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Advice & More June 2018

The Midnight Gardener

Pick a Lovely Pepper

By Lori Rose

Pepper plants love hot weather and lots of sun. You don't need a large garden to grow peppers, and they make pretty centerpieces in containers surrounded by flowers trailing over the edge of the pot. Here are some delicious hot peppers to grow in the garden or in containers.

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Hot peppers are fun. Pepper plants in general, and hot pepper plants in particular, are so pretty that they are perfect for the vegetable garden, patio container, and the flowerbed.  Even the fruit is pretty, especially when left on the plant to turn yellow or red. Here's another reason to love hot peppers. By weight, hot peppers can contain 300 percent more vitamin C than an orange.

All hot peppers contain capsaicinoids, natural substances that produce a burning sensation in the mouth, causing the eyes to water and the nose to run. The primary capsaicinoid in peppers is capsaicin, which has no flavor or odor, but acts directly on the pain receptors in the mouth and throat. The more capsaicin a pepper has, the hotter it will be.

Heat is measured in Scoville units, how many parts capsaicin per million. One part per million is 15 Scoville units. Bell peppers (mildest) have zero, habanero peppers (hottest) can have over 300,000 Scoville units. Here is a list of peppers sorted from mildest to hottest: bell, poblano, jalapeno, wax, serrano, cayenne, Thai, habanero. A cayenne pepper can be up to ten times hotter than a jalapeno pepper, and a habanero pepper can be up to ten times hotter than a cayenne pepper. Keep this in mind when choosing a pepper plant for your garden, and when choosing a pepper for your favorite recipe.

Pepper plants love hot weather and lots of sun. You don't need a large garden to grow peppers, and they make pretty centerpieces in containers surrounded by flowers trailing over the edge of the pot. Here are some delicious hot peppers to grow in the garden or in containers.

“Mariachi” is a mildly hot (600 Scoville units) pepper that ripens from yellow to red but is used mostly when yellow. Named after the Mexican musical band that became popular in the mid-1800s. This aptly named pepper is as festive and colorful as a mariachi band.

“Fresno” peppers score 5,000 - 10,000 on the Scoville heat scale, growing hotter as they ripen from green to red. These peppers are beautiful in the garden, turning from green to orange to red. 

“Jaloro” is a jalapeno pepper that scores 20,000 - 25,000 on the Scoville heat scale. The fruit is starts out golden yellow before turning orange then red, making a lovely show on the compact plants.

The “Red Savina” habanero pepper is super-hot, at a whopping 300,000 - 580,000 Scoville units. Since it can be 20 times hotter than a jalapeno, wear gloves when handling this pepper, and take care not to touch your face until you remove the gloves.

There are several remedies for the effects of eating a pepper that is too hot for you. Try drinking tomato juice or eating a fresh lemon or lime, the theory being that the acid counteracts the alkalinity of the capsaicin. You can also try drinking milk (rinsing your mouth with it as you sip) or eating rice or bread, which absorb the capsaicin. Drinking water won't help, since the capsaicin, which is an oil, does not mix with the water. Water will spread the capsaicin around your mouth instead of diluting it.

Hot Sweet Habanero Chile Sauce is a unique hot sauce has a nice sweetness to balance the heat. Try it on grilled chicken or fish for a burst of flavor, or use it as a dip for veggies or chips.

10 habanero peppers, stemmed and seeded

4 jalapeno peppers, stemmed and seeded

4 Fresno chile peppers, stemmed and seeded

1 cup water

1 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup chopped sweet onion

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring

salt to taste

Puree the peppers in a blender until smooth. Add water, vinegar, onion, brown sugar, garlic powder, and liquid smoke to pureed peppers. Blend until liquefied, season with salt. Blend again. Pour sauce into a sterilized glass container with a tight seal; refrigerate overnight.

Pick yourself a perfect pepper, or pick plenty, and plant them on the patio for perfect pepper pleasure.

 

Lori Rose, the Midnight Gardener, is a Temple University Certified Master Home Gardener and member of the GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators. She has gardened since childhood, and has been writing about gardening for more than 15 years.

Meet Lori