Fish Peppers, an African-American heirloom from the 1800’s, survives today as an uncommonly grown hot pepper, but it deserves a closer look. This is my first year growing them, but most assuredly will not be my last.
The plants are about 30″ tall, very bushy and dense with small, variegated leaves and are quite ornamental. Perfect for stealth gardens and edible landscaping, but they did not mind being in a dedicated vegetable garden. My plants were completely untouched by pests and thrived on a low maintenance routine. The peppers began as white and green striped then move through attractive stages of yellow, orange and red with stripes, finally ripening to lush red. Peppers ranged from 1″-3″ long, with most about 2 1/2″.
At the fully ripe stage, whole peppers with seeds have a Scoville rating above cayenne at 45,000 – 75,000. But without the seeds, the flesh is much less hot and tolerable to a pepper wimp like me. Once cooked, the peppers mellow farther. I think the fully ripe red peppers are worth the wait: the ripe ones have a smoky complexity that is lacking in the unripe fruit.
I planted 3 of them and in return I have been enjoying peppers for over a month. The real flush of fruit is coming in now, and I picked 2 pounds yesterday morning. What to do with them? I finally decided to remove the pith and most of the seeds and chop them into bits to freeze for use as a spice, like I would with herbs. It would have been much easier to cut off the stem and chop up the entire peppers, but as I said, I’m a pepper wimp. (Remember kids, wear plastic gloves when handling hot peppers with broken skin!)
Packed into ice-cube trays with water, the peppers were left to freeze over night, then popped out into a bag for the deep freezer. When thawed and drained, the peppers were soft, but I expected that. It won’t stop me from using them in sauces, soups, stews, dips and other recipes this winter.
Like growing most hot peppers in the South, the plants return an extraordinary amount of fruit for the time and effort spent on them. If you enjoy hot peppers, put this one on your garden to do list.