Gardeners know how expensive it can get buying started plants at greenhouses or nurseries. Singles can go for up to $3 to $4 apiece. Four-packs or six-packs (smaller plants) rarely can be found for less than $3. That’s why many gardeners like to start their plants from seed.
I’ve been growing all of my tomato plants from seed for the past several years. More recently, I’ve added kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and peppers to the mix. I’ve had relatively good luck. While the whole process can be a little tedious — seedlings need a lot of TLC — the work is well worth it.
Last year, I had very good success with growing jalapeño peppers from seed. So good, in fact, that I was able to freeze a big bag of them as well as canning about 30 pints of pickled peppers. (Can you say Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers?)
Since we have plenty of jalapeños left in the panty, I turned my attention to bell peppers this past spring. I ended up with nine seedlings that turned into beautiful plants, which were sown the second week of May. The result was a pile of peppers, many of which are still in the garden. (We have avoided a killing frost.)
One of the reasons I like peppers — besides being tasty — is that they’re low in calories and are a nutrition powerhouse. Peppers are an excellent sources of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium, folic acid and fiber.
I plan on cutting up and freezing most of the year’s pepper crop for use in marinara sauces, jambalaya and the like. I’ll also keep a few whole so they can be stuffed. (There are many recipes out there in cookbooks and the internet that look quite appealing.)
Here is a stuffed pepper recipe we tried recently that turned out much to our liking. This meal alone made all those hours of babying the seedlings worth it.
Stuffed Bell Peppers
4 large bell peppers (any color)
1 pound lean ground beef (at least 80 percent lean)
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 cup cooked rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut thin slice from stem end of each bell pepper to remove top of pepper. Remove seeds and membranes; rinse peppers. If necessary, cut thin slice from bottom of each pepper so they stand up straight.
In 4-quart Dutch oven, add enough water to cover peppers. Heat to boiling; add peppers. Cook about 2 minutes; drain.
In 10-inch skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in rice, salt, garlic and 1 cup of the tomato sauce; cook until hot. Stuff peppers with beef mixture. Stand peppers upright in ungreased ovenproof baking dish. Pour remaining tomato sauce over peppers.
Cover tightly with foil. Bake 15 minutes. Uncover and bake about 30 minutes longer or until peppers are tender. Sprinkle with cheese.
Yield: Serves 4.