Peppers are tender, warm-season vegetables. They like higher temperatures and grow more slowly than other vegetables. The pepper plant is smaller than most tomato plants. These popular garden plants produce fruits that are harvested at any size. Mature peppers snap off the plant easily. A dozen plants can provide most families with all the peppers they need.
Peppers are part of the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco and petunias. The genus Capsicum, which is the pepper genus, includes about 22 wild peppers and five domesticated types. Sweet bell peppers include bell boy, lady bell, purple bell and chocolate bell. Sweet frying peppers include gypsy and sweet banana peppers. Hot peppers include cayenne, jalapeno and red chili. Other peppers are pimiento, Tabasco and paprika.
Start pepper plants indoors from seed close to the end of winter. Once the danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up, transplant them outside. Space your pepper plants 14 to 18 inches apart. They thrive in good-draining soil enriched with organic matter. They require water during the growing and fruiting season. Dry soil will prevent the pepper plant from producing fruit.
Native South American people have used peppers in their cooking for more than 7,000 years. Christopher Columbus brought the first hot pepper to Spain in 1493 from his first voyage to the West Indies.
Peppers are sold on the international market and have many uses for flavoring and seasoning dishes. Some peppers are brewed into chili beer. Peppers are included in food coloring and candy. Dried peppers are ground up and used in spray to ward off pests from plants. The brilliantly colored fruit of the pepper plant makes it popular as an ornamental.
Pepper oil irritates the skin, nose and eyes. Wear gloves when picking and handling hot peppers. Peppers plants are susceptible to tobacco mosaic disease, which is spread by people who use tobacco. This plant disease can be prevented by hand washing before handling the pepper plants.