Back in May I was asked to write something for a gardening newsletter and while doing so a long forgotten memory came back to me. I can't remember exactly how old I was, but I was a lot younger than I am today and had just emptied the contents of my piggy bank and headed to the local Woolworth to buy myself either a new ThunderCats action figure or some goldfish. I remember walking up to the entrance to the Woolworth diner instead of going in the front door and passing racks of annuals and vegetables that were for sale on the sidewalk. When I couldn't make up my mind between the action figure in my hand or buying a new goldfish I opted to go home and come back when I knew what I wanted. On the way home I once again passed the rack of annuals and vegetables and for some reason I purchased six pepper plants. Besides the banana and bell peppers I can't recall exactly what varieties I picked and even if I could, I couldn't explain to you why I chose them. I probably chose them based on the picture on the plastic plant labels. I do remember the reaction from my parents when I came home with my plants. They laughed, hard, for what seemed like an eternity.
I collected what was left of my pride and my new purchase and walked out to the backyard and cut a square section out of the lawn, planted and watered my pepper plants. Who knows what happened to my pepper garden after that first day, chances are that it died a quick and painless death at the hands of full sun exposure after I moved onto something else that caught my fancy that summer.
This year I decided to grow hot peppers and chose two varieties of Thai pepper to grow on the back porch. A couple of weeks ago squirrels decided to save me from any more pepper-related traumatic memories that I would end up repressing and ate all of my young plants. Being a glutton for punishment, I couldn't resist buying a few hot pepper plants off of the back of a pickup truck. Some people buy purses and electronic equipment out of the back of vehicles--I buy plants. That's how I roll.
Here's what I purchased from the people selling plants out of their pickup truck:
Piquin (or Pequin) pepper. I'm familiar with the red variety but chose this one because the fruit is a purple color. I'm going to try to overwinter this one just in case I can't find it again next year.
Serrano chile pepper
The lady I bought this chile pepper from said it was Chile de Arbol, but the fruits look to short and stubby to be Chile de Arbol in my opinion so I'll have to wait until it is ripe to know for sure.
So far they are loving the heat and sun they get on the back porch but I'm probably going to do something to provide them a bit of shade from the hot afternoon sun because I have to water them a lot to keep them from drying out. It won't be long until I get my first pepper harvest in at least 15 years, that is if the squirrels don't come back and help themselves first.
Many peppers are perennial plants in their native environment, in Chicago they would be treated as annuals and either grown from seed every spring or purchased at garden centers and nurseries. Last winter I spotted a potted one growing in a window of a local business as a potted plant. If you plant them in individual pots and you have enough sunlight (or use grow lights) it is possible to keep your hot pepper plants alive until the following year when you can put them out. It is a lot of work and takes some effort, so I recommend just buying new ones every year or growing some from seed in the spring.
note: I've always thought that my interest in plants came from the bonsai trees in the karate Kid movies, so I'm not sure how (or if) this long forgotten memory of the pepper garden changes things. I should probably see a shrink or watch some ThunderCats cartoons and see if any more memories come back.