Grit Blogs > The Creative Vegetable Gardener

Chili Peppers--Hot, Hotter, Hottest! I admit, I love the way chili peppers look growing on the plant.  On the other hand, some of these chilis are not for the faint of heart, but true chili aficionados swear by them.    Some varieties ring in at 1,000,000 Scoville units, some much less hot.  Some are fire engine red and make great ristas or wreaths to hang in the kitchen.  When dried these chilies can be crushed into pepper flakes to spice up sauces, pizzas, soups and more.

What is a Scoville unit?  In 1902, pharmacologist Wilber Scoville mixed ground chili in sugar, alcohol and water and taste tested the heat content, rating them from 0 to, at that time, 200,000 on the “Scoville scale.”  Today computerized technology rate peppers from 0 to 10.  Although Scoville units are the preferred reference. 

The heat in chiles (hot) peppers is concentrated in the veins and also in the seeds.  Use caution when working with chili peppers because they contain volatile oils that can burn your skin and eyes.  If your skin is sensitive, wear thin rubber gloves.  If you bite into a chili and regret it, drink a glass of milk.

As a general rule, the smaller the pepper the hotter because smaller chilies have a higher proportion of seeds and ribs.  I don’t find that to be particularly true, since “Habanero” for instance, one of the hottest, is not the smallest.

Here are some of the flame throwers of the chili world.  I’ll start with some mild varieties, working up to the real heat makers.  Seed sources are listed below.

Chilies 100 to 1750 Scoville Units 

Ancho San Martin  75 days.  Hybrid. 500 t0 1,000 Scoville units.  This is a mild poblano chile rellano type.  Can be grown almost anywhere.  Called “Ancho” when dried.  Dark green, 5 ½” long peppers are a favorite for roasting.  One of the mildest chilies.  Source:  TOT 

 Ancho San Martin 

Ancho San Martin   -  Photo courtesy Totally Tomatoes 

Biggie Chili™  68 days.  Hybrid.  500 Scoville Units.  Plant has heavy leaf canopy that protects fruits from sunscald.  Impressive thick walled peppers up to 9” long.  Light green fruits mature to a bright red if left on the vine.  Great for roasting or slicing.  Source:  THE TOT 

Cajun Belle  60 days.  Hybrid.  100-1,000 Scoville units.  All American Selection winner.  Mildly hot, but sweet pepper that is adapted to traditional gardening and to container gardens.  This pepper looks like a small bell pepper, 2 “ wide and 3” long with 3 or 4 lobes.  The fruit will ripen from green to scarlet when to a deep red if left on the plant.  Source:  JOHN PAR TOT 

 Cajun Belle 

Cajun Belle  -  Photo courtesy Totally Tomatoes 

Sweet Heat  56 days.  Hybrid.  329 Scoville units. This pepper has a mild, spicy flavor with smoky undertones.  Look much like bell peppers, 3-4” long by 1-1 ½” wide.  Perfect choice for grilling and salsa.  Can be eaten at the green or red stage.  Compact plants are bushy.  65% higher vitamin C than average peppers.   Source:  BURP STO TOT 

Zavory  90 days.  100 Scoville Units.  Hybrid.  Shiny 2-3” red peppers appear in large numbers in late summer.  Branching 30” tall plants.   Source:  BURP COO THE 

Chilies 2000 to 10,000 Scoville Units 

Balada (Kung Pao) 85 days.  Hybrid.  10,000 Scoville Units.   This is an Oriental hot pepper with thin walls that dry quickly to seal in flavor and heat.  Big, 30” plants with 4 ½” long peppers that mature from green to red with no loss of taste.   Source:  THE TOT 


Balada (Kung Pao)  -  Photo courtesy Totally Tomatoes 

Cherezo Cherry  65-75 days.  Hybrid.  2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units.  A hot little Italian import grows up to 2’ tall with an abundance of round, uniform, 1 ½” peppers with thick walls.  Maturing from green to brilliant red.  Use fresh in salads, pickled, stuffed, or for antipastos.  Source:  JOHN 

Devil Serrano  73 days.  Hybrid.  6,000 Scoville units.  Dark green, finger-sized, glossy fruits.  Semi-determinate plant uses less garden space.  Source:  TOT 

 Devil Serrano 

Devil Serrano  -  Photo courtesy Totally Tomatoes 

Garden Salsa  73 days.  Hybrid.  3,000 Scoville units.  Peppers are 8” long and 1” across.  Usually picked at green stage for salsa, but can be left on plant to turn red.  These peppers get hotter in dry weather.  Source:  PAR THE TOT 

Hot Daddy  62 days.  Hybrid.  2,000 Scoville units.  12” long fruit at maturity, change from green to glowing golden-orange.  Source:  BURP 

Jalisco Jalapeno  58-62 days.  Hybrid.  2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units.  A mainstay in Mexican and Southwest cooking.  Smooth, blunt, medium-walled 3” x 1” jalapenos.  Medium green to red when left on plant.  3’ tall plants.  The smoke dried Jalisco is known as chipotle and adds a rich, smoky flavor to meats, sauces and soups.  Source:  JOHN 

Mio Grande 62 days.  Hybrid.  4,000 to 6,000 Scoville units.  Large 5” long hot pepper.  Source:  GOU 

Volcano  60-70 days.  Hybrid.  2,000 to 4,000 Scoville units.  4-6” long, glossy greenish-yellow that matures to red.  Hungarian type.  Excellent for pickling, roasting and fresh use.   Source:  THE TOT 

Chilies 25,000 to 200,000 Scoville Units 

Aji Limo (Lemon Drop) (OP) 70-80 days.  Heirloom.  30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units.  Lemon-yellow pepper that grows ½” x 2” with thin walls and a tapered point.  A rare Peruvian heirloom.  Very productive 1’ tall plants.  It’s strong heat is tempered with a smoother, citrus-spice flavor when cooked.   Source:  JOHN TOT 

 Aji Limo 

Aji Limo (Lemon Drop)  -  Photo courtesy Totally Tomatoes 

Chenzo  82-85 days.  Hybrid.  45,000 Scoville units.  Plants grow 22” tall and spread up to 20”.  Peppers mature from black to bright red.  Well suited to pots and containers.  Source:  TOT 

Jamaican Hot Red (OP) 90-100 days.  100,000 to 200,000 Scoville units.  Very compact plant with an abundance of thin skin peppers shaped like a lantern.  Lots of flavor through the heat.  Source:  NES 

Rey Pakai  84 days.  Hybrid.  200,000 Scoville units.  2 ½ x 1 ½” Habanero type.  Mature from green to red.  Vigorous upright plants.   Source:  STO 

Chilies 300,000 to 1,000,000 Plus Scoville Units 

Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper)  100-120 days.  Heirloom.  In excess of 1,000,000 Scoville units.  Plants exceed 4’ tall.  These flame throwers are thin-walled, wrinkled, pointed and reach 2-3” in length.  They ripen to mostly red.  Source:  BAK THE TER TOT 

 Bhut Jolokia 

Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper)  -  Photo courtesy Totally Tomatoes 

Caribbean Red Habanero (OP)  90 days.  Heirloom.  445,000 Scoville units.  This hot, hot, hot pepper comes from the Yucatan region.  30” tall plants.  Source:  THE 

Chocolate Habanero  Heirloom.  300,000 Scoville units.  2” long, chocolate-brown color, lantern shaped peppers.  Source:  BAK TOT 

You may or may not find any of these varieties in the supermarket.  Growing chili in your own garden is your best choice.  Peppers are easy to grow.  If you can’t find these varieties as seedlings at your local nursery you can sow seeds in flats or containers filled with potting mix or a mixture of peat moss and vermiculite.  Keep the soil temperature about 80° F if possible.  When seeds germinate, move flats into bright light for about eight weeks.  Plant outdoors when the soil has thoroughly warmed and the nighttime lows are expected to stay above 55° F.  In cool climates plant through black plastic and cover with row covers.  Keep soil evenly moist.

Fertilize every four weeks with fish emulsion or other organic fertilizer.  Excess nitrogen produces a bushy plant with little fruit.  Provide an even water supply and never let the plants droop.  Space chili plants 18-24 inches apart. 

Hot peppers should ripen on the vine to obtain full potency.  Some old time gardeners swear that hot peppers and sulfur are bosom buddies.  They put about half a teaspoon of garden sulfur in the bottom of the planting hole before setting out the transplants.  Sulfur lowers the soil pH, which leads to an abundance of peppers.

Caution, when handling these peppers wear gloves.  If you touch the peppers with your hands, keep them away from your eyes and mouth.  It helps to wash your hands with Fels Naptha, a heavy duty laundry bar soap, or blue Dawn dish soap to remove any chili oil.

Proceed with caution!

Pepper Seed Catalog Sources 

BAK   Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 

BURP   Burpee 

COO  Cook’s Garden 

GOU  Gourmet Seed International 

JOHN  John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds 

KIT   Kitazawa Seed Co. 

NES  Neseed  

PAR   Park Seed 

SEED   Seed Savers Exchange 

STO   Stokes Seeds 

TER    Territorial Seed company 

THE   The Pepper Gal 

TOT   Totally Tomatoes 

For a complete listing of chili peppers and seed sources visit:

© Copyright 2013 by Karen Newcomb