Images (not from) New York, balcony garden edition, otherwise known as my quest to grow Padrón peppers.

Fried Padrón peppers, i.e. the goal dish of the pepper experiment.

Fried Padrón peppers, i.e. the goal dish of the pepper experiment.

When we first moved to New York, Michael mentioned the possibility of taking some planters and setting them up in an empty air-conditioning caddy as a way to grow some plants given how much sun that part of the building got. I never took him up on his offer, and in retrospect it was probably for the best: not only was I woefully inexperienced in growing things and keeping them alive (oh, the failed experiment of my New Haven garden still stings) but given that we were on the first floor, I feel like the temptation for some college kid to knock them off would have been too great and one day I would wake up and see terracotta and dirt all over the sidewalk.

Since our relocation back to Connecticut, I’ve embraced the container garden because our balcony is surprisingly well-suited for one: despite not getting as much sun as I figured would be necessary, the herbs I’ve grown over the last three years have thrived fairly well, and last year’s garden was in particular quite successful. I had a pot of oregano that yielded several batches of oregano pesto in the fall, and a bountiful amount of jalapeño and serrano peppers to throw into various recipes, and lots and lots of sage leaves to fry up in butter and serve with cutlets. The miserable winter killed off everything, sadly, as we don’t have a good indoor place to keep things, so once again I started afresh at my favorite herb nursery.

The herb and plant lineup for the season.

The herb and plant lineup for the season.

I’m pretty excited about this year’s selection, as many returning favorites are back like barbecue rosemary, Greek oregano, serrano peppers, and grey sage, but I’ve added in some wild cards: lavender, sorrel, lemon verbena, and one I’m most excited about: padrón peppers. We were able to finally try these for ourselves two years ago when we were in Barcelona, and a few months ago I found them randomly while perusing the esoteric produce section in Whole Foods and they were just as good (if just a touch spicier) than I remembered. The old yarn about padrón peppers is that usually they are quite mild, but typically one in ten has a spicier bite to it. I’ve read that sun does play a role into determining how spicy the fruit will eventually become…but so far, nothing that exactly explains that role. Over the course of the next few months I’ll hopefully be able to share some insights on this, but honestly I’ll be the most excited to turn out another batch of fried peppers or two before the season is over.

Padrón pepper and serrano pepper buds!

Padrón pepper and serrano pepper buds!

As you can see, we finally have some budding action taking place–and to be completely honest, the discovery of these buds a few mornings ago completely made my day. I had a big stupid grin all the way into work.

Look how well my wild card planter has been doing too!

Planting progress: my "wild card" planter following planting (above) and one week ago (below).

Planting progress: my “wild card” planter following planting (above) and one week ago (below).

(And yes, whenever I refer to this as the wild card planter, it’s always in the style of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Charlie Day.)



  1. Brianne said:

    Oooh, this is too fun! We planted our garden a couple of weeks ago. Is it Lemon verbena that keeps mosquitoes away? I might yet plant a pot of that for the bug repellent and also for playing with. Lemon verbena sounds awesome in a cocktail. We planted habaneros instead of serranos this year; that was the guy’s choice and with as many peppers as we ended up with last year, I’m already trying to figure out what to do with an habanero overload. Only time will tell.

    • I believe so–which I didn’t know before, but I am really glad that I got it. It actually can grow upwards of six feet(!) so I’ve ordered another pot to transfer it into so it doesn’t choke out the rest of the plants in the wild card pot.

  2. We just did our herb planters today, too out here on Fisher’s Island. All hail Connecticut herbs!

    • Indeed! I just transferred the lemon verbena into its own pot because I read that it could grow upwards of six feet(!).

  3. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! That Charlie reference just killed me.

    The herbs and peppers are totally swoon worthy — you’ve definitely got a lot of delicious basil-based dishes in your near future!

    • So far, so good! But the lemon verbena appears to have attracted some of its famed pests, so I need to make a little homemade insect controller before I take it out of quarantine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s