A Plethora of Peppers to Pick

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Something a lot of gardeners shy away from is growing peppers. Peppers are not something most folks consume in mass quantities and not as many folks are experienced in preserving them. However, the pepper can be the perfect plant pod for you palette.

There are several types of peppers to choose from – some are hot and some are not. You’re probably not going to need to commit a lot of space to peppers in your garden. Unless you are going to pickle or preserve in some other way, just a plant or two of each type should suffice.

It’s quite interesting to grow a variety of peppers in the garden. Pepper plants are quite ornamental and they all are grown in basically the same way. Space plants about 18 inches apart in rows that are 36 inches apart. Fertilize as you would tomatoes. Most don’t require trellising but support can help sustain a big fruit load.

So let’s look at some of the more popular types and maybe some you haven’t yet considered. We’ll discuss how hot each type is which is measured in Scoville Units (SU).

Bell – Well, bell peppers are the most common type. However, they do come in a variety of colors. The taste is not much different among colors and they all generally start out green until they approach maturity. Bell peppers have no heat and are great for salads or sauteing.

Banana – Banana peppers get their name from their shape. The sweet varieties are just banana peppers or wax peppers. The hotter varieties are called Hungarian hot wax. They can have scoville ratings of 0-500.

Pepperoncini – These peppers are often mistakenly grouped as banana peppers. However, pepperoncini has a thinner skin and are used most for pickling.

Anaheim – Yes, named after the city in California, these peppers are very tasty but one of the mildest of the chile types. Usually 500 to 2,500 SU, they are often roasted and are large enough to be stuffed.

Pablano – These large, relatively mild peppers are what are generally used to make chile relleno. They are 1,000 to 2,000 SU and are more mild when they are younger. They can be roasted or dried.

Jalapeno These are probably the most popular behind bell peppers. They are much warmer, however, depending on the variety. There is a type called “ballpark” that are relatively mild with the jalapeno flavor but not the heat. They are often pickled a sliced and are 2,500 to 5,000 SU. Heat can be mostly removed from these peppers by removing the seed and the membrane inside.

Serrano – Now let’s turn up the heat a bit. These peppers are are slender and slightly bumpy. They are generally green as immature fruit but will turn red. The SU for this type is 6,000 to 23,000. They can be substituted for jalapenos if you want to spice it up a little more.

Cayenne – Used mostly in the dried form, you will find these on your spice rack very often. They are used to add some kick to many recipes. The cayenne is a red pepper and will reach SU of 30,000 to 50,000.

Habanero – This was once considered the hottest of all peppers. While having SU of 100,000 to 350,000 they are no longer the fieriest on the planet. They come in a variety of colors from red, yellow, orange and green and are usually small and blocky. But don’t let the size fool you.

Ghost – This pepper originates in India. With SU of 850,000 to 1,050,000 it packs quite a wallop. It can be used fresh or dried and is often used in curries and chutneys.

Carolina Reaper – This pepper holds the Guinness record for the hottest pepper known. A cross between a habanero and a ghost pepper, the type was created by Ed Currie in Fort Mill, SC – thus the name. With SU of 1,500,000 to 2,200,000 it can peel the paint off the wall. These peppers are mostly used to create sauces for those that like to fire cleanse their taste buds occasionally.

Of course there are other types of hot peppers, such as Tabasco and Scotch Bonnet. You’ll find many of these at your local garden center as plants. Be sure to wait until after danger of frost has passed, however. Even though they may be hot, peppers don’t like frost.

So, pick your poison and plant pleasingly popular peppers.