Learning about the Romanian hot pepper species from my family
I've always known the usual hot pepper species we have in Romania. Most of the hot peppers I saw in our home were green and grandpa was the one who ate them. My mom didn't like them, so she never bought hot peppers. But when grandpa came over, he would always bring a green chili pepper to eat with the broth that mom cooked for him. Sometimes, the hot pepper was red and that was because as my grandpa used to say: "The red ones are hotter." He would always let me take a small bite of his chili and I remember how hot it was yet, I liked it!
Years later when I grew up and got married, which almost happened at the same time, I've started to eat hot peppers. But only when visiting my mother-in-law or her brother, who were great fans of the hot pepper and used to pickle them in large bottles. However, my husband's aunt was the most ferocious chili eater, because she used to eat one of those bottles at lunch, with the broth or whatever meal was on the table. That wasn't for me! I barely tasted a little chili and found it very good, but that was all. Because my husband didn't like them at all, we never bought hot peppers from the market, not even for cooking.
Growing hot peppers is fun
When we moved into the countryside, I've started to grow different hot peppers varieties in my vegetable garden. One day a colleague offered me a Christmas bell pepper plant. She said that it was a rose-like hot pepper and showed me some pictures of her peppers. I liked it very much and received it gladly. It was almost at the end of the summer and even if I planted the little pepper plant in the garden, it wouldn't have the time to adjust, or to start blooming and make fruits. I couldn't lose it. Therefore, before the first frost, I decided to dig it out and plant it in a pot that I brought inside. I thought it might bloom and fruit during winter, but that didn't happen. However, my plant survived and grew more until spring, when I could plant it again in the garden. This time, it had plenty of time to bloom and fruit. I could enjoy the numerous cute bell peppers, some green, some yellow and some red at the same time, which made the bush so beautiful! I was won by this beautiful plant and I have been growing it ever since. I'm saving seeds every summer, from a red pepper - meaning, a ripe one.
A few facts about my new hot pepper
The Bishop's crown, also called Christmas bell or joker's hat (because of the three sided shape) is a pepper cultivar of the species Capsicum baccatum (also called red Jamaican bell pepper) - the Capsicum baccatum var. pendulum. It is native to South America, but it can also be found in Barbados Islands and in Europe.
The plant grows from seeds or from cuttings. I prefer to sow the seeds in February, together with the tomato and other pepper species seeds (kapia, bell or sweet peppers). The seedlings are ready to be planted in the garden in late April or early May. The plant grows rather fast, into a small bush 3 to 4 feet (0.8-1.2 meters) high, with semi-wooden stalk and branches. It blooms with numerous small white flowers, similar to the other pepper species and produces numerous cute three-winged bell peppers, which are green at first then turn yellow and become red in the end when are ready to be picked. The fruits are very hot, but only in the middle, near the seed core. The flesh wings are sweet and crisp, like a red sweet bell pepper. This taste is the reason that that I like them so much, besides their form and color.
Recipe for pickling Christmas bells...or any other hot peppers
To be honest, I like my hot peppers to be hot, otherwise why eat them? That's why I'm growing all kinds of hot peppers, any species I can find. Some are really hot, while others are just a little hot. During the summer, I like eating them raw with a broth or cabbage casserole. When I have too many peppers, I like to pickle them for the winter. The recipe is really easy and the result is delicious. The Christmas bell peppers taste better if sliced before pickling, because the hotness spreads all over the jar and all the flesh gets hot too.
I'm filling a 32 oz.(946 ml) jar with sliced hot peppers. Adding a spoonful of kosher salt and filling the jar with vinegar. Then closing the lid on the jar and that's all - for any hot peppers. In about two weeks, the Bishop's crown hot peppers are pickled and ready to be tasted. Would you like to try?