Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pepper Selections for 2015

I may have gone a bit overboard on the peppers this year, but that always seems to be the case. Twenty-one of the twenty-two varieties that made the list have produced at least one good seedling. Oops, I really did go crazy this year, a look back to 2014 shows that I only grew 11 varieties. In 2013 it was 19 varieties. I don't know where I'll find the space for all of them, pots I suppose, but I'll deal with that when the time comes.

March 30 was the start date for most of the peppers. Most of the seeds went directly into pots, multiple seeds per pot that I set on a heat mat near a window. I've quit using overhead lights, so once the seeds germinate and the cotyledons have completely popped out of their seed coats the plants start spending their days outside. Nights are still too cold for the tender little things (below 40ºF at times) so I schlep trays of seedlings out in the morning and in in the evening. I'll give them a little shade if the midday sun gets a bit too hot, but lately that hasn't been a problem, the fog has barely cleared for a few hours each of the past few days.

I pot up the seedlings into small pots while they are still quite small, but into pots that are small enough to pack into a tray so that they can do the morning and evening moves somewhat easily. I have had a difficult time getting some of the seeds to germinate so I took inspiration from Margaret and decided to pre-germinate a second round (or third round in one case). And a few of the varieties went straight to the pre-germination method because they were old seeds.

The method I've been using to get the seeds started is to lay them out on a wet, not quite dripping wet, folded up paper towel and tuck it into a plastic sandwich baggie, unsealed so the babies can breathe. That goes onto the heat mat but insulated to keep the baggies from getting too hot. When a little root has appeared I transfer the seeds to a container. I experimented with tucking the seeds into the soil and watering them in, which works but is a bit too fiddly and have settled on just placing them on top of the premoistened soil and covering them with vermiculite and then covering the pot with plastic wrap until the seeds finish sprouting. Anyway, they continue to sit on the heat mat until the cotyledons have fully emerged and then out they go.

If all goes well, in a few weeks time I'll be potting the plants up one more time either to larger pots or straight into the garden.

So here's the lineup for 2015, first in alphabetical order, varieties marked with * are totally new in my garden, descriptions are below.

Aji Amarillo*
Craig's Grande Jalapeño*
Criolla de Cocina*
De La Vera
Florina Greek*
Giallo di Cuneo
IPK CAP 268 (Chile)*
Lady Bell
Long des Landes
Mareko Fana*
Odessa Market
Rezha Macedonian*
Rosso Dolce da Appendere*
Shephard's Ramshorn
Sonora Anaheim
Syrian Three Sided*
Yummy Belles*

Descriptions in italics are from the seed sources or Wikipedia.

I've added photos of most of the varieties that I've grown before. Generally, if I grow a pepper variety more than two times it's a keeper because it performs well and it tastes good. Seven of the nine returning varieties fall into that category.

Sweet Peppers:

Criolla de Cocina* (Baker Creek)
I first received seed for this great pepper 15 years ago, so I am so excited to get it into the catalog! This small pepper was collected in 1988 in Nicaragua from a farmer. It produces small 4" peppers that are fragrant and richly flavored; these have strong pepper flavor making them perfect for a variety of dishes. Fruit is green turning to red as they ripen.

These look like they could be really interesting peppers, if I can coax the few seedlings that germinated into a healthy state.

De La Vera peppers on the left

De La Vera (Heritage Farm, Seed Savers Exchange)
Plants avgs 2-2.5' tall, v-shaped, openly branching habit. Fruit very long and slender, slightly curving, ripens from green to red. Fruit avgs 6" long, 0.7" wide at widest point, 0.6oz. Slightly tough skin, moderate heat in membrane, sweet, good flavor.

I grew this pepper once before in 2010 when I went on a bit of a Spanish pepper kick. This was before I figured out a good way to make my own smoked peppers. Even though this pepper seems to come from the region of Spain where Pimetón, the smoked paprika, is produced, I'm not sure that this is one of the peppers that is actually used to produce the paprika. After reading up on the subject I found that there are a few different varieties that are grown to produce the three types of paprika:

pimentón dulce - sweet, made from "Bola" and "Jaranda" peppers
pimentón picante - spicy, made from "Jeromín" and "Jariza" peppers
pimentón agridulce - bittersweet; a mixture of the two other paprikas

These peppers look similar to the Jariza peppers that I saw elsewhere on the web, but they are totally sweet, so they probably aren't the same.

Jariza peppers are available through the SSE yearbook so I might give those a try next year, although they are listed as a sweet pepper there, but sometimes things get put in the wrong categories.

I hope to be smoking up a bunch of these peppers this fall. One thing I need to note, my seeds were from 2009 and I had little hope of getting many, much less any, to germinate. So these went directly to the paper towel pre-germination treatment and I've been blown away by the number of seeds that have germinated, at least a dozen (I lost count) and the germinated seeds that I've sown seem to be thriving.

Florina Greek* (Seed Swap, original seed source from Athens)
From Wikipedia: The Florina pepper (Greek: πιπεριά Φλωρίνης) is a pepper cultivated in the northern Greek region of Western Macedonia and specifically in the wider area of Florina; for which it is named. It has a deep red color, and is shaped like a cow's horn. Initially the pepper has a green color, ripening into red, after the 15th of August. The red pepper is known in Greece for its rich sweet flavor, used in various Greek dishes and is exported in various canned forms abroad, usually hand-stripped, keeping the natural scents of pepper and topped with extra virgin olive oil, salt and vinegar. 

I'm always willing to try a good sweet pepper, especially a good fleshy roasting pepper.

Gogosar* (Heritage Farm, Seed Savers Exchange)
A pimento type pepper from Hungary. I've heard good things about these peppers.

Giallo de Cuneo
Giallo de Cuneo (Seeds From Italy)
Large, square, yellow pepper from alpine Northern Italy.  Piamonte has the reputation of having the best peppers in Italy. This pepper is big, round, has very thick walls & thin skin with great flavor. Has a bit of a pointed end. Very productive. Color is brilliant yellow/gold. Ripens mid to late spring. 2 gram packet.

This has been my choice of yellow bell peppers for three years. It is an OP variety and I have noticed a bit of variation in peppers from different plants, mostly in size and color, the quality is always good.

Lady Bell

Lady Bell (Territorial and Harris)
71 days. Reliably bountiful, this robust bell has a delicious, sweet flavor and crisp, crunchy texture. The 3-4 lobed fruit have moderately thick, juicy walls and turn from a glossy green to a bright red at maturity. They flourished and ripened during an unusually chilly summer at our trial farm. We love the beefy, elongated bells for everything from salads to stuffing or frying.

This is the best sweet red bell pepper that I've grown since starting to garden in this location. I almost panicked when I found only 2 seeds in the packet and had to order up another packet ASAP. I barely even consider trying another red bell pepper. My only wish would be that this were an OP variety. I hope that getting the seeds from a different source doesn't impact the quality of the peppers, I would guess not, the seed purveyors probably get their seeds from the same source.

Piment Doux Long Des Landes
Long Des Landes (L'Atelier Vert)
Although it looks like a hot pepper, 'Doux Long des Landes' is in fact sweet, but with a complex spicy--but nonhot--flavor. This pepper has been grown in the southwest of France for over a century, hailing from the same region as the 'Tarbais' bean. Excellent for use fresh or dry.

I tried to get the very last of my seeds for this variety (shipped all the way from France years ago) to germinate, but to no avail. So I resorted to seeds that I saved from 2 years ago, great germination but I didn't isolate the blossoms, so I'll see what I get. This is one of the few peppers that I like either green or ripe and it does dry quite well.

Odessa Market

Odessa Market (Baker Creek, but not offered for 2015)
This pepper comes from the Black Sea city of Odessa in Ukraine. A great tasting, top-shaped pepper that starts out bright green, turning orange and then red. Short plants produce fruit all summer, and this variety is dependable even in the north. A good variety for growing in pots.

This has turned out to be one of my favorite sweet non-bell types of peppers. It's tasty both green and ripe. The green stage is a striking lime green color which makes for a beautiful addition to a crudité platter. The plants are small but very productive. The peppers are beautiful, smooth, relatively thick fleshed, and the skin is tender enough for good fresh eating but it also makes a great roasting pepper.

Rosso Dolce da Appendere* (Seeds From Italy)
Frying pepper from Southern Italy. 6 inches long, thin skin, very sweet. Bright red when ripe. Use red or green. This pepper also dries very well for winter use. Peppers ready 70 or so days after set out.

Just couldn't resist this one when I saw it on the Seeds From Italy website.

Shephard's Ramshorn

Shephard's Ramshorn (Adaptive Seeds)
Capsicum annuum. 75 days. A rare medium-large, elongated & blocky, red Italian frying type pepper. Reputed to be one of the sweetest peppers around. Scored a high rating in the Northern Organic Variety Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) trials for early maturity & flavor. Fruit are a little bit later & more stout than Corono di Toro, but more productive, even outside in cool Oregon summers. Originally from Spain, reselected in Italy, & that's all we know of this wonderful pepper's history.

This is my favorite sweet red roasting pepper. Last year I also grew Stocky Red Roaster, which is great also, but I give the edge to Shephard's Ramshorn for it's larger size, thicker flesh and ever so slightly superior flavor (to my taste). The one advantage that Stocky has over Shephard's is its straight sides which makes it easier to roast.

Syrian Three Sided* (Baker Creek)
80 days. Large fruits are about 6-8 inches long and as large around as a coffee cup. Fruits are three sided just like name says. Ripens to a deep oxblood red. Taste is super-sweet but occasionally, there is heat in the skin. Very productive in our trials. Another gift from our Syrian friend, Raghad Gorani. This Syrian heirloom made a big hit in our kitchens last summer as they have excellent flavor.

I'm not sure what it is with pepper seeds from Baker Creek this year, these are not germinating well and what has germinated is rather weak.

Yummy Belles* (Renee's Garden)
Highly productive plants load up early with thick-walled, plump and juicy 3 to 4 inch mini peppers that ripen quickly to bright orange. Sweet and delicious for fast snacks and salads or grilling.

Another failure to resist temptation. I'll make a half hearted excuse that I'm always looking for a good yellow or orange pepper that will grow in my climate.

Chile Peppers

Aji Amarillo* (Artisan Seeds)
Plants are very productive.  Each individual plant produces hundreds of small 2-3" peppers in one summer season.  In the summer we sell immature (mild, soft and yellow) Aji Amarillo peppers which are used largely as "frying peppers", similar to Padron frying peppers.  In the fall we also sell mature golden orange Aji Amarillo peppers that can be dried, roasted or turned into paste.  Our Aji Amarillo strain is smaller than the larger Aji Amarillo that is commonly used to make pastes and sauces, but the flavor is the same.
Most of our personal supply of Aji Amarillo is roasted in the oven under low heat, and then flaked so it can be used throughout the year to season soups, stews and many other types of dishes. 

These were some freebie seeds that came with my order and I have a hard time resisting baccatum peppers...

Craig's Grande Jalapeño* (Baker Creek)
A big, fat jalapeno that is perfect for making lots of salsa. Perfect for anyone who loves jalapenos. It has thick, flavorful, hot flesh. Developed at Redwood City Seeds.

The one pepper variety this year from Baker Creek that is germinating and growing well. My pepper smoking experiments last year have made me want to try making my own chipotle peppers. My impression is that "Craig's" isn't as hot as "Early" jalapeños but more spicy than most of the mild varieties available, I hope these turn out to be good.

IPK CAP 268 (Chile)* (Heritage Farm, Seed Savers Exchange).
IPK is a gene bank in Germany. Seed Savers Exchange offers various seeds that they originally acquired from IPK. The accession data on IPK's website indicates that the seeds originally came from the Vavilov Research Institute (VIR) in Leningrad (now the N.I. Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry). I'm leaping to the conclusion that the original seed stock was collected by Vavilov on his seed collecting expedition to the Americas in 1932-33. Anyway, my interest in this pepper was sparked by my trip to Chile last year coupled with reading a fascinating account of Vavilov's collecting expeditions in Gary Nabhan's book Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest To End Famine. It's fun to just take a flier sometimes and see what grows.

Gotta love a seed source like the Heritage Farm at Seed Saver's Exchange. When the seeds arrived there was a note enclosed that they were sending twice the usual amount of seeds because the seeds were 6 years old or older. Heritage Farm is the farm that started SSE and they maintain a huge genebank of seeds, many of which they offer to members through the SSE yearbook. Their seeds are kept under optimal storage conditions and it showed in the germination rate for these "old" seeds - all 12 seeds that I sowed have germinated (obviously I was expecting far less).

Mareko Fana* (Artisan Seeds)
Mareko Fana plants are very productive.  In the summer and fall we sell immature (mild) Mareko Fana peppers that are used largely as"frying peppers", similar to Padron frying peppers.  In the fall we also sell mature brown and red fruits that can be used fresh in dishes, or turned into chutneys, jams and pepper flakes.  The pepper flakes of Mareko Fana also inspired the creation of a unique herb tea on our farm -- Chile Mint Tea.  The dried peppers are traditionally used to make Berbere spice.
We have been growing a land-race directly from Ethiopia, and this is what we are offering here.  The peppers are mostly brown, although some are red.  They are mostly thick-fleshed, but some are thinner.  This is a land-race, containing genetic diversity, and we are growing it as a land-race without efforts to make it true-breeding.  We like the diversity in the population, and we think you will too.
The land-race was sourced for us by our collaborator, Menkir Tamrat, who will soon be launching a website devoted to Ethiopian culinary products, including seeds of a number of Ethiopian crops.  The name of his company is Timeless Harvest, and we will post a link here when it is operational. 

Oh, I can't wait to try Mareko Fana, some claim that the immature MF's are better than Padrons. And the ripe peppers are versatile too.

Last year I grew some Topepo Rosso peppers and one of them was not true to type - instead of a thick walled round pimento type it was thinner fleshed and more triangular shaped. Actually, I liked the off-type pepper better than the Topepo Rossos! It also had a hint of spice instead of being completely sweet. It was also very tasty and was great smoked. I saved some of the seeds and I'm going to see what grows this year. If I get the same pepper again I'll have to come up with a better name than Not Topepo Rosso.

Padron peppers
Padron (Seeds From Italy)
This is an interesting pepper and very popular. It produces a large quantity of small (1 1/2 or 2 inches by 2 or 3 inches) green peppers which are mostly sweet and mild when young, although a small percentage of them are hot. As they get mature, more become hot and hot weather also increases the heat of the pepper. That's the fun of them. They are a popular tapas in Spain, where they are pan charred in a bit of oil and sprinkled with coarse salt. Grab one by the stem, take a bite and steel yourself for some heat. Or maybe not. Pepper Roulette, they call it.
This is not a large plant; set out on 12-14 inch centers. 1 gram packet, approximately 100 seeds.

I love the generous seed packets from Franchi, it certainly allows for a lot of mistakes. This pepper has certainly passed the three year test, more like 15 years...

Peppadew* (Seed Swap)
Not sure what to expect from this one. It seems to be a popular pickled pepper from South Africa. A baccatum type, which may or may not ripen here, I have problems getting late ripening baccatums to ripen in my cool climate. It's a small fruited variety which usually ripen earlier so I have some hope. Anyway, it's a baccatum, what more need I say?

Rezha Macedonian* (Baker Creek)
80 days. The name means “engraved;” another local name, Vezeni Piperki, means “embroidered”. Both names refer to the curious lines on the skins of tapering, long, thin peppers. The fruits, which range from mild to sometimes very pungent, are to be seen hanging in great clusters, drying in Macedonian warm late autumn sun. The traditional farmers save seed from the hot fruits which also show the most pronounced striations. Our foundation Seed was donated by schoolchildren from the villages of Kalugeritsa and Zleovo. (Baker Creek)

Well, I'm not so sure that I'll get to harvest much of these, the seeds aren't germinating, there's only one good seedlings so far from 12 seeds. I tried sowing 6 in a pot and got the one good seedling, now I've got another six on paper towels since the 10th and yet more getting the pre-germ treatment starting the 20th. I wonder if Margaret and I aren't the only ones with problems growing peppers from Baker Creek seeds?

But wait! Today's inspection shows one of each batch showing a tiny root - dare I hope? (Can you tell that it has taken me a while to get this post written?)

Sonora Anaheim
Sonora Anaheim (Gourmet Seed)
A very mild long green chili type that is perfect for mild chili rellanos. These peppers can grow up to large 1/4 lb 10" fruits. Meat is also thicker than the average chili. Very popular Anaheim type for market. Very popular in the Northwest US.

Anaheims are one of the few roasting peppers that I like green and Sonora has been a great producer in my garden the past few years. It starts off producing huge green peppers, but over time the size of the peppers shrinks. No matter, they all taste good.

That's it for this year. Call me crazy. Pepper madness.

Chile Peppers Rule!


  1. Then I'm crazy, too. I do so love peppers, especially the non-bell kind. One year I was able to buy fifteen (non-bell) varieties at nurseries, not a one of which is on your list. The most interesting was the fish pepper, but serrano and nu-mex are still my favorites. I have 4 kinds of nu-mex this year. And this week they bloomed! You sure have an interesting list. Good luck with them all. I'd like to hear the results of your efforts taste-wise as well as prodction-wise.

  2. I had problems with germinating the Syrian Three Sided peppers from Bakers Creek as well, only had 2 germinate out of 8 seeds. Although the Large Red Antigua and Yellow Monster peppers from Bakers Creek germinated really well for me.

  3. Wow that is a lot of peppers. Good luck with them all.

  4. Actually I don't consider 22 peppers the least bit excessive! We are growing one pepper in common this year, the Peppadew. Though my source called it Malawi Picquante. It's supposedly the baccatum variety they use to make the Peppadew peppers, so we will see. I'm growing Tam jalapeno this year for making chipotle. I will be watching to see how Craig's Grande does for you. The jalapeno I grew last year made chipotle that was way too hot for my tastes! I am hooked on the smoked peppers too and I will be experimenting with many of the ones I'm growing, especially the mild ones.

    1. 😋 Oh yes, those smoked peppers are good! I will be very interested to see what you think of the Tam Jalapeño, I got to sample it years ago and thought it a bit too wimpy, um, mild shall we say. But I don't think I ever got to try it ripe, so I'm curious too see if it gets spicy when it matures. I'm searching for the one with just the right amount of spice, not too hot and not too mild. Perhaps my recollection of Tam is skewed by my dislike of any Jalapeño in it's green state - almost as nasty as a green bell pepper.

  5. No such thing as too many peppers. I have 12 on my list for my tiny garden. They do germinate slowly and erratically, as if they had all the time in the world (not in New England, guys). The two I sourced new from Baker Creek, Arroz con Pollo and Lemon Drop, germinated slowly but did germinate so I have a 6-pack of each. The Jimmy Nardello seeds from BC are a year or two old and spotty so I resorted to the paper towel trick. Ditto for Hungarian Paprika and Padron (new seed from Renee's). And I found the tops of my grow lamps a good place for the pepper seeds in paper towels. So if I get at least one plant from each variety, is that success?

    1. At least one is definitely success in my book! Why are peppers so addictive?!

  6. Hi Michelle,
    I can't read your blog any more - literally! The beans are no longer a background, but full colour. I can *just* see the grey lettering, but can't read them. The photos are beautiful and clear though. It's happened for the last couple of weeks, and I thought it was just a glitch, but I assume since it's still hAppening that others are able to read it? Any thoughts? Would hate to have to unsubscribe! Lesley xx

    1. I'm not sure what's up with that, I've not heard of anyone else having that problem. Sorry I can't be of help.

  7. Fantastic list! I love peppers but have struggled to grow them lately. Our summers can get very hot but just hasn't been the case lately. But I'll keep trying. You've offered great information on the different varieties - I've bookmarked it to reference when I order seeds next year.

  8. Wow - that is quite the lineup. I can't wait to see what you think of the new ones you are list of "to try" when it comes to peppers is so long already, but I have a feeling that I'll be adding a few more this year based on your experiences. I have to say that I am so envious - I would grow more varieties in pots, but my track record with keeping pots watered leaves a lot to be desired.

    The Bakers Creek seed germ issue with the peppers is strange - must be a bad pepper year for them. My plants are all over the map, with some having several nice true leaves, while others have only their first set...I haven't really thought about it and just assumed this was because of the late germination on some, but now I'm wondering if some of the plants are just not as robust as the others.


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