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Column: Peppers range from sweet to explosive heat

Hanbidge on Horitculture: Growing Peppers – Part II
peppers poblano (Medium)
Poblano peppers are a chili pepper that is native to Mexico, but can be grouped with the tasty rather than the hot peppers.

For the past few years, I have been enjoying growing a vast array of peppers. If you grow them, then you may get a few ideas on some new types to grow. If you do not grow peppers, then I hope this series of articles entices you to try your hand growing peppers. This article will focus mainly on the tasty rather than the hotter peppers but there is always some general knowledge shared about growing any kind of pepper.

Peppers can be juicy and sweet to totally explosive with heat. If you are doing the taste test on peppers, generally, the larger and fleshier the fruit, the sweeter and cooler the flavour. The smallest, most thin-skinned types will pack a very powerful wallop in heat.

California Wonder is an excellent sweet bell pepper that is up to four inches in length and is very much suited to cooler climates. It is a popular old-time variety that starts out light green, turns to a dark green and with enough heat and time will turn a lovely shade of red.

Jimmy Nardello is a Sweet Italian pepper that is without doubt the best banana type of pepper for frying or for pasta sauces. It has a slightly spicy flavour lending itself to a delectable feast whether eaten raw or cooked. Great for containers as at maturity it is about 24 inches high.

An Italian heirloom pepper that is a must to grow is the Marconi Pepper. The plants will produce long pods that are five to eight inches in length and have thinner walls. They are great roasted with garlic and oil, stuffed or eaten fresh. Plants are medium sized and produce what would be considered a medium yield.

This year I am growing so many Poblano peppers. I have totally fallen in love with growing all peppers. Poblano peppers (Capsicum annum) are a chili pepper that is native to Mexico, but to me they are grouped with the tasty rather than the hot peppers. They do add some zing to your meals but it is very mild. They are dark green and have a mild, slightly sweet flavour, but if left to turn red then they will pack more heat. Dried Poblanos that are nearly ripe and a nice, deep red colour are known as ancho chillis, which are an essential ingredient in many Mexican dishes.

 Purple Beauty is a mid-sized lobed sweet bell pepper which begins as a lovely purple colour and deepens to almost black when completely ripe. Lovely raw or cooked.

Hungarian Yellow Wax Sweet boasts a sweet, mildly hot flavour that gets hotter as it matures from green to orange and red. Fruit is up to about five inches in length and the plant itself will mature at just under a meter in height.

From Japan, comes the Shishito Pepper which is perfect for snacking. It would typically be eaten pan-fried with oil and salt, so it can be a quick and healthy appetizer dish. They are easy to grow as the plants are highly prolific and produce dozens of pods from a single plant. Harvest them when they are still green, but as most peppers will ripen to a deep red colour.

Peppers require a very hot summer to produce a respectable crop in the very short Saskatchewan 100 day growing season. On the prairies when we have a cooler growing season, you sometimes have to be a bit innovative to increase the heat units to get a pepper crop. Using plastic ground mulches and row covers to warm the soil and trap heat around the plants greatly increase productivity of both sweet and hot peppers, making these excellent crops possible even when we have cool summers.

Hanbidge is the Lead Horticulturist with Orchid Horticulture. Find us at; by email at; on facebook @orchidhort and on instagram at #orchidhort.

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