Today’s garden harvest included Cowhorn peppers. Cowhorns are named for their tendency to curl at the ends and resemble the twisted horns of a cow. They can get 8 to 10 inches long and turn from green to brown to red when allowed to fully ripen.
2017 Update: I’ve just begun my third year growing Cowhorn peppers and still swear by them as they seem to be more prolific and hardy than jalapeno (at least in US zone 7 where I live). I also prefer their flavor to jalapeno and their heat level is more consistent making it easier for me to use in fresh preparations.
- Plant outdoors about 2 weeks after last frost date as they prefer warm soil temps.
- Plant in 15 to 18 inch pots or allow 18 to 24 inches between plants in the garden.
- I use a planting mixture of 30% compost, 50% planting soil and 20% peat, seed starter mix or chopped dry leaf mulch.
- One or two deep waterings per week is all they’ll need.
- If you choose to fertilize, do it only after blooms appear or you’ll end up with plenty of greenery with fewer blossom and fruit output. One topcoat of composted soil after fruit set is sufficient, refresh compost topcoat about every 3-4 weeks.
- They can get finicky in temps above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and won’t like to set blossoms. At the hottest point in summer I like to pick fruit already set so they don’t get too stressed. When temps start to cool down again they will pick right back up where they left off and provide peppers through the first frost, later if you protect them at night.
- If planting in pots, move them around to shadier parts when temps get consistently over 90. Give them sun during the cooler parts of the day (at least 6-8 hours). Yield will still slow down, but you’ll continue to have peppers all summer.
The heat of this pepper variety ranges between 2,500 and 5,000 units on the Scoville Scale. They are usually sweeter and a little milder than the Jalapeno (which ranges between 2,500 and 10,000 units), especially if you pick them before they fully ripen and turn red.
They have great fresh flavor for chopping and using in salsa or Pico de Gallo, or cooking into chili, soups, stews or casseroles (like mac-n-cheese).
The wall of the Cowhorn pepper is also a little meatier than it’s hot pepper counterparts, making it a superior choice for drying. After drying, crush or grind for hot pepper flakes (removing the seeds first will make for a mild ground pepper, while leaving seeds in will result in a hotter mixture similar to cayenne).
Reconstitute the dried peppers in hot liquid (water, broth or beer) to make a pepper base for sauces, salsa, soup or stew.
I decided to pickle this batch and used a quick pickling method for storage in the refrigerator. If you are making a large batch and wish to put them up using a canning method, go to the: National Center For Home Food Preservation
Cincinnati Chili and pickled cowhorn peppers are a match made in heaven.
The quick pickling recipe I used today could be used for any hot or sweet pepper.
Quick Pickled Cowhorn Peppers
2 cups white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups water
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar or raw sugar (raw will tinge the liquid slightly, regular granulated will be clear)
1 pound peppers, washed, sliced and tops discarded
Place all ingredients except peppers in nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let the pickling liquid cool for about 15 minutes.
Divide and place peppers in sterilized jars or heat/cold safe nonreactive containers. Cover with pickling liquid, seal and refrigerate for at least 5 days before eating. Follow the link listed above for canning methods.
Pickled peppers should keep in the refrigerator for up to one month if they are covered with the pickling liquid. Freeze within one week if don’t think you will eat them quickly. Always check your containers for food safety and do not eat it if you aren’t sure.