Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Variety Spotlight - Odessa Market Pepper

Odessa Market peppers
Odessa Market is a lovely sweet pepper that I started growing back in 2012. That year I did a trial of sweet peppers that are supposed to be adapted to short growing seasons and/or cool climates. Even though I garden in sunny California the peculiarity of my coastal climate makes growing some heat loving vegetables a challenge. My garden is only 10 miles from the cold Pacific Ocean which tends to keep things on the cooler side around here. Summers get off to a slow start because that is fog season, May through July tends to be extremely foggy along the coast. (You can spot the tourists because they are shivering in shorts and Cannery Row sweatshirts). Here in Carmel Valley that generally means cool foggy evenings and mornings and an occasional foggy day.  The fog often clears off for the night which means that any heat that manages to build up during the day radiates away and nighttime temperatures routinely drop below 50ºF well into July. Heat loving peppers and tomatoes tend to sulk, showing their dislike of the cold nights by dropping unpollinated flowers or just growing slow. I don't even try to get any early start on solanums anymore, my target date to get them in the garden is June 1. When I lived in Santa Clara county, only 1 1/4 hours north of here, I would generally get my solanums into the garden in early April and would be harvesting tomatoes by early July. That just doesn't work here. Thus my quest for short season/cool climate peppers.

Odessa Market was one of nine varieties of thick fleshed sweet peppers that I tried that year and it did so well and is so good that it has become a must have in my garden every year.  You can see that it is top shaped and has a distinctive pointed end. They start out lime green colored and then start to turn orange and finally become bright red when ripe. Unlike bell peppers they are tasty when they're green but I think they are best when fully ripe - sweet and crunchy.

They are usually one of the first sweet peppers to ripen in my garden, this year they tied with Yummy Belles for second, Shephard's Ramshorn came in first. It's a very versatile pepper. Their thin skins make them good fresh, whether green or red.  This year the first ones got harvested green to go into a batch of Gazpacho. But I usually prefer to wait until they ripen. I like to slice up the ripe ones and use them in salads. Their flesh is fairly thick, which combined with their smooth shape makes them excellent roasters, which is my favorite way to prepare them. Most of my crop this year was roasted, peeled, seeded and preserved in vinegar and olive oil so that we can enjoy them through the rest of the year. I also made baked stuffed peppers with them one time and that came out quite well. I've read that they make good paprika, but I've not tried them that way.

The plants are compact, shorter than 2 feet in my garden, which makes them good candidates for containers. But the small plants are heavy producers, at least when grown in the ground.

This year my 4 plants have produced nearly 16 pounds of peppers so far, and there's still green ones left in the garden. Here's my Odessa Market harvests for the past 4 years:
  • 2012 - 7 pounds
  • 2013 - 1.6 pounds
  • 2014 - 10.6 pounds
  • 2015 - 15.9 pounds
I can't remember and don't seem to have recorded how many plants of each variety I grew in 2012, it was at least 2 and maybe 3. And what happened in 2013? I don't recall, but I seem to remember that a number of my plants weren't very productive, I think they were competing with oak tree roots. Last year I had 3 plants and this year I decided to go for 4 because I really love this variety.

Now, what little background I could find on this variety. As the name implies the original peppers were found in a farmer's market in Odessa, Ukraine, apparently back in 1965 and then grown in Nebraska. The original name is unknown. The seeds were first offered in the Seed Savers Exchange yearbook in 2001. That's it....

Now the bad news. Seeds for this variety are really hard to find. I purchased my seeds from Baker Creek and they have not offered seeds since then. Fedco had them for a while but had a crop failure last year. Sandhill Preservation Center offered them for 2015. And if you are a member of the Seed Savers Exchange you can request seeds from the one member that is offering them. And a web search turned up a Canadian source at Eagleridge Seeds. It's sad, because I think this is a pepper worthy of growing and saving, especially if you are gardening in a short season/cool climate region. Yikes, I'm not sure what my own seed status is, gotta go check...

Update December 8, 2015 - good news! I just received my 2016 Fedco Seeds catalog and they have Odessa Market seeds again.


  1. Sixteen pounds from four plants is an amazing result.

  2. Ditto Mark's comment - wow! Like you, I'm always on the lookout for short-season varieties and as soon as I read the part of your post that said that this variety was also tasty when it was green, I added it to my "to try" list. As this seed is obviously scarce, I put it at the top of the list together with the link to the Canadian supplier - thanks for that!

    I'm so glad that you gave an overview of your climate. I knew the basics from your prior posts, but this detailed description really helps to put things like when you sow your seeds, transplant seedlings, etc., into perspective. You would never think that the transplant date for tomatoes was later in a California garden than one in Ontario! But, of course, I don't have the luxury of harvesting peppers and tomatoes in November :)

  3. Interesting pepper, looks a little like Lipstick which I have grown in the past. Your production figures are amazing, but probably not surprising from the healthy appearance of your plants. Wish I could grow peppers like that. I'll have to consider trying this one.

  4. Those plants do look healthy, and compact too.It sounds like an amazingly productive pepper. It is too bad seeds aren't more widely available though.

  5. Your pictures of the Odessa Market pepper are so beautiful! They inspired me to grow this pepper this year. I hope that I love the taste of them as much as I love your photos. I just ordered seeds from Fedco. We grow lots of different kinds of frying peppers in Vermont. My husband is addicted to shishito peppers and others similar to it. I also have appreciated your posts on fava beans. We love those too!

  6. I am writing again to say that I loved everything about these peppers. They were easy to grow. They are as beautiful and perfect looking as your pictures. They were larger, thicker and juicier than I thought they would be. Like you I will continue to grow them every year. They are superior to and easier to grow than regular bell peppers. Thank you again for your post about them.


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