By Annie Jesperson
Sorry to get your hopes up, family. Here on the farm, we’re breeding new pepper varieties, not humans. Still a little exciting, perhaps? For us, for sure, but for potential grandmas, likely not so much. While pepper-breeding, like child-rearing, is still subject to the mysterious whims of mother nature, over time us seed growers are direct the evolution of our plants toward the traits we crave.
So what are our goals with pepper breeding? Here in our cool Northwest summers yellow bell peppers can be hard to ripen. The open-pollinated varieties currently on the market have failed to produce mature fruits in our cool, maritime fields. A solvable dilemma? Perhaps! We’re now into year four of de-hybridizing our favorite hybrid yellow bell pepper “Catriona” in order to develop an open-pollinated variety that matures in our region. Additionally, we’re selecting for disease resistance, flavor and yields. We’re getting closer, folks. Stay tuned!
Additionally, we’re working to breed a red bell pepper that is sweet and spicy. Intriguing? For us plant nerds and cooking enthusiasts, indeed! Two years ago, we saved seed on a sweet, red bell pepper called King of the North. At the time, we didn’t realize it had crossed with our spicy Padrone peppers, as we had given them what we thought was ample isolation distance. But, every once in awhile some industrious pollinator carries pollen between varieties that are far apart, even with self-pollinating crops like peppers. Luckily, we sampled our King of the North fruits before selling their seed, and we noted they had a crazy unexpected kick. Ow! That spiciness caught us off guard, but once we bit in to another pepper, expecting this result, we found the experience quite appealing and worth sharing. It’ll likely be a few years before we’ve stabilized this variety enough to warrant selling, but we’re excited for when that day comes and hope you are too!
For now, if you’d like to just grow yourself some nummy peppers, hook yourself up with our spicy Padrones for frying or our sweet Mini Red Bells for salads and stuffing. If you’d like to save your own pepper seed, just grow one variety in a small garden, as peppers need 160 feet of isolation distance to keep a variety pure. For more basic info on how to save seed check out: