For a searing taste experience, try eating hot peppers that you grow in your garden this summer. Start seeds indoors now, so that these
warm-weather vegetables will have a head start on the growing season.
Nurseries usually have a fairly good selection of seeds of the common varieties.
The “heat” of a pepper is determined by the quantity of several chemical compounds (primarily capsaicin) contained in the fruit.
This mainly a result of genetic heritage, but it can also be affected by growing conditions.
Where summers are long and hot, as in desert areas, peppers will have the most fiery flavor. Peppers grown in cooler summer temperatures
will not be as burning. Research has shown the peppers ripening in temperatures between 86[deg.] and 95[deg.] have almost twice as much
capsaicin as those developing between 59[deg.] and 72[deg.].
Start seeds indoors in a flat or other shallow container filled with potting soil. Keep evenly moist. After seedlings are up, place containers in sun. As seedlings become crowded, move to roomier quarters, such as 4-inch pots. Once the garden soil is warm and all danger of frost is past, transplant seedlings at 18-inch intervals in rows 3 feet apart in a sunny spot.
Feed lightly and keep soil evenly moist. Plants grow 1-1/2 to 2 feet tall and may need staking. Plants start to bear fruit in 65 to 80
days, depending on variety.
Generally, peppers are light to dark green when young, turning red or yellow when mature. The mature color does not indicate a hotter flavor; full potency is reached once peppers are close to full size. You can pickle hot peppers, use them in relisheds and sauces, or dry and crush them for seasoning. Milder ones, such as ‘Anaheim’, can be stuffed and baked as you would bell peppers for chilies rellenos.
When preparing hot peppers, remember that the juices can irritate eyes and skin. Wear rubber gloves if you are sensitive, and avoid touching
eyes while handling hot peppers.
These varieties are widely available on seed racks or as started plants:
‘Anaheim’. Medium-hot, with long, tapered fruits about 7 inches by 1-1/4 inches.
‘Long Red Cayenne’. Very hot, attractive red pepper about 5 inches long (pictured).
‘Fresno Chile Grande’. Pungent little peppers (3-1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide) grow upright on plant. Medium green fruit
turns bright red. Very popular in the Southwest.
‘Hungarian Yellow Wax Hot’. Moderate heat combined with a delicate yellow colr turning to bright red makes this a favorite.
Fruit is about 7 inches long, 2 inches wide.
‘Jalapeno’. Tongue-searing qualities account for this pepper’s fame. Fruits are stubby: about 3-1/2 inches long, 1-1/2
inches in diameter. Green flesh turns crimson.
‘Red Cherry’. Plenty of fiery wallop in a small package. These peppers are almost round, about 1 inch in diameter.
‘Serrano Chile’. One of the hottest, it’s favored by Southwest gardeners. Fruits grow about 2-1/4 inches long, 1/2 inch