Pepper Questions

What Peppers Have Capsaicin?

What peppers have capsaicin?  That’s the question of the day, if you are looking either for hot peppers — or those that are not!  So what is capsaicin, and what peppers have it?

What is Capsaicin?

The first thing is to understand what capsaicin is.  For one, it’s the component that make spicy peppers taste spicy.  In its pure form, it’s highly irritant, but highly diluted (like in your average chili pepper) it can provide that pleasurable kick of heat.

Capsaicin is also used an as ingredient in many medical ointments — surprisingly, as an analgesic!  Very interesting for a chemical which is an irritant.  Just a little can help relieve pain, while a lot can cause burns.

Capsaicin does not dissolve in water, so if you are eating a pepper and it’s too hot for you, don’t drink water or soda — it will just spread it around your mouth.  Instead, something dairy based like sour cream, milk or ice cream will help to cool the burning sensation.

In it’s pure form, capsaicin has a Scoville rating of 16,000,000 (yes, 16 million).  And you thought Bhut Jokolia was super-hot at something over 1 million Scoville!

What Peppers Have Capsaicin?

Now that we know what it is, what peppers have capsaicin?  A few years ago I would have said that bell peppers don’t have it; however, there are now bell peppers which have it.  Not many varieties, but there are at least three that I have heard about.  The vast majority of the time, bell peppers will not have the capsaicin in them.  (You have to go looking for the bells that have some capsaicin.)

What about other peppers, especially the ones marketed as being “no heat” (like “no heat habaneros”) — do they have capsaicin?

In general, peppers listed as being sweet will not have it, or will have capsaicin in such low quantities as to be absent.  Examples include sweet banana peppers and sweet frying peppers.  There are also a few ornamental peppers which have very low or no capsaicinSweet Pickle and Chilly Chilli are two that come to mind.

  • Note:  If you are familiar with the seasoning called Old Bay, it has a Scoville rating of about 800.  This gives you a point of reference for comparing.

As to the hot pepper varieties marketed as being “no heat” versions of the hot stuff…don’t count on there being no capsaicin in these peppers.  What they have is just a little bit (usually under 400 Scoville), and it’s mostly concentrated in the seeds and the placenta (the light membrane on the inside ribs of the pepper).  If you remove those before eating, you’ll have reduced your chance of some accidental “hot stuff” a great deal.

One other thing — there is less capsaicin in an unripe pepper.  As a pepper ripens, the capsaicin concentrates more.  So eating the peppers while they are in their green state (or whatever color their unripe state is) will also help reduce the burn.

Conversely, waiting until the hot peppers are ripe will increase the heat!

Looking for Some Hot Stuff?

I mentioned above that you’ll mostly find capsaicin in the seeds and the placental membrane.  However, for the true hot peppers (those marketed as being hot), you’ll also find it in the “meat” of the pepper.  And on the outside of the peppers as well.

For example, if you’re picking habaneros, scotch bonnets or any of the super-hots, you’re well advised to wear disposable gloves while doing so.  You probably also want to plant the really hot peppers in a corner of the garden where you won’t easily brush up against them.  The capsaicin on the exterior of the pepper can transfer to your clothing, and from your clothing to somewhere sensitive.

Been there, done that, it’s not comfortable.  But I can’t deny that really hot peppers are super-fun to grow (carefully, LOL)!

What Kind of Soil Do Peppers Like?

So what kind of soil do peppers like?  Glad you asked, because the soil you use for planting your peppers has a lot to do with how they grow.

Soil Types

There are three main soil types.  Different locations have different soils, so if you plan to plant your garden in the ground, you need to know what you have.

  • Sandy
  • Clay
  • Loam

If you want to know more about these soil types, here’s a post all about them.  But on to what the peppers like.

Peppers Like What Soil?

As you might guess, peppers like a balanced soil — not quite sandy, not quite clay.  But let’s think about that a little more.

Wild peppers originated in Central and South America, and the soils there are definitely more sandy than clay or loam — so it’s loose and well-draining.  But there are also peppers which grew in soils that were a bit richer, if they grew in a more jungle-ish area.  Still, the soil tended to be well-draining.

That is where peppers started; what about growing them in your garden?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Wild peppers were in more sandy soil, but now our pepper plants are domesticated, and their needs have some changes.

Peppers still like well-draining soil, but not necessarily sandy.  They do like their nutrients, though, so not too well-draining — they just don’t like to constantly have wet feet.  Loose soil lets the new, small roots penetrate easily, in their search for nutrients and moisture.  The looseness also lets the roots breath a bit.

They also like their nutrients!  We’re growing peppers for production, or to be ornamental (which is production, if  you think about it).  They need nutrients in the form of fertilizer, whether it is organic, non-organic or a mix of both, to support their bounty.  Just remember not to over-fertilize.  (Here’s more information about organic fertilizers and fertilizing pepper plants.)

I’ve been mostly talking garden soil, but the same also applies to peppers grown in containers.  One extra thing to remember about containers is that they need drainage.  Make sure your planter has a hole for the water to drain out, or use a grow bag which lets the water drain without holes.


How Long Does it Take to Grow a Pepper?

How long does it take to grow a pepper plant?  Growing peppers is really rewarding (not to mention tasty!), but sometimes frustrating at first.  Let me tell you why.

Growing Peppers From Seed

The double-trouble for how long it takes to grow a pepper plant from seed is that peppers like more warmth to germinate from seeds, and they take longer (on average) to sprout, compared to other plants (tomatoes, beans, etc.).  And if you are growing the really hot varieties of peppers, you could wait up to a month before you see the little peppers starting to emerge from the ground.

Fortunately, if you get a heat mat for seed germinating, it helps a great deal.  The pepper seeds appreciate the extra warmth, and they germinate a good deal faster — even the super-hot varieties.  I’ve used it lots in the past, and I just got myself a new one this year.

Good rule of thumb if you plan to go the seed route; plant the pepper seeds 7 to 9 weeks before the last frost date for your area — more like 11 to 12 weeks for the super-hot peppers.  And you may want to wait until your nights are consistently 55 degrees of warmer before transplanting to the garden.

Growing Peppers From Plants

If you are too late to start seeds (or just don’t feel like it) but want to grow peppers, you can get plants from your local garden center.  It’s more expensive than growing from seed, but it is easier — just buy, get home and plant.  Your local garden center will likely have varieties that grow well in your area.

It’s awfully tempting to buy a plant that already has peppers on it — but try not to.  Otherwise, cut off the peppers before planting.  Unless it’s in a large pot (at least 2 gallons), the plant is pretty stressed trying to grow with very little soil.  Adding more stress from blooming and growing fruit, your pepper will be set back quite a bit.

Get a plant that looks healthy — not spindly, and not with lots of roots growing way out of the bottom (a few OK — lots, not so much).

And keep in mind…unless you have some kind of protection for your plants, don’t transplant them to the garden before the last frost date for your area.  Better yet, wait until the nighttime lows are consistently 55 degrees or more.

Now It’s in the Ground — How Long Does it Take to Grow a Pepper Plant?

Assuming your weather is decent (days at least in the upper 60s, lows no lower than 55) and the plants get plenty of sunshine, you can start seeing blossoms pretty quickly — many times within a week or two from transplanting. 

As to how long before you get a pepper that is “ready-to-eat-green”, the answer is “it depends”.  A sweet pepper will grow fruits much faster on average than the really hot peppers.  And the warmer your climate, the faster your peppers will grow and ripen.

You’ll have to check the days to maturity for the peppers you plan to grow — it lists the days from setting out in the garden until you see the first ready-to-eat-green fruits.  On average that is 65 to 75 days for sweet peppers and 75 to 90 days for the hotter peppers.  And if you grow the really hot ones like habanero or bhut jolokia, you could be waiting for more than 100 days.

If you want ripe peppers — after they have turned their final color (red, orange, yellow, etc.) — be prepared to wait up to another 2 weeks.

FYI, the peppers in the photo are the variety cayenne yellow.