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Kitchen Gardening

Chile Pepper Season: Here’s a Trio to Try

Being a confessed chilehead, I have grown many varieties for over 40 years. Here are a few that might be new to you, that I think are worthwhile growing.

Here's a trio of chiles to try: 'Rezha Macedonian', 'Chocolate Habanero' and 'Chocolate Ghost Pepper'. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Being a confessed chilehead, I have grown many varieties for over 40 years. Here are a few that might be new to you, that I think are worthwhile growing. This year, I tried three new chiles that I have not grown before, though I have grown similar cultivars of the habanero and the ghost peppers.

'Rezha Macedonian' chile pepper
‘Rezha Macedonian’ is an attractive chile–it is mildly hot–however highly ornamental. Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

pepper skin
It is hard to believe that this intricate design is on a chile pepper! I will be using these for ornamentation for sure. Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

Rezha Macedonian

I must confess that I grew this chile pepper just for its appearance. I was intrigued when I saw it in Baker Creek’s catalog. There it states that the name means “engraved” and ‘Vezeni Piperki’, another local name translates to “embroidered”. The peppers are long and thin and the skins are covered with “curious striations”. I was slightly hesitant to buy it because it looks leathery, cracked and somewhat dried or parched–and I do not like it when my jalapenos get cracks on them. However, I went for it anyway and so did a gardening friend of mine, whose Rezhas grew more prolifically than mine (pictured here).

Tasting them is variable. The seed cavity is fairly hot and the chiles vary from mild to slightly hot with a flavor that is not particularly special. I was worried that they would be tough and they are a bit chewy, although when used in salsa this is not at all noticeable. I hope to try some of them and use them on wreaths and swags because they are so unique in appearance–each one is like a piece of artwork as you can see in the photos.

Recently, friend Anne Thompson and I used a number of her Rezhas to make salsa with tomatoes, onions, garlic, savory, lime juice, primarily Rezhas and just a couple Fatali and Chocolate Habs and it was too hot for her. We had used all of the tomatoes, so we added the ripe peaches that we had to help lessen the heat. It turned out to be very tasty–and still pretty pungent.

'Chocolate Habanero' chile pepper
‘Chocolate Habanero’ is hot like other habs, though I think it might be a bit sweeter. Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Chocolate Habanero

I’ve grown the common orange habanero, as well as a few red cultivars and a ‘Mustard Habanero’ as well as the Caribbean ‘Scotch Bonnet’. The chocolate one is just as fiery as the aforementioned, registering at about 300,000 Scoville Heat Units, only it is a lovely red brown color, which makes one think of chocolate. It has that lovely fruitiness like the other Capsicum chinensis, which I would describe as slightly apricotlike.

ghost chile pepper
These beauties are hot, hot, hot! Bhut jolokia, also called ghost peppers are over a million SHU! I use them carefully and sparingly. Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Chocolate Ghost Pepper or Bhut Jolokia ‘Chocolate’

I picked up a plant of this from Inlet Culinary Garden in Pawley’s Island while I was having a “Family Eclipse Reunion” in South Carolina. It has the same wicked heat as the ghost pepper at about 1,000,000 Scoville units, however it is a little sweeter and fruitier than the red ripe ghost pepper. Use this incendiary chile carefully. The chocolate-colored peppers make a handsome display plant.

I would grow all three of these chiles again next season.

Remember to wear gloves if you are preparing really hot peppers in the kitchen!

Have you tried any new chiles this season that you would grow again?

Previous: How to Grow Chile Peppers Next: Picking a Peck of Paprika Peppers
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