James H. Schutte
CAPSICUM annuum 'Lipstick'( Grossum Group)
Plant Common Name
Bell Pepper, Lipstick Pepper
Gourmet market vendors favor 'Lipstick' sweet peppers for their beauty, crisp texture and outstanding sweet taste. The bell-like fruits are slightly tapered at the tip and turn from crisp green to the deepest lipstick red. This is an early producer; green fruits can be harvested around 53 days after planting from seedlings and red fruits should be mature another three weeks later. The peppers are most juicy and sweet when harvested at the red stage and are perfect for roasting as well as fresh eating.
Native to tropical America, these annuals had been grown and selected by Native Americans since pre-history times. In fact, their specific region of origin is still unknown due to distribution by man. 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, Italy and Greece where they grow well.
Peppers are bushy plants with rigid, brittle stems and thin, often broad, dark green leaves. Their flowers are inconspicuous, five-petaled and white. Peppers have firm, fleshy, hollow fruits that may be harvested green or allowed to mature to red, orange, yellow, purple-brown, or near ivory, depending on the selection. On the interior they are lined with spongy ribbing which supports many small, flattened, rounded seeds. Bell peppers are all members of the Grossum groups, due to their large size and distinctive shape.
Green fruits have a sharper taste and mature are sweeter, but the heat of a pepper is what most are interested in. Many peppers are spicy hot. Their heat is produced by a chemical called capsaicin measured in units called Scoville units against the Scoville scale (http://www.chilliworld.com/FactFile/Scoville_Scale.asp). The purer the capsaicin, the hotter the pepper and the higher the Scoville rating. Pepper seeds carry more heat than the flesh of the fruit. Still, bell peppers have the lowest heat of all and are almost never spicy.
Bell peppers are warm season vegetables that are easy to grow, if you can provide them with the correct conditions. Full sun, warmth, fertile, perfectly drained soil and regular feeding are required for good growth and fruit production. Peppers generally take 60 to 90 days to harvest. Some vascular wilts and fungal problems can befall them, but overall they are not needy. Proper spacing will keep diseases at bay and help with fruit production, so plant according to the grower’s guidelines.
Start pepper seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost date and transplant outdoors later. Abundant flowering and fruiting occur from late spring into fall (until the killing frost) in areas with cold winters, and year round where winters are warm and frost-free. Peppers can be ornamental as well as tasty, so enjoy them as bedding or container plants as well as vegetable garden standbys.