A hot topic (Part 1)
A Hot Topic (Part 1)
Kristelle Falk, Greenhouse Sales Manager
Let’s talk peppers, because I feel like there is so much information about them that is simply never shared. How are you supposed to know what kind of pepper it is simply by name like California Wonder? Is it hot? Is it sweet? Is it a bell pepper? Does it taste good? What does it need for care? There are so many things a plant name can’t tell you, and often this is how we judge our plants. So let’s get educated on what the name doesn’t tell you!
I want to start off with a pepper that is new for us this year, it is called the Mad Hatter Pepper. This pepper has the most unique structure, looking like a bell, but the bottom of the bell splits off into three different directions. This pepper starts green and eventually turns into a lush fire engine red, that’s when you know it’s fully ripened, however you can still eat them while they are green. This little pepper is about the size of a golf ball and is rather wrinkly like a habanero. However, though it looks like a hot pepper I can assure you it is not. It has been described to have a sweet and almost citrusy flavor, the only heat provided is a very mild spice right by the seeds. The Mad Hatter plant is also the largest pepper plant we sell, getting up to 3’ tall and 3’ wide! The average pepper plant gets maybe 2’x1’. I have not personally tried this pepper yet but I have heard it’s really great for salads, fresh eating, or as a topping on your food like pizza or sandwiches or even pickling. I am very excited to try these for the first time this year.
Another newer variety we carry (Which isn’t actually new it’s just new for us to carry) is the Hungarian Wax Pepper. This pepper is very similar to a Banana Pepper in its colour, shape, heat level, and taste. A fun fact about this pepper is that the fruit grows upside down! Rather than hanging down like all peppers do, this pepper grows from the stem and goes upwards, having the bottom of it pointing towards the sky. Only when the pepper is fully grown and heavy does the pepper start to hang, but only slightly. This pepper goes from a waxy cream colour, hence the name, to a delightful yellow to soft orange. That is when you know they are ripe and ready for picking! This is also an aggressive producer. I planted several in my garden this year and before the plants could even reach a foot tall they had five or more fully grown peppers on it. I had to pick them off because the plant was too small to support the weight. The plant is also an aggressive grower, getting big fast. The Hungarian Wax Pepper typically gets 2’ – 3’ tall and about 2’ wide making it the second biggest pepper plant we sell. As mentioned before this pepper is spicy but definitely not unbearable. It is great for pickling, or putting on food as a topping!
Interestingly enough a frequently asked question we get is what is the hottest pepper we carry in the greenhouse? That would be the Habaneros, which already are incredibly hot! We have had several people asking if we will ever sell ghost peppers (Which in my opinion are UNBEARABLY hot!) but the answer is probably not. It’s not impossible for us to carry them, but the truth is that it could be dangerous for our customers, especially curious or hungry children. I think you can see why this could be a serious issue! At least with the other peppers though it would be a painful experience for a child or even an adult for that matter to eat a hot pepper, they would ultimately be fine with some water or ice cream. However something as hot as a ghost pepper could lead to possible need of medical attention or even hospitalization. We want to keep our customers’ health in mind when it comes to our plants, having them marked as toxic or dangerous (Not that there are a lot of these). But a ghost pepper would probably be too much. With most toxic plants you would need to ingest a lot of it, typically someone will catch their child or pet before they’ve eaten the entire plant, usually saving them from harm (however please always stay aware of your plants and their potential dangers). Ghost peppers however only require the smallest bite and you’re in instant pain for a long time.
On the note of hot peppers, a fun fact about pepper is that the spiciest part is always by the seeds or is the seeds. So if you are ever faced with a hot pepper challenge go for the tip, it may still be very hot but not nearly as hot as it would be if you ate the seeds.
Well that is all I have time for today, but stay tuned, part two will be coming out shortly with a few more pepper varieties and my care recommendations for pepper!