Besides gardening, I love to eat! I mean what's the point of growing all these delicious chillies if we're not going to find yummy ways to use them?
To my delight and surprise, I found out you can also eat pepper leaves!
So where did I get this information, and how did I make the savory soup pictured to the left? I got it from The CSA Cookbook by Linda Ly.
This cookbook isn't like the others. In fact, when I had stained more than a few pages while cooking from it, I knew it was one of my new favorites.
The Unique Approach Of The CSA Cookbook
So how is this cookbook different? The back of The CSA Cookbook reads like this:
If you have a community supported agriculture share (or a super-bountiful garden) you know that the joy of harvest is often mixed with trepidation: too often, some of the produce you paid for (or grew) winds up in your compost pile. Find delicious ways to use all of those veggies in The CSA Cookbook. The 105 seasonal recipes utilize every edible part of the plant, from leaves and flowers to stems and seeds. Think of it as a nose-to-tail approach -- for vegetables! You'll learn to look at produce in a whole new way and start to think twice before you discard your kitchen "scraps."
Yep, that's right, Linda cleverly teaches you how to use every edible part of the plant for cooking. Hence, the pepper leaves in the soup.
Ginger-Spiced Chicken Soup With Wilted Pepper Leaves Recipe
(Recipe from The CSA Cookbook by Linda Ly, Voyageur Press, 2015)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2-inch piece ginger, minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 pounds skinless bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks
- 8 cups water
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 chayotes, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 cups packed pepper leaves
- 1 lime, sliced into wedges for serving
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil, onion, ginger, and garlic and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Push the mixture aside with a long spoon, and add the chicken, and brown each side for about 5 minutes. Pour in the water, fish sauce, peppercorns, and salt, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Skim and discard the foam that rises to the surface as the chicken cooks. Add the chayotes and continue simmering for about 15 minutes, until tender and translucent. Stir in the pepper leaves and heat through until wilted. Serve with a squeeze of lime over each bowl.
(Recipe courtesy of The CSA Cookbook by Linda Ly, Voyageur Press, 2015)
The book says you can use leaves from both hot and sweet pepper plants, which include Capsicum annuum, Capsicum frutescens or Capsicum chinense. If you don't have your own pepper plants, you can get the leaves at most Filipino markets.
And if you can't find chayotes, Linda recommends using a tender squash like zucchini.
The Pepper Leaf Flavor
What do pepper leaves taste like? You'll be surprised.
Raw, my pepper leaves tasted kind of bitter with a black pepper aftertaste. I tried leaves from various plants and they all had this type of flavor. Honestly, I don't recommend eating them straight off of the plant.
Cooked, the leaves take on a much better flavor. After just a couple minutes in the soup, the leaves tasted like a spicy basil -- they were delicious! The leaves still had a peppery aftertaste, but the bitterness was completely gone.
Getting The Chile Leaves
If you're not sure how to harvest your pepper leaves safely, here are some tips.
- Don't remove all the leaves from your pepper plant during the growing season. Completely stripping the plant will interrupt photosynthesis.
- Refrain from eating leaves that are damaged from bugs or disease. I'm sure this tip is obvious, but I thought I'd throw it in there. 🙂
When you prune your plant for optimal growth or for winterization, you now have a reason to save the foliage!
About The Pepper Recipes
The CSA Cookbook has a "Tomatoes & Peppers" section containing the soup recipe and about eight other recipes that utilize chillies. I'm especially excited to try the "Spicy Fermented Summer Salsa," "Skillet Eggs Poached In Serrano Tomato Sauce" and "Italian Hot Chile Oil" next.
And even though chillies have their own section, that doesn't mean that they aren't used throughout other chapters in the book. You'll find peppers sprinkled throughout other dishes such as the "Squash Blossom and Roasted Poblano Tacos," "Grilled Green Onions With Chile Lime Marinade" and "Spicy Stir-Fried Sweet Potato Leaves."
(Tip: If you want an adult, fiery beverage to wash all this good food down, try a spicy margarita recipe.)
The CSA Cookbook Is Definitely Worth It
This book is valuable alone just for the pepper recipes; if you grow other veggies, this book is a goldmine of information.
I mean where else can you learn to make "Quick-Pickled Sweet 'N' Spicy Radish Pods," "Tomato Leaf Pesto" or "Carrot Top Salsa?"
We all spend so much time and effort caring for our plants. It's really refreshing to learn the many ways that we can celebrate our harvests. You can get The CSA Cookbook on Amazon.
By the way, if you're interested in growing some of the produce you receive in your CSA box... save some seeds and check out the updated and expanded Pepper Seed Starting Guide. You'll find complete, how-to steps on all indoor growing phases, from germinating your seeds to getting your seedlings to the point where they can safely go outside. I personally use this resource to start my plants (both peppers and other veggies), and I'm always here to answer questions!