Seed Processing Status & Beans, Peppers

Though we’ve had several light frost events starting the last week of September, this past week has brought several hard freezes (<30°F) – cold enough to freeze out the backyard high tunnel.  Ahead of this I harvested the rest of the peppers, including:

ISLETA – (brown, thin-skinned, mild):

Pepper, Isleta 11-21-2013 C rev

NEPALESE – (red, uniquely lobed, just a touch of heat):

Pepper, Nepalese 11-21-2013 C rev

And many more – seeds from a total of about 110 varieties of peppers saved in 2013.

Also planted at least 49 varieties of legumes, mostly beans, including all but two varieties on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste list.  Unfortunately, I’ll have seeds of perhaps 15 varieties; the record heat and insufficient watering system resulted in crop failure for most legumes.  Here’s one that did produce well:


Bean, Cherokee Trail of Tears 11-25-2013 A rev

Tomato seeds?  In the home stretch, but it’s a long one.  Still have 13 boxes of bagged tomatoes keeping cool in the garage awaiting Stage 2 (weighing, labeling, cutting) of processing:

Tomato seed processing Nov 2013 C

Capacity, in terms of space and containers, for Stage 3 (fermentation) about 9 boxes at a time:

Tomato seed processing Nov 2013 A

Stage 4, seed separation, is becoming more challenging with cold weather:

Seed saving 8-30-2011 Z01

Stage 5, seed drying, is taking up every square inch of available shelf space and floor space:

Tomato Seed Saving 9-20-2011 B

Stage 6, packaging & sorting, is about 60% completed for 2013 seeds:

Tomato seed saving 10-17-2011 B

Stage 7, data entry and uploading to website, is, regrettably, 0% completed at this point.  However, lists of tomato seeds which are probably available now are posted at:

                            Tomato Seeds Inventory

At least 25 varieties of lettuce seeds are available, along with chard, ground cherries, and many more.  Lists to follow soon, but processing tomatoes for seeds will occupy most of my time for the next week or so.

2013 Tomatoes Harvested

Finally all tomatoes of the 2013 season are harvested!

Total number of tomato plants grown:  1,544

Total number of varieties raised:  880

No. of batches of tomatoes still to process for seeds (est.): 780

Estimated total minutes to process each batch: 20

No. of varieties for which I will have viable seeds to offer (est.): 820

Where to find the most recent list of varieties (until I can manage the time to get website in shape…):

Estimated number of hours to get website in shape: 1,700

Distance between vision and abilities: really, really far…


Carolina Reaper Pepper Harvest

We just had our first snowstorm:
Snowstorm 11-03-2013 A
With a hard freeze coming this morning.
So I thought it best to harvest the Carolina Reaper peppers from the high tunnel. These are from seeds planted in two batches: 12-05-2012 (see early blog postings) and 3-12-2013. Plants from the later batch nearly caught up with the earlier in terms of size and production. Both reached around 6 ft. tall in the high tunnel and put out about 10 pods per plant. Those planted in the open field, however, reached only about 2 ft. tall and produced nothing before frost stopped them.

Two basic pod forms:

Stinger –

Pepper, Carolina Reaper 11-03-2013 B revPepper, Carolina Reaper 11-03-2013 F revPepper, Carolina Reaper 11-03-2013 D rev

And “standard” pod –

Pepper, Carolina Reaper 11-03-2013 H revPepper, Carolina Reaper 11-03-2013 I rev

Heat level?? Indescribably intense. An explosion of pain with violent physiological responses, then it’s like trying to survive a terrible nightmare that just seems like it will never end while the heat very slowly subsides over 30 minutes or so. You’ve gotta have a streak of masochism to even try this one – that or you don’t have the same taste buds and heat receptors that I have!

Seeds are ready for sending.  See:

= = = = = = = = = =

Update, 11-10-2013

Yesterday it took me nearly three hours to extract seeds from 75 pods, each with about 6-15 seeds.  This is insanity!  I purchased two boxes (2 sizes) of vinyl gloves and two high-quality dust masks.  With two pair of gloves my hands were over 90% protected from the capsaicin oil.  The insides of the pods were very slippery, almost dripping with capsaicin oil.  One layer of vinyl absolutely is not enough for these super-hot peppers –  I’ll wear three next time.

So I made the mistake of setting the pair of scissors I was using on my pant leg, then leaning my arm against the same spot.  It took me a very short time to realize that was a bad decision.  Now, 36 hours later, my leg still burns (the oil had no trouble seeping through thick cotton) and my arm still burns.  Even after vigorous cleaning.  But this is nothing compared to the fumes!

The entire house became permeated by fumes and everybody was coughing.  I had to close up the processing room.  Worse, much worse, even after processing and leaving the area, I continued to cough violently for more than an hour before it occurred to me that all my clothing was contaminated.  My neck muscles, throat and diaphragm are still sore from the worst coughing fit I’ve ever experienced.  And I’ve been through almost an entire box of tissue paper.  I still have to wear a dust mask to even be able to enter the processing room.  Doorknobs and such might be contaminated for weeks.

Then there was the fleck of Bhut Jolokia pod that flipped up into my eye a few days ago while I was packaging seeds.  Tough to describe the sensation – think gasoline in your eye!

Note to self for next year when processing Carolina Reaper pods

  • Do not cut pods indoors
  • Use a fan if need to assure excellent air circulation
  • Wear 3 pairs of vinyl gloves
  • Use a better dust mask
  • Wear goggles
  • Wear full protective hazmat disposable clothing
  • Immediately clean all tools and surfaces
  • Dry seeds outside of living areas

I’ve processed several batches of Bhut Jolokia seeds over the past couple of years.  Those were bad enough.  But Carolina Reaper takes processing hot peppers to a whole new level of suffering!  What am I, insane or something?