Peppers come in a rainbow of colors, shapes and sizes. You might be able to find the more unusual pepper varieties at farmer’s markets, but most people think only of red, yellow and green bell peppers and perhaps the tiny, hot Thai pepper or the equally hot jalapeño. If you like peppers and want to make your garden into a colorful showplace, try growing purple, lilac, chocolate brown and multicolored peppers, both hot and sweet.
Corno di Toro
This Italian heirloom sweet pepper starts its life yellow and then turns red. The peppers are narrow and up to 10 inches long—they are glossy and tapered at the end. The plant is a very productive tender annual that grows to about 30 inches tall. It is said to be the largest pepper used for stuffing, often used in chile rellenos.
Dark purple peppers might not indicate heat to you, but this one is hot. When the peppers are mature, they turn red, which usually does indicate that a pepper has a spicy bite to it. The compact plants are hardy and attractive, with dark purple stems and leaves with a violet cast. Pretty Purple pepper grows to about 18 inches and produces a large quantity of peppers during its summer growing season.
With its 3- to 4-inch lilac-colored, block-shaped bell peppers, this hybrid variety produces sweet peppers that are bred to resist common diseases that can attack pepper plants, such as blossom end rot. This pepper is sometimes used for stuffing and as an addition to dried arrangements.
This pepper is truly the color of chocolate. The medium-sized peppers start ripening earlier in summer than many other types of peppers. Chocolate Beauty peppers are shaped much like a tomato and have thick flesh. They freeze well after you blanch them in boiling water for one minute. Good for salads and stuffing, the chocolate beauty is an F1 hybrid, meaning its seeds will not reproduce true to type. But it’s been bred to resist the common tobacco mosaic virus.
For a rainbow of colors on the same 2-foot-tall plant, consider growing the ornamental “twilight” variety, which produces large numbers of 1-inch hot peppers that range from green to yellow to orange, red and purple. It is said to thrive well in the United States Southwest. It does well in containers, according to the seed companies that sell it, but does prefer hot, dry summer climates.