Pepper, Sweet & Hot


Sweet peppers, also called bell peppers, are a favorite backyard vegetable plant. Annuals, they are easy to grow and yield generous harvests over the entire season right up until frost. Pepper plants (Capsicum annum) were discovered by Columbus as he was searching for black pepper. Closely related to tomato, potato, eggplant and tobacco, sweet peppers and their hot counterparts are widely grown in the United States. There are dozens of varieties of sweet pepper, all rich in vitamins A and C as well as valuable minerals. These versatile vegetables are delicious raw or cooked numerous ways.

Foliage - Young sweet pepper plants have bright yellow green foliage which turns medium green as the plants mature. Individual leaves are typically 1 1/2 to 2 inches long and about 1 inch wide. They are lance shaped, having smooth edges and pointed tips. They grow alternately along the stems and many branches that develop as the plants mature. Typically green pepper plants grow from 15 to 36 inches high, with a spread of from 18 to 24 inches.

Flowers and Fruit - Pepper plants bear small white, scentless flowers in the early summer. If mature peppers are picked regularly, plants continue to simultaneously produce new flowers and fruit over the season. The fruits are typically bell shaped, either with tapered, rounded or squarish bases. They develop four swollen, deeply ridged lobes separated inside by a membrane that holds numerous seeds. Mature sweet peppers grow to between 3 and 10 inches long, depending on the variety.

Green Peppers vs. Red Pepper

Sweet peppers that are green are mature but not fully ripe, although they are commonly harvested and eaten at this time. Allowed to ripen further on the plant, they will eventually turn red (a few varieties will turn yellow). Red peppers boast attractive color and a sweeter, less bitter flavor than peppers in the green stage. However, because they remain on the plant two or three weeks longer, they slow the rate of fruiting of the plant, so it produces fewer peppers over the season. Plant more pepper plants if you plan to allow some to ripen. Some varieties of sweet pepper ripen into yellow or orange fruit. Newer varieties ripen to a brownish, or purplish color. Ultra Set and Vidi are varieties that go from green to red quite early; North Star is another choice.

Expected Sweet Pepper Yield

Most sweet pepper plants yield anywhere from 8 to 15 fruits per plant per season. A 25 foot row of peppers should yield about 12 to 15 pounds of peppers. One bushel equals 25 pounds of peppers. Three or four plants will serve a family of four plenty of green peppers for eating fresh. Plant several more plants if canning and freezing peppers is planned.

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