Discover more from Writings by the Woodwind Maker Casey Burns
The Svoboda Pimento
From Saltwater Seeds
September 2023 Update: My 2023 harvest is underway. Many thanks go to the folks at Westwind Farms in Forest Grove, Oregon who started my plants this last spring. They and everyone else got off to a late start due to less than ideal growing conditions (late frosts, rainy weather, hail storms and wind storms etc.). Look for their pepper concession at the Saturday Portland Farmer’s Market in the Park Blocks near PSU.
I picked up my plants in early June and they were about to start setting theirs out. My family helped me bucket up a dozen or more plants and we gave some starts away, including to our friend Jana. These had set some fruit before we took off for Lark Camp and were watered with sprinklers which inhibited any further fruit set. We have been harvesting and enjoying these in the kitchen since we returned.
I am not saving any seed from these since we are also growing other varieties. My daughter is growing only these and saving enough seed for our next year’s seed saving plantings. Meanwhile Saltwater already has plenty of seed for next year. We noticed that there are still some of their seed packs on the seed racks at the Chimacum Farm Store. Remember that these seeds have an extra-long shelf life measured in decades.
A few other local farmers are growing these. I’ll be collecting some this weekend to preserve these in the traditional “Christmas Pepper” fashion. Simply these are de-stemmed and de-seeded, rinsed, and then stored in a glass jar filled full of vinegar (make sure you are getting the 5% for canning - there is now a lot of 4% on the shelves, according to what I have heard on TikTok). I will probably use an apple cider vinegar. I think this just keeps them fresh since they aren’t heated in the canning-sense. Then in December these still-firm peppers are simply rinsed free of any vinegar, and then stuffed with appropriate goodies and roasted. I will probably do a post on pepper stuffing recipes.
Immature peppers can also be picked and used similarly to Padrone Peppers. Simply fried in olive oil with their stems on, until blistered. These are slightly salted and eaten while hot.
As far as the plants go, these can be overwintered. I kept one alive until January. I kept a tomato going until March, fresh tomatoes and all. The procedure I have seen on YouTube is to bring the plants in by early October, remove all the foliage and branches until you have a length of main stem and a few secondary stems. The roots are carefully cleaned of all of last summer’s soil and then let in to a pot of fresh fertilized potting soil. These are then stored somewhere around 40-50 degrees constant such as inside a garage until spring when they are brought into a warm window.
Theoretically. This didn’t work for me. The Svobodas simply kept the plant in a warm room with grow lights on them for 12 hours daily, maybe after some pruning to give the plant less density and some of the old potting soil replaced, but without damaging the roots. In the tropics Tomatoes and Peppers will grow forever.
I will post pictures etc. eventually. Below is the original post from last spring:
This is the text you will find at Saltwater Seeds’ website:
”We were given this Calabrian Pimento Pepper variety by flutemaker Casey Burns, who named it after his teacher, the composer Tomáš Svoboda. Tom and his wife the artist Jana Demartini-Svoboda and Casey have been long-concerned for its preservation. The Svobodas were given this pepper in the mid 1970s by their fence-line neighbors Giovanni and Francesca Iannuzi, who arrived in 1956 from Altamonte (Calabria) Italy, with pepper seeds hidden away in their shoes!
“Svoboda” is the Czech word for Freedom.
The pepper growing conditions in Altomonte are similar to the Puget-Willamette Lowlands. Every year, Tom and Jana selected seeds from the earliest peppers for the next season, further improving this pepper for the PacNW. The seeds will remain viable for years if stored in your fridge’s butter tray. The pepper is slow to hybridize when grown adjacent to other peppers. We grow our Svoboda Peppers in isolation, away from other peppers, to keep this variety fully intact.
These peppers do well in 1-2 gallon pots using fresh soil with added manures and organic fertilizers, or in the ground with black mulch or a rock next to the roots to help keep the roots warm. These warming mulches are not needed in slightly warmer climates. Full sun is best. All peppers should be watered below the foliage - avoiding the leaves and flowers! Casey starts these indoors in 2" pots anywhere between March and May and plants them out in June or early July in colder years. The plants will sometimes require staking to support. In a greenhouse these will tend to grow huge and fall over. The heat per pepper can be increased by reducing the number of peppers on the plant, or by watering less. The flavor profile is complex. These are sweet at the tip, and increasingly hot towards the stem. These are delicious roasted. For pepper flakes that you will want to eat like candy, slice them and dry overnight at 120F in the food drier and flake them in a food mill. Enjoy these special peppers!”
These are great peppers! Typically these are thick-walled peppers that are very sweet at the tip, with increasing heat near the stem. Depending upon how much you stress them you can vary this heat profile. Give the peppers lush conditions in a greenhouse and they will grow tall enough to require staking, and produce several large, mostly sweet peppers. Grow them in pots outside, and they will produce fewer peppers, with more heat. Heat can also be controlled by how many peppers per plant. The fewer the peppers, the hotter the result. Near Portland, these usually do fine planted outside. In Puget Sound, black mulch, growing in pots or a greenhouse helps, especially in cooler years.
Its important when starting these to provide adequate light - otherwise one ends up with leggy starts. This is why I usually wait until April to start these. Here in Kingston I grow these in pots, using a mix of soil with added compost and organic fertilizer. I usually stake these. I’ll plant them in cells, then 2” pots and grow these until they are about 5” tall with 4-6 leaves, and then transfer them to the garden or into pots around the end of May. When watering, try to use water that has warmed to room temperature, and apply the water at the base, not on the leaves.
I typically harvest these for eating when the first blush of red appears on the peppers. The flavor profile is usually the most complex at this stage. Fortunately, these do not ripen all at once! These are great for roasting at this stage as well. The Italians harvest these when these are fully ripe, remove the stem and pickle them in vinegar for later use, such as stuffing and roasting around the Holidays. I like to make a pepper flake with these by drying them and processing these in a food processor. When drying it is best to slice the peppers up due to the thick walls and dry them at 120F in the food dryer. The resulting flakes are both sweet and hot and very rich in flavor.