Chili peppers were consumed in 7500 BC and may be the first plants to be domesticated.
Mexico and Northern Central America are thought to be the centre of origin of Capsicum Annuum. While South America is thought to be the centre of origin for Capsicum Frutescens. They were both introduced to south Asia in the 16th century.
While Chili peppers are native to South America and Central America they were introduced to South Asia in the 1500’s.
Columbus brought peppers to Europe in 1493, where they were then grown and cultivated. Before that Europeans had only known black peppers or piper nigrum.
Peppers are in the Nightshade family along with tomatoes. They love the heat that we have here in Texas.
Make sure to start your peppers 8 to 12 weeks before you want to put them in the ground. Peppers may take between 1 and 4 weeks to germinate, and do not need light to sprout. The best soil temperature to sprout is between 70 to 80 degrees F. Once the seeds sprout make sure they get at least 12 hours of light either natural or artificial light.
Make sure the soil is at least 60 degrees before you put you peppers in the ground to their permanent location or there will be a decrease in fruit size and the plants may be stunted.
Peppers like soil that is rich and slightly alkaline. With a Ph of 7.1- 8.3. This is great for us here is Central Texas. Peppers need phosphorus and a great way to add that to your garden is cow manure or bone meal. One week before planting your peppers shallowly work in 5 ponds of bone meal for a 400 square feet area.
One week after transplanting your peppers side-dress with at high nitrogen fertilizer.
It is of course best to use drip irrigation on your plants to help keep diseases from spreading. If you are watering by hand water at the base of the plant instead of wetting the leaves. The most important thing is to make sure that your peppers have a consistent amount of water so that they do not end up with blossom end rot.
When hoeing make sure to do it shallowly as there are roots near the surface. Keeping weeds clear is very important as there are bugs nearby that spread diseases that will kill your peppers.
Mulching is very important to save on water and keep your peppers adequately moist. This is true even if you are container gardening.
Plant your peppers in full sun or they can benefit from a little bit of afternoon shade.
Clover is a good cover crop to grow before peppers as it will supply an adequate amount of nitrogen and loosen up the soil.
Plant your peppers 12-18 inches apart in the garden.
Do not plant hot peppers close to sweet peppers or they will cross pollinate.
When peppers reach about 5 inches tall they will naturally split from a single stem into two stems. At this joint a a crown or fruit bud will form. If your plant is growing well let the plant fruit. If not pick off the fruit bud to strengthen the plant and encourage more side shoots and vegetation.
When the plant reaches 12 to 15 inches you may pinch off the growing points by taking the top couple of leaves and tip off of the main shoots if the plants is leggy or spindly.
Do not water your hot peppers for one week prior to harvesting and they will be hotter. If they become droopy them water them just enough to stop them from drooping.
Harvest your peppers as soon as they are ready so the plant will produce more. If the plant is fully loaded with fruit it will stop producing. So keep picking, you want the fruit to still be glossy. It is best to harvest your peppers with pruning shears so your do not beak the stem. Remember to sanitize your shears in after each plant so you do not spread disease. A solution of bleach and water is the best sanitizer.
At the end of the season when frost is near you can pull the entire plant up and hang it upside down. Chilies can be dried on the plant this way. You can continue to grow your potted pepper plants indoors in a bright location as they are perennials.
Here is a link livepage.apple.com to a great database that has all of the varieties of chili peppers plus recipes for chili and hot sauces. You can find out where to buy any of the seeds.
Peppers grow very well in containers. Make sure to have adequate drainage. Add amendments to the potting soil as it is not rich enough to support your peppers needs all season. Put your peppers in full sun.
Most varieties grow well in pots. Make sure to stake them well so they do not topple over. Mulch them as well as containers become dry very quickly in our Texas heat. Supply ample amounts of water. Jalapeno, habanero, thai, cubenelle, cayenne, California wonder, miniature yellow bell, Cajun Bell, Blushing Beauty, Caren Sweet Pepper, Giant Marconi
Nutrition Cooking and Preserving
Make sure to wear rubber gloves when handling hot peppers as they contain capsaicin and it is not water soluble. What that means is the pepper juice will burn you and water will not take the heat away. You can use a solution of one part of bleach to 5 parts water. That will take away the burn. If you are eating hot peppers, bread, milk or orange juice are your saving graces as the steam rolls out your ears.
Green peppers have more vitamin C than an orange. I say to eat a green pepper a day to keep the Doctor away! Green peppers are not only packed with vitamin C but they are packed full of vitamin A, B6, dietary fiber, molybdenum, vitamin K, manganese and folate. Remember to grow them organically yourself or buy them organically as they are one of the dirty dozen. The dirty dozen is a list of 12 non organic fruits and vegetables that have been sampled for pesticide residues, and they contain a high level of residue that cannot be peeled away. This list should always be purchased in organics. 1. Celery 2. Peaches 3. Strawberries 4. Apples 5. Blueberries 6. Nectarines 7. Bell Peppers 8. Spinach 9. Kale 10. Cherries 11. Potatoes 12. Grapes
This is the easiest date you ever had. Wash your pepper and slice out the seeds if you are chopping sweet peppers. Cut your peppers into slices or haves, put into ziplock bags and freeze.
Wash and cut out seeds, cut into desired size. Dry at 130 degrees for 12 to 18 hours.
Do not wash peppers until you are ready to use them. Store them in a plastic, well sealed container in the refrigerator for about one week.
Peppers are very versatile. You can substitute a red pepper for a green or yellow in most any recipe. Just remember that the red pepper is the sweetest as it is the ripest. The green pepper is actually an under ripe fruit that is why it tends to be a little more bitter. The red peppers have more beta carotene as well. No matter how you slice them they are good for you, the more raw you can eat them the better it is for you. Try our cool cucumber dip today or pick up a pepper and eat one raw with sea salt.
Peppers are a low acid food so they are not recommended for canning. They are recommended for pickling. Make sure to follow recipes according to directions and from approved sites.
Parasitic Diseases Caused by parasitic organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and nematodes.
Bacterial Leaf Spot – A seed borne disease. Heat Treat seeds before planting them or buy certified disease free plants. There can also be residues left on a plant that has overwintered from the year before or from refuse in the soil.
A copper fungicide is the best form of treatment for this disease.
Cercospora Leaf Spot – A fungal disease that is characterized by large circular or oblong spots on the leaves and stems. The center of these spots are light gray and the margins are dark brown. Leaves may turns yellow and fall off the plant. Stems are also effected.
The fungus is originally seed borne but may be spread by the wind in the field.
Southern Blight This fungus destroys peppers in the Southeastern and Gulf States and is caused by the fungus Sclerotium rolfsii . Southern blight attacks many other field crops, vegetable and ornamentals as well.
The plant is attacked in warm rainy weather. The fungus attacks the plant at the soil line, the plant droops, the leaves wilt, and the plant eventually completes it’s life cycle.
Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) – Plant resistant cultivars. Thrips carry TSWV. Control of thrips and weeds are crucial. Stunted plants that mottled and distorted foliage are characteristic of the virus. The yields of will not only be reduced but will be destroyed and have black streaks.
Anthracnose – One of the most common rots caused by a fungus on peppers. This disease is most prevalent during rainy weather as the spores are splashed onto other fruit. The effected areas are dark round, sunken spots that may reach an inch in diameter. Inside of these spots are small raised spots which are the fruiting bodies of the fungus.
Ripe Rot – this is a serious problem on pimentos caused by a fungus. Anytime after petal infection can occur. The fungus penetrates the seed cavity and infects the seed. When the fruit ripens , small light colored spots appear on the fruit especially in damp weather. the spots become soft and sunken. When the diseased fruit is cut open you find a gray fungus growth around the seed pods.
Phytophthora and Pythium Rot- The occur in warm wet areas. The fruit can be covered in white mold growth in certain areas. This may lead to root rot , stem canket, and leaf blights .
Cucumber Mosaic Virus (CMV) – This pathogen is carried to your plants by aphids. The aphids eat weeds that have overwintered and are carrying the CMV, then they spread it to your plants. Once it is in your garden it is rapid to spread. Pull affected plants immediately. Do not touch other plants after touching affected plants as you can spread it by mechanical means such as touch. And by garden tools. Sanitation is important if you have this disease. Make sure you clean all tools, hands etc that touch infected plants. Dispose of infected plants in the garbage not the compost and do not wast time as bugs will spread the disease in your garden. You can also get CMV by seed borne plants. You will notice it immediately.
Bacterial Soft Rot – is caused by a common bacterium that is associated with soils, plants, and surface water. The bacterium is Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora. This is generally a post harvest problem unless there has been insect feeding such as corn borer damage under the cap of bell peppers.
A post harvest wash can be used to keep the spread of bacterium from entering healthy fruit. Use 1/4 TBS of Bleach to 2 Gallons water. The water cannot be cooler than the fruit or the bacteria will move into the stem end or the fruit.
Nonparasitic Diseases – Caused by climatic conditions or unfavorable soil conditions.
Blossom End Rot – This condition is caused by a calcium deficiency and fluctuations in soil moisture. The condition always affects the blossom end of the fruit and usually occurs when the fruit is one third to one half of it’s full grown size. You will first notice a small water soaked area around the blossom end of the fruit. The lesion will rapidly increase in size, decay and become brown or black and leathery.
To avoid Blossom End Rot maintain uniform moisture.
Sunscald –Sunken light colored lesions on fruit. They are papery on appearance and secondary organisms may enter through these areas.
Insects that Attack Peppers
Make sure that pepper plants are 200-300 feet apart from each other or they will cross pollinate. You can also surround them with Remay or another type of row cover and hand pollinate. It helps to pollinate peppers if you just shake the plant. Let the peppers come to full maturation on the plant (red). Then pick the pepper and remove the seeds. Let the seeds dry on a plate or a screen. The seeds will be viable for 3 years.
Checklist for Growing Great Peppers
- Treat Seeds for Bacterial Leaf Spot. If purchasing plants use certified disease free plants only.
- Crop Rotation – Do not plant peppers behind soybeans, peanuts or any member of the nightshade family. Rotate crops each year.
- Plow or Turn Garden Deeply in the Fall – This will insure that no pathogens will overwinter an they will have a chance to break down deeply under the soil.
- Fertilize – Healthy plants have a much better success rate of fighting off bugs and diseases. Make sure that your plants are amply fertilized right from the beginning. You need an ample amount of calcium to protect from Blossom End Rot. You also need a fair amount of Nitrogen with a good amount of Phosphorus and Potash to ward of Bacterial Leaf Spot.
- Destroy Weeds – Weeds carry pathogens and bugs transmit the pathogens from the weeds or in certain cases all the weeds have to do is rub on your plants and pow you have it. Destroy the weeds in you garden and around the perimeter at least 30 feet out. Remember bugs fly and jump!
- Control Insects – Insects are vectors of disease. They can make your plant sick or kill it. Take control immediately, plant for beneficial insects, handpick insects and spray organic insecticides.
- Pick Fruit Often – This will tell your plant to keep producing. If you stop picking the fruit and let the plant get loaded down it will tell your plant to slow down.
- No Tobacco – Do not smoke near your garden as Tobacco carries the Tobacco Mosaic Virus. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after you smoke with soap and water or you will transmit the disease to your plants.
- Burn/Destroy Virus infected Plants Immediately -Pull and burn or bag your plants and throw them in the trash immediately as soon as you notice the virus. Viruses cannot be cured and they will just spread like wildfire onto your healthy crops. Virus infected crops are distorted.