For everyone who loves peppers, it’s time to decide what to plant, and we have more peppers to choose from this year than ever before.  David Baumler, UW-Madison scientist and chili pepper enthusiast has outdone himself.

If you live in the Madison WI area, you can attend his workshop from 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday, May 19, at Paradigm Gardens.  Dr. Dave will give a lecture on the history of peppers and then provide samples of pepper appetizers, breakfast foods, salsa, chili pepper home-brewed beer and even chili pepper ice cream.  Better yet, he will have 115 varieties of pepper seedlings for sale.

If you don’t live in Madison or can’t make it Saturday, Dr. Dave has a great website Midwest Chili Peppers   where you can order many of these fascinating varieties.

He has expanded from 100 varieties last year, and the new additions include more ornamentals, more sweet varieties and the hottest peppers in the known universe.


This past February, researchers from the Chili Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University presented the results of their test of 4 new peppers against the previous world champion hottest pepper, the Indian ghost pepper.

All 4 new types of chili peppers burned past the ghost pepper.

“This is huge,” says Dr. Dave.  “This is the first time they were all grown in the same location under identical conditions.  They grew 40 of each pepper and then randomly selected 5 plants of each type, then they chose 10 fruits from each plant and tested them for heat.

It turns out that even on the same plant, fruits can vary in heat.  So the scientists reported average heat level as well as the highest individual hot pepper.

The Indian ghost pepper clocked in at 1 million Scoville’s units.

Wilber Scoville, a pharmacist, invented a way to measure the heat of peppers in 1912, so the term we still use is Scoville heat units (SHU).  This is the number of times a drop of chili extract must be diluted in water before it is not detectable.  Though a pepper’s  fiery compounds are now measured with high-performance liquid chromatography,  the results are still described in Scoville’s units.

The new world record holder,

Trinidad Scorpion Moruga, had an average heat of 1.2 million,

and an individual pepper broke 2 million.

One of the other varieties that broke the previous record is Chocolate 7 Pot – so named because one pepper is hot enough for 7 pots of stew.  It’s a very dark brown colored pepper.

All 4 winners come from Trinidad, and Dr. Dave has seedlings of all four types available for purchase.  He has personally tried them all except the newest and hottest, the Scorpion Moruga.

If you plant any of these, keep a gallon of milk handy.  They are scorching!  Dr. Dave says he  ate one at a party, then turned red and sweat for 15 minutes.

Here is some more news you can use about peppers.

“People have stated that a bell pepper has 5 times the vitamin C of an orange,”  says Dave.  “But those high levels of vitamin C occur when the pepper is yellow or red.  It’s the same with vitamin A.  It’s low in green peppers and high in red.”

“You can only buy green Serrano peppers in the grocery store,” he continues.  “But they are not ripe till they are red.  It’s cheaper and easier to sell green peppers, but they aren’t ripe.  You wouldn’t want to eat a green banana.  Why would you eat a green pepper?  That’s the beauty of growing your own.”

Dr. Dave started shipping out seedlings this week.  “We will be selling then through July,” he says.  “In the Midwest, we start planting our peppers in May, but in the warmer states, they can plant them later in the year.

Just reading the descriptions in Dr. Dave’s website catalog is enough to make your mouth water.  Now that the spinach we have been enjoying since February from our greenhouse has bolted, I’m going to get some peppers from Dave and see how they do.

I’m planting a couple of hotties because I’m not the only person who eats from the greenhouse, but I’m planting mostly sweet ones for myself.   I’ll tell you, it was not easy to narrow down my choices to the number of plants that will fit in my space.

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