Flavorful Peppers

Saturday, May 17th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Fuchsias in hanging baskets make beautiful patio plants. They bloom all summer and attract hummingbirds to their pendulous blossoms.
    • Thin fruit trees now while fruits are still small. Thin apples to 6 inches apart and peaches to 4 inches apart. On Asian pears leave 1 fruit per spur.
    • Spray roses every two weeks to keep them healthy and prevent leaf diseases. Neem oil is a safe alternative to chemicals.
    • Flower seeds can be sown directly in the garden now. Cosmos, marigolds and zinnias will give you beautiful flowers all summer.
    • Calibrachoa, or Million Bells, are a trailing, miniature petunia that comes in bright oranges and reds. Plant them in full sun for a profusion of 1” wide flowers from spring to frost.

Wake Up your Taste Buds with Flavorful Peppers

Pepper popularity just keeps growing and every year gardeners are trying out new varieties. The number of pepper varieties available, especially the hot types and sweet non-bells, has exploded and now numbers in the hundreds.

Peppers are grouped into three types: sweet bell peppers, sweet non-bell peppers and hot peppers ranging from “warm” to “blazing hot.” The big development in bell peppers has been a variety of colorful bells ranging from red, orange and yellow to lilac, purple and chocolate. In standard green bells, California Wonder and Bell Boy are still favorites. They turn to bright red as they ripen. However, Red Beauty, which produces sweet red peppers in only 68 days, is the most popular bell pepper today.

The sweet non-bells range from the little Italian Pepperoncini peppers which are good for pickling to the long, yellow Sweet Bananas. Corno di Toro, the heirloom “Horn of the Bull” pepper, is imported from Italy. Fruits are 8 to 10 inches long, curved much like a bull’s horn, and ripen to a gorgeous red cone. Pimientos, with their heart-shaped fruits, are ideal for salads, garnishes and canning.

Italian Long Sweet, widely used in Italian cooking, is very sweet when red-ripe. Colorful Gypsy peppers turn from yellow to orange-red and they are crunchy, firm and sweet.

Hot peppers are usually called chilies. Anaheim is a long, green chili that is mildly hot. Ancho-Poblano has heart-shaped fruits that are called Poblanos when used green and stuffed to make chili rellenos; and called Anchos when dried and ground into chili powder. Pasilla, the popular Chili negro, is mildly hot and slightly sweet and is used in many Mexican dishes, including “mole” sauce.

Hot and spicy Jalapeños and flavorful Serranos used to be considered the “hot” peppers. Along with Hungarian Wax, which has spicy, fairly hot banana shaped fruits that are perfect for pickling, and Fresno, small fruits with fiery flavor, they run in the mid-range of the heat scale.

Slightly hotter are Tabasco, bred for the famous extra-hot Tabasco sauce, with fruits that ripen from yellow-green to red, and Cayenne, which has long, slender, slightly wrinkled fruit that is excellent for chili and homemade salsa.

But for the really hot peppers there are Habaneros, “the hottest chili in the world,” and Thai Hot Dragon, “eight times hotter than Jalapeño,” Jamaica Scotch Bonnet, “smoky and fiery hot,” and Caribbean Red, said to be hotter than all the rest.

Peppers like warm weather and can be damaged more easily by cold weather than tomatoes. Use hot caps or “Walls-O-Water” to get them started early. They like soil rich in organic matter and adequate moisture through the summer. Plant peppers in full sun, about 18 inches apart. Place some bone meal in the planting hole to help prevent blossom-end rot. Mulch to keep down weeds and keep in soil moisture. Some gardeners mulch the plants with black plastic to warm the soil as much as possible, which can increase yields.

Enjoy some new taste sensations with flavorful peppers this summer.