Before I get to the peppers, let's talk okra. For months, the plants have grown tall and out, then been munched on by deer, then grown some more, been munched on by deer again, and so on. The squash bugs and the aphids also enjoy the okra. I thought it was amazing that they didn't die and just kept on regenerating leaves, but I honestly never thought they'd actually produce anything edible (to humans, that is).
But just the other day, I discovered that there really is some okra growing on most of those plants! I Googled to see when to pick it and was told that the pods shouldn't be allowed to get too big or they'll be woody. It also said to inspect daily because it only takes four days from flower stage to prime time for picking. I did get to see some flowers, but sadly not in bloom. (See pictures).
My plan is to freeze some so I can have gumbo this winter, and hopefully I'll have enough that I can bring some to the food pantry.
But this week, I've been loving the Melose peppers. A gardening neighbor gave me my first taste--amazing! (Need I remind you I'm not a native Illinoisan?) What's so cool about Melrose peppers is that they are almost flavorless but still yummy. I can't explain it. I've cooked with them twice so far. First, I sauteed them in olive oil with mushrooms, fresh basil, turkey sausage, and some other stuff, tossed in a little bit of store-bought artichoke bruschetta and ate it with mini bowtie pasta. Yum. Next, I made black beans and yellow rice, but in the black beans I put a bunch of other stuff like garlic, onion, carrot, celery, and Melrose peppers. (In fact, the beans were the last thing I added to the pot). Next, I'd like to stuff them with cheese (which seems to be a popular way to cook them) and bake them with a little bit of vodka sauce from Ambrosino's. (I love that stuff--I don't need much of an excuse to buy it!)
I cannot wait to grow Melrose peppers next year. In fact, I'm excited to do a whole bunch of things differently next year.
So, dear readers, do you use Melrose peppers? How do you cook them? What other super-secret delicious Chicago foods have you been keeping from me?