Gardens - Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

A beginner's guide to growing hot peppers

Adrienne Brown
Photography by
Adrienne Brown

Think nothing could be hotter than a jalapeno? If you're brave, there is a whole rainbow of heat you can grow in the garden.

I grew up knowing I should never lay a finger on any type of pepper and then touch my face, especially my eyes. Ever.

My dad loves hot peppers, hot sauces and spicy foods of all kinds. He grows his own peppers and then tries endless combinations to make just the right hot sauce, which he says tastes good with every food at every meal.

Somehow, I managed to marry someone who loves hot peppers just as much as my Dad, so now I’m the one growing peppers and my husband is blending up his own sauces and hanging chili peppers to dry.

Andy Teraud from Acorn Creek Garden Farm is another hot pepper enthusiast. He grows about 160 varieties of hot peppers, including some of the hottest in the world. He says hot peppers like growing conditions even hotter than sweet peppers.

hot-peppers-inset.jpgHere are three basic growing tips from Teraud, who grows 25,000 pepper plants every year:

1. Peppers like well-drained, nutrient-rich soil, but not mushroom compost. They like their "feet" to be hot.

2. Use black plastic mulch to keep the soil warm (however, clear plastic is too hot, says Teraud).

3. If the blossoms are dropping off your plant, the weather is too hot—and often you can’t do much about this.

A rainbow of hot peppers on the heat scale
Hot peppers come in all shapes, sizes and flavours. They can range in colour from black, brown and violet to red, orange, yellow and white.

“When a pepper is fully ripe, it tends to be sweeter,” says Teraud. For example, a green jalapeno pepper has less sugar than a red one, which may taste less spicy because its sugar is overpowering the heat.

A pepper’s spiciness, or heat quotient, is measured on the Scoville scale. The number of Scoville Heat Units (SHU) indicates how much capsaicin is in the pepper, and therefore how hot it is.

Inset photo courtesy of David Brown.



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