Ornamental Peppers

Ornamental Peppers

Part of Ep. 904 The Winter Garden

Discover some of the best ornamental peppers.  Judith Reith-Rozelle, the assistant superintendent at the West Madison Ag Research Station, introduces us to her favorites--include foliage-rich Varingata and hot peppers Orange Thai and Poinsettia.

Premiere date: Dec 26, 2001

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Peppers aren't just for eating anymore, although they happen to be one of my favorite foods. But in recent years, I've started to bring them indoors for the holidays. I think you can see why. They look like little, miniature Christmas lights. They're just gorgeous. I'm with Judith Reith-Rozelle. And she's the Assistant Superintendent at the West Madison Ag Research Station. Judy, I'm not the only one bringing these indoors. People are selling these around the holidays, too, aren't they?

Judy:
Yes, they are. Garden centers around the state has these for sale. And one can go in and get them for maybe Thanksgiving or Christmas decorations. They are ornamental, so if one buys them, you need to be careful that they may have been sprayed with insecticides.

Shelley:
That's from commercial growers.

Judy:
That's from the commercial growers. And you'd want to keep them away from children and pets.

Shelley:
You've worked a way around that by growing them outside, and then digging them up and bringing them in. So, then, they're not treated with pesticides.

Judy:
That's right. All of the peppers you see here came from the Research Station ornamental trial gardens. And we dug these up about mid-September. And the reason we did that, was at that time, the temperature may be dropping down to 50-55, and you want to get them inside.

Shelley:
Now, when I've brought in peppers for that reason, I've noticed that I've had to spray them at least twice with like an insecticidal soap, just to keep the insects from coming in the house.

Judy:
Yep. I think these were sprayed with an insecticidal soap twice. It really cuts down on the number of insects that are going to come in. And it's easier to control them before you bring them in than after you bring them in.

Shelley:
They're susceptible to white flies. Is that the bug that's the problem?

Judy:
Right, that's the bug that's the problem.

Shelley:
So, we bring them in before it gets too cold out. And then, what do we do to keep them happy indoors in the wintertime.

Judy:
Well, you want to keep them in a nice, sunny location, either in an east or south window. You want to keep them on the drier side. And you don't want to fertilize them, because they have a full complement of their fruits and they're not going to be setting anymore, unless you're going to pick them off. So, just keep them nice...

Shelley:
The fruit will last for months, that way.

Judy:
Yes, the fruit will last for several months that way.

Shelley:
If we're buying them from a commercial grower, those are the ones we don't want to eat. But there's another reason we might not want to eat the ones we grow. For me, I'm terrified of those spicy hot ones. But you've got some here that are safe for me and for kids and pets.

Judy:
Right, and that's this one we have been looking at, which is Chilly Chili. And it's not hot at all. In fact, it tastes like it's a wax pepper.

Shelley:
It's not going to burn, then?

Judy:
No, it's not going to burn.

Shelley:
Boring. So, it's safe, okay.

Judy:
It's safe for anyone that has children or pets, or wishes to bring it in. It is truly ornamental. Some that we do have that are different are these ornamental peppers, these mini bells. We have Mini Golden Bell and Mini Chocolate Bell.

Shelley:
So, these are sweet, like a regular bell pepper.

Judy:
Right, and they can be used in salads in things, if they haven't been sprayed with pesticides.

Shelley:
And they're so cute.

Judy:
Aren't they cute?

Shelley:
This is one I've experimented with. This is Sweet Pickle. You can pickle the peppers, but because they're sweet, I just chop them up and use them in salads. But I'm really growing it because I think they look like old-fashioned Christmas lights.

Judy:
Right, and that's the reason I really like these. They do just look like really big old-fashioned lights.

Shelley:
On a smaller scale, here's one that I played with in a container all summer. This is Bolivian Rainbow Chili Pepper. This is getting hotter. I will eat the herbs that I put into this container. Other people can eat this, but I won't go near it.

Judy:
And that is a caution. if you have children or pets, this is a very hot pepper. But again, it's very unique because it has three colors of pepper fruits on it at once. There's the purple, red and yellow. It does look like little upright ornamental Christmas tree lights.

Shelley:
You have one that's more famous for the foliage.

Judy:
This is Varingata. It does have tri-colored foliage and little purple fruits. It's grown more for the foliage, the ornamental value of the foliage than the fuits.

Shelley:
You don't even need the fruit with this one.

Judy:
Oh, no, it's very beautiful.

Shelley:
From here, we're really getting into hotter.

Judy:
Yes. We have some that are very hot. And this is one of them, the Nu Mex Twilight, which is really quite hot. But again, it looks like little Christmas tree lights. It has three colors on it at once, orange, red and purple. But it is one to be cautious of. It's a very large plant, so it's nice as a centerpiece.

Shelley:
Wouldn't that be great. What's the one with just the orange fruit? It's very delicate looking.

Judy:
That's Orange Thai. This is one that's hotter.

Shelley:
Even hotter?

Judy:
Yes, even hotter, so be cautious. But again, it has these little fruits that are upright and look like little orange Christmas tree lights. This is one that Seed Savers gave us to try. This is one, the name is probably very familiar. This is called Poinsettia. The reason it's called Poinsettia is the fruits are all in kind of a rosette and are red, just like the leaves of a poinsettia plant.

Shelley:
That's also hot.

Judy:
This is also quite hot.

Shelley:
I still think that would look lovely indoors for the holidays.

Judy:
I think so, too.

Shelley:
Thank you, Judy, for all these choices.

Judy:
You're welcome.

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