Herb of the Year: Peppers

 Growing peppers

Herb of the Year: Growing peppers

Central Oregon’s growing season for peppers is short

The International Herb Association has proclaimed peppers as the Herb of the Year for 2016. You hardly think of peppers in the same vein as basil, parsley or last year’s winner, savory.

I did some searching and found the criteria used for awarding the special honor. The International Herb Association “evaluates possible choices based on being outstanding in at least two of the three major categories: medicinal, culinary or decorative.” There is no doubt that peppers are a useful plant, thereby passing all the tests.

Peppers are believed to be beneficial in treating inflammation, colds, vitamins A and C deficiency, cancer, obesity, stuffed-up nose, headaches, nerve pain and psoriasis.

Capsaicin, the active ingredient, is packed full of nutrients, including beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and contains twice the vitamin C found in citrus fruits.

Growing up in the Midwest, we felt pretty cosmopolitan when we added a few strips of green pepper to our iceberg lettuce salad. These days I’m not happy if I don’t have a few orange or red peppers in the vegetable bin for eating raw or sauteing with mushrooms.

Every catalog I received this year had an increased pepper section that points to their popularity. Territorial Seed Co., an Oregon company, features 39 varieties of peppers. Johnny’s Selected Seed in Maine features more than 55 varieties.

There are many sizes, colors and shapes of peppers, but choosing one that will be successful in Central Oregon is a little tricky.

Peppers are a long warm-season crop, with the large sweet bell peppers being the most sensitive in our area. I’ve found the sweet specialty peppers, often called the snack peppers, to be successful, especially yellow banana peppers.

Growing peppers

Peppers are best started indoors or purchased as seedlings.

Full color maturity takes place 75 to 85 days after transplanting. Seed germination takes place when soil temperatures range between 75 and 85 degrees. Planting seeds directly in the garden isn’t really an option with our low soil temperatures.

Peppers are frost-sensitive. Using a Wall O’ Water or floating row cover or planting in a hoop house will provide frost protection. Nighttime temperatures of at least 50 degrees are needed for pollination.

One would think that the warmer the daytime temperatures, the faster the plant will mature. However, like tomatoes, very little fruit set occurs above 90 degrees.

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