CAPSICUM annuum( Longum Group)
Plant Common Name
Chile Pepper, Ornamental Pepper
The long, colorful, generally hot fruits of the chili pepper are invaluable in cuisines across the globe and attractive enough for plants to be used as ornamentals. Members of the Longum group encompass many popular peppers such as poblanos, serranos, jalapenos, cayenne peppers and various other chilis.
Originating from the tropical Americas, these annuals have 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, France and Italy 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. Chili peppers are elongated, hollow and have firm, thin to moderately fleshy-skin. They may be harvested green or allowed to mature to full color. Mature chiles are often red but can also turn to orange, yellow, or purple, depending on the selection. On the interior they are divided by spongy ribbing which supports many small, flattened, rounded seeds.
Green fruits have a sharper taste and mature are sweeter, but overall chiles are hot. Their heat is produced by a chemical called capsaicin measured in 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. Most of the heat comes from the pithy ribs, inner lining and seeds of the pepper, so keep this in mind when cooking with them.
Chili 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.
These peppers can be ornamental too, so enjoy them as bedding or container plants as well as vegetable garden standbys.