When most people think of growing peppers, they become devilish fiends for heat, goosing up ghost peppers and evil hybrids intended to max out the Scoville scale. I kindly propose you consider the other end of the pepper family, in which flavour and body takes precedence over the ability to burn out the pipes on either end of your body.
These are the peppers you want to grow, specifically, because you’re unlikely to stumble across them in any store. Peppers themselves are weirdly expensive, particularly run of the mill bell peppers, which I would be tempted to grow if I didn’t know how hard bell peppers are to get to harvest with nary a bug bite or flaw. Here are a few peppers you’re probably not thinking of growing, but should be. (Great news: You still have time to pick them up at your garden centre.)
Peppers you should be growing
I find pickled pepperoncini peppers intoxicating. As a kid, I would eat them straight from the jar. As an adult, I find that canning my own pickled pepperoncini allows me to have them in abundance all year round, and lets me selectively pickle the small ones because, lets face it, they’re the best. It also allows me to really fine tune the brine to my tastes — vinegary but still balanced. Pepperoncini are Italian, and are likely to be found under the same name at your nursery. If you’re game to grow from seed, Golden Greek is my favourite variety of pepperoncini.
I was embarrassingly old when I learned paprika was ground, dried peppers — Hungarian peppers, specifically — and there are lots of varieties to choose from. Paprika peppers tend to be sweet, and are allowed to mature to red, then picked and dehydrated. The dehydrated peppers are then blitzed into paprika bliss. Going through this process, either by buying starts or growing from seed, is shockingly satisfying.
Oh yeah, those are Hungarian peppers, too. (The Hungarians have been very generous in terms of sweet peppers.) Grow pimento peppers, which tend to have more flesh, then pickle them, then stuff them with your fillings of choice, or make pimento cheese. Those flat globe pimentos are the perfect pepper for stuffing with provolone and prosciutto and marinating in oil. (I’m sure there’s a name for those peppers, but I’ve never uncovered it.)
If you have fallen into the gochujang hole of internet trends, then you’ll need to grow some Korean peppers. These hot peppers are the basis of the famous paste, which is little more than the peppers themselves with some garlic, soy sauce and miso. In your garden, these prolific plants produce lots of long, skinny and wrinkly peppers that pop out against your greenery. I grow the Hong Gochu variety, but just ask your nursery for Korean peppers.
Baby Bell Peppers
Remember what I said about bell peppers? They’re a pain. They take up a lot of space, and only produce a few bell peppers at the end of the season (if you’re lucky ). I don’t want a bunch of bell peppers at once, I want what every gardener wants: bell peppers at my disposal when I want ‘em. The trick, I’ve learned, is baby bell peppers. Each of these plants is far more prodigious than regular size bell pepper plants, producing as many peppers as a padron pepper plant, and due to the smaller size, getting each one to maturity unharmed by disease or pest is just a lot easier. Lots of baby pepper plants are available at your local nursery, but I myself am partial to these.
Bottom line, it’s not too late to get thee to the garden centre, walk right past the heathens with their Satan’s Joyride peppers, and find a little sunny space in your yard for the peppers that you’ll actually enjoy harvesting.
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