Five Fiery Fall Favorites for Pepper Perfection


Heirloom ‘Matchbox’ Peppers Grown from Hudson Valley Seed Library Seeds

It’s almost the end of October, so that must mean I finally have peppers! And this year has been extremely satisfying in the pepper department. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t actually know how to measure a “peck of peppers” but I am willing to bet I have a least one.

Along with the several sweet peppers that were kind enough to perennial-ize themselves from last year, and our usual ‘Ancho-Poblano’ and ‘Spanish Spice’ varieties, this year we added several new additions to the pepper patch. This ‘Matchbox’ pepper was started from Hudson Valley Seed Library seed on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t notice fruit setting until seven months later in September. Today, October 23rd, the first pepper is finally ripe. I was so happy to see it that only its Scoville Unit rating of over 30,000 saved me from popping it straight into my mouth. It may not be a Habanero, but I’ll still be wearing gloves when I pick and cook with these little beauties.

Ethiopian Brown Berbere Pepper

I’m also looking forward to the ‘Ethiopian Brown Berbere’ peppers. I plan to start drying them in the next few days to make the Ethiopian spice paste called “Berbere” for a nut and seed mix recipe that I like. These peppers are a beautiful chocolaty brown, though I have heard their final ripened coloring is a brighter red. Since the plant has been prolific, I plan to harvest some of the peppers brown and dry them now, then if the rest ripen to red, I will dry those and we’ll be able to compare the flavor. I expect these peppers to be pretty hot, in the 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Unit range.

These Berbere peppers are also said to have a rich, smokey flavor that’s good for making chili powder as well as rubs and BBQ sauces. I may have to fight my husband for them to get enough for the nut mix.

‘Red Cherry Bomb’ Pepper

One pepper we will certainly have plenty of is the ‘Red Cherry Bomb.’ This was the first of our hot peppers to produce fruit and here in late October it is still covered in deliciously bite-size bright red peppers. It’s on the milder side, good for fresh salsa, diced on pizza, or tossed into omelettes to get you going for the day.

This variety is definitely a keeper–maybe. It was sold to me as an open-pollinated heirloom. But I have seen other posts around the garden blogs saying that it does not grow true-to-type. If you have more information on this pepper, please share in the Comments!

‘Manzano Orange’ Pepper

Another mystery for us this year is the ‘Manzano Orange’ Pepper. Still no fruit set, but look carefully. I am pretty sure we’re about to see what it will make.

This pepper is intended as a perennial. Trade Winds Fruit calls this pepper, “a rocoto tree pepper relative” and says it, “is noted for its cold hardiness, as it naturally grows on Andean mountain slopes, this pepper will survive several degrees below freezing. Plants grow to 2-6ft, can live for many years.” At the end of next month I plan to surround the roots with a layer of compost and then mulch heavily with rice straw and hope for the best. It’s very unusual for us to have freezing temperatures but anything can happen with the weather these days!

Heirloom ‘Fish’ Pepper Plant
Click image for larger view

No post on our favorite peppers would be complete without the African-American heirloom ‘Fish’ pepper. Great for seafood and gumbo, I also dry the light-colored peppers to make “white” pepper for added heat in cream dishes where I don’t want the red coloring that usually accompanies this spiciness. (Think Chicken a la King, for instance.) The red and mixed-color peppers that aren’t eaten fresh are dried for pepper flakes and get added to everything from pasta sauce to bacon frittata.

Color Variation in ‘Fish’ Pepper Fruits

The colorful variety on this plant is also a fun surprise in the garden. I have gotten ‘Fish’ peppers in green, yellow, white, red and even some with stripes. And the plant itself has beautiful two-toned leaves with bold white splashes across whole sections of the plant.

How did your peppers do this year? If you have a favorite, please share it with us in the Comments.

6 thoughts on “Five Fiery Fall Favorites for Pepper Perfection

  1. Thank you for the report. My neighbor gave me an Ethiopean Brown Berbere in the spring, and I was just trying to figure out when to harvest: Your site was very helpful. Sounds like I should pick one of the two deep brown ones, because we’re eager to find out about this “distinctively African” flavor she promised, and then see if the other turns red. We also have half a dozen green fruits—it’s quite a prolific plant.

    I know I will be revealing myself as a wimp, but since you ask, my personal favorite pepper is the Nardello, which is gratifyingly sweet and easy to grow, followed closely by the gypsy. If you cut them into rings, they’re adorable, and even picky eaters don’t mind them in salads. You can pickle the lengths for a wimp-friendly alternative to those hot green/yellow ones that come in jars.

  2. This is our first year with Cherry bomb peppers. Mine are green and ripe – do they always turn red? I feel the need to pick them – so the birds/animals don’t get them but will wait it they need to turn red. Let me know!

  3. Been growing peppers in Minnesota for years in both the earth and containers. This year was my 1st growing Matchbox. Used 2 smaller containers and they just exploded! I have 100s! How do people use these in cooking—like Thai/Super chilies? Also, I highly recommend “Jimmy Nardello” peppers. A heirloom variety. Mine grew up to 8″ to 10″ this year—if you’re a meat eater these are great fried up in pan with a steak or chop–lamb, pork or veal. They are amazingly delicious with meat! My Rocotos were small, not abundant and a big failure. But my Cubanelles just flourished. These might be the hardiest peppers on the planet. They survived a MN frost and kept fruiting! So did my “Redskins” which I believe are a British variety?

    • Some of my ‘Matchbox’ peppers are going into this year’s fermented hot sauce. One or two will give a little kick to the Paprika once they are dried and the rest will go into chili and BBQ sauce and rubs. I will give the ‘Jimmy Nardello’ peppers another try. I had one or two plants of them last year, but it was an awful year here for peppers and they didn’t do well. I’ll have to look up the ‘Redskins’ haven’t heard of those before. How did they taste?

      • Redskins are really mild. No heat. Very similar to a bell pepper–thick walls, but much smaller and elongated. They turn just blood red. Jimmy Nardellos love containers and don’t overwater! They are pretty rugged. Anything else to do with Matchbox peppers–how can they be used in cooking, rather than sauces or rubs?

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