thoughts on peppers

I like growing peppers. Bell, banana, a few hot types. Mostly for my wife. The only peppers I’m really nuts about are stuffed with rice, tomato sauce and sausage. And most of the cooked pepper part is forked to the edge of the plate.

I don’t consider myself in any way an expert on or connoisseur of peppers. But they’re still a fun plant to grow. I start seedlings alongside my tomato babies under lights. Unlike the tomatoes, I only up-pot them once. Same half-strength fish emulsion until they’re in the ground.

One thing I’m going to try this year (that I’ve heard mentioned by other gardeners, but never done) is pruning back some top growth on the young pepper plants. Last year deer munched the tops off all my daughter’s pepper plants when they were young. Her harvest put mine to shame.

So I believe there’s something to this practice (although it’s probably more optimal to do it myself rather than leave it up to the deer). It makes sense that snipping the tall stems and early fruits would yield a stockier stem and bushier growth. Without pruning mine almost always eventually tip over without support.

Yesterday I planted two bell pepper seeds in a 4″ pot. So much for restraint. I figure it’s in the name of discovery. Here’s why. For me, most years the peppers come on heavy just about the time it starts to get too cold for them to ripen.

With starting pepper plants indoors early and cutting them back, the theory is that the fruits will have more days to ripen in cooler climates. Besides providing a bushier, earlier, more vigorous plant, this method keeps the plant low enough to avoid pushing my grow lights to the ceiling. I’m more than willing to sacrifice one pepper plant if push comes to shove. Experi-mento!

Over the years I’ve grown green bell, yellow bell, purple bell, red bell, banana, ancho, habanero, chili, and jalapeño. The habanero were frightening. Blisteringly hot, not pleasant to touch or smell, let alone consume. Maybe I’m just a wuss. Ended up using them as a pest repellent spray, but even that seemed dangerous. Those suckers are capital-H HOT.

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Last year’s Karma bell pepper seedlings

One of the most successful varieties I’ve grown has been Karma, a red bell that I got from Park Seed. Always reliable and often huge plants. Poblanos (which when dried are called Anchos) are great for roasting and drying. But I think my favorite hot variety is boring old Jalapeño. Just hot enough to be palatable to my wife in small doses, and pleasantly piping in larger doses for me.

I make my own batch of salsa with five or six jalapeños, while my wife makes hers with one. Both are awesome.

But by far my favorite thing to do with jalapeños is to stick one into a jar of dill pickles before canning. The resulting hot dills are so good it makes my mouth water as I sit here.

I can’t explain why peppers are ‘fun’ to grow, but they are. Now I just need to cool my jets for a few more weeks. Come on Spring.

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16 thoughts on “thoughts on peppers

  1. Crazy question: Do you think the weather makes the peppers hotter or cooler? I grew jalepenos one year and they were so extraordinarily hot that I literally couldn’t find anyone who could eat them. So weird. I hadn’t had that problem before, same variety as usual and jalepenos aren’t normally THAT spicy, you know? Wondered if you’d noticed any differences depending on that season’s weather?

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    • What a good question, and I’m sorry I don’t know the answer. I think ripeness corresponds with heat, and I’d bet money that moisture or dryness make huge differences. I’ve just never bothered to note. My jalapeños were really mild this year, but we had average moisture and temps. I’m glad you asked, because now I’ll pay closer attention!

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    • I’ll just butt in here and say I think weather does make a difference. I’ve had the same experience with the same variety of jalapeno being just fine one year and incendiary the next when it’s hot and dry.

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  2. Pinching off the top to promote branching can also prevent tomato and basil seedlings from getting too leggy. And in my long Tennessee growing season jalepenos get hotter the longer they are hanging on the plant. Dry spells seem to increase heat. So regular harvesting will likely provide milder jalepenos.

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    • That’s an interesting observation. And I’m sure you’re right. It’s something that I might have experienced, but never paid any attention to. Thanks for the info!

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  3. Hmmm. Interested in conducting a little japaleno experiment? I’ll plant the same variety you plant and when they are ripe we could swap and do a compare and contrast, side-by-side taste test, noting the different climactic conditions in which they were grown. It’s probably all a bit complicated and I’m sure I could just google the answer but now you’ve got me thinking…. Interested? I’m in Charlotte, NC. You’re in Michigan, I think?

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  4. For the longest time, I couldn’t stand green peppers. I just “knew” I didn’t like them. Until my kid started stealing mine off my salad one time, and I tried one. Yum!! My favorites are the “mini” peppers that you can cut in half and dip like chips.

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  5. enjoyed reading this post 🙂 We struggle with growing bell peppers. All other peppers grow very well, it’s just the bell peppers. we can’t seem to manage to get more than tiny little bell peppers lol we will try again this year. Best Wishes

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