The pepperoncini, Italian sweet pepper, or Tuscan pepper (Capsicum annuum) is often pickled and found in antipasto preparations served with Italian foods. This pepper belongs to the same genus as bell peppers and hot peppers. Pepperoncini have a small amount of “bite” to them, but are considered a sweet pepper. Like other members of its genus, the pepperoncini is an annual vegetable that favors warm, fairly dry summers. Although the 2- to 3-inch-long peppers turn red if you leave them on the plant, they are normally harvested for pickling while they are still green.
Start seeds indoors eight to 10 weeks before your final spring frost. Using ½ gallon nursery pots or a flat filled with standard potting mix, make holes ½ inch deep and 2 inches apart with your finger or a pencil. Drop one seed into each hole and then water well. Be sure to put your pots or flats where they will get plenty of natural sunlight or provide a hanging fluorescent shop light.
Transplant seedlings to individual 3 or 4-inch pots when they are 1 to 2 inches tall, using the same potting soil. Continue to give them lots of natural sunlight or artificial light and keep them well watered. When they are about 6 inches tall, after your final spring frost, they are ready to plant in the garden.
Dig a generous amount of compost into your planting area before you plant your pepperoncini plants. For an area that is 3 feet wide by 6 feet long, use one 5-gallon bucket of compost and/or other organic materials such as dried leaves.
Dig holes 12 to 16 inches apart and then place one plant in each hole.
Fertilize your pepperoncini plants when they are 8 to 10 inches tall and start to develop flowers. Use a plant food with an N-P-K ratio of 12-12-12 according to label instructions.
Control aphids, spider mites and scale insect, if they occur, with a spray of insecticidal soap. Control slugs and snails with iron phosphate granules (“Sluggo”).