Magazine article Sunset

Seed Time for a Hot Pepper Summer

Magazine article Sunset

Seed Time for a Hot Pepper Summer

Article excerpt

For a searing taste experience, try eating hot peppers that you grow in your garden this summer. Start seeds indoors now, so that these warm-weather vegetables will have a head start on the growing season.

Nurseries usually have a fairly good selection of seeds of the common varieties.

The "heat" of a pepper is determined by the quantity of several chemical compounds (primarily capsaicin) contained in the fruit. This mainly a result of genetic heritage, but it can also be affected by growing conditions.

Where summers are long and hot, as in desert areas, peppers will have the most fiery flavor. Peppers grown in cooler summer temperatures will not be as burning. Research has shown the peppers ripening in temperatures between 86[deg.] and 95[deg.] have almost twice as much capsaicin as those developing between 59[deg.] and 72[deg.].

Start seeds indoors in a flat or other shallow container filled with potting soil. Keep evenly moist. After seedlings are up, place containers in sun. As seedlings become crowded, move to roomier quarters, such as 4-inch pots. Once the garden soil is warm and all danger of frost is past, transplant seedlings at 18-inch intervals in rows 3 feet apart in a sunny spot.

Feed lightly and keep soil evenly moist. Plants grow 1-1/2 to 2 feet tall and may need staking. Plants start to bear fruit in 65 to 80 days, depending on variety.

Generally, peppers are light to dark green when young, turning red or yellow when mature. The mature color does not indicate a hotter flavor; full potency is reached once peppers are close to full size. …

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