Cayman peppers come to Cambridge

Back in February I mentioned that our hankering for some of the flavors of the Cayman Islands had led me to introduce the amazing Cayman sweet pepper to the cooler climes of eastern Massachusetts, where I grow at Zone 6. (See Finding seeds for the taste of Cayman.) I started seed from Cayman and Florida sources on March 5 and transplanted seedlings to my community garden on May 5. Other than having richer (and more acidic) soil than they were used to, the plants did just fine. The honeybees loved them.

But it quickly became obvious that even with a heavy yield of a dozen or more peppers per plant, the crop would be too small to squander on experiments making Cayman pepper jelly. I will leave that to the pros.

Señor Negro, who tends an adjoining plot in the community garden, was amused when he saw the plants. He called them ajice, which is the Puerto Rican contraction for ají dulce, and proceeded to give me growing advice across the summer. Mainly he suggested giving them more space by ripping out the neighboring tomatillo plants, for which he sees no use. (You have to love a multi-ethnic community garden. Right now a Bengali woman’s plot that also adjoins mine is a riot of delicate and elegant okra flowers, yellow with red centers.)

As the harvest came in, Señor Negro was also generous with advice on cooking with my peppers. First and foremost, he said, they are essential to a good sofrito. And, he informed me with a smile, a good sofrito is essential for everything else.

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