The Fiery Farmer: Growing and preserving habanero peppers (and memories) in South Texas

“A fiery poet is nothing if not the fire that burns the fuel that runs the world.” -Anonymous 

When it comes to the garden at the Czech Out Ranch I am the caretaker of all things growing. Don’t get me wrong, Adam helps me tremendously with preparation and planting, but I make the at least daily trip to water, weed, pick and admire our growing gifts.

The exception to this is when the habanero peppers start to ripen. All of the sudden there is a tall, bearded man wandering around the garden helping me by plucking tiny tomatoes and beautiful peppers with his large hands. A fan of spicy food, Adam enjoys eating these hot peppers raw with meals. While I am not that brave, I do love spicy food and enjoy them chopped or mixed into our meals in various ways.

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Hidden gems in the Czech Out Ranch garden

Brushing back the plant’s leaves, one can count the numerous peppers that hide underneath. There is something invigorating about peering at the garden from afar and seeing a splash of orange amidst the sea of green. Habanero peppers were made for Texas heat. Starts planted into the ground in March, our peppers started appearing early in June and were darn well piling up on the kitchen counter by July.

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The Fiery Farmer

Every time I see a habanero pepper I am reminded of our honeymoon at Coco Plum Island Resort in Belize. A small beautiful country in Central America, Belize shares (and often fights about) its border with Guatemala. Belize however, takes pride in this tiny orange pepper and it is often incorporated into each meal. During our stay we admired a wild version of the habanero growing in the jungles of the Mayflower Bocawina National park located on the edge of the Mayan Mountain range. The peppers were affectionately plucked and eaten raw by our guide, Byron.

Belize should be proud of the habanero pepper, it is home to one of the most famously exported habanero pepper sauces in the world, Marie Sharp’s.  Each meal, aside from a breakfast of fresh fruit, is accompanied by this pepper sauce. Since our trip to Belize, Adam and I keep a bottle of Marie Sharp’s in the fridge 24/7.

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Wild Habanero peppers growing in the Mayan Mountains.

When people see how many habanero pepper plants we plant each year they think we are crazy. What are you going to do with ALL those peppers? They ask. Inspired by our love for Belize we decided to preserve our Czech Out Ranch habanero peppers by making our own Belizian style habanero pepper sauce.

Ingredients needed:

  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup carrot chopped (about two whole carrots)
  • 2 cups water
  • 10-15 habanero peppers, seeded and fine chopped (wear gloves!!) 
  • 3-4 tablespoons lime juice (about two limes worth)
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

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 Directions: 

  1. Saute garlic in cast iron skillet
  2. Add the chopped onion, carrots, and water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until the carrots are soft. About 20 minutes. 
  3. Remove from heat; Add chopped habaneros, lime juice, salt and vinegar to carrot mixture.
  4. Let cool.
  5. Place in a blender or if you’re like us and only have a small chopper, place in chopper in batches and blend till desired texture. If you like a very smooth pepper sauce invest in a blender. 
  6. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. Keep refrigerated.
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The final product!

Ultimately food is a connection. Sometimes the smell, the taste or even just the sight of a certain food can bring back a memory. It is important to me to continue to remember and be inspired by those feel good moments. The habanero pepper is one of those foods that incites good memories of young love. Ultimately, that brings me back to my strong connection with Adam, our marriage and our dream to own property to do the things we do- like grow our own food.

We love habanero peppers so much that we named our recently adopted orange kitten, you guessed it, Habanero! 

If you ever get the chance to visit Belize I highly recommend it. The Caribbean sea is crystal clear, fishing is out of this world and with a history as a British colony, it’s people are an exotic mix of races, languages and cultures. Prior to colonization of course, the Mayan people ruled the land which adds to it’s uniqueness.

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Avid hikers (or so we thought), Adam and I were the only tourists at our premier island resort who insisted on going to the mainland to exercise during our stay. Byron, on his day off I might add, took us hiking despite his warnings that, “Nobody wants to do that!” Lots of sweat, tears (from me) probably near heat exhaustion later, Byron got the last laugh. Any steeper in places and we would need rock climbing equipment. Only around 4 miles round trip, the hike to Antelope falls was probably one of the hardest hikes I have ever completed in my life to date!

In the end we missed our scheduled private beach massages back at the resort while we were suffering on our hike but it was worth the experience. We got to see untouched Mayan ruins (as a historian I love seeing history preserved in such a way), leaf cutter ants, swam in the cool waters beneath Antelope Falls, green jungle covered mountains for miles, and a menagerie of birds and exotic flowers. I even saw my first wild tarantula! Which now of course, is a common sight at the ranch. Belize will always hold a special place in our hearts and we hope to return soon.

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Our hike, located on the Cockscomb Basin Preserve, was SO strenuous but we were rewarded with a swim at Antelope Falls.
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Adam and unexcavated Mayan Mound

 

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The preserve, located in the Mayflower Bocawina National Park, was established to protect the local Jaguar population and is the only of its kind.
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Byron our guide still works for Coco Plum Island Resort where he is everything from guide to bartender to just plain entertainer! Byron is still admired by ALL who meet him.
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Adam with Mayan Mountains

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