Annuals, Edible fruit, Perennials, Vegetables
These popular vegetables, members of the genus Capsicum, are native to the tropical Americas. Peppers grow on attractive bushy plants ranging from less than a foot high to 4 ft. tall. Peppers are classified as sweet or hot, but breeders have blurred the distinction by developing hot bell peppers and sweet jalapenos.
Choose a site in full, hot sun. Warmer growing conditions result in hotter peppers; add heat in mild-summer regions by planting in a protected place against a south-facing wall. Peppers need a long, warm growing season, so set out nursery transplants as soon as nighttime temperatures remain mostly above 55°F (13°C); space 1 1/2–2 ft. apart. Both sweet and hot peppers do well in containers. After plants are established (but before blossoms set), give them one or two applications of a balanced liquid fertilizer. Most peppers can be picked green or purple after they have reached good size, but flavor typically becomes fuller and sweeter as fruit ripens into its mature color. Pick pimientos only when red-ripe. To harvest any kind of pepper, snip the stem with hand pruners or scissors.
Aphids, flea beetles, and whiteflies can be kept off young peppers early in the growing season with row covers. Later, use yellow sticky traps to control whiteflies. To control pepper weevils (both the larvae and adults attack fruit), destroy infested plants after harvest. Bait for slugs.Peppers, Hot (chiles)
These vary from pea-size types to narrow, 7-in.-long forms, but all are pungent, ranging from mildly hot Italian pepperoncini to nearly incandescent habanero strains like ‘Caribbean Red’. Among the most popular hot peppers are jalapenos, used fresh, dried, or pickled. Others include various selections of ‘Anaheim’, a mildly spicy pepper from New Mexico used for making canned green chiles and the attractively strung bunches called ristras; ‘Cayenne’ types, usually dried, powdered, and used as a spice; and ‘Hungarian Yellow Wax (Hot)’ and ‘Fresno Chile Grande’, mostly used for pickling and cooking. Mexican cooking calls for a wide variety of hot peppers, among them ‘Ancho’ (‘Poblano’), ‘Mulato’, and ‘Pasilla’. Mildly spicy ‘Mariachi’ peppers start out green, then turn yellow and finally red.Peppers, Sweet
These remain mild even after they ripen and change color. The group includes the big stuffing and salad peppers commonly called bell peppers. The best known is ‘California Wonder’, which starts green and ripens red. ‘Tequila’ changes from yellow to purple to red as it matures. Others start green or purple, then ripen yellow, orange, or even brown. Hybrids have been bred for early ripening, high yield, and/or disease resistance. Other sweet types include sweet cherry peppers, used for pickling; long, slender Italian frying peppers and Hungarian sweet yellow peppers, both used for cooking; and thick-walled, very sweet pimientos (sometimes called pimentos), used in salads, cooking, and canning. (Allspice, also called pimento, is not a pepper but a spicy seasoning made from the fruits of a tree native to Jamaica.)
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