Hot peppers grow easily in many warm environments. In zones 9 to 11, hot peppers will behave as a perennial. Plant hardiness zones further north have a greater fluctuation of seasonal temperatures and hot peppers are best treated as annuals in these regions. They will grow 1 to 2.5 feet in height and spread 1 to 2 feet wide. Although hot peppers are a fruiting plant, they are frequently considered as a vegetable due to their culinary flavor. Hot pepper flowers are not showy during bloom, but have small white flowers. They have bright colored, edible fruit. Although preferring moist soil, hot peppers are tolerant of drought and as such are good for xeriscaping (1). Full sun and warm conditions over a five-month growing period are necessary for high yields and good quality fruit - peppers will not grow well in the shade. Hot peppers are ready for harvesting 10 to 15 weeks after planting and are mainly self-pollinating (3). Buckwheat is recommended as a companion plant because it offers an effective pest control environment for peppers. Buckwheat attracts certain insects that feed upon the European Corn Borer, a major pepper pest. Basil is also a good companion plant because it is known to repel fruit flies and some varieties of garden beetles. Onions and carrots can be considered because they add to the overall flavor of the peppers. Finally, consider companion plants that have a restricted vertical growth and don't compete with peppers for soil moisture (5).
Culinary or Medicinal Uses
Capsicums are used in salads, baked dishes, stuffed dishes, stews, stir-fries, salsa, pizzas, cheeses, pickles and for stuffing olives. They may also be used for producing paprika which is utlized for colouring foods, flavouring and in sauces (3). Hot peppers can be eaten raw or cooked, but be careful - some varieties are very hot, notably the chili and cayenne peppers. These exceptionally spicy peppers are normally used as for pungent flavoring whilst milder varieties (sweet peppers) have a very pleasant favor with a slight sweetness and are often eaten in raw salads. Dried fruits of chili and cayenne peppers is ground into a powder and used as a pungent flavouring called paprika; young leaves are said to be edible, and are steamed as a potherb or added to soups and stews (4) fruit of the hot, pungentcapsicum is antihaemorrhoidal when taken in small amounts, antirheumatic, antiseptic, diaphoretic, digestive, irritant, rubefacient, sialagogue and tonic; taken internally in the treatment of the cold stage of fevers, debility in convalescence or old age, varicose veins, asthma and digestive problems; externally used in the treatment of sprains (4)
Significance to Cultural Communities
Native to Mesoamerica (central Mexico to northwest Costa Rica). In south India, hot peppers are considered to be a way to deter evil entities; the potency of the pepper is believed to have supernatural qualities; strings of chili peppers and lemons are hung over doorway thresholds to ward off evil; cheap vegetables in India and are thus consumed across all classes of people; hot peppers with other condiments and ash are shaken over one's head to protect from spells and curses (6)