Peppers (sweet)

Peppers come in all colors and sizes. Some are as sweet as an apple and others are so hot that they'll burn the skin on your hands. There's a pepper to please almost everyone.

For most gardeners, buying pepper plants from a nursery is the easiest way to get started. If you want to grow your own peppers from seed, keep the soil quite warm during germination (80 degrees F.) This may require keeping the seed flat on top of the refrigerator or near a radiator. The seeds should be sown eight to 10 weeks before your last spring frost date, and should not be put into the garden for another two weeks after that date.

If peppers get too much nitrogen, they will grow lots of leaves and produce few peppers. Give them well-drained soil with a little compost in it. They'll appreciate the nutrients and minerals in liquid seaweed, but avoid fish emulsion because of its high nitrogen content.

To provide the extra heat that peppers crave, coddle new transplants with special covers. This will help retain heat on cool days and at night when temperatures drop. A few bricks or stones around the plants will store heat, radiating back at night. Once the plants start to flower, you'll need to remove the fabric to allow insects to pollinate the blossoms — otherwise you won't get any fruit.

You can pick peppers at any size. Use scissors or a sharp knife to avoid damaging the central stem and branches. If you pick a few early peppers small, it will stimulate the plants to flower and produce more. Green peppers, if left on the plants to mature, will usually turn red, yellow or orange, depending on the variety. Chocolate brown varieties exist, too. Pepper flavors are sweetest if you allow the fruit to change color. Hot peppers are hottest when they ripen to red.

If you have too many peppers, you can cut them in strips and freeze on a cookie sheet. When frozen, put them in plastic freezer bags. Peppers keep their consistency and flavor better than most other vegetables. You can thaw them and add to soups and stir fries, scrambled eggs and enchiladas.

Last updated: 01/26/2021