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How to save jalapeno seeds

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I am attempting to grow the best pepper plants I can indoors (grow box) so I started with jalapeno peppers.  They grow relatively small 2-3 feet and require 2-3 gallon container for growing.  While this is fine for an outdoor garden, though indoors I can only sacrifice 1 gallon container.  This summer I grew several jalapeno plants which spent half of their life in the grow box and spent our warm summer outdoors.  All of the plants produced but there was definitely a clear winner which had incredible early yields even with its small growing quarters.

I used several immature peppers (green) for salsa this year but allowed several peppers to mature (red) which I will be saving the seeds for planting this winter and next summer for future plants.  By hand selecting the best parent plants should be good old natural selection at work.

The process to collect pepper seeds is pretty simple though I must first provide this warning:

WARNING: Peppers are hot, especially the veins.  When handling peppers use caution and wash your hands well with dish soap.  Under no conditions do not rub your eyes or pick rub your nose before washing your hands or you will be regretting it for a couple hours.  Using gloves is also recommended.

That being said slice the peppers lengthwise with a sharp knife.

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Use a fork or spoon to gently dislodge the seeds into a small bowl.

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If you are lucky enough to have hot sunny weather still (week of rain here) lay they out in the sun for a couple days and store them in a cool dry place until you are ready to plant them.  If you are sun challenged like me set them on a windowsill for a few days.

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As I have said before saving you own seeds is very easy and free and as an added bonus you can personally pick the best plant to be the donors of seeds for your future plantings.  In my case I also have the benefit of a plants that is genetically grown to following my sporadic watering and care patterns.

Hometown Seeds – variety pack give away

Recently I was approached by Hometown seeds if I would be interested in receiving a variety pack of their top selling seeds, my first instinct was “woohoo free stuff.”  Though instead I decided it would offer the seeds to my awesome readers.  Well that and with all the seed saving I have been doing this year I have more seeds than I know what to do with.

Hometown Seeds loved the idea so much that they have graciously increased the offering to three sets of garden seeds variety pack, so in normal fashion enter a comment and after a week I will somehow randomly pick three winners and the seeds will be sent out to you.

The variety pack includes (1) packet of each of the following:

  • Slow Bolt Cilantro
  • Alaska Shasta Daisy
  • Giant Tetra Snapdragon
  • Elite Mix Wildflower
  • Marvel of Peru Four O’clock
  • Yellow Pear Tomato
  • Purple Haze Carrot
  • Waltham Broccoli
  • Casaba Mellon
  • Gourmet Mix Lettuce

The total value of this package is $19.80 so good luck everyone!

Winner will be chosen at Midnight 12/9/2009 (Pacific)

How to save Bhut Jolokia peppers seeds

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I was lucky enough to win some Bhut Jolokia pepper seeds from Red Icculus.  In case you haven’t heard of these they are the hottest peppers on earth having a heat rating of over 1 million scoville units.  Just to put that into comparison jalapenos are around 5000 scoville units.  One property of this pepper is the way the heat builds after consumption, on first bite it is spicy but takes a few seconds until you really feel the burn which is where it gets the name “ghost pepper.”
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Now when dealing with these peppers I recommend using extreme caution I have some pain in my nose hours later just from breathing around these things so vinyl gloves and possibly even a mask would be recommended.
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Once you have the safety precautions in place the process is actually very simple.  Just break them up and pick the seeds up and store in a homemade seed packet.  Now eating the pepper whole is not a challenge I want to take though saving the dried pepper flakes and adding a pinch so some chili might be up my alley.  Though if you want to watch some people in pain taking see these videos of people taking the Bhut Jolokia pepper challenge on YouTube.  Here is my favorite and my inspiration to not take the challenge.

I am planning on trying to grow one of these using my new hydroponic setup, well at least once I get around to building…so stay tuned.

Starting seeds in paper towels

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Most often I start my seeds in a mix of coconut coir and perlite in seeding cells or small containers, though there are occasions when it may be better to start your seeds in a simple paper towel.

Before going into the benefits first lets go over the technique:

  1. Get a paper towel, napkin, or coffee filter and spray with water so it is moist (not soaking wet or the seeds could rot)
  2. Add a few seeds and folder over the paper to cover them.
  3. Place the paper and seeds into a zip lock bag (I like to use the snack sized ones) and place in a warm location (top or refrigerator, water hearer, etc)
  4. Check every day or so do see if seedlings have emerged and water as needed
  5. When seedlings emerge very carefully place the strongest seedlings into dirt cups.

Tips

  • Instead of trying to remove the seeds from the paper, you can simply cut around the seedling and plant both into the ground.  The paper will eventually erode away without affecting the seedling.
  • You can also use this technique to plant the seedling right into the ground.

This technique is great for many reasons:

  • Allows for faster germination rates and times
  • Great if you have limited space for seedlings (stack of zip lock bags take up much less space than 40/50 seed cells)
  • More consistent moisture
  • Less dirt on your counters
  • Great option for rare, poor germination rates and/or very slow germinating times (think hot peppers with 3-4 weeks germination delays)  With this method you can keep close tabs on the progress and know after a week or two if you need to start some more (or buy some new seeds)

For the home grower this is a great space saving technique and due to the water retention in the bags it is nearly impossible to lose seedlings due to lack of watering.

How to Freeze pumpkin puree

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After making my own pumpkin puree last year, I can’t go back to the old stuff in the cans.  Last year I put the pumpkin puree into individual 1/2 cup plastic containers.  This worked ok but given our full freezer it was pretty common for these hockey pucks to fall out from where they were wedge breaking on the floor (if I was luck enough to get my foot out of the way)

This year I am using a different technique to freeze these to use in pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake (low carb version), pumpkin ice cream, or pumpkin bread this holiday season.  Before you can freeze the pumpkin puree you need to get it from the pumpkin.

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Step 1: Clean the pumpkin. Use a little water and scouring pad to remove loose dirt

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Step 2: Remove stem and cut pumpkin in half. This will take a little muscle to get through but using a serrated blade should make quick work of this little pumpkin.

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Step 3: Scoop out seeds and innards. Using an ice cream scoop scrape out the seeds and the stringy innards, you don’t have to get this completely clean as you can see below. I also decided to save a few seeds with hopes to grow my own sugar pumpkins next year using the seed saving techniques I have wrote about last year.

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Step 4: Cut the pumpkin into smaller equally sized pieces. Once you have all the seeds and gunk out slice up the pumpkin halves into several equally sized pieces.

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Step 5: Cook the pumpkin. Places pieces in a casserole dish and cover with top or if yours are overflowing your largest casserole dish like mine you can simply cover the dish with a piece of aluminum foil. Place in a preheated oven at 350F and cook the pumpkin for 45-90 minutes. The pumpkin is done cooking when you can slice through the pumpkin flesh with an edge of a fork with almost no effort.

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Step 6: Blend. Use a large metal spoon to scape the pumpkin away from the skin and place into a blender and blend until smooth. If you have a very dry pumpkin like mine you might need to add a little water to get a good cortex going like above.

Step 7: Freeze.  Scoop your pumpkin puree into a couple of cupcake pans and freeze for 24 hours.  Then using both your thumbs apply a little pressure on the bottom of each frozen pumpkin puck to dislodge.  My wife had a great idea of using those silicon cupcake liners to make getting them out easier….though we just purchased those a day too late so I had to deal with the muscle and cold finger technique.  Place your dislodged pumpkin pucks into a freezer bag removing extra air with a straw and should be good to use for about 12 months…which is perfect when more pumpkins arrive and the process repeats.

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Each puck is approximately 1/2 cup so just pull out and defrost as many as you need for your recipe.  Given there are no additives or sugar involved I have also used this same puree as baby food, which our daughter seemed to enjoy, but I opted for some fresh banana bread for myself.

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Making a pumpkin pie from scratch

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While out picking out pumpkins for my daughters I saw some nice organic heirloom pumpkins (Winter Luxury Pie) and decided to try my hand in using a couple of these to make a pumpkin pie instead of using canned pumpkin.  One note make sure you are using a pumpkin labeled as a sugar or pie pumpkin, using your standard jack-o-lantern variety will lead to very watery and less velvety pie.  So in the end, not only does this give you a better tasting pie, but given a organic pumpkin cost $6 a can you also save quite a bit of money with just a little additional work.

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Step 1: Clean the pumpkin. Use a little water and scouring pad to remove loose dirt

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Step 2: Remove stem and cut pumpkin in half.  This will take a little muscle to get through but using a serrated blade should make quick work of this little pumpkin.

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Step 3: Scoop out seeds and innards.  Using an ice cream scoop scrape out the seeds and the stringy innards, you don’t have to get this completely clean as you can see below.   I also decided to save a few seeds with hopes to grow my own sugar pumpkins next year using the seed saving techniques I have wrote about last year.

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Step 4: Cut the pumpkin into smaller equally sized pieces.  Once you have all the seeds and gunk out slice up the pumpkin halves into several equally sized pieces.

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Step 5: Cook the pumpkin.  Places pieces in a casserole dish and cover with top or if yours are overflowing your largest casserole dish like mine you can simply cover the dish with a piece of aluminum foil.  Place in a preheated oven at 350F and cook the pumpkin for 45-90 minutes.  The pumpkin is done cooking when you can slice through the pumpkin flesh with an edge of a fork with almost no effort.

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Step 6: Blend.  Use a large metal spoon to scape the pumpkin away from the skin and place into a blender and blend until smooth.  If you have a very dry pumpkin like mine you might need to add a little water to get a good cortex going like above.

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That is it.  With my 5 pound pumpkin I purchased for $5 I got 6 cups of pumpkin puree, which is enough to make 3 pumpkin pie or 6 loafs of pumpkin bread and if my math is right about $30 compared to buying the canned variety.  After making a pie and a loaf of pumpkin bread this left me with 3 cups of pumpkin goo, which I put in 6 half-cup containers which I froze to make some more pie for Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

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Ingredients
  • 2 cups of pumpkin puree (see above)
  • 12 oz. can of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Directions
  1. Mix sugars, salt, spices, lemon into large bowl.  Beat in eggs then pumpkin puree.  Finally add the evaporated milk and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  2. Pour mixture into chilled pie shell and make at 425F for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes reduce temperature to 350F.  Bake 45-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
  3. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours
  4. Note: If you are lacking some of the spices above…you can replace the spices above with pumpkin pie spice.
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