red & green sweet peppers, ½ cup vinegar, ½ cup water, garlic cloves, red hot peppers, olive oil, salt/pepper
Wash and sweet peppers in half. Blanch in boiling water for a few minutes. Pack peppers loosely into jars. To each quart jar, add 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, 1 small red hot pepper, 1 tsp oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Fill jars with hot vinegar and water solution. Seal jars. Let set a week or two before serving.