If you want a Joe E. Parker chili like they grow in Hatch, New Mexico, you’re probably better off picking one up at the store. Bill Finch of Mobile Botanical Gardens says it’s possible to grow one here during a short window during the spring, but in general these chilies hate our wet summers.
But take heart! Bill brought us to his own garden to show us some South and Central American peppers that do very well here. These peppers are more closely related to Habaneras than to the Hatch chili. Don’t let that scare you; these are sweet and not very hot, with a wonderful flowery fragrance.
Can you adjust the heat of your peppers? Probably not. Bill says it’s much better to start with the pepper that you want to end up with, but within the South and Central American chili families you can find everything from mild and sweet to excruciatingly hot. Bill’s been experimenting with the sweet varieties this year and loves ‘em. (Ed. note: a few years ago, Bill was experimenting with hot varieties and gave me a pepper that almost made my head explode.)
While this is the best time of year to harvest, it’s not the best time to plant. Springtime is when you should put peppers in the ground. These peppers grow slowly and produce all summer long and really come into their own during fall…you’ll get tons of peppers. Bill just wanted you to see what’s possible.
So do your pepper planning now for your spring. Bill says there are lots of pepper seeds available online or the Mobile Botanical Gardens will stock them during the Spring Plant Sale.
Learn more at mobilebotanicalgardens.org.
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