PHOTO: Christopher Murphy/Flickr
May 19, 2016

I’ve grown a lot of peppers over the years, but none pique my interest quite as much as cherry peppers do. These round gems offer serious flavors, from sweet to fierce, and are perfect, bite-sized pieces of garden goodness.

What sets a cherry pepper apart from other pepper types is its shape. These globe-shaped, thick-walled peppers are only slightly larger than a ping-pong ball. They lack the deep lobes of bell peppers and have smooth skin.

1. Fireball

One of the reasons I’m such a fan of cherry peppers is because of the complexity of their flavors. For example, one of my favorites, Fireball, is slightly sweet when you first crunch into it. It takes a moment for the heat to set in. And, unlike habaneros and other hot peppers, the heat from Fireball doesn’t ruin your taste buds. I love to use this variety in stir-fries, and I even toss a few into my homemade pickles every now and then to give them a little heat.

2. Cherry Stuffer

Cherry Stuffer is another personal favorite. This is a sweet cherry type; there’s no heat here. These beautiful little peppers are great for stuffing, but my favorite thing to do is coat them with olive oil and grill them whole. My son enjoys eating Cherry Stuffer in the garden, and thankfully, the plants are highly productive, so we always have plenty to go around.

3. Cherry Bomb

The most popular cherry pepper is probably Cherry Bomb. This variety packs quite a bit of heat and has a gorgeous, deep red color.

4. Red Hot Cherry

Red Hot Cherry is a similar variety to Cherry Bomb. Both make excellent hot pickled peppers and are easy to find in the retail trade as started plants.

Growing Cherry Peppers

Cherry pepper plants are treated just like other pepper varieties. They love warm soil, warm air and ample irrigation. Before planting peppers in the garden, try heating the soil with a layer of black plastic for a week or two. All types of peppers exhibit excellent root and shoot growth when planted in warm soil.

Cherry pepper plants reach about 2 feet in height at maturity with an equal spread. Most are ready to harvest about 75 to 80 days after planting. Avoid setting transplants out too, early as peppers are intolerant of frosts.

Harvest cherry peppers regularly for continual production and improved yields. Like other pepper types, cherry peppers drop their flowers when temperatures rise above the high 80s. But don’t worry; once the hot spell passes and temperatures cool down a bit, the flowers will no longer abort and production will begin again.

A word of caution: If you grow both sweet and hot cherry pepper varieties, label the plants well, especially if you have kids who like to snack as they walk through the garden. It’s quite a surprise to expect a bite of fresh, sweet pepper and end up with a mouthful of heat.



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