the summer of the shishito

In our side garden as it turns out, we have a hedge of shishito pepper plants. A hedge.

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Last year, we fell across shishito peppers entirely by accident while perusing the Bonnie plants selections at various garden centers about KCMO. Before ever reading of the variety, before the name dropping of the Food Network and Cooking Channel.

After a bit of reading for cooking tips, and the first three peppers produced, my husband was on Team Shishito in a big way.

It was the first year I had grown produce on a terraced slope, and the more productive of two shishito plants drowned out following an aggressive period of rain. If I recall, I scrambled to add more peppers last minute, of random variety, and one turned out to be a mis-tagged shishito, but our yield through most of last year was light at best. I left them for my husband, who still raves every time he broils them in our toaster oven.

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Jump to this year. Shishitos were not to be found among the racks of Bonnie plants, not for the first month or two. When they finally showed up, I jumped at them, buying six plants.

I made room higher in the terraces of the side garden, since I thought the new raised pepper bed would be full with plants I started from seed. (We’ve had some loss since planting the bed.) I planted them a bit closer than the tag reads, as I am likely to do. Planting with Ecoscrapes fertilizer, and following up with it regularly, they are growing rapidly. They are producing numerous tiny peppers and a flurry of new buds constantly.

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Yesterday, I chopped and sauteed some shishitos for our breakfast egg scramble, mixing them in with diced green tomatoes, mini eggplants, and bought white onion. Tasty, even if a bit soft in texture, but it was a pleasant broadening of our use of shishito.

Yesterday evening, after watering, I inspected the shishito plants. So many of the smaller branches are finally leaving out and blooming. Clearly, the planting of six healthy shishito plants was a bit ridiculous, but I’m a bit ridiculous as well, so it’s a good fit.

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If the camera panned out from our shishito hedge, the viewer would see a lush flower garden, the first bed established after we bought this little wabi-sabi cottage. I like the mix of flower and produce in landscaping. So many vegetable plants are lush and visually engaging, although I have learned that for yield, some plants need to be caged in from the damned squirrels. So far, shishitos have not proven to be one of those…

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For the most part, I feel like I am making up this garden as I go, googling certain things and guessing. There is childhood memory of my parents’ tiny veggie gardens, and so many years of floral design, and a big history of visual design and art helps, too, but whenever I get good outcomes like this, it tickles me. I become proud of my dirt hobby.

My desire for less grass to mow endlessly is growing into a visually impactful experience. And the sight of our adorable little hobbit house tucked into the middle of it makes my heart happy. And even sometimes light, which isn’t so easy a thing to do of late, as we continue to hobble together a wabi-sabi life, tucked away from such a chaotic world.

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