How to plant peppers in your vegetable garden

pepper assortmentI’ve never met a pepper I didn’t like. Hot, sweet, fried or dried, I’m crazy about them all. That’s why I plant at least a dozen different pepper varieties in my garden every season.

There will always be several jalapeno plants, but each year I enjoy adding new-to-me varieties. I’ve been known to pick a pepper plant just so I could grow enough chiles to prepare a single recipe. ‘Holy Mole’!

I’m drawn to peppers because they’re versatile in the kitchen and grow in so many different sizes, shapes and colors. There are baby bell peppers, slender green Thai chiles, long red paprika peppers and even black edible ornamentals.

Then, of course, there’s the thrill of the unknown when taking that first tantalizing bite.

Has a pepper ever made you cry or cause steam to vent from your ears? That painful burning sensation is nature’s way of letting you know you’ve had too much capsaicin. Capsaicin is the flavorless, tasteless alkaloid compound that stimulates the pain receptors in your mouth.

Cayennetta Peppers are a Blue Ribbon Winner

‘Cayennetta’ is an All-America Selections vegetable winner for 2012 and a blue-ribbon winner for me.

I’d never entered anything in a county fair until this year. And what a year it’s turned out to be.

I entered 5 different produce competitions and came home with 5 blue ribbons. Here’s to beginner’s luck!

At the Denver County Fair, my ‘Cayennetta’ entry of two fire-engine red peppers must have gained the judge’s attention. These were the only red peppers in the category that included large green jalapenos, purple jalapenos, Spanish ‘Padron’ and even a plate of Naga-Bih Jolokia ‘Ghost’ peppers.

‘Cayennetta’ is a new pepper variety and was selected by AAS as a top vegetable for 2012. AAS is a non-profit organization dedicated to testing new garden seed varieties, selecting the very best as “winners” and then introducing them to gardeners to grow in their own gardens.

Gardening with Miniature Peppers

My vegetable pick of the week: Red Mini Bell peppers.

One of my favorite vegetable plants in my container garden last summer was a crop of adorable mini bell peppers.

These miniature versions of red bell peppers made gardening (and eating) fun.

I selected mini bells to add to my other pepper selections because I haven’t had good luck growing full-size bell peppers. I blame that on having a short growing season combined with fickle spring weather.

But these minis meant sweet pepper success!

I started several miniature bell pepper plants from seed and waited until mid-June to transplant them into the garden. Night-time temperatures weren’t consistently warm enough for planting earlier.

Each plant grew to about 24 inches in containers in my small-space garden and took only 60 days to start producing peppers. Each pepper was only several inches tall and wide, but the flesh was tender, sweet, and quite flavorful.

How to Grow Tabasco Sauce Step 2

How to Grow Tabasco Sauce, Step 1, included information on growing Tabasco pepper plants from seed. Step 2 is an illustrated guide for using the fresh peppers to make your own Tabasco sauce.

After the Tabasco peppers have ripened to the perfect color of red, pick them from the plant, wash, and carefully remove the stems and green caps. Chop peppers and place them in a saucepan. It’s always a good idea to wear kitchen gloves whenever handling fresh peppers.

Add about 1 1/2 cups or more of white vinegar to the pan of chopped Tabasco peppers. Mix in 1 teaspoon of salt. Heat the mixture until it just begins to boil and then turn heat down. Simmer for 5-7 minutes. Allow the pepper and vinegar mixture to cool completely.

Carefully pour the pepper mixture into a blender. Make sure the lid is on tight and puree. Pour the mixture into a jar and tighten the lid. Place the jar in the refrigerator and allow it to steep for 3 weeks.

Pepper Varieties Good for Any Garden

The results are in for the 2011 pepper trials in my Rocky Mountain garden. Here are seven varieties I’d recommend for any kind of gardening. Just for fun, can you guess which is the hottest pepper of the bunch?

The Red Mini Bell peppers, grown from seed purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, did especially well in my container garden. The plant is still loaded with small peppers that are exceptionally sweet. I wrote about growing these peppers on my blog.

The Kung Pao peppers were grown from a transplant I purchased at a local garden center. I grew this variety so I could make my own Kung Pao chicken recipe, in addition to other Asian specialties. This plant, also grown in a container on my patio, grew to about 30 inches.  The peppers are long and skinny and have thin walls which helps them dry quickly.

Picture Perfect Peppers and Canna Lilies

Each spring, the experts with Denver Parks and Recreation tend this raised planter in my neighborhood park. However, this is the first year for such an interesting combination of plants. Mixing yellow and red Canna lilies with ornamental peppers is a brilliant idea.

Right now the peppers are ripening and turning the same shades of yellow and red as the Canna flowers. Not only is it a great combination, but it shows how the gardening pros plan ahead so bloom times coincide. I wish I could I could that!

I’m going to keep this idea in mind for my garden next season. Using ornamental peppers with flowering plants is a beautiful approach for adding a blast of color to any dull spot in the garden.

What ideas do you have for using something like this in your landscape? Please share them here!

Paprika Adds Spice to Gardening Life

Once you’ve experienced the pleasure of growing sweet red peppers and then grinding the dried pods into fresh paprika, you’ll never want to buy grocery store paprika again.

I love to grow hot peppers, but I’ve also had fun gardening with other kinds, like sweet red paprika peppers. I added several pots of paprika to the container garden this year and they produced 5-6” long, curly peppers that ripened nicely on the plant.

As each pepper turned red, I picked it, washed it, and placed it on a screen to dry. I let my little crop dry thoroughly until they got crunchy before grinding. Then I let my spice mill do all of the work.

The grinding process released a warm, sweet pepper aroma so fragrant I had to stop and take a deep breath to savor it. The orange-red powder was certainly beautiful to behold.

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