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Capsicum annuum

In Our Garden

There are about 25 species of chillis, mostly native to South America, five of which have been domesticated. Most of the varieties that we eat are from the species Capsicum annum, which was first cultivated in Mexico 5000 years ago.

California wonder bell, orange
Capsicum annuum
18-24" Tender annual

The archetypal bell pepper, the California Wonder Bells are tender, sweet and juicy without a hint of pungency.

red ruffled pimiento
Capsicum annuum
24-30 in. Tender Annual

A favorite sweet pimiento with thick, juicy walls. Marvelous for fresh eating, this plant produces clusters of peppers, 8-10 per plant.

pizza chile pepper (mild jalapeno)
Capsicum annuum
3-4 in.Long Tender Annual

Pizza slice-shaped mild jalapeno. Stunning shape with smooth skin and bright red color when fully ripe.

serrano chile pepper
Capiscum annuum
24-36" Tender Annual

The distinct flavor of this bright red chile makes it perfect for hot sauces and pickling. The short fuzzy leaves are unique and distinctive as well. Bears clusters of medium-walled , finger-sized fruits.

Nardello sweet pepper
Capsicum annuum
18-30" Tender Annual

Delightful fresh or fried, these are the sweetest non-bell peppers when ripe. An Italian heirloom from the Nardello family. Red when ripe, these 6-8 in. peppers have shiny, wrinkled skins.

In History

Chillis are one of the discoveries made by Columbus in the New World. He thought he had discovered black pepper, which was very expensive at the time, and the name "pepper" stuck with this new fiery spice.


Growing Tips:
The cultural and climatic requirements for both types of chillis (hot and sweet) are the same as those recommended for tomatoes. You can start peppers in a hotbed or coldframe for transplanting or you can buy small plants from the nursery and set them out in the garden.

Peppers generally have a long growing season but grow slowly during cool periods. After the soil
has thoroughly warmed in the spring, you can set out 6- to 8-wk old transplants to get a head start toward harvest. Practice good cultivation and provide adequate moisture. Mulching can help to conserve water and reduce weeds.

Harvesting Tips:
Harvest fruits of mild chillis when they are green or red-ripe. When allowed to mature on the plant, most varieties turn red and sweeter and increase in vitamin A and C content. Cut, instead of putting, to avoid breaking branches. Hot chili peppers that you plan to dry are allowed to ripen on the plant. Hot chili peppers turn red when ripe; they may then be cut with 1 inch of stem attached, strung on a thread, and hung in a sunny place until dry and brittle. Use a sharp knife for cutting, as the stems are tough.

Why It's Good for You

The active ingredient that makes chillis so spicy, capsaicin, evolved to protect the seeds of the fruit from digestion by mammals. Birds are immune to its effects because they swallow the fruit whole; however, mammals who chew and grind the fruit are affected by the heat. Despite the ingenious tool designed to repel mammals, humans have fallen in love—chili peppers are the most widely grown spice in the world!

Red, hot chilli sauce stimulates endorphins, killing pain and inducing a sense of well being.

With their show-stopping colors, chillis are exploding with vitamin C, which is vital for immune health and skin protection from UV damage. One green or red pepper has over 100% of the Daily Value for vitamin C with only 25 calories.

Did You Know

Peppers, also known as chillis or chile peppers, are the most widely grown spice in the world and are produced and consumed 20 times more widely than the other major pungent spice, black pepper.

The pungency of chillis is measured in Scoville units, a measure that was invented in the early 1900s by chemist Wilbur Scoville. The original method, which has since been updated, involved an alcohol extraction of the chilli, and then a tasting of increasing dilutions of the extract until the heat was barely detectable. A higher Scoville score means the chilli can be diluted more and is thus more spicy and pungent. Bell peppers range from 0-600 Scoville units, jalapenos are around 2500-10,000, serranos are 10,000-25,000 and the hottest are habaneros ranging anywhere from 80,000-150,000 Scoville units.

Let's Eat

How to Prepare:
If your mouth is on fire, the two best, yet temporary, remedies are to get something ice-cold into your mouth, or something solid and rough, like rice, crackers or a spoonful of sugar! Cold liquids cool your taste receptors down whereas rough foods distract your nerves with a different type of signal. Maybe that’s why chips with spicy salsa are so great together!


Pest Management

Several pests are of interest when looking to maintain healthy chillis.
  • Aphids
    Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects with long, slender mouth parts that they use to pierce stems, leaves, and other tender plant parts and suck out plant fluids. Almost every plant has one or more aphid species that occasionally feeds on it. Many aphid species are difficult to distinguish; however, identification to species is not necessary to control them in most situations.
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  • Armyworms
    Armyworm larvae feed in groups, which distinguishes them from other vegetable pests such as corn earworms and loopers. Markings on newly hatched armyworms are usually hard to distinguish from those of other caterpillars; older larvae have distinct lengthwise stripes. The surface of the armyworm skin is smooth.
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  • Buffalo treehopper
    Treehopper adults are commonly greenish to brown and 0.5 inch long or shorter. Covering the body, they have an expanded hood that may be formed into hornlike projections. Nymphs have numerous spines on the back of the abdomen, and both immatures and adults jump readily.
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  • Corn Earworm (Tomato fruitworm)
    The color of this species varies and is not reliable for identification. Older larvae have distinct stripes along sides and many short, whiskerlike spines over the body surface.
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  • Cucumber beetles
    Adult beetles are shiny with black heads, long antennae, and about 0.25 inch long. Larvae are whitish and slender with three pairs of short legs; the head and tip of the abdomen are darker. Adults may be striped or spotted, depending upon species.
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  • Cutworms
    Cutworms are dull brown caterpillars that curl into a C-shape when disturbed. Normally they are found on or just below the soil surface or on lower parts of plants and are commonly active at night. They are smooth skinned and have various markings.
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  • Earwigs
    Earwigs are among the most readily recognized insect pests in home gardens. Although they can devastate seedling vegetables or annual flowers and often seriously damage maturing soft fruit or corn silks, they also have a beneficial role in the landscape and have been shown to be important predators of aphids. Although several species occur, the most common in California gardens is the European earwig, Forficula auricularia, which was accidentally introduced into North America from Europe in the early 1900s. The striped earwig, Labidura riparia, occurs in southern California and can annoy residents when it is attracted to lights. It has a very disagreeable odor when crushed. However, the striped earwig does not damage plants.
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  • Flea beetles
    Flea beetles are small, shiny beetles with black legs enlarged for jumping.
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  • Hornworms
    Hornworms of all sizes have a distinctive horn at the rear end. Mature caterpillars are very large -- up to 4 inches long.
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  • Leafminer
    Leafminer adults are small black and yellow flies. Larvae are yellowish maggots that feed beneath the leaf surface.
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  • Lygus bugs
    Adult lygus bugs are green, straw yellow, or brown with a conspicuous yellow or pale green triangle on their backs. Nymphs are light green.
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  • Nematode
    Nematodes are microscopic, eel-like roundworms. The most troublesome species in the garden are those that live and feed within plant roots most of their lives and those that live freely in the soil and feed on plant roots. Although there are many different species of root-feeding nematodes in California, the most important in gardens are the root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne species). Root knot nematodes attack a wide range of plants, including many common vegetables, fruit trees, and ornamentals. They are difficult to control and can be spread easily from garden to garden in soil (for example, on tools, boots, etc.) and plant parts. A number of other nematode species may also damage home garden and landscape plants, including the citrus nematode (Tylenchulus semipenetrans), the ring nematode (Criconemoides xenoplax), root lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus spp.), the stem and bulb nematode (Ditylenchus dipsaci), the sugarbeet cyst nematode (Heterodera schachtii), and others. Table 1 lists some common garden plant species and their nematode pests.
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  • Leafroller
    Omnivorous leafroller caterpillars feed within nests they build by tying leaves or leaves and fruit together with silk webbing. Mature larvae ae green to cream colored but so translucent that you can see the main blood vessel running down their backs. Their head and the thoracic shield just below the head is brown.
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  • Pepper weevil
    Adult pepper weevils are dark, robust snout beetles 0.13 inch long, with beaks longer than their head and thorax. Larvae are less than 0.25 inch long, white, legless, and found inside fruit. Pupae, also found in fruit, are white to light brown.
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  • Slugs and Snails
    Snails and slugs are among the most bothersome pests in many garden and landscape situations. The brown garden snail (Helix aspersa) is the most common snail causing problems in California gardens; it was introduced from France during the 1850s for use as food.
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  • Spider mites
    Mites are common pests in landscapes and gardens and can be found feeding on many fruit trees, vines, berries, vegetables, and ornamental plants. Although related to insects, mites are not insects but members of the arachnid class along with spiders and ticks. The spider mites, also called webspinning mites, are the most common mite pests and among the most ubiquitous of all pests in the garden and farm.
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  • Thrips
    Thrips, order Thysanoptera, are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings. They feed by puncturing their host and sucking out the cell contents. Certain thrips species are beneficial predators that feed only on mites and other insects. Beneficial species include black hunter thrips and the sixspotted thrips. Pest species (often in the family Thripidae) are plant feeders that scar leaf, flower, or fruit surfaces or distort plant parts. Other species of thrips feed on fungal spores and pollen and are innocuous.
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  • Whiteflies
    Whiteflies are tiny, sap-sucking insects that are frequently abundant in vegetable and ornamental plantings. They excrete sticky honeydew and cause yellowing or death of leaves. Outbreaks often occur when the natural biological control is disrupted. Management is difficult.
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