Earlier this week I did a recap of the hot peppers I grew here this year. Today I want to mention some of the sweet peppers. Years ago, bell peppers were about the only peppers I grew, except for maybe a single cayenne plant to dry for a ristra or use to spice up a few recipes. I wound up trying more and more hot peppers as time went by. And I also became more adventurous, trying other sweet peppers that weren’t bell shaped.
One of my favorite sweet peppers these days is the Italian heirloom Jimmy Nardello. I’ve been growing it for several years now, and it has never failed to produce loads of sweet, red ripe peppers for me here. I did a Saturday Spotlight on this pepper a couple of months ago, so I won’t say much about it here except that it did great again this year. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them we got.
A similar looking newcomer that did well here this year is Dulce Rojo. I grew this open pollinated pepper to use for drying and grinding into paprika. I found out it not only makes tasty paprika, but the peppers are sweet and flavorful used fresh, just like Jimmy Nardello is. This one will be back for sure, and next year I plan on planting more than just one plant.
Another pepper I grew for making into paprika is Alma Paprika. It was disappointing here in its first, and likely last appearance. It was a shy producer, and the small round peppers didn’t have a particularly good flavor either fresh or dried.
Another pair of newcomers this year also won’t be back next year: Purple Beauty and Merlot. Both of these bell peppers are purple early on, then eventually turn red ripe. I found them both to have so-so flavor when young and purple, and very little flavor when left to turn red ripe. The open-pollinated Purple Beauty wound up being more productive than the hybrid Merlot, but neither tasted all that great to me. Purple Beauty was one of the first peppers to produce edible fruits here however, so that was a plus.
One hybrid bell pepper that did do great is an old favorite of mine: Big Bertha. I first started growing this one years ago, when I was buying my plants from Day’s Nursery. Owner (and grower) George Day was a big fan of this pepper, and once I tried it I could see why. It was a great producer, performing well every year for me and handling our hot and humid summer weather with ease. It does just as well here at HA as it did when I lived 25 miles south of here. The big peppers live up to their name, and are sweet and juicy when red-ripe. I’ll be growing it again for sure.
Other bell peppers I grew included the orange when ripe Orange Blaze and Gourmet, as well as the yellow ripe Early Sunsation. Those three were shy producers this year, but the ones I got were tasty, so they will likely be back next year unless I find some other varieties to try. All three did much better last year, so at least I know that much about them.
Another of my favorite peppers is the Sweet Happy Yummy, which is an offspring of its hot parent I call Hot Happy Yummy. I grew two plants of it this year, and both were orange and sweet but one plant had peppers that were a tad smaller than the original. I saved seed from the best one, which makes it the F4 generation – I think! I had to make a chart to keep track of the Happy Yummy family tree since I have saved seed from so many different plants. I have learned quite a bit about pepper genetics during this project, but needless to say I am still quite a novice on the subject.
I dried and made some of the sweet peppers into Homemade Paprika this year. I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with that project too. I came up with three different paprika powders that had mild, medium and hot levels of heat. I saved some of the dried peppers for other used too. I do like to reconstitute them and put them on salads or use them in cooking.
In the end, every gardener has to decide what grows well for them in their own garden, and what they like to eat and use in the kitchen. Taste is certainly very subjective, and different pepper varieties can produce wildly different results under different growing conditions. I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the peppers I grew here this year. I’ll be back soon with more about what’s happening here!