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Spring fever and pepper madness

Spring fever and pepper madness Spring fever and pepper madness

The Table

There is more than a little bit of madness to this time of year. We have endured the many insults of winter with Northern stoicism: The sudden falls on hidden ice that have us scrambling to our feet in the fear of having been seen; feet that freeze on the way to work and don’t thaw out until we huddle under the covers at night and apply them to the bare back of a husband; white-knuckle driving through the fury of a snowstorm that inspires a wondering of whether our lifetime accomplishments will be enough to fill out the funeral eulogy.

But now we have seen water streaming off rooftops and heard the mourning doves cooing romance in the treetops. No longer do we totter carefully down the sidewalks -- no, our heads are up and our gaze is to the horizon as we stride confidently on our way towards spring. Yes, we seem to have been gifted with that rarest of things: an early spring. With the first day or two of thawing weather, we were legitimately skeptical. March, after all, has broken our hearts before. But after two weeks of above freezing temperatures and more predicted for the forecastable future it may indeed be time to set aside the down parkas and peel the stocking caps off our heads. Or wind up like my dear uncle Norman, who had to roll up his pant leg at a family picnic and was discovered to be wearing his red union suit -- in July.

Like many people with their own little patch of ground, I find myself staring at snowbanks these days, trying to remember the landscape beneath the heaps of white. I tell myself that it would be prudent to hold off on making my gardening plans until I can see actual ground, that the pictures of paradise in the seed catalogs flooding my mailbox have little to do with my shady, harshwinter, deer-plagued reality. But every year I succumb to the madness. I hope. I dream. I make impossible plans. I spend too much at garden centers.

The limiting factor to my springtime lunacy is the expanding presence of rock and perennial gardens on our property. I once very primly told Tom that it was foolish to be mowing the forest. After a few years of attempting some raised bed gardening, I decided that I didn’t care to be planting, weeding and watering in the forest, either. Hence my fondness for artful heaps of rock and plants that come back every year all on their own.

We did have a brief moment of success in our vegetable garden experiment when we put up a little greenhouse on our driveway and filled it with five gallon buckets and tubs full of potting soil that became home to a great green jungle of peppers and tomatoes. It was a lovely triumph that produced quarts of salsa and loads of bragging rights. We ultimately decided that vegetable gardening required more extra work than we were interested in giving it every year, but I still remember those beautiful peppers: plump and flouncy Bells, chunky green Jalapenos and the pretty little Habaneros wickedly inviting you to take a bite of their searing orange flesh.

But mostly we enjoyed those Carmens, a sweet “bull’s horn” pepper that turns a lovely bright red when ripe. We ate them raw, stuffed, sauteed and chopped into casseroles and soup. They were a very satisfying discovery, and as I survey the heaps of snow in my little kingdom, I consider that it is possible that I may dig out one of those old five gallon buckets to fill with potting soil and position in a sunny spot to be home to our exotic little Spanish friend. Or maybe two or three. But nothing crazy.

Stuffed Carmen Peppers

Remove the top ½ inch from:

6 large Carmen peppers

Save the tops. Core the peppers and place side by side (head by tail fits best) in a buttered baking dish.

In a large skillet fry: 1 lb. Chorizo, Italian or other spicy sausage (if you can’t find it in bulk, remove the sausage from the casings.)

1 chopped onion 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

Once the sausage is thoroughly cooked, add:

1 can white beans, with an additional can of water ½ - 1 teaspoon salt Simmer about ten minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

Stir in:

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Fill the peppers, replacing the tops. Bake at 350° for ½ hour.

Sally Rasmussen lives in rural Taylor County with her husband, Tom.