I wasn’t really a fan of peppers, any kind of peppers, until I tasted one of the varieties grown by the Hawai’i Seed Growers Network (HSGN) www.hawaiiseedgrowersnetwork.com called Ka’ala.
This long red sweet pepper, released by the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) in 1996 was developed for tropical and sub-tropical environments for its resistance to a common disease “bacterial wilt.” This was the result of 15 years of selection work at CTAHR. For those of you that want to go deep into it’s ancestry and details see: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/31/6/1054.full.pdf
Then Lyn Howe, at Beach Road Farm in Wa’awa’a in Puna crossed it with Hawaiian Sunray, another great variety offered by HSGN. HSGN’s ongoing effort to select and offer locally adapted seed varieties for Hawai`i’s gardeners is leading to initial stages of breeding new and unique varieties. Both Ka’ala and Hawaiian Sunray have excellent traits, taste and productivity,
so, I decided to try growing the Ka’ala on my family farm in mauka Kona a few years ago. I was really impressed with its disease resistance, the size of the peppers, the longevity of the plant and the sweet taste either cooked or raw. At the same time, my husband Gerry and I were growing the Peking Black Vigna Bean, a favorite of ours. (Both are available on the HSGN website). The black color contains the highest phytonutrients of all the beans, and the Vigna Family is a tropical/sub-tropical bean that LOVES to grow in Hawai’i, and if that is not enough qualities it also cooks up really quickly (see recipe below) and the pods contain between 15-20 beans and stick out of the vine making picking really simple!
So one morning we are in our usual routine. Sitting in front of the fireplace (that’s another story) drinking our farm’s Kona Coffee and chatting about what to make for lunch that day. My husband Gerry, who is not known for his cooking inspirations, suggests: Let’s make some Peking Black Vignas, stuff them into the Ka’ala Peppers, wrap them in foil and roast them in the fire!
At first I’m thinking black beans roasted inside red sweet peppers, weird. But he was insistent that we should just try it and see what it tastes like. So I made the beans, grated some cheese and diced a little onion, sliced open the peppers, took out the seeds, laid them open, and then stuffed both sides with the cooked black beans, sprinkled a little onion and cheese, and closed them up with a single toothpick. Ok so far so good. Then, I laid them like little pepper people inside a piece of foil, and rolled the edges in to contain the ingredients. When the coals were low enough, but still plenty hot, I just laid the package on top.
After turning them a few times over about 45 minutes, I decided to take them off, open the foil, and see what happened. I was pleasantly surprised. The peppers were sweet and delicious and all the ingredients melded together. I served them with homemade papaya salsa, the UH Manoa Healani Tomato and sliced avocado & onion salad. And don’t worry… if you can’t roast them over a fire, roast them in your oven set at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Bon Appetite!