Exhibiting a Pepper for Every Pot
By Kim Kaplan
June 28, 2007
Peppers don't have to be just green and bell shaped and relegated to
the supermarket shelf or home garden plot. This genus of plants has the genetic
potential to provide a wide array of possibilities for the kitchen and the
ornamental garden and sometimes both at once.
Research on peppers from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is being featured from June to November
in an exhibit called A Pepper
for Every Pot at the U.S. Botanic
Gardens in Washington, D.C. This exhibit explores the diversity of peppers,
including recently introduced varieties, and celebrates peppers beauty,
flavors and nutritional benefits.
Among new pepper varieties that ARS has already developed are
Tangerine Dream and Black Pearl. Tangerine Dream is a sweet, edible ornamental
pepper that produces small orange banana-shaped fruit on a prostrate plant.
Black Pearl, an All America Selections award winner, offers gardeners a new
dark choice: black leaves and shiny black fruit that ripen to bright scarlet.
Both varieties are commercially available.
The pretty Black Pearl pepper can also serve as a hot pepper for the
kitchen, making it a dual purpose pepper for today's smaller urban gardens.
The pod-type pepper genusCapsicumis native to the
Western hemisphere and figured strongly in the Aztec, Mayan and Incan cultures,
second only in importance to maize. Today, peppers are just as likely to show
off in flower gardens as in vegetable gardens. Ornamental peppers have become a
profitable crop for commercial growers and retailers. The ornamental plant
market is worth nearly $5 billion in the United States each year and specialty
peppers could capture a larger portion of those dollars.
ARS plant geneticists
Griesbach were drawn to the idea of developing new colorful ornamentals for
the garden and the kitchen because considerable diversity exists in the
Capsicum genus for fruit and leaf shape, size and color as well as plant
Stommel is with the
Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory and Griesbach is with the
and Nursery Plants Research Unit, both part of the ARS
A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, MD.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.