Gerald L. Klingaman
CAPSICUM annuum( Cerasiforme Group)
Plant Common Name
Small, round, colorful, and spicy, cherry peppers add fire to foods and color to gardens worldwide. The Cerasiforme group includes many popular peppers such as ‘Marbles,’ ‘Cherry Bomb’ and ‘Purple Flash.’
These annuals or short-lived perennials come from tropical America, where they have been grown and selected for millenia. Peppers became available to Europeans when the New and Old worlds connected. Since then, many unique selections have been developed in Europe—particularly in warm Mediterranean countries like Spain, France and Italy where they grow well.
Cherry peppers plants are bushy and well-branched with rigid, brittle stems and thin, oval to lance-shaped, dark green leaves. Inconspicuous white flowers appear in warm weather, followed by globular fruits with meaty green flesh that ripens to red, orange, yellow, black, or purple. The flesh is typically hot but some varieties are sweet and mild. The hollow, chambered interior is divided by spongy ribbing which supports many small, flattened, rounded seeds, which are hotter than the fruit's flesh. Fruits may be harvested green or allowed to mature to full color. Plants sold as ornamentals may have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals that render their fruits unsuitable for culinary use.
These warm season vegetables grow easily in favorable conditions. Full sun, warmth, proper spacing, and fertile well-drained soil are required for good growth and fruit production. Peppers ripen 60 to 90 days after planting. Potted plants will often survive the winter in a warm sunny place indoors. Vascular wilts and fungal diseases can be a problem in subpar conditions.
Cherry peppers are excellent fresh, cooked, or pickled. They're ornamental too, serving beautifully as bedding or container plants.
Hot peppers get their heat from the compound capsaicin – the higher its concentration, the hotter the pepper. Capsaicin concentration is measured and expressed in Scoville units. For more information about the Scoville Scale see http://www.chilliworld.com/FactFile/Scoville_Scale.asp