I absolutely love growing cayenne peppers. They are the easiest thing for me to grow every year and have always produced loads of peppers. The downside is no one in my family will eat them except me. This year I grew 6 plants from seedlings I purchased at a local greenhouse. One plant I accidentally ripped out of the ground in my never ending battle with crabgrass. They went in the ground the last week of May and I started harvest red ripe peppers the last week in August.
This year I planted them in a garden row with landscape fabric. I ripped open holes in the fabric and dug out a nice deep hole for each plant. At the bottom of the hole a put a handful of organic lobster compost and back filled the seeding in hole. I hooked them to tiny garden stakes to prevent wind or possibly one of my kids knocking them over. Other then watering when needed, the only other maintenance I did on them all year was to pull any tiny weeds that grew out of hole in the fabric around plants.
It is towards the end of September now and we have had a couple frost watches already so I am going to harvest the rest of the peppers, red and green, to start dehydrating them for the winter. I will dehydrate just about the whole harvest, since Norah is now smart enough to ask if there is any “spice” (which is what she calls cayenne peppers) in any food she doesn’t immediately recognize.
Dehydrating peppers couldn’t be any easier if you have a dehydrator. I am still using an inexpensive one I bought for $30 three years ago and it takes a beating this time of year. With everything I have coming out of the garden the dehydrator is on most days. Once I have a bunch of peppers I just rinse them off, pat them dry, line them in the trays, and flip the switch to “on”.
I usually let them run all day. I put them in the morning before I go to work and they are usually done by the time dinner is over. You want them to feel dry and crackly. They shouldn’t have any moisture showing if you break one in half.
Once they are dry I pack them into quart mason jars to use as needed. Any time I am making things like a crockpot bean soup, chili, or pulled pork in the crockpot I will just rip off the top stem of a dried pepper and throw it in, but for the most part, I will use them to make cayenne powder and red pepper flakes.
As you can see from the above picture I am not afraid to misspell cayenne when labeling 🙂
To make cayenne powder and red pepper flakes I use a old coffee grinder that I only use for spices. I tear off the stem part of the peppers and load the peppers and seeds into the grinder and process to the consistency I want. If you don’t want your cayenne powder to be as hot you can only put the peppers in and pour out the seeds. They should just fall right out of pepper when you take the top off. Once the peppers are grounded in the grinder I usually open the top and inadvertently inhale the fumes from the powder. As I realize what is happening I will no doubt put my hands on my face and make the situation worse. I would not recommend doing either of these things. Open the grinder away from yourself and wash your hands well!
I will pack the powder and flakes into reused spice jars and sprinkle them on eggs, pizza, or into soup. My favorite application is mixing cayenne powder with mayo to use on sandwiches like a nice big BLT!