If you’re a hot pepper lover like me, you’re probably not satisfied with just the standard jalapenos and serranos you find at the grocery store. International stores might have a few extra options, but the best way to try rarer and more obscure peppers is to grow them at home
I live in USDA hardiness zone 5b so it’s a little early to start pepper seeds, but I often mess up on the first try so I’m getting an extra early start.
Here are 10 sweet and spicy peppers that I’m growing this year. I’m saving the best for last, so the first ones I’m growing are a bit boring, but they are a staple in my household: serranos and cayenne.
The cayenne seeds I bought were actually a scam, they were labeled as “penis peppers”, peppers that are supposed to look like a dick, but just ended up being cayenne. I accidentally grew them for the first time last year, and while I was disappointed they didn’t look like dicks, they were one of my most prolific and most-used peppers.
Cayenne peppers run from 30,000-50,000 Scoville units (SHUT), so they are notably hotter than jalapenos, but still a “medium” heat rather than a mind-blowing heat. They are super commonly dried and crushed up into what we call “crushed red peppers” and pepper powder, and I also used them in stir-fries and curries.
Serranos, again, aren’t that interesting but are the ones that I’m most likely to use daily. Serranos are chilis that mature from green to red, ranging from around 10,000-25,000 SHU. So, they are definitely hotter than jalapeños, but by no means a “super hot” pepper.
You commonly see green Serranos at the grocery store, and are popular in Mexican cuisine. I use Serranos in homemade salsas and curries, and I sautee them with onions and kale to put in scrambled eggs or any number of dishes
3. Puma Pepper
Next up is the Puma Pepper, which I also grew for the first time last year. Puma peppers start out dark purple and eventually mature into orange and yellow tones. They are often grown as decorative plants because they are big and bushy with dark purple leaves, and the fruit matures in stages so you’ve got a really colorful bush.
They range from 300,000-400,000 SHU, so they’re pretty hot but can’t be compared to things like scorpion peppers.
I’m growing fewer of these this year because they aren’t super practical for what I’m looking for. My husband doesn’t love super-spicy food, so these were generally a little too hot for daily cooking use. I did attempt (and completely failed) to make a hot sauce with them, and I ended up drying most of them.
I got these and a lot of my other pepper seeds from Baker’s Creek, but I’ve been hearing a lot of not-so-great things about them lately, so I’ll probably be avoiding them in the future and buying more from Botanical Interests and Fruition Seeds in the future.
If you know a seed company with a great pepper selection, please let me know in the comments!
4. Aji Cachucha
Next we have the Aji Cachucha pepper, which is mostly sweet with just a little bit of heat. I grew these last year but didn’t do a great job with them so they never fully matured.
This year I’ve started my seeds early, so they have a longer time to develop, and I’ll be using more compost in my soil, so they have the nutrients they need.
I expect these peppers will be one of my most-used this year. We often buy sweet snacking peppers from the store to eat raw or chop up and sautee, and these can be used in the same way, they also have a little bit of heat.
5 and 6. Bell peppers
After that, I’ve got two different types of bell peppers, one of which was seeds I saved from my CSA last year, so those are kind of snooze. Bell peppers are the only peppers that clock in at 0 SHU and do not generally contain any capsaicin at all.
And then we get to get to the good stuff!
7. Lemon drop peppers
I bought Lemon Drop peppers just this year, so this will be new to my garden. I’m hoping this one will be another one that I actually use a lot. They turn bright yellow like lemons and range from 15,000-30,000 SHU, so a similar heat level to Serranos.
Lemon drop peppers come from Peru and have a citrusy flavor.
8. Biquinho peppers
Next up is a yellow biquinho pepper, which comes from Brazil. This one is sweet and milder, ranging from about 1,000-2,000 SHU.
This one is new to my garden this year, and I chose it for two reasons: first because I moved to a new house and I’m afraid my garden might not get a ton of sunlight, so smaller fruit might do better than some of the bigger peppers.
And second, these look AWESOME for pickling, which is something I want to experiment more with.
9. Mad hatter peppers
I’ve also got mad hatter peppers, which are another pretty mild one, ranging from 500-1,000 SHU. I saved these seeds from last year’s CSA box as well. I’ll probably be using these mostly as snacking peppers, and I may try pickling some too.
10. Datil peppers
Last but not least, we’ve got Datil peppers, which were a free seed from Baker’s Creek. They are bright orange and range from 100,000-300,000 SHU.
Again, for my household, that’s a little bit hotter than what’s actually practical daily, but I love trying new peppers; plus I may try my hand at hot sauce making again and pray it works out better than last year.
Let me know in the comments what peppers you’re growing this year!