Posted by: Alison O'Connor and Jon Weiss, Larimer County Extension
Peppers are hot! But also sweet. And the interest in growing peppers has increased in recent years. As most people know, it's tough to garden in Colorado - and having a short list of vegetables that perform well is helpful for all gardeners. In 2022 the Larimer County Master Gardeners, led by Jon Weiss, conducted an extensive research trial to evaluate bell peppers and sweet lunchbox types. Jon and "Team Pepper" grew 15 different types in a replicated, randomized trial.
|Larimer County Master Gardeners: Team Pepper!|
Hybrid and open-pollinated pepper varieties known to be early to earlier mid-season in maturity were selected. Twelve varieties were sweet bell peppers and three were “lunchbox” type. The peppers were started from seed in the CSU Horticulture Greenhouses and transplanted in early June at the CSU ARDEC-South (Fort Collins, Colo.) research farm. Seedlings were planted into ground beds covered with black plastic and irrigated with drip irrigation.
|Planting peppers on June 9, 2022 at ARDEC-South.|
Fun fact: even research plants aren't immune from rabbit munching. Boo. Something to work on for next year.
There were three harvests during the growing season, just as the fruit on the plants started to color. Fruit was counted, weighed, and the number of lobes on each fruit determined - for those who want to grow peppers for stuffing. At the end of the growing season, fruit was tasted by a brave group of 16, ranking each pepper from 1 (meh) to 5 (super tasty) based on sweetness, texture, and overall flavor.
|Weighing and counting 'Eros' peppers.|
While 'Purple Beauty' set fruit and colored first, the flavor was poor. 'Olympus' and 'Ace', both bell peppers, yielded the greatest number of fruits ('Ace' had an average of 26 fruits per plant; 'Olympus' had 16 fruits per plant). 'Olympus' also yielded the greatest number of four-lobed fruits for stuffing. 'King Arthur' ruled supreme with huge fruits, averaging about one-half pound each!
For flavor, yield, and slightly larger fruits, 'Just Sweet' ranked at the top of the lunchbox types. 'Cajun Belle', toted to have a "slightly spicy flavor" was hotter than expected - and it was not included in the taste test. If you just want a lunchbox pepper with loads of fruit (an average of 74 per plant), grow 'Eros'. You'll pick for days. All the fruit in the trial was donated to local food pantries, about 500 pounds.
|Peppers headed to local food pantries.|
Full results can be found on the Larimer County Extension website. You may also download or print the PDF here. The website also has results from the 2019-2021 tomato trials. The pepper trial will be replicated in 2023.