The two basic types of heirloom pepper seeds are “sweet” and “hot”. Sweet peppers always remain mild, even when the flesh turns to red. Hot peppers range in size but all are pungent, their flavor varying from a mild heat to five alarm fires hot. Peppers are very versatile, they can be used fresh for cooking but also preserved in a variety of different ways, including: drying, canning, and freezing. Pepper plants also make a great decorative accent to your landscape, and the various colors are sure to spice up any garden.
Raising Heirloom Peppers from Seed
You can buy heirloom pepper seeds but is also perfectly acceptable to buy your favorite pepper from the growers market and use the seeds contained, break them open and use the seed to plant your own crop. Sow seeds 8-10 weeks before the average date of the last frost. Sow a few seeds in each pot and when they grow to about 5 inches thin them down to the strongest one. Set out your pepper starts when the weather becomes warm, pepper plants due tend to be a bit hardier than tomatoes but they are still susceptible to even a slight frost.
Care While Growing Heirloom Pepper Seeds
The best way to care for heirloom pepper seeds is to treat them just like tomato seeds, but give them more water when they are young. Some gardeners set out more plants than are needed and after a few weeks of growth pull out the weaklings. When the first blossoms open, give the plants a light application of fertilizer. Water it in well. Any stress at flowering time may cause blossom drop. Add a layer of mulch to help conserve moisture. Remember to always water the roots and never the peppers; if they get to wet, they are liable to rot.
Soil and Climate
Heirloom pepper seeds prefer a light soil and benefit from compost. They are heat loving plant and in cooler climates are best started in a greenhouse. They need at least 65°F (19°C) when they are flowering or they will not set fruit.
Harvesting and Storing
When harvesting your peppers it is important to use a sharp pair of pruning shears, never try to break them of the plant. Drying is a very popular way to preserve peppers. Both sweet and hot peppers are commonly dried for winter use. In Mexico where peppers are referred to as Chiles the dried peppers are ground in a mortar in order to produce chili powder. A pinch of Chile powder will add flavor to almost any dish. A strand of dried peppers also makes an attractive decoration in your kitchen.
Pests and Diseases
Anthracnose: As long as you plant your peppers well away from your beans, they will not suffer from anthracnose. If they do get it, they will go bad. Burn the spoiled fruit and plant.
Cut worm: Protect your seedlings with cardboard collars when planting out.
Heirloom Pepper Varieties
Jalapeño – Popular for Tex-Mex dishes and for pickling, the dark green fruits can be left on the bush to mature to a fiery red color. Fruit grows to a length of three inches.