Kitchen Gardening

A Pepper for Every Garden

What would a garden be without peppers?

Looking for a new pepper to add to your garden this season? Here are seven varieties to get you started.
Photo/Illustration: John Pendleton

Even though I have a small space garden, I always make room for several different kinds of peppers. I try new-to-me varieties every year just to see how each will fare in my patio container garden. Some are hot, others sweet, but each offers something special. 

Here are seven of my favorite peppers that you might like to try in your garden this year:

The heirloom red Mini Bell peppers (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) are a sweet alternative to growing large bell peppers. The plants grow several feet tall and the fruit is quite productive. I never had success with full-size peppers, but this smaller variety easily takes their place. 

Kung Pao peppers are popular enough with other gardeners that I was able to find plants at my neighborhood garden center. These peppers are known for adding a bit of heat and lots of flavor to any recipe that calls for a hot pepper, like Kung Pao beef or chicken. The plants grew tall in a container and the long fruit turned from green to bright red with a little extra time in the garden.

I know everyone isn’t as crazy for jalapeno peppers as I am, but I always grow several pots of these because they’re so versatile. I use them raw in salsas, grill them for stuffing and even freeze them to enjoy over the winter. Jalapenos have a nice balance of heat and flavor, they’re easy to grow and as long as I keep picking them, they keep producing.

Cayenne peppers are a nice addition to a cook’s garden. Once harvested, dried and ground into fine powder, the cayenne makes a statement when used in recipes. There’s no comparison to the jars of cayenne on the grocery shelves.

Nu Mexico Heritage pepper is certainly a southwestern favorite and a pepper with a history. It’s a new variety developed to help give a boost to New Mexico’s chile industry. Researchers at New Mexico State University worked to develop a pepper that had thick-walls and a medium heat. They succeeded. These peppers are tasty, especially when roasted, peeled and simmered into a green chile stew. The seeds are available from New Mexico’s Chile Pepper Institute

The Tabasco peppers (also Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) are the real deal. These are the same peppers used to make the famous Mcllhenny Company Tabasco sauce. The peppers are small, but mighty. The green peppers turn a bright red when left on the plant. I was able to create my own Tabasco sauce by simmering with vinegar and salt and letting the mixture steep for several weeks.

Another New Mexico-style chile pepper is ‘Joe Parker’ (from Renee’s Garden Seeds). This medium-heat chile also grew in a container on my patio. The plants grew to about 3 feet tall and produced a nice crop. It’s another good roasting chile and I used plenty in my cooking all summer.

Do you have some favorite pepper varieties you’d like to suggest for planting this season? Please add them here.

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