Friday, March 7, 2008

A Peck of Purple Peppers

Before launching into a tedious description of the various seed-starting methods we have employed, here's a basic overview of the 9 heirloom varieties we are growing and our target numbers for each type:

Aji Dulce – A popular Caribbean sweet pepper with the appearance and flavor of a haba├▒ero but only a shadow of its heat. We would like to transplant 4 of these outdoors at the end of May.

Ampuis – An interesting-looking French heirloom derived from Amishland. 4 transplants.

Ancho Gigante - Seed Saver Exchange's poblano. 8 transplants.

Fish – A moderately hot pepper with a prolific habit and some flashy foliage. 2 potted plants (all of our chilies will be grown in pots this year).

Hot Lemon – One of two varieties propagated from seed saved from last year, the hot lemon pepper is a crowd pleaser around these parts. Originally obtained from Burpee (of all places), this Peruvian heirloom imparts a fresh citrus flavor along with a tolerable level of heat. 3 potted plants.

Kevin's Orange – The only true bell we're growing, this is a medium-length season pepper from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. 8 transplants.

Orchid – a flower-shaped pepper grown more for its appearance than flavor, this type is probably going to remain an ornamental. We're interested to see how well this variety performs as the package label contain a warning regarding its low germination rate. 2 potted plants.

Thai Birdseye – A Baker Creek traditional offering collected in Thailand, these peppers are hotter than the larger Thai Dragon types. Baker Creek has a substantial number of authentic SE Asian peppers and vegetables, a lot more than we can grow in a season. We're growing 3 plants for ourselves and at least 3 to give away.

Trinidad Purple Coffee- This ornamental pepper is extremely rare and is being grown from seed collected last year from a friend's plant. As far as we know, the only way to obtain the plant is from a nursery in Maryland that does not sell seeds or ship live plants. Our friend (we'll call him 'Keeve') happens to live a few minutes away from the nursery and gave me some fruits last summer. We're hoping to get 3 healthy plants this year from which to collect more seed. This purple-leafed variety is incredibly hot and probably won't make it into anything fit for human consumption. Mark is looking forward to blending up a few of these chilies into a garlic/soap spray and then using the spray to melt some aphids.

Mark hopes to visit Maryland in April to pick up a couple more rare pepper plants for home seed propagation. In particular, he's got his eye on another nuclear-hot Caribbean ornamental appropriately named Scorpion. This year will mark our first real attempts at isolating plants for seed-saving purposes, and the rare peppers will be the cornerstone of these efforts.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Just read some of your blog. You may think that those little purple peppers are ornimental and "very hot" but my husband does not share your opinion. We live in Maryland and happened across that little pepper last year, had 2 plants and between my husband and son, the peppers were consumed almost as fast as the plants would produce. We also had the red scorpion habanero and the chocolate congo habanero that grew in abundance, both of which were also consumed on a regular basis as well as dried and crushed for shaking on dry. And no, we are not Mexican or Spanish, or South American, just caucasian Irish/German Americans. Actually after one gets used to eating them, they really aren't all that warm. We have 4 plants this year and they are producing well. I am looking forward to throwing a couple in Salsa when my tomatoes get going a little better. OBTW, they freeze well too. I still have several ziplock bags in the freezer that did not get used over the winter but then we froze probably 6 gallon size bags of the habaneros and only have 3 left. Enjoy!