I love peppers, hot and sweet, from my head to my feet! You could even call me pepper crazy.
I grew more peppers, both mild and hot, this year than ever before. These versatile plants are beautiful in the garden and are also stars at the dinner table. The cuisines I like best,Thai and Latin American, are founded upon chile peppers, and I love that I can recreate these flavors from my garden.
Plus, the tall tale of hot peppers mixing with sweet is only partially true. There’s a lot of information in books and on the Internet about separating hot and mild peppers while growing. Peppers are self-pollinating, but, they also cross-pollinate. You won’t have hot peppers the first year from your mild bell peppers even if you grow them nearby, but if you save seed, you will probably notice changes the following year from the dominant hot pepper gene. Who doesn’t love a plant that keeps you guessing?
If you don’t want your hot and sweet peppers to mix, follow my practice of separating varieties completely. Because I do save seed, I grow my hot chiles either in raised beds or tucked away in a sunny spot in the ornamental garden. That way, they don’t cross with the sweet peppers grown in my traditional garden and, as an added benefit, hot peppers jazz up my landscape. Chiles look great planted next to yellow, blue or red flowers. That’s why purely ornamental peppers, like ‘Jigsaw’ and ‘Black Pearl’, with their flashy fruit and leaves, have become so popular in recent years. Below are four, favorite chile peppers that are both flashy and flavorful.
1. Chile de Arbol: These small peppers resemble cayenne peppers. They are long and thin, but they do pack some heat. They register 50,000-65,000 on the Scoville heat unit scale, which translates to around 7-8 on a 1-10 scale.
2. Scotch Bonnet: Named after their shape, which resembles a Scottish Tam O’Shanter, this pepper registers 150,000 to 325,000 on the Scoville scale. That’s one hot pepper.
3. ‘Anaheim’: This is a much milder pepper and is great for use in cooking. Since I don’t grow green bell peppers, I use ‘Anaheim’ in any recipe that calls for them. ‘Anaheim’ adds a pop of flavor where the green bell pepper falls short. Any bell peppers I grow I raise to maturity in red, yellow or orange. Green peppers are too cheap at the store to spend much time growing them.
4. Poblano Peppers: These are another mild favorite. They are a beautiful dark green in color and taste great. These are the peppers my family stuffs to make chile rellenos, and they only measure between 1,000 and 2,000 Scoville heat units.
So, whether you like your food sweet or hot as a crackerjack, there’s a pepper for you. Why don’t you try some in spring?