All About Them Peppers

We have a pretty wide variety of peppers in our garden this year. They range from sweet bell peppers to hot habaneros and a little bit in between. Peppers are a warm-season vegetable and offer something for everyone! From spicy to sweet and all different shapes and sizes. This picture below is from a harvest about a week ago. You can see a green bell pepper, two habanero peppers, and two jalapeno peppers. I’m going to be honest and say that I am too scared to try the habanero peppers. I need to find a recipe that won’t burn my tastebuds!

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Since we have so many varieties in our garden, I wanted to write a little bit about each one.

First up, bell peppers. What I love about these guys is that they come in lots of different colors from the normal green and red to orange and yellow and even purple! For our garden, all of the pepper plants came as seedlings from Lowe’s or our local nursery down the road. If you were to start them from seeds, they require at least 70F for germination. Plant 3 seeds to a pot, then remove the weakest seedling and allow the other two to grow together. I didn’t realize that it’s better to have two bell pepper plants together than having one. Apparently, having two together provides better protection for the peppers from sunscald.

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The bell pepper plants require about 10 days of hardening prior to transplanting into a newly composted garden. The plants should be placed 18-24 inches apart after danger of frost. The bell peppers require a temperature of at least 65F to survive. A pretty cool tip (and I had no idea!!) is to place 2-3 matches in the hole with each plant along with fertilizer. This adds additional sulfur for the plants, which the plants really like.

The soil for bell peppers should be well-drained, but they do require plenty of water. These plants are very heat sensitive so daily watering might be necessary if you live in a hot climate (which we definitely do during the summer!). Tomato cages (the ones that aren’t actually that great for tomatoes…) are perfect to hold up the pepper plants. You can pick peppers whenever they reach the desired size. The longer they stay on the plant, the sweeter the pepper and the more vitamin C the pepper will contain. To remove peppers, cut with scissors or a sharp knife. Pulling the pepper off can remove entire branches or open the plant up with a wound.

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Similarly to bell peppers, jalapeno peppers should also be planted outside when all risk of frost has passed. They are warm-weather plants that prefer a lot of sun. They can be spaced less than 2 feet apart and can get as tall as 3-4 feet high. Be sure to water the plants regularly, but not so much that they are inundated with water – that can lead to rot.

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It takes about 3-4 months for peppers to ripen and be ready to pick. Ripe jalapenos are about 3-6 inches and a bright green color. If left on the plant, some varieties of the peppers will turn from a bright green to dark green then black and finally red. Jalapenos can be more on the mild side if the plant has not been grown under stressful conditions. As the peppers stay on the plant longer, they tend to be hotter in spice. Leaving the stem on the pepper after harvesting can help the pepper stay fresh for longer if you do not want to eat them right away.

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Our jalapeno pepper plant (above) has been cranking out peppers for the past month or so. The plant is looking a little worn out. The spots on the stems and leaves are leftover from when we had two hailstorms back-to-back that knocked down a lot of our plants. Luckily, most were resiliant and bounced back, even if they do look a little on the worn-down side. My next blog post will be about a recipe for jalapeno poppers!

Habanero peppers are one of the hottest peppers known. Neither one of us likes super spicy, so why did we plant one of these? I have no idea 🙂 We do have several friends that like super spicy foods, so perhaps we can donate our habanero peppers to them! Just like the peppers above, habanero peppers require lots of sun and well-drained soil. They should be planted after all danger of frost has passed and they do require a longer growing season. They can be picked when green and firm or at the end of the season when they turn red. The only picture of the habanero peppers that I have is the one in in the very first photograph of this post. As I mentioned, we have not eaten them and I am going to give them to a friend who loves spicy food!

The last pepper I want to write about is called a sweet banana pepper. It’s named this because of the banana shape and they are sweet and mild. These turn from yellow to green to red as they mature. These pepper plants produce a lot (up to 30 pods per plant!) and we are certainly seeing that with our sweet banana pepper plant for sure.

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We probably have about 10-15 peppers currently on the plant right now. This type of pepper is great fried and pickled. Since I love pickeled anything I’m going to find a recipe on how to pickle this type of pepper and that will be in a future blog post. Similarly to the other peppers in this post, this is a warm-weather crop that requires well-drained soil and plenty of water. Like the others they need to be protected from sunscald.

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So, what exactly is sunscald? I’ve mentioned it several times throughout this blog post. Sunscald occurs when tomato and pepper plants are exposed to direct rays of sun and the temperature is above 90F. Uh…hello! That’s NC summer weather! Sunscald is more likely to occur on plants that have less foilage or plants that were previously shaded and become suddenly exposed to intense sun rays. When sunscald occurs, the fruits will get white/yellow blisters on the side of the fruit most exposed to the sun. This is a damaged area and if continual exposure of sun occurs the spots can lead to mold, which in turn leads to rotten fruit. The best prevention is to keep your plants happy and healthy. If they are well-watered and have plenty of nutrients available then the plants will have plenty of leaves and provide shade protection for the fruits. If you notice sunscald occurring on the fruits, a shade cloth or other lightweight material can be placed over the plants to provide additional shade.

Happy gardening! I hope this blog post helped with any questions you may have about growing peppers.

And that’s all about them peppers!

Online Resources:

http://www.almanac.com/plant/bell-peppers

http://jalapenomadness.com/growing_jalapeno_peppers.html#.VblIEfkdy1s

http://bonnieplants.com/product/jalapeno-hot-pepper/

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/pepper/growing-habanero-peppers.htm

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/environmental/sunscald/sunscald-of-tomato-and-peppers.aspx

http://bonnieplants.com/product/sweet-banana-pepper/

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