Peppers are a staple of the kitchen garden. Whether you want to grow sweet or hot varieties, this lesson will lead you through all the steps necessary to successfuly grow this versatile vegetable.
Peppers are fairly easy to grow. They take around 70 days to mature for both the sweet and hot varieties. Their ideal temperature range is between 70-85 degrees. Daytime temperatures over 90 will cause blossom drop, which resumes once the temperature drops back within normal ranges. Using a shade cloth can often help avoid sun scalding and protect against extreme heat.
· Epsom salts can help the pepper plants produce fruit. Use 1 tsp. epsom salts in a quart of tepid wa
Plant peppers in full sun with some protection from prevailing winds. Since these are thin stemmed plants, heavy winds can cause severe breakage. Plant them in rows spacing them 10″ apart, and spacing the rows at 24 inches for good access and air circulation.
Peppers like a well drained soil well amended with compost and phosphate. Since they are easy prey for cutworms, using a stiff paper collar into the soil around the plant, will halt any attempts to reach the vulnerable stems and leaves. Leave 1/2 to 3/4″ of the collar protruding above the ground.
Epsom salts can help the pepper plants produce fruit. Use 1 tsp. epsom salts in a quart of tepid water. Apply once a week until blossoms appear. You can plant sweet and hot peppers side by side as they are self pollinating.
Peppers are very vulnerable to tobacco mosaic virus. If you are smoking, wash your hands before handling the plants, as this is one way this virus can be transmitted.
Aphids and thrips are fond of pepper plants. Since this is an edible crop, use an insecticidal soap to kill them. Tomato hornworms are also pepper predators. When you see them follow the same methods used for tomatoes to get rid of them.
If you notice sunken blackish patches on your peppers they are suffering from a calcium deficiency. Spraying with a solution of non-fat milk and water will clear this up.
Harvest sweet peppers when they are fully lobed and firm. Leaving sweet peppers on until they turn red increases the Vitamin A content significantly.Hot varieties can be harvested at any point, depending on personal preference.
The most well known sweet pepper varieties are Yolo Wonder, Lady Belle, Chocolate or Purple Belle, Gypsy and Sweet Banana. These can be diced or sliced and frozen for use in winter dishes.
Hot peppers have enjoyed a huge surge in popularity. With the American passion for ethnic cuisine and the much touted benefits of eating hot peppers, they have become a staple in kitchen gardens.
From the milder Anaheim and Poblano chili peppers, to the blistering heat of the Tabasco or Habanero pepper, which add fiery heat to chili, you will find a wide range of uses for them in your kitchen.
Jalapenos are perfect for mild to moderately hot dishes and for pickling. Anaheims and Poblanos are ideal for stuffing or making rellenos. The fiery hot Habanero and Tabasco peppers are superb for adding intense heat to chilis and stews.
A word of caution. Whenever you handle hot peppers either wear gloves or wash your hands immediately after handling. Too many people have suffered severe burning of their eyes or skin. These peppers contain volatile oils that are extremely caustic. To reduce the heat, when using them in a recipe, remove all the seeds and interior membranes, before cooking.
Serving yogurt or milk with an intensely hot dish will reduce the uncomfortable mouth burn that often accompanies the hotter peppers.
You can grow hot peppers to use as decorative elements in your home. Cut slits on both sides of the pepper, just below the stem. Using a needle and heavy thread, poke through the slits and add a pepper at a time until you have a full string. Hang this in a warm place. These are called ristras and make lovely kitchen “gifts”