Despite the fact that the ground is snow-covered, the wind is blowing and the temperature was -5 degrees F at dawn, it is time to seed the peppers. This is the first crop that will need the bottom heating mat, so a good scrubbing was the beginning point, having already scrubbed the seeding flats and dipped them in bleach water yesterday.
Many gardeners seed many more varieties of peppers than I. There are pages and pages of peppers in each seed catalog, so deciding which to grow can be difficult. In my farmer market years and my commercial greenhouse years, I grew hundreds of different peppers of all types from mild to the hottest, every color, shape, size and nationality I could find. Now with more limited space and needs, I grow only those peppers that we actually use often and that are highly productive per plant, with only a new variety or two added just for fun each year. Peppers are fairly easy to grow if given warm conditions, adequate water, and good soil in a very sunny location. They really detest cool soil, cool air and cold water.
My go-to peppers for great productivity and basic general usage are:
- “Blight Buster” green bell pepper (exclusive from SeedsNSuch) which has out-performed all other bell peppers over the past three years. Thick walled, 4-5″fruits with excellent flavor, 73 days from transplanting to harvest. Ripen to red and the best disease resistance on the market.
- “Feher Ozon” is an heirloom “paprika” pepper (Pinetree Seeds and others) that produces big numbers of big triangular peppers that begin creamy white moving through yellow, orange and then bright red. I harvest at all colors, cut them into strips or dice and pop them into the freezer to provide tasty, colorful peppers for stir-fry, fajitas, casseroles, and soups. 70 days. They are a sweet pepper from Hungary, and can be dehydrated or hung to dry in the red stage, then ground to make paprika. If I could only grow one pepper, this would be it!
- “Red Cherry” sweet pepper (widely available) begin as deep green, slightly oval balls on 2′ plants. Produce continually all season, especially if continually harvested (green or bright red stage.) These little1-2″ “cherries” are one of my go-to summer appetizers, picked fresh and stuffed with egg salad, tuna salad, a basil leaf and a small cube of fresh mozarella, or a pesto-cream cheese mixture. At the end of the season, they are pickled (some plain, some in a sweet pickle brine) to be stuffed for Christmas parties where they add a big pop of color to cheese trays, etc.
- “Golden Greek” pepperoncini (SeedsNSuch) will provide such an abundance (in a small space) of golden-green (ripen through orange to red) 2-4″ long thin-walled peppers that are prized by gourmets. I harvest them all season and pickle them for my husband, who’s a big fan.
- “Early Jalapeno” is the only hot pepper I bother to grow now. Unlike many folks, we don’t use great quantities of hot peppers, only enough for salsa, stir-fry, tortilla soup, etc. This variety has proven reliable, and six plants provide more than enough for our needs. 63 days, picked when green to red and open pollinated so seed can be saved (provided NO other variety of peppers are grown within pollinators’ flying distance!) Compact plants and seem to be disease free.
This year “Orange You Sweet” (E&R) is being grown again, mainly because there’s still seed left and because it is orange, so it adds a color I like. This is a cheese-type pepper, round and somewhat flat, with very thick walls and a sweet flavor. This is another one that I stuff for appetizers, or dice into salads. 65 days. Supposedly can be pickled, but I haven’t.
My two “just for fun” peppers are the hybrid “Sweet Apple Green” (SeedsNSuch) 78 days, which is a 3-4″ “Granny Smith lime-green” bell pepper that matures orange. It is said to get sweeter and sweeter as it matures, with a hint of citrus. I love browsing on peppers as I garden, and am looking forward to munching on this one.
The last pepper was mentioned in so many garden blogs that I read overwinter, that I felt compelled to give it a try. “Corbaci” is another heirloom from Pinetree, who says it is the longest pepper available, with over a dozen 10″ long, tapered peppers per plant. Some remain straight, and some will spiral or curve. They are sweet, mild, edible at any stage from pale yellow to red with a fruity flavor. From Turkey, they are used raw, fried, pickled or dried. 75 days. This just sounds fun, and ought to be striking in the potager.
So, I’m off to the basement to sow peppers, and to check on all the emerging seedlings from the first sowing. It’s so exciting to see ribbons of green. Hopefully, we’ll see some green outdoors soon!