I have never successfully grown a pepper from seed until very recently. A few years ago, I bought a jalapeno plant from the local nursery and was able to harvest one pepper from it. Somehow that tiny little bit of pathetic success went to my head. The next year I started a few pepper plants in the house from seed in the late winter and planted them in my raised bed in the spring. And I got nothing. You would think that would deter me from trying again. Last year – same story except I moved them out into my newly built greenhouse, planting them in the greenhouse’s raised bed. And NOTHING HAPPENED. Even the plants themselves didn’t get much taller than 5 inches and I had no flowers at all. I decided to try digging a few plants out in the fall, plopping them in some plastic pots and bringing them in the house to overwinter. Then some time in February, I decided to start a bunch more little peppers under lights. For some strange reason, those little plants lived for months in the house and even survived a renovation – by the time they went outside, they were covered in a layer of who-knows-what renovation dust. I transplanted them all into their own individual 8″ terra cotta pots and stuck them in the greenhouse. And I guess the pepper gods were shining down on me because I have a million peppers, including a ton of Chinese Five Color hot peppers.
I purchased these seeds from Urban Harvest a few years ago. They are a rare hot pepper variety, although I have seen them popping up a bit more online in the last two years. Although they look very similar to the ornamental pepper plants that you see occasionally in the houseplant section at the grocery store and Home Depot, these are actually very different taste-wise. It is a very beautiful plant – medium sized, green foliage with purple veins and loaded with stunning rainbow colored peppers. The name is a bit obvious but in various stages of development, this pepper will be purple, yellow, pink, orange and red. The purple stage is the longest – it starts out as purple and matures to bright red. The peppers themselves are fairly small, about an inch long and 1/2 inch diameter but make up for their size in taste.
I always make a point to read the reviews of hot peppers before I try growing them and I’d read mixed reviews of this one. Some people described it as weak and bland, while others said it is flavorful and very hot. I guess, like anything, it depends on your climate and growing conditions – and I’m sure it might even vary in taste from season to season. Like I mentioned, mine were grown in terra cotta pots in a hot greenhouse. My experience was good – I should mention that I am somewhat of a wimp when it comes to spicy food. I’m not a total baby and it is mostly due to a weak stomach, but I am nothing like my husband who loves burning his face off with spicy food. But yeah, these little guys pack a bit of punch. On the scoville scale that I viewed, this one is 30,000-50,000 which I interpreted as “sort of hot”, but I was a bit wrong after tasting it and have changed my interpretation to “hot but I’m not dying”. I also popped the whole thing in my mouth, seeds and all, in order to get the whole affect and flavor. It was good though and I would actually recommend pepper lovers to try this one out – it was easy to grow, the first hot pepper to ripen out of all of my peppers, and has a good amount of hot flavor.
I’m really glad that I stuck it out and kept trying to grow hot peppers. I know it’s different for everyone but what worked for me was the terra cotta pots – it allowed the soil in the pots to warm up really quickly and they seem to respond really well to that. Success! Oh and I mentioned above that I had overwintered a few of last year’s pepper plants in the house. And I will report that this made no difference whatsoever to crop timing. I was able to keep these alive throughout the winter and they even survived the move out to the greenhouse, but they ended up flowering and fruiting the same time as the peppers that I’d started indoors in February. And the yields were about the same. The only real difference is that last year’s plants are a little taller than this years. So I probably won’t bother with overwintering again.
I have a handful of other hot pepper varieties that I will feature in the next few weeks – including the Filius Blue hot pepper next week. And I’ve got a really exciting project in the upcoming year that involves a video camera, my partner in crime, and some scotch bonnet and ghost peppers.