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Question on Peppers

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  • Question on Peppers

    Background: First-time gardener this year, so I don't know much at all. I broke the garden out of straight yard grass with a hoe this spring. I don't have a tiller. Beast of a job, and I have already promised myself a tiller for next year. Also garden 1.0 was washed out in the 7-day Great Deluge this spring. Thus, garden 2.0 was planted late, in less-than-ideally worked ground. I've been playing catch-up all year. It is a learning experience, and I really figured the ground would get more "growable" in subsequent years anyway. But garden 2.0 is doing okay, though everything late in comparing notes to other gardens I know. I have oodles of tomatoes, still ripening. The okra is going bananas. I now have 6 mini watermelons and 1 mini cantaloupe.

    And the peppers. Bell peppers. They, like everything, were quite late getting started. Lots of adorable mini peppers on there in due time, though. I've been watching them with interest.

    Pepper #1, the first recognizable and thus largest and thus planned to be devoured first, recently had a spot develop on the side that wore through the skin. Since I also found a big green caterpillar munching on that pepper plant at the same time and duly executed him, I just figured he had munched the pepper as well as leaves. Cursed and then discarded that pepper. Have inspected for caterpillars twice a day since, none further.

    Other peppers growing, but none up to grocery store size yet. I'd picked out the next largest (to the original lost pepper) and was making plans for it when it got bigger. Today, that pepper also had a bad spot worn through the side. Inspected for caterpillars; none. Cursed and discarded pepper #2.

    At this point, I was getting annoyed, so I picked out the largest remaining pepper, which still isn't to grocery store size (maybe half, like about 3 inches long but not the girth yet of a grocery store Bell pepper), and picked it just for experimental purposes. Had it with lunch. Very good taste, on the small side but fine.

    This has left me wondering:

    1. Am I being unrealistic in expectations of grocery store sized peppers, given the new, hand-broken ground, the late start, my utter ignorance of the things that make them grow best, etc.? Maybe smaller peppers are all I'm going to have. Is there any reason NOT to eat them smaller? It tasted fine, and I'm not sick yet.

    2. Is there some kind of bug/fungus/etc. that eats the side out of peppers? Other than green caterpillars, which I'm pretty sure I successfully killed.

    What's wrong here? Should I go ahead and harvest smaller? If I wait for full-sized, will I continue to have pepper attrition? All these dozens of mini peppers, and my imagination is supplying a picture of them all going bad, one at a time, before I would have harvested them.


  • #2
    It's hard to tell without seeing pictures, but around here there is some issues with mold due to all the rain we've been having. Alternated with issues of withering due to the mini-droughts and scorching weather.

    But you are perfectly safe eating the smaller peppers...in fact, until actual mini-peppers were developed, that's all the gourmet "mini belles" were...just bell peppers picked early.

    So eat away!


    • Original Poster

      We had buckets of rain a few months ago (including the 7-day Great Deluge, where it DID NOT STOP for 7 days. Not once. Goodbye garden seeds.) Wet spring. Extremely dry since, 100 degrees, drought. So one extreme to the other. Weather could definitely be a contributing factor. I'm watering the garden every day and stepped up to an extra watering each day just this week for the cantaloupe, which was getting wilted and totally floppy by next watering. Now that it has an actual cantaloupe on it, apparently all moisture feeds that first, not the vine. Very glad for that wet spring, which at least is giving us some kind of a hay crop this year in my neck of the woods. We aren't as bad off as lots of folks. But yes, very dry and hot right now.

      I'll switch my standards to medium instead of large peppers, then. As long as I'm the one who gets them, not $%^^* green caterpillars! Thanks. Having never done this before, I really have no idea of when things are ripe other than comparing to what I've seen of the same in the produce department.


      • #4
        Originally posted by dressagetraks View Post

        I'll switch my standards to medium instead of large peppers, then. As long as I'm the one who gets them, not $%^^* green caterpillars! Thanks. Having never done this before, I really have no idea of when things are ripe other than comparing to what I've seen of the same in the produce department.
        Peppers are one of those lovely things that you can eat at any size. With some of the hot ones, they really reach their full potential the longer they're on the vine, but with bells it's all the same. Arguably, they get a smidge sweeter the longer they're on.

        You can eat corn at any size, too. That's where "baby corn" comes from, although it's less delicious off the stalk than when you find it smothered in some delicious sauce at the Chinese restaurant.

        And yes, melon/squash vines are VERY VERY thirsty creatures.


        • #5
          The bad spot could've been cut away from the pepper and the remaining pepper eaten. Try putting used coffee grounds around your plants...help fertilize and keeps slugs and some other critters at bay. Also good fertilizer for peppers is crushed egg shells.


          • #6
            Don't know where the OP is located so I'd hate to guess, down here it could be a sun-spot, natural rot, bug - or anything. Take a photo of pepper (or leaf - or both) to a local garden store and ask them to help you.

            Most of my bell peppers are typically about 3-4 inch long but only 1-2 inches wide. They have 3X the flavor of the store bought so I don't mind the size!

            Enjoy your new garden!


            • #7
              Some spots can also be bruising from the fruit hitting the stalk or another fruit. Mostly, you cut it out and use the rest of the pepper. The only pepper that achieves the size of store bought peppers is Big Bertha, the most common greenhouse/commercial field variety and they may not reach that in home gardens. At any rate, real peppers taste better than store bought
              Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

              Member: Incredible Invisbles


              • Original Poster

                So expecting stuff identical to that in the grocery store from my first-year garden is like expecting a summer's worth of working hard every day to make my mare look like Totilas. Got it.

                It WAS a very good tasting pepper and did have more "snap" to it than I was used to. Just did not match my mental picture. I'll harvest some more tomorrow before the mold/spot/bug/caterpillars get them.

                Got a pounding 1-hour rainstorm this afternoon. No garden watering at chores tonight; it soaked everything. We haven't had a good, hard rain in weeks. Hope a few other dry places got some, too.

                Thanks for the tips.


                • #9
                  Pictures, either mental or seed catalogue, are deceiving. Those seed catalogue pictures are of perfectly round. smooth and evenly deep red tomatoes, perfectly shaped peppers, pea pods that are not twisted, too long, too short, same with beans (green, purple or wax), perfect ears of corn without a missing patch on one side, cucumbers that are not warped, etc. Grocery store stuff is commercially grown, either hot house or outside under conditions as ideal as humanly possible: perfect deep watering, fertiliser compounded for the specific needs of that soil, and tended non stop. Just enjoy your imperfect vegetables. I sometimes wish I had a garden but for one person, it isn't really economical and evel less so here since I have to haul water from town for it. People who have surplus here are generous to us single people and force it on.....er give it to us.
                  Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

                  Member: Incredible Invisbles


                  • #10
                    The green "caterpillar" sounds like a "cut-worm." They are bad, very, very bad. Not only will they munch all your hard work, they will literally cut your plants off at the root! They are like "garden-worm-beavers."


                    • Original Poster

                      I cut him into pieces, and none since him have been seen, but I'm still looking.

                      Lima bean green, large (at least 2 inches), had almost scales or stripes down the sides, was hanging on the underside of the branch currently being nibbled. Did not have fur.

                      He did not look like good news at all and was caught red handed in the act of munching. To heck with this kinder, gentler, all nature deserves to live stuff. I killed him DEAD.


                      • #12
                        Yep, cut worm. I've heard that planting geraniums around your plants keep them away. Check your 'mators. They especially love those.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by dressagetraks View Post
                          So expecting stuff identical to that in the grocery store from my first-year garden is like expecting a summer's worth of working hard every day to make my mare look like Totilas. Got it.
                          Also... the stuff in the grocery store has been bred and selected to travel well and look pretty, _not_ for taste.

                          Your garden produce may not be as pretty, but I bet it will taste MUCH better!

                          Check out the forum on http://www.theeasygarden.com/ if you have more questions, there's a group of very knowledgeable people who are happy to help.

                          My bell peppers put on tons of peppers... and I've learned that I should have thinned them. Trying to cram three peppers on one branch meant that they grew all scrunched up. There will be no stuffed peppers this year, but I have lots of large and small pieces cut up and in the freezer.
                          ... and Patrick


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by wsmoak View Post
                            Also... the stuff in the grocery store has been bred and selected to travel well and look pretty, _not_ for taste.
                            This. They've been selected for uniformity, size, color. NOT taste!

                            I had to buy store 'maters a week ago for salsa (because it's so hot here no 'maters right now, and my tomatillo seedlings failed), and they were SO horribly bland. They were big and red and had great skin, but they had NO TASTE. I had never realized how bland they were until coming from some months of eating from the garden.

                            My garden 'maters are smallish, lumpy and cat-faced to hell, but they taste amazing.
                            "The nice thing about memories is the good ones are stronger and linger longer than the bad and we sure have some incredibly good memories." - EverythingButWings


                            • #15
                              I had some gorgeous, big bell peppers earlier in the summer, but it's been dry the last few weeks, and I have several that seem "stuck" on the small side.

                              Our tomatoes are doing great - they are amazing. The jalapenos and habaneros are also doing almost too well, and the habaneros are way too hot to eat, so I guess they will just be decorative. They are so pretty, they almost look fake - bright orangey red and shiny like plastic peppers. Our squash and broccolli just couldn't withstand the heat. I'm hoping for a cool August, since June was so brutally hot. The 10 day forecast isn't exactly backing up my theory.


                              • Original Poster

                                Harvested the 6 largest peppers today, which still seem small to me. They are now sliced into large and small pieces and freezing for experimentation purposes - the large strips for snacks for me, smaller for seasoning for cooking. I'll thaw some in a few weeks and see if the larger strips retain enough crisp or if they all need to become smaller bites.



                                Cat provided for scale (sleek and elegant style Siamese, so not a large cat)



                                • #17
                                  I find that the deeper, richer and looser my soil is, the bigger my sweet peppers grow. I also find if I stake them at an early age, the peppers get larger, they seem to like a lot of support despite being a short sturdy plant. Variety also plays a large part in size, I grew "California Wonders" a while back that were mammoth.

                                  This year I'm growing only chocolates, in smart pots, and though staked, the plants and fruits are small...... but sooooo delicious!

                                  the nasty green worm you found munching was likely a hornworm, they like peppers and eggplants in addition to tomatoes.

                                  I've had peppers with thin spots that molded in the past, I find its the result of a defect from early on in its growth, like laid on another stem and got damp, etc., or got scarred by something (one year we had a hail storm that put dents in my young peppers). As long as the fruit isn't molding or shriveling (aka if the damage is isolated to one small spot), I just cut out the bad spot and roast the whole pepper and eat it anyhow. Peppers seem to retain their integrity. Tomatoes on the other hand I will toss if they've got a spot or soft mushy side, etc, as the entire flesh seems to go a tad sour when that happens.
                                  Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                                  • #18
                                    First: Check the variety you are growing. If you are, in fact, growing "mini" peppers, they will grow old and die while you wait for them to become something else.

                                    Second: I have had peppers rot on the vine from bacterial issues. In fact, had one die on me this weekend. It was just turning red too. Phooey.

                                    Thirdly: You may be over watering your peppers. They can take a lot of hot and dry before they start looking stressed. A LOT more than something with large leaves like a melon, or even a bush bean.
                                    Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


                                    • #19
                                      Oh, and P.S. You can eat them as little as you like. Green bell peppers are all underdeveloped. I think they all go on to be another color when they're ripe like red or yellow.
                                      Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Thanks. My soil isn't deep or well worked, the peppers aren't staked, and there have been a few "flop-overs" that I replanted. I'll stake them next year. I'm not sure on variety. Due to the first garden washing out, I just grabbed whatever seeds were left in the store.

                                        Have discovered today during work-on-the-farm breaks, have today off but am stopping for a drink after each hour out since it's 100, that frozen pepper slices are a refreshing snack.