According to De Candolle, the pepper probably originated in Brazil. It is now grown in many countries in nearly all parts of the world.
The pepper is increasing in importance. Formerly, its culture was restricted to the hot, pungent varieties, but the introduction of the sweet peppers or mangoes has greatly extended its use. It has become an important crop on many truck farms, especially in New Jersey and in other sections near the large cities. The hot varieties are used for seasoning, while the mild sorts are valued for pickling and stuffing and to some extent for salad.
Although this plant is most at home in tropical and subtropical countries, it is grown successfully in nearly all parts of the United States. It is tender to frost, but does not require as high temperatures as the eggplant. The conditions in South Jersey and southward along the Atlantic coast are excellent for this vegetable.
The pepper thrives best in a warm, deep, fairly moist, fertile, sandy loam, although often grown commercially on moderately heavy soils. The drainage must be good. A southern exposure will hasten the maturity of the crop and be favorable to the largest yield.
Peppers are divided into two classes; namely, those which produce hot or pungent fruits and those which bear mild or sweet fruits, which are also called "mangoes".
Tabasco produces an immense number of small, slender, very hot, bright-red fruits from which tabasco sauce is made. It does not usually ripen fruit as far north as Pennsylvania.
Long Red Cayenne is well known for its pungency.
True Red Chili produces small, hot, bright-red peppers.
Bird Eye Or Creole is the smallest red, extremely hot pepper.
Hot Bell has the same shape as Bull Nose, but the flavor is very pungent.
Bull Nose is one of the most popular varieties.
Chinese Giant is extensively planted.
Ruby King is a favorite with some growers.
Neapolitan is a very early, extremely productive variety adapted to the cooler sections.
Golden Queen is a large, sweet, yellow pepper.
Seeds should be selected with the greatest care. Some successful growers produce their own seeds and maintain superior strains. To prevent the development of the pungent character in sweet peppers there must be no cross-pollination with hot-fruited varieties.
The directions given for starting FIG. 96 mild-fruited pepper eggplants (454) under glass, apply equally well to peppers.
A high temperature is required to germinate the seed and to secure rapid growth in the frame or the greenhouse. As early peppers command the highest prices, it generally pays to grow strong seedlings which will mature peppers at the earliest possible date.
Rotten stable manures may be used advantageously, especially in rather thin soil. Excessive amounts of nitrogen should be avoided, although it is important to supply the plants with an abundance of available nitrogen early in the season. The mineral elements are needed to encourage fruiting. From 600 to 1,000 pounds to the acre of a 4-8-10 fertilizer will produce satisfactory results in most soils.
The plants should not be set in the open ground until the weather is settled and there is no further danger of frost. Fifteen to 18 inches between the plants in the row will furnish sufficient space for most varieties, and there should be about 30 inches between rows if the crop is to be cultivated with horse implements. Ridging is practiced to some extent to help support the plants when heavily laden with fruit.
Peppers will remain on the plants after they have reached maturity, with no danger of deterioration, much longer than eggplants or tomatoes. They may be sold green or after they have turned red. Baskets of various sizes and styles are used in packing. Hampers of the bushel and half-barrel type (Figure 48, b) are in common use. The crop is also packed in barrels and in six-basket carriers (Figure 48, a). Receipts and profits have a wide range, but the net returns should not be less than $100 an acre. Often they are larger.