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Can You Eat Ornamental Peppers? For Sure…


In flower beds or pots, ornamental peppers add a spot of color that lasts longer than most flowers. (Pepper plants produce cute little white flowers as well.) There are several varieties, of course, but the common qualities these peppers share include ease of cultivation, small bushes, and plentiful product.

I found a couple of lonely little pots of ornamental peppers at a Home Depot, some months ago. They were started sometime in early 2012 and thus were well established. Indeed, they were tightly root-bound and threatening to be in serious trouble. I bought both pots and then hatched an evil scheme developed a plan to repot these lovelies, breaking them up into several bushes from each pot.

Pointy PeppersI scrounged up several pots we had sitting around the property, unused and abandoned. Two larger terracotta pots, and two smaller ones, provided the basics. However, that still wasn’t enough capacity to give the plants room to thrive. I found another small clay pot, one with lots of color baked onto its surface. On my next trip to the garden center I picked up two clay-colored plastic planters. Add some quality soil and a few rocks for the bottom of each pot and I was in business. I carefully removed the plants from their small pots, separated different stems of the plants from each other, then cautiously repotted. A good soaking with root activator and these plants were ready to start their new lives.

The small, pointed fruit, found in plentiful clusters, start out green, then change over some weeks through yellow, to orange, to red. Once filled out, these peppers stay on the bush for a couple of months or more. At the end, the deeply red chiles begin to dry and wrinkle. You can collect the chiles at any stage, from green to red. However, I have been leaving mine until they start to dry. (More on what to do with these peppers at that point, in a following post.)

Very pretty. Very tempting as well, for a dedicated chilihead.

Are these chiles edible? Certainly. Their small size means you won’t get much fruit from even a handful. However, a warning from a pro: These chiles are HOT!With Scoville values ranging from 30,000 to over 100,000, you can easily see these scorching morsels are not for the faint of heart. One or two will turn a big pot of everyday chili into a steaming offering of fiery goodness. So use sparingly! This shouldn’t be a problem, though, as you’ll want to leave the color on the plants for a long time, providing special interest to your garden or flower beds. If you have them in pots like I do, then you can rearrange often to give a variety of looks to your grounds.

If you can’t find any ornamentals for sale at garden centers near you, then consider starting from seed. You’ll need some patience, though, as these plants are designed to grow slowly. The reward is high, in both color and flavor. There’s one added benefit, particularly for ornamental peppers in pots: You can bring them inside during cold spells and they’ll do just fine, sitting in a sunny window.

Our cats have even trained themselves not to eat these pepper plants when they’re indoors; imagine that…

Enjoy the (Pretty Peppers) Heat!


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