My family eats peppers several times a week and we are big fans of spicy food, so I try to grow peppers every year. Try is the operative word here as my growing season is quite short. Every year, I start my favorite varieties early: Alma paprika, poblanos, jalapenos, bell peppers, and, of course, cayenne. If I’m lucky, we have a full growing season and I get a full harvest, with just a few unripe peppers to deal with at the end of the season. But sometimes we get an early frost, like we did this year. A whole month early! And I must rescue a bunch of unripe peppers from my dying plants.
In truth, peppers don’t need to be fully ripe to be delicious. Poblanos and jalapenos are often sold green, as are bell peppers. I prefer my bell peppers red, and poblanos are tastier when they ripen to black, but green jalapenos are fine with me. My cayenne and paprika I want bright red, though.
Peppers will ripen off the vine quite easily.
I ripen cayenne peppers by stringing them and hanging them in a dark, dry place. I dry them for storage this way and they will redden as they dry. I just take a needle and thread and poke the needle through the top of each pepper and pull the thread through, making a loop and a knot so the peppers don’t slide around and bunch up. I hang this bunch of cayenne peppers on my doors to protect my home and pull peppers off the string as needed.
Poblanos, bell peppers, and paprika peppers can be ripened by stacking them in a box and placing newspapers between the layers so they don’t touch. The box should be kept in a dark, dry area at room temperature and checked every 2-3 days and any ripened or rotting fruit removed. Many people suggest placing a banana or apple in the box to release ethylene gas which encourages ripening. I do not find this is necessary and it sometimes attracts fruit flies, so I skip it. If I only have a few peppers to ripen, I just toss them in a paper bag for a few days.
Long Term Storage of Peppers
I store peppers one of three ways: I dry them, I freeze them or I ferment them.
Cayenne peppers are quite small and have very thin walls so they can be hung to dry. As I mentioned, I simply string them up in bunches and hang them on my door. They get plenty of ventilation there and dry pretty quickly while providing magical protection to my home.
Paprika peppers are larger and have thicker walls, so they need a bit more work to dry. I cut these and core them and then use my low oven or dehydrator to dry them crisp, powder them in my spice grinder and store the powder in a glass jar in a dark place.
All peppers freeze quite well. If you use peppers often in cooking, having some pre-chopped or pre-sliced peppers in your freezer can be a great time-saver. I just chop up my peppers and store them in amounts I generally use to create meals. I don’t precook them or anything, just freeze them raw. If you thaw them out and try to eat them raw they might be a bit limp and disappointing, but if you toss them in your pan with the rest of your holy trinity, you’ll be quite satisfied.
Peppers are among my favorite ferments. Fermented jalapenos and banana peppers can be stored in the refrigerator for several months and they are wonderful additions to sandwiches, tacos, whatever. I just slice them and put them in a jar with a bay leaf and fill the jar to within about 1 1/2 inches of the top with salted water. 1 tbsp salt to 1 cup of water. You can toss some garlic in there for extra flavor, and don’t worry if the garlic turns blue in a couple of weeks, it’s totally normal. Sliced onions also make a good addition to this ferment. Put a weight on the top to keep the peppers beneath the brine and leave it loosely covered on the counter for a week, then stick it in the fridge.
Using Peppers for Magick
For magick and healing, cayenne is the pepper star, though really any chili pepper can work- the hotter the better. (A chili pepper is just a piquant pepper.) The capsaicin in a chili pepper helps relieve congestion, especially in an alcohol-based mixture. The chili is also a primary ingredient in fire cider, which stimulates the immune system and helps ward off winter colds.
Magically, spicy chilis, especially cayenne are used for hexing and banishing powders, such as a hot foot powder. It may be added to a sour jar to make the situation not just unpleasant, but uncomfortable. Think of the image of someone sweating uncomfortably in a situation.
Paprika is a mellower pepper but it still carries that heat and energy. It is used to warm up a situation and bring in energy. It can be used in lust spells by helping you “spice things up”- especially if your target is male- and it can speed up spells in a similar vein to cinnamon by heating things up and bringing in more energy.
Remember whenever working with peppers that capsaicin hurts. You may wish to wear gloves while preparing your peppers. Even after you have thoroughly washed your hands, you may still feel that pepper burn if you touch your eyes or genitals for some time after.