Lessons Learned From Growing Peppers

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Every year that I garden I learn something new. And every year the harvest grows. This was our best pepper harvest yet. It wasn’t a huge amount, but definitely more than years past.

I’m wishing I’d weighed our peppers as I brought them in from the garden, but a handful here and there didn’t seem significant enough to document. I really have no idea how many peppers we’ve picked so far, but the 29 plants are still producing as I type this.

What I Learned About Growing Peppers This Year

  • As with all plants, you must keep them weeded and mulched. I noticed a significant increase in growth shortly after thoroughly weeding the bed and spreading a 3″ layer of woodchip or hay mulch around each plant and in between the rows. I think I stunted their growth during their neglect.
  • Sprinkling dried egg shells and dried, used coffee grounds liberally around each plant prevented the Blossom End Rot we’ve always had problems with in the past. No rot this year whatsoever.
  • Grow what you normally use. I wish I’d planted jalapenos and more bell peppers, instead of the exotic sounding varieties I chose. I realized too late in the season that if I wanted to make fresh salsa, I’d have to buy the peppers I needed at the store. Which completely defeats the purpose of growing your own peppers. Next year, I’ll plant according to the recipes I’d like to make. Like salsa. And jalapeno poppers.
  • Know when your peppers are ripe. Should they be green, yellow, orange or red? Having an idea of what the peppers are supposed to look like when they’re ready to pick will help you determine when to harvest.
  • Have a plan for the harvest. If you don’t know exactly what want to do with your peppers before you pick them, they’ll inevitably sit on your countertop or in the fridge, and will go bad before you get around to doing something with them. Worse case scenario, pop them in a ziploc bag and toss them in the freezer. I freeze them whole.
  • Know whether your peppers are hot or sweet. I grew several varieties that I had no familiarity with. When I picked them, I had to do a search online to find out if they were hot or not. Knowing their characteristics would have helped me have a better plan for how I would use them. Plus, I ended up planting a ton of sweet peppers, and only one hot variety. I could have used more heat for my cooking.
  • I haven’t had any problem with insects or other garden pests on my peppers. Haven’t had to spray or sprinkle a single thing on them, other than the egg shells and coffee grounds in the soil.

What I Learned About Each Variety I Grew

Cayenne Peppers http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Cayenne

I grew these mostly for medicinal purposes. I don’t normally cook with cayenne. You can make a tea with it to drink for colds and flu, or gargle with cayenne tincture for sore throats. A compress made from cayenne is good for rheumatic pains, sprains, and bruising. And you can use infused oils of cayenne for a warming massage to help with arthritis pain.

According to The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, cayenne seeds can be toxic, so I decided to remove them before drying the peppers. I dehydrated them in a food dehydrator.

  • Always use gloves when chopping hot peppers. Even when handling dried peppers. I made the mistake of blowing my nose after picking dried cayenne peppers out of the dehydrator to put in ziploc bags. All of a sudden the inside of my nose was tingling, then burning, then totally on fire. A wad of toilet paper soaked in milk and shoved up my nose quickly took the inflammation away. Even the towel I used to dry my hands on after washing them contained the oils. My husband later wiped his face on this same towel and experienced burning as well.
  • I plan on grinding the dried peppers into a powder as I need them. I have been forewarned that it is best to do this outside so that your entire house doesn’t fill with a pepperspray effect.

You pick cayenne peppers when they turn red. I’ve been surprised by how abundantly the plants have produced. I didn’t need to plant nearly as many as I did. I’m thinking four of these plants probably would have been sufficient for my needs.

 Albino Bullnose Pepper http://newlifeonahomestead.com

 Albino Bullnose Pepper

A sweet, mild pepper. Great for salads, stir-fry, fajitas, and in any dish where you’d use a yellow or orange bell pepper, in my opinion. You can pick them at this creamy yellow-white stage, or you can wait until they fully ripen to a reddish-orange.

Friariello Di Napoli Peppers http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Friariello Di Napoli

Another mild pepper, these are great for pickling and frying, both of which I’ve been experimenting with. I’ll try to post how to can them soon. I seeded a half-dozen of these peppers, and sauteed them in olive oil infused with garlic until they were soft and slightly browned. Lightly salted, they were delicious as a side dish by themselves.

Friariello Di Napoli plants produce heavily. Pick when they’re about 4″ long.

California Wonder Bell Pepper http://newlifeonahomestead.com

California Wonder Peppers

I use bell peppers for so many dishes, I knew I needed to plant a lot of these. The plants have done really well, though not as prolific as the smaller pepper varieties. We prefer yellow, orange, or red peppers to the green ones, but I’ve been afraid to leave them on the plant long enough to allow them to fully ripen. So, I’ve been picking them green. I’m always afraid they’ll start to spoil if I leave them too long, but I’m going to watch the peppers currently on the plants and see how they do as they continue changing shades. You can pick the peppers at pretty much any stage, as needed.

I’d love to hear what your favorite varieties of peppers are, and how you use them!


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Kendra
About Kendra 1103 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

23 Comments

  1. Your raised bed looks much like mine- how close do you plant your pepper plants? I might try to put mine a bit closer next spring.

  2. I haven’t had a lot of success with peppers. I can grow them here, but the fruit size is usually small. I haven’t yet taken time to find out why this happens. Do you know?

  3. Do you ever buy the green chilies in the can, like “Ortega Chilies?” I use them A LOT in casseroles, stews, chili verde, etc. This year, my brother put in 80 Roma tomato plants because he knew I would can the tomatoes: pasta sauce, tomato sauce, salsa and tomatoes. But he decided to plant peppers around the perimeter of the tomato patch. He put in two 20 foot rows of Anahiem peppers, plus about 10 ft of poblanos, 10 ft of serranos and then a mix of Thai, habanero & Santa Fe Grandes. I’ve used most of those in some great salsas. But my favorite peppers for cooking–the canned green chilies–have been a project of mine. I’ve done multiple pressure canner loads of those babies and have divided them between my brother, my 2 grown children & myself. I’ve got a couple cases of half-pints and pints in my own pantry, but I keep thinking that might not be enough! Good thing those pepper plants just keep on churning them out! In fact, I have a big plastic tub of peppers in my kitchen right now awaiting processing.

    To can your peppers:
    Fire roast the peppers until the skins are blistered –I wind up blackening them pretty good. I can keep up with only so many at a time. But as they are deemed blistered enough, I toss them into a large turkey roaster and continue on until all the peppers are done. Then, cover with a towel or brown paper sack and let them sweat just a little.

    Now–get out the gloves. Trust me on this one. wearing gloves, take a pepper and put it into a bowl of water in the sink and rub off the blistered skin. Set that pepper aside and continue until all peppers are skinned. Don’t worry if you can’t get all the skin off, and I actually like to see a few flecks of blackened skin on those peppers. Don’t ask me why.

    Next take a knife or kitchen scissors and cut a slit in one side of the pepper, remove the seeds and also take off the stem. Place the pepper into a 1/2 pint or pint jar. Continue on. Yes, time consuming. But it’ll be worth it.

    Once all peppers are done and in jars, pour boiling water over the peppers and leave a 1 inch head-space. I add a bit of citric acid–1/8 tsp for half pints and 1/4 tsp for pints.

    Now process in your pressure canner. I place a rack on top of the first layer and then add another layer of jars. My canner will hold 18 1/2 pint jars.

    Be sure to exhaust the air from the canner for 10 minutes before placing the weight on. Then once 10 pounds pressure is reached (adjust for your specific altitude), process pints or 1/2 pints for 35 minutes. My Ball book doesn’t recommend canning chilies in larger jars.

    Oh, how wonderful to open a jar and add a pepper to your grilled cheese sandwich! Or, how about that hamburger? And what’s better than a chile relleno casserole?!

    Kendra, try some Anaheim peppers next year and see if I’m not right! Put in a bunch of them (2 twenty foot rows was a bit overkill) and as they grow taller you may want to give them some support. They tend to want to topple over when heavy with fruit.

    Happy Gardening!

    Virginia

  4. Hi Kendra,
    I love your site and am entertained with some of your experiences, as well as finding most quite accurately informative. I prefer California Wonder as a good overall bell pepper. I grew up on a farm and that is what we planted in the fields and grew for other farmers. They are a delicious meaty green pepper that will turn red if left on the bush longer. I pick them, wash, and cut in segments that are easy to freeze for use later in the year. Some I will core and freeze for stuffed peppers but you have to be a little more careful about the freezing space. You can, however, find red and yellow bell peppers plants on occasion. (I love the red, yellow, and orange colors in foods.) I am not a hot pepper lover, but my mom was and we always grew some hot peppers (I think they were ‘Finger Hots’). It amazes me after spending all of my youth picking, packing, and selling peppers that they are now $1 plus at the markets. We used to have pepper fights in the field 🙂 Keep up the good work; I am living vicariously through you as a homesteader.
    Joyce

  5. I blanched then flash froze my marconi peppers cut up in confetti style. Plan to add them to stir-fry, rice dishes, etc. I really like this sweet pepper. I’m drying my hot peppers (what kind they are, I don’t know). Your idea to grow what you can use is good advice.

  6. Thanks for the article on peppers. I am a novice and have my first experiment on top of fridge germinating. I am ambitious and chose “chilTepin pepper seeds” for a start. I use a lot of eggs and coffee so I’m good to go. Wish me luck.

  7. We have had tremendous success with growing peppers in 5 gal buckets on the deck (that is where we get the most sun) I spray them with a epsom salts solution and they really thrive. Next year we will plant more bell peppers and fewer hot peppers!

  8. WOW, these are Gorgeous!!! OH how I wish I could get started with gardening! You are truly inspiring me to get started in this adventure girl!
    blessings,
    Shan

  9. Thanks for all of the great information. I understand the concept of only planting as many plants as you can eat or preserve, but if you have to buy a whole seed packet, what do you do with the other seeds? Will they last more than one year? I’d love to just get enough seeds for a few plants of different pepper and tomato varieties, but you can’t buy just a few seeds at a time. Thanks!

  10. Thanks for the tips. Our peppers were a huge disaster this year. Our tomatoes did better.
    We had huge numbers of leaf-footed bugs and other insects, too.

    Will try your tips for our peppers next year, if I can remember.
    Thanks again!

  11. I too have been experimenting with peppers these last few yrs…. I ran out of room in my garden , so I recycled 3 truck tires we had laying around. I planted 5 plants in each one ( reading that peppers like to touch eachother) and wow! Im getting great results! I think the tires are holding the heat, which peppers like, and no weeds of course. I live in Northern MI. and our seasons are not always the best! but I am happy with the results! 😉

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