A lot of Thai chile plants are pretty easy to grow, mostly abundant and very nice to look at but a fair amount are best served as ornamental and many have heaps of heat but lack a flavor worth the pain. Enter the
Kung Pao Hybrid!
Along with a Thai Dragon plant, I decided to purchase the Kung Pao to spice up my dinners when I try my hand at Asian cuisine. Not only a great looking plant, these peppers have proven to be quite versatile. For a historic interpretation of the development of the Kung Pao hybrid, I encourage you to watch this video.
I purchased just one Kung Pao Hybrid plant this spring at Cross Country Nurseries in Stockton, NJ. This plant started to produce long thin deep green pods in mid June and started giving red ripe fruit by mid July. I have this plant in a 2 gallon bucket (way too small, go with at least 4 gallons with this plant) filled with my own organic potting mix and fertilized twice a month with either organic beet extract or blood meal. I also treat the plant with an Epsom salt solution on alternate weeks.
The Kung Pao has been quite prolific thus far. I’ve already picked 35 pods from this single plant and as you can see in the picture to the left (taken this afternoon), I’ve got a lot more on the way. I estimate I will get at least 100 peppers from this plant which is quite a bargain considering I paid $2 for the plant and the mature pods are at least 4 inches long. That’s over 33 feet of peppers!
The Kung Pao has been quite considerate. When I’m ready for Kung Pao, Kung Pao is there. This plant has produced about 7 red pods each week for the past month and it has been suiting my needs quite nicely. I can use 3-4 to make an Asian inspired dish each week, and I can give 3-4 to friends or family. Due to its thin walls and lanky stature, the Kung Pao hybrid is great for drying. Keep in mind, since these are hybrid plants, their seeds will not be worth saving.
Cooking with the Kung Pao
This is where the Kung Pao gets its versatility badge. Just chop up the pepper, seeds and all and throw into any dish you want to spice up. The flavor is great and the heat is not too intense. I like to throw them in spicy noodle soups. These peppers work great at any stage of cooking. You can use them to saute with oil and garlic early in the process to heat up the entire dish or just wait till the end and throw the chopped Kung Pao in for a more concentrated heat and flavor, easy to avoid for those who fear the burn.
Give this pepper to civilians?
Yes. You’ll get more than you will typically need so you’ll have plenty to spread around the neighborhood. These look a lot hotter than they actually are. The heat is very tolerable if used sparingly. I put 5-6 chopped peppers in my soup, but I would suggest 1 chile per person if serving to non chile-heads. Not only is this a great pepper to give away but the plant makes for a great gift since it’s so easy to grow and looks great on the deck.
See you on Sunday for“Just the Tip”