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Garden in the City: The Clock Is Ticking on Red Peppers

By Patty Wetli | October 7, 2013 4:10pm
 DNAinfo.com Chicago's resident urban gardener has plenty of green peppers. But will they ever turn red?
Garden in the City: Peppers
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Greetings, pepper plants, this is your wake-up call.

You've got about three weeks to ripen before the Peterson Garden Project pulls the plug on the 2013 growing season and you don't seem to be taking the imminent deadline very seriously.

Oh, sure, some of you are heavy with fruit. But you're still green. And I'm losing patience waiting for you to turn red.

I know, it was a tough summer. Too hot and not enough rain, so you pressed "pause" on putting forth blossoms while you conserved energy. I get it — biological imperative, blah, blah, blah.

I'll hand it to you, since the nights have grown cooler, you've kicked production into high gear and mounted a substantial comeback. But your efforts are starting to look like the last two minutes of a Bears game: too little, too late.

I'm not saying your green fruits are inedible. They're just not my favorite. Once you've had a red pepper, well, it's like flying first class and why would anyone in their right mind go back to coach?

I'd like to say my preference for red is all about the added health benefits, with red peppers positively crushing their green brethren in terms of Vitamins A and C and antioxidants like lycopene and beta carotene.

But truthfully, it's all about the sugar, which accumulates in red peppers in far higher amounts. That's right, I have a sweet tooth even when it comes to veggies.

What I didn't know when I bought seedlings labeled "red pepper" was that I'd have to go through green first — red peppers are just fully ripened green ones. This time-consuming process explains why red, yellow and orange peppers cost so much more.

I'll take the blame for that mistake, but come on, it's October now. Leaves are turning — take a hint.

I'm not even asking that you go full scarlet. Just show me the slightest hint of pink and I'll take over from there. You can finish the process in the comfort of my kitchen — safe from birds, rabbits and pill bugs — nestled in a paper bag, cozied up to a ripe tomato (or banana, as some suggest).

Not that any of this should be misconstrued as a threat. Just pointing out that your days are numbered.

Tick Tock.