Monthly Archives: January 2010

Chili Weather

Patsy Bell HobsonPatsy Bell Hobson is a garden writer and a travel writer. For her, it’s a great day when she can combine the two things she enjoys most: gardening and traveling. Visit her personal blog at and read her travel writings at

Chili herbs and spices are easy to grow in the heat of my full-sun zone 6 garden. However, it is the impending snowstorm that has gotten me to start thinking about chili. As you page through the seed catalogs this winter, consider growing a salsa garden or a chili garden. Peppers are colorful enough to plant in a full-sun flower bed—not for the flowers, which are usually small, white and unremarkable. The foliage can be lush and the color variety of the peppers ranges as wide as the heat levels.

Nutrients in peppers depend on the variety and maturity. Both sweet and hot peppers are high in vitamins A and C. If you make your own chili seasoning, you will get many levels of taste and a lot less salt.

Chili con carne ingredients change according to the region and the cook.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Start with ancho chili peppers, the key ingredient in chili seasonings. These rich and flavorful peppers have very little heat. I buy whole, dried peppers and crush them in a plastic bag for pepper flakes. The best way to crush any kind of dried pepper is to place them inside of a heavy plastic zipper bag. Then, smash the dried peppers.

Use gloves when working with peppers. Even the slightly hot peppers can burn. I can’t say this enough: WEAR GLOVES. If you don’t have gloves, put your hands in plastic produce bags or plastic zipper bags.

Capsicums are what make spicy dishes hot. Add chipotle, cayenne and/or jalapeno to the ancho in chili to give it spice and heat. Start with just a little hot pepper. It’s easy to add more heat later.

1-4-2010-1 1-4-2010-2
Left: Dried poblanos (Capsicum annuum) are used in chili.
Right: Fresh and versitile, poblanos are used to make chili rellenos.
Photos courtesy
Wikimedia Commons

If you want to grow your own chili peppers, look for poblano pepper seeds or plants. Green anchos are stuffed and used to make chili rellenos. These triangular peppers are the dried version of the poblano chile—the most common dried pepper in Mexico.

To make your own chili powder, start with ground ancho chili pepper. Add cumin and Mexican oregano. Then, add onion and garlic. I use fresh onion and garlic because it is readily available, but you can use garlic and onion powder. Finally, add hot peppers to taste.

Here is a salt-free chili seasoning mix. This is a guide. Add more or less of any ingredient to make this your own special chili powder. With the rich flavors of your own chili powder, you won’t miss the salt.

Chili Seasoning Mix

• 3 tablespoons ground ancho
• 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano, dried
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• ¼ teaspoon cayenne

Some chili recipes include tumeric, dried mustard, thyme, cinnamon or paprika. So don’t be shy—chili is an easy dish to experiment with and learn about the depth and flavor of herbs and spices. Original Texas-style chili contains no beans or tomatoes, so be creative.

We will talk about other traditional Mexican herbs and seasoning to plant in a salsa or chili garden. Be on the lookout as those catalogs come rolling in.


How to grow peppers:

AgriLife Extension
University of Illinois Extension

Pepper seeds and plants:

The Cook’s Garden
Renee’s Garden Seed

Chili spices:

Penzeys Spices

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day January 2010

I decided to be a little more consistant with Bloom Day postings this year, hence this flowerless January post. Flowerless is OK. One of my favorite cakes is a flourless chocolate cake. But I digress.

The only flowers that are blooming in my home are in the seed catalogs. One thing I did notice this holiday season is that bromeliads were used at a couple of malls and a restaurant instead of the traditional poinsettia.

One plant that I do not think of when I think about bromeliads is the pineapple.

It’s obviously a bromeliad when you see a pineapple growing. But I rarely see a pineapple as a plant.

It’s as if the seed catalog industry hasn’t heard about global warming. They keep putting out paper catalogs with astonishing frequency.

Wish I could say Let’s make a deal.
You only send one catalog a year. And I, knowing that, will keep this one catalog all year.

Richters Herbs – Medicinal, Culinary, Aromatic – Plants & Seeds. The Canadian nursery offering an extensive selection of culinary, medicinal, and aromatic herbs.

I keep Richters catalog all year, frequently referring to it as a valuable reference tool.

Or, Better Yet, just put the catalog online. That’s how I order my plants and seeds. So you do know I am smart enough to find you online.

Renee’s Garden
seed catalog is only on line. She doesn’t even print a paper catalog.

Think Spring Garden Festival

The 10th Annual Spring Garden Festival at Baker Creek is Sunday and Monday, May 2 & 3, (Sunday & Monday) 2010 – 10am – 7pm

Come celebrate spring with renowned musicians, national speakers, historic demonstrators, food activists, western re-enactors, organic growers, gourmet chefs, see historic farm animals & poultry, and meet Ozarkian crafters.

Join more than 6,000 visitors at the spring garden festival of seeds, plants, music, culture and the celebration of historic foods. A hundred local vendors of plants, Ozark crafts, and hand made products will be on hand along with over sixty musicians on 3 stages filled with old-time music.

Learn more about heirloom gardening, seed saving, homesteading, eating local and preserving your harvest by guest speakers.

The Festival is held at Baker Creek village and farm, near Mansfield, MO. Come to Mansfield and follow signs. Free tent and RV camping; no need to register. There are also hotels in the local area or an hours drive west is Springfield. Food is available at the festival.

Spring Garden Festival is at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company,
2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, MO 65704, phone (417) 924-8917

Springfield, Missouri, Convention & Visitors Bureau Tourist Information Center
: 3315 E. Battlefield Road, Springfield, MO 65804.

Admission: $5.00 per person, pay at the event. Children 16 and under are free. All pets over 20 lbs must be pre-approved. No weapons.

Vendors, this is Baker Creek’s largest heritage garden event. Vendors and crafters, call for info: 417-924-8917. (Spaces are limited) Space is free to non-profits & those providing historic demonstrations.

Read more Ozarks Travel Examiner

Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits & Herbs: A Bountiful, Healthful Garden for Lean Times

Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits & Herbs: A Bountiful, Healthful Garden for Lean Times (Paperback)

Jim W. Wilson (Author), Walter Chandoha (Photographer).

Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits & Herbs: A Bountiful, Healthful Garden for Lean Times by Jim Wilson shows us practical ways to save time, energy and money in our own back yard.

Even before we get to the Table of Consents, Jim Wilson lays down some common since rules in Health and Safety First. If this is the only page you read it will keep you in the garden and out of the first aide kit.

In plane terms, the book is about the science of gardening combined with hands on experience. Plus, every gardeners delima of too many squash is at last resolved by the kid friendly pizza squash solution.

I had the pleasure of reading the book cover to cover. If you just came from a buying frenzy at a spring plant sale, it’s good to know you can read the book in the I-need-to-know-now order, each chapter being a complete lesson or topic.

Chapter 6 is a every thing you need to know about a particular vegetable. Chapter 7 focuses on fruit and chapter 8 is about growing herbs – often neglected in the home garden. Then there is a quick overview of organic gardening practices.

The 10th and final chapter is about helping ourselves and our neighbors. Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits & Herbs: A Bountiful, Healthful Garden for Lean Times encourages us to share what we know and share what we grow.

This book is a clear and simple guide for beginning gardeners. It is also a gentle remider to the more experienced gardener that there is alway something new to learn in our back yard.

Homegrown Vegetables, Fruits & Herbs: A Bountiful, Healthful Garden for Lean Times (Paperback)

Jim W. Wilson (Author), Walter Chandoha (Photographer).

Details: Paperback: 192 pages Publisher: Creative Homeowner; First edition (December 7, 2009) Language: English ISBN-10: 1580114717 ISBN-13: 978-1580114714

Review by Patsy Bell Hobson

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