Mild Peppers & Unique Cherry Tomatoes

by Dr. Joey Williamson, Horticulture Extension Agent, Home & Garden Information Center, Clemson University, 2009

I'm Joey Williamson, and I'm a horticulturist with the Clemson Home & Garden Information Center.

Today we’ll look at two fantastic, but mild pepper cultivars, and a unique cherry tomato that make wonderful additions to the home vegetable garden.

The first vegetable I’d like to show you today is the pepper called the ‘Pasilla bajio’ pepper, and this is a pepper that we grew from seed. They have to be grown inside a greenhouse or in your home, and in the Upstate they need to be planted outside in the yard during the month of May. So one has to plan ahead on how long it takes for these pepper seeds to germinate and for the plants to grow large enough to transplant into the garden. These peppers take about 78 days to reach maturity. The fruit are very long, slender-type peppers. They are thin-walled and become a very dark green, almost a black color, at maturity and do have a lot of seeds inside. They will reach lengths of up to 8 to 10 inches long, so they make quite a large pepper. They are often used dried in cooking, where they provide a smoky-rich flavor to sauces. These peppers are relatively mild, as they have a Scoville heat unit rating of about 250. What the Scoville rating indicates is the degree of hotness of the peppers. A rating of zero would mean no heat at all, like for a bell pepper. But this scale can go up into the hundreds of thousands or higher for peppers, such as habaneros. So having a Scoville rating of 250 is relatively mild, and one can even eat the fruit directly from the plant.

The next pepper I would like to show you today is the ‘NuMex Big Jim’ cultivar. This is a cultivar developed at the New Mexico State University and is one of the largest of the chili-type peppers. These fruits can reach up to 10 to 12 inches long and turn bright red at maturity. These are an excellent pepper for making chili rellenos. The plants typically reach about 30 inches tall, and they will usually make about 24 to 30 fruits per plant. The fruit typically mature at approximately the same time and take about 80 days to maturity. These peppers have a Scoville heat rating of about 500 to 1000. So they are a little hotter than the ‘Pasilla’ that I showed you, but if one removes the seeds and membranes from inside the peppers, this can drastically reduce how hot these peppers will be. But they are still not that hot on a relative scale.

Last, but not least, is the ‘Black Cherry’ tomato. There a lots of different black-type tomatoes, and they are known for their rich, sweet taste. And this cherry tomato is no exception! This cultivar takes on somewhat of a blackish-brown color at maturity, and they become ripe in about 65 days, which is a little less than for most larger-type tomatoes. As you can see, this plant forms its tomatoes in clusters. This tomato fruit is considerable more resistant to blossom end rot, which has been a very bad problem this year. This tomato cultivar is called an indeterminate growth tomato, and this means that the tomato plant keeps growing and growing almost without limits, and continues to set fruit all the way up. This is versus a determinate-type tomato plant that usually stops growing at about 3½ to 4 feet tall, and sets all of its fruit at one time. Fruits of the ‘Black Cherry’ tomato are spread out over the season.

For growing this type of indeterminate tomato, I’ve used large redwood tomato stakes that are 2 inches by 2 inches thick to support the heavy weight of these tall plants (because sometimes posts will break if they are too thin). I’ve used a Florida weave system to hold up these taller plants. This is where strings are run between posts at different heights, and woven in and out to pinch and support the plants. This Florida weave system is an excellent way to trellis tomatoes, peppers and basil plants to keep them off the ground.

There are many unusual pepper and tomato cultivars available, but you’ll find the selection is tremendously greater if you’ll order from seed catalogs rather than relying on the few selections available at your local garden center or farm supply store. Of course it means you’ll have to start out with seeds to produce your plants, but the wide selection that’s available will make this well worthwhile.

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