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Monday, January 16, 2012

KNOL: How to Grow Hot Peppers and What Makes a Hot Pepper Hot

 This is a copy of my Google KNOL article transferred to my blog to be saved.

Peppers are grown all over the world. They are used in all kinds of cuisines. They are sweet, hot and perhaps smokey tasting. There are even ornamental varieties for show in your garden borders.  You can find them in shade of  green, yellow, orange, purple, brown, red and mixed color states. They might be as small as your pinky or bigger then your hand. The bottom line... there are a lot of pepper varieties out there. Why don't you grow some?

How to Grow Peppers: What Makes a Hot Pepper Hot?

by Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C

Peppers are Warm Weather Crops

Peppers take much longer to germinate then tomatoes. They are both warm season crops but peppers are a notch above tomatoes for desiring warmth. Peppers take about 10 - 14 days to germinate or longer, if your seed trays don't sit around 75 degrees in your house. They need warm days and warm nights. A basic rule of thumb for peppers is 60 degree nights and 70 to 80 degree days. Sure you can put them in the ground sooner but the plants won't grow. They will just sit there till the temperatures are to their liking. They take off when it's hot. They probably are more of a hot season crop.

Starting Peppers Indoors

I stated they take about 10 - 14 days to germinate if the seed trays stay around 75 degrees. You should start your peppers indoors 8 to10 weeks before you have 60 degree nights and warm days. Not only do the days need to be warm but the soil needs to be fully warmed up. In the case of peppers, consistent warm soil is more important then a warm spike in temperatures. Time your seedlings accordingly.

Hot, Sweet and Smokey Peppers

Peppers are divided into two basic categories. The categories are sweet and hot. A sweet pepper has no heat or burn. A hot pepper has heat and burn. Smokey is a descriptive term. The pepper may either be a sweet or hot pepper plant but you will find seed catalogs (the best way to get pepper seeds by the way) try and further describe the flavor using terms like smokey or earthy.

Scoville Scale of Hot Peppers

Wilber Scoville created the Scoville Scale of hot peppers. The chemical compound that causes the burn is called capsiacin. It is found in different quantities in peppers.  A pepper's heat is measured in Scoville Heat Units or SHU's. An SHU of zero means no heat or capsiacin in the pepper. Your bell pepper might have a SHU of 0 while the habeneros might have a SHU of 200,000. Use the scale to pick your poison.

Pepper Name

Scoville Scale

Measure in heat units

Pure capsaicin
Habanero chile
100,000 - 350,000
Scotch bonnet
100,000 - 325,000
Birds eye pepper
100,000 - 225,000
Jamaican hot pepper
100,000 - 200,000
Carolina cayenne pepper
100,000 - 125,000
Bahamian pepper
95,000 - 110,000
Tabiche pepper
85,000 - 115,000
Thai pepper
50,000 - 100,000
Chiltepin pepper
50,000 - 100,000
Piquin pepper
40,000 - 58,000
Super chile pepper
40,000 - 50,000
Santaka pepper
40,000 - 50,000
Cayenne pepper
30,000 - 50,000
Tabasco pepper
30,000 - 50,000
de Arbol pepper
15,000 - 30,000
Manzano pepper
12,000 - 30,000
Serrano pepper
5,000 - 23,000
Hot wax pepper
5,000 - 10,000
5,000 - 10,000
2,500 - 8,000
Santaka pepper
2,500 - 8,000
Guajilla pepper
2,500 - 5,000
Rocotilla pepper
1,500 - 2,500
Pasilla pepper
1,000 - 2,000
Ancho pepper
1,000 - 2,000
Poblano pepper
1,000 - 2,000
Coronado pepper
700 - 1,000
Anaheim pepper
500 - 2,500
New Mexico pepper
500 - 1,000
Santa Fe Grande pepper
500 - 700
Pepperoncini pepper100 - 500
Pimento100 - 500
Sweet bell pepper0

Starting Pepper is Seed Trays

I use 9 cell black plastic seed trays. You can find them at Loews or Home Depot or similar places. I typically buy a seed starting set that comes with a tray to hold the smaller 9 cell containers. You need to water seedlings from the bottom. The seed starting try can be filled with water and the cello trays sit in the larger tray. They will absorb water from the bottom. This is easiest wayt to water your seedlings and prevents disease.

I recommend using any seed starting mix. Simply fill the 9 cell tray and press the soil firmly into the container. Level off the soil across the top of the tray. Put 2 or 3 seed in each cell or compartment of the 9 cell tray. Bury them about 1/4 inch  beneath the soil. You don't need to be exact. That will be about 18 to 27 seeds per 9 cell seed tray. All the seed won't germinate. Label the tray with a stick. It will take 10 - 20 days for the seedlings to emerge. Be patient. Make sure the soil stays moist but not soggy.

When to Move Them Out of the Seed Trays

I move may seedlings to styro-foam cups when the seedling are between 2 and 4 inches tall. I use 8 - 10 oz stryo-foam cups with holes in the bottom. Fill the cup nearly to the top and poke a hole in the center with your finger to the depth of your entire finger. Place 1 seedling in the hole and make sure the roots stretch to the bottom of the hole you poked with your finger. Cover about 1/3 of the stem in soil and sit the cup in a tray. You should continue to waters the plants from the bottom.

When to Plant the Pepper Outdoors

Plant them outdoors when the ground is warm, the nights are consistently in the 60's and the days are in the 70's and 80's. Spacing of the plants should be 12 inches to 24 inches. If you want to pack an extra plant in the garden, every 12 inches is fine. If you have the space 18-24 inches is ideal.

Where to Find Pepper Seeds

Absolutely buy your seeds from catalogs and online. You can find basic peppers at your local stores. But if you want to find some heirlooms and other impressive varieties of sweet and hot peppers the only way to go is by ordering catalogs or buying on-line. Check them out. You'll be surprised with the sheer number of peppers you can grow.

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