The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Plentiful peppers for 2015

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator
slmason@illinois.edu

Few vegetables are as versatile as the pepper. Grill 'em, chill 'em. Fry 'em, dry 'em. Sweet, smokey or "knock your socks off hot" peppers possess a propensity of flavors. Plant breeders are always looking for better production, great taste and disease resistance. Old or new, pepper varieties are plentiful.

As a not-for profit plant evaluator All-America Selections (AAS) highlights some great new peppers in their 2015 Winners lineup. 'Sweet Sunset' is a compact banana pepper that is vigorous and sets a large amount of concentrated fruit. This high yielding X3R (bacterial spot resistant) variety produces attractive colorful tasty peppers that are great fresh or canned. The compact upright plants do not require staking and can be grown in a container. This high-yielding plant produces early, often and late into the season.

Pepper 'Emerald Fire' is a grill master's delight. At 2,500 Scoville units, this is the hottest pepper in this year's pepper winners but it boasts extra large and very tasty jalapeƱo fruits that are perfect for stuffing, grilling or using in salsa. 'Emerald Fire' produces gorgeous, glossy green peppers with thick walls that have very little cracking, even after maturing to red. Gardeners will appreciate the prolific fruit set on compact plants that resist disease better than other similar varieties on the market.

Most Fresno peppers are considered rather finicky plants that typically grow better in warm and dry climates. The fact that 'Flaming Flare' pepper is an AAS National Winner means it performed well in all AAS trial sites. The fruit is ideal for making chili sauces and the heat of that sauce will increase depending on how late in the season the peppers are harvested. 'Flaming Flare' is an exceptional pepper that was sweeter tasting than similar Fresno types and consistently produced larger fruits and more peppers per plant. Yet another AAS Winner that culinary gardeners should consider for their kitchen gardens.

For banana or wax pepper lovers who desire a prolific and earlier harvest of delicious and spicy (650 Scoville units) fruits, 'Hot Sunset' pepper is for you. Large, healthy, vigorous plants are disease-free and produce tasty and attractive fruits all season long. The AAS Trial judges noted what a great taste this thick-walled pepper has, not like other hot peppers where all you get is heat. 'Hot Sunset' is one versatile pepper. Whether it's prepared fresh, grilled, roasted or pickled, it's sure to win over even the most particular foodie.

For those of us that want palatable and pretty, 'Pretty N Sweet' pepper is a delight for eyes and taste buds. Ornamental peppers have always been edible if heat alone was the culinary goal. As it's name implies 'Pretty N Sweet' is a sweet, multi-colored pepper on a compact 18 inch plant that is attractive to use in ornamental gardens and containers. Against the comparisons, 'Pretty N Sweet' was earlier, more prolific (you can harvest weekly in peak season) and has a much sweeter taste with more substantial pepper walls to enjoy fresh or in your favorite pepper dish.

Thank you to All-America Selections for information and pictures. Check out their website www.all-americaselections.org for more winners, past and present as you dream of spring and planting season.

Join University of Illinois Extension Champaign County Master Gardeners for a night of "Mingling with Garden Guru's" as we welcome local gardening experts for a panel discussion January 20 at 7 pm at the Champaign County Extension office, 801 N Country Fair Drive in Champaign.

Dr. Don White, Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology, and Mary Ann Metz, independent landscape consultant and previous grower for Klehm Nursery, and I will be available to discuss 2015 gardening trends. No fee or registration required. We will answer your garden questions as we plan for our 2015 garden.

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