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From meatloaf to spaghetti sauce to salsa to salads, we certainly use a lot of peppers. And, there are so many peppers to choose from that it can be overwhelming to pick one. So what are the differences?
Sweet peppers have a mild earthy flavor but no heat. Traditionally called green peppers or bell peppers, they mature to a totally different color.
Green pepper is basically an unripe bell pepper. If you want a green pepper, pick it while it’s green. If allowed to stay on the plant long enough, the pepper will ripen to its mature color, usually red, yellow, orange, or purple. This usually increases the sugar content. There are also sweet non-bell peppers—Sweet Banana, for example.
Hot peppers are rated on what is called the Scoville Heat scale (Scoville Heat Units). This measures the amount of capsaicin in the pepper—capsaicin is what makes a pepper hot. The higher the number, the hotter the pepper. The seeds and white membranes inside the pepper contain the most heat. If you remove those, you can tone it down a little.
If you’re shopping for peppers, here is a guide to some of the peppers we most often carry. Scoville Heat Units (SHU) are listed after each variety.
And the Hottest Pepper is….
We don’t carry it, but in case you’re curious, the hottest pepper currently is the Carolina Reapr, developed by “Smokin’ Ed” Currie, owner of the Puckerbutt Pepper Company in Rock Hill, South Carolina. It ranks in with an average of 1.6 million SHU, with some individual peppers claiming as many as 2.2 million SHU.
There are several other peppers that claim to have higher SHU but none have been confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records. A side note—“Smokin’ Ed” has claimed to have created an even hotter pepper known as Pepper X with 3.1 million SHU, but it has not yet been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Growing your own peppers is easy. Plant peppers in an area that gets six hours or more of direct sun. They are related to tomatoes, so if you had a disease problem with tomatoes last year, keep peppers out of that area for the season. Feed regularly. I use Tomato-tone.
Peppers do not like temperatures below 50 degrees. It can cause spotting and/or leaf drop. While I’m always eager to get my garden planted in the spring, I hold off on setting peppers in the ground until the first week or so of May. I’ve learned this one the hard way. I keep my pepper plants in their pots and bring them in at night, if necessary.
Like tomatoes, peppers may not set fruit when temperatures are in the mid-nineties or higher. Just wait it out. They’ll resume production when temperatures drop below 95.
Peppers adapt well to growing in containers. Just be sure to use potting soil in containers and keep fertilized.
We have a great selection of peppers at the Great Big Greenhouse waiting for you! Stop by and we’ll “talk peppers” to find what’s exactly right for you.