Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Stocky Red Roaster Pepper

The pace at which I do varietal reports is definitely slowing, as we have more and more tried and true varieties and also grow out more of our own crosses. However, we did try a couple of new peppers this year, one of which was this Stocky Red Roaster. A very plain, descriptive name of exactly what it is.

This is an Italian type roasting pepper, selected by Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed. The plants are reasonably compact but sturdy (stocky, in fact) and bear a plethora of mid to small (quite a useful size in the kitchen) straight-sided, thick-fleshed red peppers. The thick flesh makes them very suitable for roasting, and most of ours ended up roasted, peeled and seeded, and packed into the freezer to go into soups, stews, casseroles, pasta sauce, etc, in the winter.

This wasn't quite what we were aiming for. We were looking for a pepper to go into our Canned Tomato Sauce which is a staple for our winter cooking. The trouble is that while the plant is a compact, sturdy and good grower, the fruits have a very long days to maturity score. We got the seeds from Hawthorn Farm, who says 85 days to maturity. I note Frank Morton says 102 days to maturity, which is quite a spread. I suspect that in a normal Ontario summer, the 85 days to maturity is reasonably correct, but we had what would probably have been a more typical Oregon type summer this year - meaning that the 102 days to maturity was more accurate. Even at 85 days to maturity we would have been pushing it to have the pepper ripening time overlap with our tomato ripening time. We decided not to make very much sauce this year, and were able to use the earliest ripening individual peppers so it worked out okay, but plainly we shouldn't count on it.

Having said that, I would have to conclude that their very long growing season is the one flaw of this pepper (and if you are looking for fresh peppers in October, that's not even a a flaw). They grew very nicely, had a lot of peppers for the size of the plant, the peppers are very well flavoured - I wouldn't say mild, but there are no strong bitter or astringent flavours as peppers sometimes have - that keep on the counter for quite a while and cook up well; tender but with some substance to them. In addition to roasting and freezing them, we dried some and while we haven't tried them yet, they dried quickly and look and smell good. I'm planning to eat a certain amount of Turkish Pepper Paté this winter. We don't have much trouble with pests or diseases in the peppers, but these did not have the few troubles we have, i.e. slugs or moth larvae boring into them and making themselves at home; or sometimes peppers get mouldy spots going on in the membranes around the seeds which left unchecked will spoil the pepper. None of that. These were very healthy and I suspect the thick flesh helps keep the pests out. The plants also have good leafy coverage which prevents sun scald and also helped keep the peppers in good condition once we had to cover them with plastic to protect them from chill.

I love having things like steak or smoked sausage served with a big pile of fried peppers and onions, maybe mushrooms, on top and I've been doing that with the stocky red roasters a lot this last month. We've had a hard killing frost and I've pulled the plants, but it looks like there are enough peppers still ripening on the counter for another few weeks worth of meals. In conclusion, this is not the pepper to go into our tomato sauce but we will definitely continue to grow it anyway - it is an excellent pepper and merits some space.

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