Welcome to a series of posts on the best finds I am making in seed catalog this year. I am zeroing in on items that are unique and that you wouldn’t be able to find at your grocery store – something that makes growing your own food even more exciting. In these posts I draw my experiences working in retail produce for years to encourage you to branch out and try growing things you can only get from your garden.
Meet the Habanada Pepper
How hot do you like your peppers? Do you like just a little heat? Maybe a Jalapeno is too much for ya? Or do you like to test the limits? Are you about trying the next latest hottest pepper? A Carolina Repper maybe? Today I am appealing to my friends who don’t like to walk on the wild side – who like their peppers on the low end of the Scoville scale. Today I want to share a pepper discovery in the Baker Creek catalog that may change the lives of the mild pepper fans. I want to talk to you about the Habanada pepper.
Habanada Pepper = Haberno – the Heat
First glance at this pepper in the catalog and you might think someone really screwed up the spelling of Haberno. The peppers are that same beautiful orange color. However it is what is on the inside the counts. The Habanada pepper is missing all of that heat that the Haberno is known for. What is the point? In case you haven’t been able to consume a Haberno and I don’t blame you, I haven’t, they are known for being very flavorful. The taste is description as fruity. Problem is most people can’t stand the heat, so that flavor is lost on them, or they can’t even dedicate to begin with. There is where plant breeder Michael Mazourek came in. He has bred all of the heat out of a Haberno – creating a sweet pepper that has all the flavor.
Check out my YouTube video of me reading the catalog and talking about the Habanada.
The Must Have Pepper this Season
People are talking about the Habanada. NRP’s the Salt, just did a wonderful story on it. If this was the fashion industry, this would be the must-have pepper of the season. And thanks to Baker Creek, you can grow these peppers yourself.
Can I Find These in the Grocery Store?
It is possible that with time, we will see these peppers appear in the store. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pop up at farmer’s markets across the country. Still they are going to be challenging to come by. One of the great things about gardening is that you can experience foods that you can’t get from a grocery store. How fun would it be have a friend come over and dare them to eat one from your garden, only to discover the heat is never coming.
One question that I still have about the pepper is how commercially viable they are. That will determine if they end up on grocery store displays nationwide. It’s one thing for a private person to grow them or even a small farm for a market stand for fun but lager operations tend to grow things that will produce high yields as well as have longer shelf lives. If anyone out there reading this knows anything on this topic, shoot me an e-mail (eric at thepeaproject.com) or leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
Pepper Planting Tips
I am not an experienced pepper grower. In fact, I have never done all that well with growing peppers, particularly bells. When I saw this pepper and knowing my wife’s love of peppers it was enough to motivate me to try again. With that in mind, I decided to turn to some people who know more about growing peppers than I. I reached out to the Friends of Baker Creek facebook group. This is a wonderful community of passionate gardeners. Here are some tips I learned from them –
1. The seeds take a while to germinate, up to a month. Be patient. Don’t give up on them easily.
2. Use a heat mat, to keep the seedling warm enough.
3. Pre-sprout them on a damp paper towel in a plastic bag
4. Grow the seedling under plant lights.
Matt Powers who runs the Permaculture Student website and does work for Baker Creek, had this great advice for first time pepper growers:
Most places peppers need to be started indoors in a sunny area or under grow lights and often with a heating mat to keep the soil temperatures high enough for the pepper seed to sprout. Keep it moist but avoid molding by having a breeze pass through or an oscillating fan on low. Set transplants out after chance of frost when the soil temperatures (above 75F/24C). Timing for when to start indoors is dependent on soil temperatures, climate, and indoor growing environment: 6-8 weeks commonly.
The photo above was taken by one of the members of the Friends of Baker Creek facebook group. She has gotten her peppers started. Check out her gardening photos on Instagram. She is growing many varieties of peppers including selection from both Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange (another one of my favorite sources for seeds)
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