Pepper Crazy, but I like it!

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Cayenne peppers at the farmer's market. If you don't have room to grow so many, just buy them. Be sure to ask about heat first.

Cayenne peppers at the farmer’s market. If you don’t have room to grow so many, just buy them. Be sure to ask about heat level first.

I love peppers, hot and sweet, from my head to my feet! You could even call me pepper crazy.

Golden bell peppers are sweet and great in stir fries.

Golden bell peppers are sweet and great in stir fries.

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.

My potager has peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant, along with herbs.

My potager has peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant, along with herbs.

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.

Chile peppers dancing in the wind.

Chile peppers dancing in the wind.

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?


I'm a writer, born and raised in Oklahoma, and an obsessive gardener who grows shrubs, perennials and vegetables on my acreage each year. My favorite veggies have to be homegrown hybrid or heirloom tomatoes, Genovese basil and hot and mild peppers. It's an Italian salsa garden at my house.

3 thoughts on “Pepper Crazy, but I like it!

  1. Dee how wonderful to see the new blog. I have the book ordered and cannot wait to do a review. I also love peppers although I cannot eat the hot ones anymore. So I grow many sweet peppers and my favorite green chiles.

    • Oh Donna! Thank you so much. I’m excited about the book now that I’m seeing portions of the final product. I hope you like it. It’s always scary to present one’s baby to the world. I love sweet peppers too. They add such a wonderful dimension to a dish.

  2. I grew Cubanelle peppers this year and use them like you use the Anaheim peppers, as subs for green peppers, but with a little bit of kick. The Cubanelles produced like crazy! Before the freeze, I picked them and just threw then in a ziploc bag and froze them. They work just as great in recipes this winter as they did in the summer. I grew Anaheims too but they did not produce nearly as well as the Cubanelle. I have a very small veggie garden, so if a veggie is taking up valuable space, it better be a producer. Cubanelle fits the bill! Merry Christmas and a blessed 2014!!

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