Peppers come in many varieties, colors and shapes. Sweet, juicy sweet peppers are eaten fresh, roasted or in casseroles and add a sweet crunch to dishes. Chile peppers are usually fire-roasted to improve their flavor and are used in salsas, sauces and Mexican dishes, such as chile rellenos. All peppers form on bushy plants, similar to eggplant or tomato plants. Lifespan and size vary, depending on the pepper type and growing conditions. Jalapenos are a variety of pepper too.
Peppers are native to the tropics and thrive in warm, moist climates. They are treated as annuals in the U.S. Plant peppers two or three weeks after the last expected frost when daytime temperatures are above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The peppers grow all summer, but turn black and mushy at the first hint of frost in the fall.
Peppers belong to the same family as tomatillos, tomatoes and eggplant. They produce one vertical stem with many lateral branches from which emerge flowers and fruit. The plants have a compact, bushy growth and do not require staking or caging. Mature size varies, but most peppers remain under 2 feet high and 2 feet wide.
Pepper varieties vary in their mature size from compact, ornamental peppers that stand 12 inches high and grow year-round as houseplants, to large, vigorous sweet pepper varieties, such as Red Beauty Sweet Bell Peppers that grow 3 feet high and die in the fall. The growing season for sweet peppers is extended in areas with mild winters.
All peppers need full sun and warm weather to thrive. When planted in cold soils or shade, peppers usually have stunted growth and reduced yields. Sweet peppers need lots of water to produce juicy, thick-walled fruit. Chili peppers, on the other hand, grow well in the warm, dry climate of the Southwest. Growers limit water as the peppers mature to increase spiciness. Plant peppers adapted to your growing conditions for the best chance of success.
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