Friday, February 2, 2018

The Grow List for 2018 - New Peppers

If you've read my blog for a while you probably know what a pepper junkie I am.  I love all sorts of peppers so long as they aren't too flaming hot. (125 pounds of love last year). Capsicum baccatum peppers have become especially dear to me. They typically have a very fruity flavor and are very aromatic. They range from completely sweet to blistering hot. Their faults are few, in my opinion, mainly that they can be late to very late to ripen and they can be very large plants. Their propensity for lateness is offset by their tolerance for cold weather. In my mild climate that means that with a bit of protection I can be harvesting peppers in the dead of winter. Their cold hardiness also makes it possible to keep them going for a couple of years and occasionally longer.

Once upon a time I fell in love with mild Capsicum chinense peppers, kin to Habaneros, because of their incredible complex flavors and aromas. But I fell out of love with them when I moved to my current home where the climate is cooler and where they just aren't happy growers. Chinense peppers are not at all tolerant of cold weather and are also more prone to falling victim to fungal diseases and they tend to ripen late. So that lateness coupled with their low tolerance to cold equaled rather disappointing harvests. I gave up on them years ago but last year I experimented with a couple of new ones and had some success so this year I'm trying yet one more mild habanero.

Sweet Capsicum annuum peppers are also high on my must grow list. These are to be enjoyed fresh in season or preserved. I love roasted sweet peppers and enjoy them straight off the grill or frozen or dehydrated. A lot of my sweet pepper crop ends up sliced and dehydrated. I've grown quite a few sweet peppers over the years and have settled on a good variety of them that are well suited to my climate and that are excellent eating so I don't feel compelled to experiment with growing a bunch of new ones so there's only a couple of new ones on my grow list this year.

I'm also a fan of what I call seasoning peppers, meaning that rather than eating them fresh I typically process them in some way to use to season a variety of dishes. These come from all three species and can range from totally sweet to hot. The main methods I use to process them are dehydrating them for powder or flakes or for reconstituting for sauces. Or my latest passion which is fermenting them to make hot sauces, pastes, or flakes. And of course not all the peppers that I grow are good for just fresh eating or seasoning, particularly the sweet peppers, I've been making wonderful fermented pepper pastes with sweet peppers.

The two new sweet peppers are Mehmet's Sweet Turkish and Relleno Ecuador Sweet. Mehmet's Sweet appears to be similar to the unnamed long sweet Turkish pepper that I grew in 2017 and I want to grow both of them in 2018 to compare them. One difference though is that Mehmet's starts off more yellow than the unnamed pepper. I've been looking for a pepper like this that will be good in the green stage for fresh eating or frying. I really liked the unnamed one in the green stage so it will be fun to compare. The other new sweet pepper is Relleno Ecuador Sweet. That one just grabbed my attention when I was trying to fill out a minimum order for live plants that I purchased from Cross Country Nurseries this year.

I'm not going to go into detail about why I chose each and every new pepper but here's a few highlights.

One reason why I sprang for some live plants this year is because they have Aji Cacho de Cabra and I've never seen seeds offered for that variety. I've been searching for Cacho de Cabra ever since I took a hiking trip in Patagonia a few years ago and was introduced to Merkén which is a spice blend featuring smoked Cacho de Cabra peppers. Well, after placing my order I realized that what I ordered is a baccatum pepper but Cacho de Cabra pepper is supposed to be an annuum. Oh well, it just means that I get to try a new baccatum pepper and the search for the real Cacho de Cabra continues.

Now about some of the new baccatums! One of them turns out to be a California heirloom, supposedly brought from Chile during the Gold Rush and widely used for many years to make Italian canned Wax Pepper pickles. They are supposed to be especially good when they are green, pickled or not. So it's fun to find something that's a slice of California history and I'm looking forward to not having to wait until the end of the year to enjoy this particular baccatum. More of the story follows in the description below.

I'm also very intrigued by the Sugar Rush baccatums, Red and Peach. They are supposed to be very sweet with tropical flavors. My only reservation is the heat level which may be higher than I typically like, but on the other hand, many hot peppers don't reach their full heat potential in my garden. I've also been dealing with some pretty hot peppers lately by removing the cores, ribs, and seeds and that brings the heat down to a level I can enjoy. So I'm looking forward to trying these sugary treats regardless of how spicy they turn out to be.

Here's a summary by species of the new peppers that I'm trying. Photos and descriptions from the seed and plant sources follow. All of the peppers that are on my potential grow list are on my list of 2018 Planned Varieties.

Capsicum annuum
: Aleppo (3), Berbere (3), Mehmet's Sweet Turkish (2), Polvadera (1), Relleno Ecuador Sweet (3), Urfa Biber (3), Yesil Tatli (4)

Capsicum baccatum: Aji Banana (3), Aji Cacho de Cabra (3), Aji Marchant (1), Queen Laurie (4), Sugar Rush Peach (2), Sugar Rush Red (4)

Capsicum chinense: Cheiro do Norte (3)

(1) Adaptive Seeds
(2) Baker Creek Seeds
(3) Cross Country Nurseries
(4) Refining Fire Chiles

Here's the details on all the newbies listed in alphabetical order.

Aji Banana - medium; Andean Aji; 4 to 5.5 inches long by 1 to 1.5 inches wide; medium thin flesh; matures from green to orange; pendant pods; green leaves; 30 to 36 inches tall; Very Late Season (90+ days); from S. America; C. baccatum.

Aji Cacho de Cabra - hot; Andean Aji; 3.5 to 4 inches long by 0.375 to 0.5 inches wide; medium thin flesh; matures from green to red; upright pods become pendant; green leaves; 30 to 36 inches tall; Late Season (80-90 days); from Chile; used by the Mapuche Indians to make Merken (Merqueen) spice blend; C. baccatum.

Aji Marchant (Organic) Capsicum baccatum. Hot. 65 days green, 80 days red. A very rare, northern adapted C. baccatum species of hot pepper. 3″ long, waxy-yellow fruit ripen to a classic orange-red pepper color. Aji Marchant is usually harvested under-ripe when still green and used for pickling. The immature peppers are especially flavorful with a unique earthy-citrus bite that is not overly spicy. An excellent frying pepper at all levels of ripeness, they also make tasty dried pepper flakes after ripening to a bright red. It is one of the best northern adapted examples of this species we have found. Aji Marchant has the tantalizing history of being used in some of the Italian wax pepper pickles made by the California canning industry during the early and mid-1900s. Known by many different brand names, our variety came to us with the name Marchant. The story goes that Chilean immigrants brought these seeds with them when they moved to California during the 1849 gold rush. Also known as Chileno peppers, they quickly became a favorite in northern California and the Central Valley. At the time, northern California was a cultural melting pot and soon Italian immigrants adopted the peppers and renamed them Italian Wax peppers. They were canned and sold by many names including: Marchant, Sierra Nevada Chileno, Lone Pine Peppers, Vallecito Peppers, and California Italian Wax peppers. It is unclear if these are synonyms or genetically distinct yet related varieties. Now rare, Aji Marchant is only grown by a few farms and gardeners in the Central Valley of California, the Sierra Nevada foothills, and the the San Francisco Bay area. We are happy to reintroduce the seed commercially in hopes of preserving it for future generations. For more history check out:

Aleppo - mild; 3.5 to 4 inches long by 1 to 1.5 inches wide; medium thick flesh; matures from green to red; pendant pods; green leaves; 24 to 30 inches tall; Mid Season (70-80 days); Uses: Drying, Powder; from Syria; aka Halaby pepper; C. annuum.

Berbere - medium; 3 to 4 inches long by 0.5 to 0.75 inches wide; medium thin flesh; matures from green to brownish red to red; upright pods become pendant; green leaves; 24 to 30 inches tall; Mid Season (70-80 days); from Ethiopia; C. annuum.

Cheiro do Norte - mild; Habanero Elongated; 2.5 to 3.25 inches long by 1.25 to 1.5 inches wide; medium thick flesh; matures from pale green to pale orange; pendant pods; green leaves; 18 to 24 inches tall; Late Season (80-90 days); from Brazil; C. chinense.

Mehmet’s Sweet Turkish 65-70 days. Introduced by Dr. Mehmet Oztan of two seeds in pod heirlooms, this incredible pepper hails from Turkey. These sweet peppers are long, green, yellow turning to red. The fruits are tapered and crunchy, averaging 7-8 inches long. Best for grilling or fresh eating.

Polvadera (Organic) Capsicum annuum. Medium Hot. 65 days green, 80 days red. A quintessential example of the New Mexico chile. Flavor is true to type with an earthy sweetness, notes of dried cherry, and a slight acidic bite that is punchy but not super hot. When compared to Chimayo, Polvadera has much larger fruit with thicker walls making it a great pepper for green chile dishes such as chile verde pork. However the fruit wall thickness is not as thick as the modern NuMex processing types, which makes Polvadera easier to dry. When ripe and dry, the color is a deep translucent red. Originally from Polvadera, a community located 65 mile south of Albuquerque. Every village and town in New Mexico seems to have its own local type of chile. It is a wonderful tradition that is important to New Mexico’s identity. We graciously received this variety from Travis Mckenzie of Grow The Future, located in Albuquerque.

Queen Laurie (Capsicum baccatum) - The Queen Laurie pepper is from Peru. It ripens from green to orange. It is very crunchy and sweet. It has a heat level above a jalapeno. The fruit of the Queen Laurie can get over 4 inches long and about a 1/2 inch in diameter. The Queen Laurie chile plants like other baccatum varieties can get over 5 feet tall. This is a great medium sauce pepper. Also great for being used like a jalapeno popper!

Relleno Ecuador Sweet - sweet; 4 to 6 inches long by 0.75 to 1.25 inches wide; medium thick flesh; matures from green to red; pendant pods; green leaves; 24 to 30 inches tall; Mid Season (70-80 days); Uses: Roasting, Fried/Stir-Fried; from Ecuador; C. annuum.

Sugar Rush Peach A sumptuous snacking pepper, Sugar Rush Peach is by far the most fun pepper to eat. The long, peach colored fruits are packed with loads of super sweet, tropical flavor, and the seeds bring a smokey, complex heat that when used together, creates a wild flavor experience unparalleled in any pepper we have tried. This exciting new open-pollinated variety was bred by hot pepper prodigy Chris Fowler of Wales. Chris credits this amazing variety as being a happy accident courtesy of adventurous pollinating insects buzzing between various varieties of capsicum baccatum, or Aji Peppers. The result: super early, high yields of these exquisite sweet hot peppers.

Sugar Rush Red (Capsicum baccatum) - This is the original Aji Sugar Rush variety that comes from South America. The Peach and Cream variants were discovered by Welsh Grower Chris Fowler and come from the Red. The Sugar Rush Red like other Aji types is very fruity and sweet with a heat level below habaneros. They are very prolific and need a long season. The peppers ripen from green to dark red and are elongated. They are about 4 to 6 inches in length. They are excellent for salsas, roasting and stuffing. The Sugar Rush Red chile plants usually need staking to support and can grow over 5 feet tall.

Urfa Biber - mild; Blocky; 4 to 6 inches long by 1.5 to 2 inches wide; medium thick flesh; matures from green to red; pendant pods; green leaves; 24 to 30 inches tall; Mid Season (70-80 days); Uses: Drying, Large Stuffing, Powder; from Turkey; C. annuum.

Yesil Tatli (Capsicum annuum) - A very rare sweet variety from Turkey thats usually dried to make a sweet seasoning powder. It's also called Yesil Tatli Biber. The plants produce fruits that are about 6 inches long and just under an inch in diameter. The peppers taper down to a point. The Yesil Tatli peppers ripen from green to yellow to red. They can also be roasted, fried and made into a nice sweet sauce. The Yesil Tatli chile plants grow just over 2 feet tall.


  1. I'm always interested in your pepper list, and I do credit you (or is that blame) for my recent pepper addiction! I have gotten quite attached to the baccatums too, and also am trying the Sugar Rush peppers this year (Red & Peach). We'll have to compare notes later. I grew Aleppo and Urfa a couple of years ago and they got fairly hot in my climate. And I just ordered Aji Pena (aka Aji Feather) which is supposed to be a mild one, we shall see!

    1. I'll take the credit, thank you. ;) But what's not to love? It will be interesting to compare notes on the Sugar Rush peppers and see how the Aleppo and Urfa turn out in my garden. Ooh, another mild baccatum - Aji Pena! I'll definitely want to hear about that one.

    2. For the record, it was Maras that got quite hot in 2016, Urfa and Aleppo less so. I had some dried Aleppo left and ground it into flakes today for a taste test. I am thinking that fermenting would add a nice flavor and make it quite useful. I'm tempted to try growing it again this year.

  2. Uh ... that's a lot of peppers. The most I've managed at one time was 15 including fish pepper.

    You've got me looking for unusual vegetables! I found Pokey Joe cilantro at Nichol's. Worth a try, don't you think? Cilantro in summer. Yeah!

    Something else using hot peppers and an herb called culantro is shadow
    benny using fish, culantro and scotch bonnet found in Popular Plates magazine Fiery Foods edition. Have you made that?

    About culantro, is it a possible summer replacement for cilantro?

    1. I did admit to being a pepper junkie... But yes, it is a lot!

      Pokey Joe! Your weather will certainly test just how pokey Joe is. Summer cilantro is a challenge even in my cooler climate. I have to just keep sowing succession after succession and pick it very young.

      I did try culantro years ago and just couldn't get it to grow. I don't know what it wanted. I gave up.

      I've never even heard of shadow benny using fish or otherwise, so no, I haven't tried it. What is it?

    2. Shadow Benny Sauce from Epicurious, edited

      1 cup densely packed Chandon Beni (culantro) leaves.
      1 cup loosely packed fresh flat italian parsley leaves
      1 cup lime juice (fresh squeezed if available)
      fresh scotch bonnet pepper (or habanero) to taste
      ¼ cup chopped scallions
      6 whole peeled garlic cloves
      1 tbsp salt

      Put all ingredients in blender and blend till smooth-add a little extra lime juice if puree is too thick. Add a touch of honey for balance.

    3. Thanks Jane. Just need to find culantro now, but I'm sure cilantro would make a fine sauce too.

  3. Did something happen to your instagram, or is it just me? The page isnt loading.

    1. It's not you. I deactivated my account because a good 25% of my feed turned into ads and I just will not waste my time wading through all that garbage. IG really managed to ruin a good thing.

  4. What a list! I'll be trying a few new varieties this year too, one being courtesy of Dave, which I'm particularly excited about. I had such a hard time last year with peppers, fending off rabbits first and then slugs, so I'm looking forward to the fresh start (and hopefully our frigid temps a few weeks ago took care of some of the sluggy critters!)


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