How to Grow Bell Pepperscomments (13) August 5th, 2008
It’s dinnertime. Show time. Time to go to the pepper garden. I always seem to have time for the pepper garden, especially toward the end of summer. That’s when the piece of Carolina piedmont we’ve cultivated since the spring starts paying off with a pepper bonanza. For eating and entertainment, our diverse cast of bell peppers can’t be beat. The rows fill with rainbows as the fruits mature under dark green canopies of foliage. Some are so sweet we eat them like apples.
What we don’t eat fresh we freeze so they’re available all year. Without the color, texture, and flavor of peppers, why cook? We’ve developed system to grow great plants, allowing us to pick colorful peppers over the entire harvest season, which lasts through much of the fall. The production is well worth the price, which is no more than good planning and the usual TLC.
|Quilting the pepper patch: Choosing the best varieties to grow
Techniques matter, of course. But the right variety makes all the difference in the world. The problem: What grows well in my part of the country may not in yours. You must try different varieties, choosing those with the characteristics you want— color, size, disease resistance, fruit that sets continuously or in a concentrated period, etc. And read seed catalogs carefully.
Our long, hot, humid growing season means more exposure to all the problems that plague any garden plant. So disease resistance, especially to tobacco mosaic virus and bacterial leaf spot, is high on my list of plant attributes. For a continuous harvest you need a large plant with lots of foliage that will support and cover lots of peppers. Compact plants just don’t have long enough side stems to support fruit far out on the branches. They also don’t have dense enough foliage for the critical role of screening fruit from scalding sun rays.
We test varieties side by side for several seasons, keeping only the best but always testing new ones to make sure there isn’t a better mouse trap out there. After 10 years, here are the varieties we really like:
In green bells, ‘Camelot’ and ‘Galaxy’ produce nice blocky, four-lobed fruit. Green peppers are selected mainly for shape, since they will all turn color when mature.
In red bells, we grow ‘Elisa’, an elongated, four-lobed fruit with good disease resistance and continuous fruit set. In yellow, ‘Orobelle’ with its blocky, thick-walled, four-lobed fruit is tough to beat. It even makes a good general green bell if picked early. In orange, the sweetest of all, ‘Valencia’ takes the prize. Generally, I don’t believe in purple food. But for the kids and for bright, fresh salads, ‘Islander’ is a beautiful lavender fruit.
Lastly, and not to be overlooked, are the long, narrow, thin-skinned, thin-walled peppers. Used for salads, sautéing, and grilling, they mature early and are prolific. We grow ‘Aruba’ or ‘Biscayne’, but many people favor the ‘Corno di Toro’, or bull’s horn.
|Four beautiful bell peppers|
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