For this month’s post I was going to write about tomato successes and failures, but the latter part of tomato season has been depressing, so I’ll put that off and cover peppers instead. 2018 has been Grow It Eat It’s Year of the Pepper, and on the whole I think we chose well! My own pepper beds have been plagued by some of the same fungal diseases that are taking out my tomato plants, but our Derwood Demo Garden beds are beautiful and productive. All the peppers there are growing in raised beds, which in my experience peppers really seem to prefer – maybe it’s the extra room in loose soil for their roots, or the slight warming effect in the early part of the season, or the excellent drainage. In any case, they’re thriving.
I posted early this year on varieties of heatless hot peppers and the pepper seeds I was planning to order. Our vegetable team at Derwood ran with this theme, and we are growing a bunch of fooled-you types that look like they should be hot and aren’t. In the above photo, you can see Aji Dulce (the short red one, interestingly rather different than the ones in the photo in my old post), Habanada (the long orange ones), and… something else I was sure I’d remember when I got around to posting the photo, oh well.
I haven’t tasted those ones, but I have tried the two I decided to grow myself. Trinidad Perfume is being very slow to produce in my garden, but at the demo garden it’s pumping out little yellow fruits like crazy:
Note the interesting crinkly leaf. The plants have excellent leaf cover and haven’t suffered from diseases at all. This is a plant for the flower garden: so pretty. The peppers are sweet and fruity; I don’t find them disagreeably perfumey in the way a commenter on the other post mentioned, but YMMV, and I haven’t tried cooking with them yet.
In the previous post I wasn’t sure what to expect from Sugar Rush Peach, and it’s still a bit of a mystery.
The ripe color is a peach-like orange, and the taste is definitely sugary. Is it hot? Funny you should ask. We did a tomato and pepper tasting at Derwood, and cut up some of the Sugar Rush Peach (short of maturity, because I had no ripe ones yet). Half the tasters said “Ouch, so hot” and half said “Not hot at all” and it didn’t necessarily divide up by practiced capsaicin tolerance. Having done another taste test with ripe peppers and a more careful approach, I think this is one of those peppers that varies in heat along the length of the fruit. It’s hottest near the stem end, and lacks heat down at the end. Overall, I’d call it medium-hot.
Here’s another pepper-of-confusion we’re growing at Derwood: the Padrón. This famous Spanish pepper is not spicy unless 1) you end up with the one or two in ten that’s randomly hot, or 2) you let them grow past 3 inches long. MG intern Francisco Gonzalez showed us in this photo that in his own garden, he is careful to pick small!
Probably the coolest-looking (or is that hottest-looking) pepper we’re growing at Derwood this year is the Scotch Bonnet lookalike Mad Hatter:
with its three-lobed form and fire-engine red color. It claims to not be hot except maybe a leeetle bit toward the center. Again, I haven’t tested that myself.
In the plain-old-sweet category, we have some nice frying peppers, including a yellow one called Gatherer’s Gold and the heirloom Jimmy Nardello’s, here curled up like a little snake.
Another sweet pepper I’ve enjoyed this season is Peperone di Cuneo, a round thick-walled type that’s excellent in salads.
According to the seed packet, it comes in red and yellow, but apparently the two I started are both red. Unfortunately it’s rather subject to sunscald, which is a problem when fungal diseases take out your leaves.
And that’s just a few of the lovely peppers that are growing this season! I hope others are enjoying as pleasant a pepper year.
By Erica Smith, Montgomery County Master Gardener