Peppers, being native to Central America, Mexico, and South America, have always been a hot commodity. Every year the variety of pepper choices increases. From flavor to shape to color and all of the possible combinations, there is a pepper for everyone’s palette. Growing your own peppers is a great way to have more than you need for your favorite dishes, to add color to your garden and also your dinner plate.
One interesting fact about bell peppers, as opposed to the rest of the pepper family is that it is the only variety missing capsaicin, which is what gives the pepper its hot taste. This missing chemical in the bell pepper is due to a recessive gene that eliminates capsaicin.
It is important to choose soil that has not been used for growing anything before, like eggplants or tomatoes, since they are subject to the same diseases. Make sure that the soil is well drained and fertilized. This will keep the plants from developing root rot. Make sure that the soil temperature stays consistently at sixty degrees Fahrenheit before planting seedlings.
Peppers need about five hours of strong sunlight each day for at least two months. If you are in a zone where there is a less than ideal growing season, you should choose a short season cultivar, giving your pepper plant the best chance.
Peppers need extra help during dry spells, with deep watering. With a lack of water, comes bitter peppers and damaged plants. Weeds need pulled as soon as spotted, so that they do not have the opportunity to choke out the plants.
When harvesting the peppers, always cut the fruit, never pull. The last peppers should be cut from the plants before the first frost.
Some of the potential problems with growing your own peppers is that they might incur wilting due to too much sun and heat. Though they are a tropical plant, they need a shade companion plant or vegetable to be grown beside them, as temperatures over ninety degrees tend to wilt peppers.
Insects are not as much of a problem for peppers as disease, but you should be aware of the pepper weevil. It is a golden, brass color beetle. Hand pick the weevil, if possible, and make sure that the ground around the peppers is clear of debris.
Common diseases to watch for are anthracnose, bacterial spot, verticillium, early blight, and mosaic. The best defense against these is crop rotation. Planting resistant cultivars is a great tactic as well.
Health Benefits of Growing Your Own Peppers
Bell peppers have high levels of antioxidants and vitamin C, lycopene, vitamin A, and carotene. One of the amazing benefits of eating peppers is that the capsaicin acts as a pain reliever when consumed. Peppers are also great in helping achieve younger looking skin, with their age defying antioxidants.
Getting out into the garden, planting peppers and eating them in your favorite dishes is a great way to spend part of the warm season. The rainbow of pepper colors and tastes will add an extra kick to your summer and keep you feeling like you’re in the tropics with every bite.