Tag Archive | peppers

Peppers and Chilies

Baby-BellPeppersAll peppers and chilies are members of the capsicum family and it could be argues that the differences among the many varieties are merely a matter of taste. But what a taste! Sweet or bell peppers are large, sweet, and mild. Chilies, in contrast, are small and hot — sometimes so eye-wateringly hot that eating them is downright foolhardy. Growing them isn’t difficult, however, provided you can give them the sunshine, warmth, and water they need.

Peppers and chilies like a light, fertile soil that retains moisture. More importantly, because they are tropical or subtropical plants, they require heat and humidity. Unless you are growing them under cover, choose a planting position in a sheltered, sunny spot.

Peppers and chilies need heat to germinate, so sow indoors in modules and pots in March and April, and plant out only when it is warm enough, in May and June. Sowing directly outdoors is hit-or-miss.

Peppers and chilies need a long growing season in order to ripen fully, especially in temperatures like we get in Wisconsin. Get ahead by raising seed indoors — at temperatures of 64-70ºF in order to guarantee germination. Harden off seedlings and plant them out only when all danger of frost has passed.

Weed and water regularly and feed every two weeks with general fertilizer or a special liquid tomato food once the first small fruits appear. Stake up plants if they become heavy.

Most sweet peppers change color as they mature. They start off green, then turn yellow, orange, red, or even dark purple when fully ripe. Picking them young will stimulate the plant to produce more fruits, but the young peppers won’t taste as sweet.

Chilies vary in power from the very mild, which produce no more than a slight tingle on the tongue, to fruits so hot that you need to wear gloves to handle them. What gives them their heat? It’s a chemical called “capsaicin,” concentrated in the seeds and white pith. It stimulates the nerve endings in your mouth, throat, and skin.

oops-food-too-spicy-heres-fix.w1456Must-try Chili Varieties

  1. Alma Paprika’ – mild, sweet, fleshy, and multicolored. Also try the similar ‘Anaheim
  2. ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’ – a medium-hot, thick-walled chili that starts off yellow, then turns red when ripe. Also try the smaller ‘Apache‘.
  3. ‘Aji Amarillo’ – long, thin, medium-hot chilies originally from South America. Also try the Mexican ‘Jalapeno‘. Note: Jalapenos are delicious fresh, as flavorful as they are hot, with thick, crisp flesh that is as juicy as a sweet bell pepper’s. That texture, which is lost in drying, is a great part of their charm, and it makes jalapenos harder to air-dry than thin-walled peppers, such as cayennes and Thai hots. Traditionally jalapenos are preserved by canning.
  4. ‘Cherry Bomb’ – small, round, thick-walled fruits that ripen from green to red and have a medium-hot flavor.
  5. ‘Prairie Fire’ – fast-growing, small, fiery-tasting chilies. Try also ‘Thai Dragon’ and ‘Ring of Fire’.
  6. Habanero‘ – unusual peach-colored variety of the notoriously hot Central American habanero family of chilies.
  7. ‘Dorset Naga Pepper’ – reputedly one of the hottest chilies in the world. Approach with extreme caution.

Sweet Peppers to Try

  • ‘Ariane’
  • ‘Atris’
  • ‘Bell Boy’
  • ‘California Wonder’
  • ‘Gourmet’
  • ‘Gypsy’
  • ‘Mavras’
  • ‘New Ace’
  • ‘Sweet Chocolate’
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Save your Heirloom Tomato Seeds

'Mr Stripey' heirloom variety tomato

‘Mr Stripey’ heirloom variety tomato

I like to try different kinds of tomatoes each year and, while the hybrids produce really good and generally disease-free fruit, there’s nothing like biting into a tomato that reminds you of your childhood. That happened to me this summer with one that I hadn’t tried before — ‘Mr. Stripey’. Now, we didn’t grow ‘Mr. Stripey’ when I was a kid (not to my recollection anyway), but it has that full, just-from-the-garden sweetness that I remember. As a result, I thought I might try seed saving this year — something I’ve never done. For help, I’m taking the advice to Diana Alfuth, horticulture educator for Pierce & St. Croix County UW-Extension.

Seed Saving

by Diana Alfuth

Saving vegetable seeds from year to year can be fun and economical. Self-pollinating plants, such as beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers, are the best vegetables to save. Vine crops, including squash, pumpkins, melons and cucumbers, are often cross-pollinated by insects, so seeds saved from these crops will likely grow into plants that produce fruit unlike that of the parent plant — often odd shaped or poor tasting.

For tomatoes, scoop the seeds and gel from the middle and put them in a jar of water. Stir the mixture daily and after four to five days, the gel will break down and the seeds will fall to the bottom. Pour off the liquid, collect the seeds, and place them in an even layer to dry. Coffee filters work really well for this purpose since they absorb moisture and you can write the variety name directly on the filter. For peppers, remove the seeds from ripe fruit after they begin to shrivel and put them directly into a filter for drying. Beans and peas can be left on the plants until dry and rattling in the pods, and then shelled for storage.

Once fully dry, store the seeds in a cool, dry place, ideally at 32º to 41ºF. Put your seeds in individual paper envelopes, and then put them all in a glass jar in your refrigerator or other cool place until planting time next year. Be sure to mark the envelopes with the date and variety.