Pure Peppers

Knowlesville, NY

>>Is there anything special one needs
to do to save pepper seed? I am
very disappointed in the seeds I
saved last year, the ones two years
old germinated better~Scoot>>
I'm also looking for thoughts on saving pepper seeds--specifically reagarding purity. From comments made in this year's SSE yearbook, many are not taking proper care to assure purity. Caging would be one way, but requires alot of effort. Does anyone here have experience with successful isolation spacing? Many times, as even Suzanne Ashworth admits, the isolation distance is less than what she has gleaned from commercial researchers. Ashworth says 500 feet--anyone had success with less than that?

New Paris, OH

We plant our peppers with our tomatoes and alternate the rows so there is always a wall of tomatoes on either side of the pepper rows. Our pepper seed comes out pure with this method. We use far less than 500 as the plants are about 20' apart.

Another thing to do is grow out only one type per year or you could row cover them for the season and do a bit of hand pollination as necessary.

Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)

Although peppers can cross-pollinate, they are self-pollinators. So if you cover them with row covers hand pollinating shouldn't be necessary.

I'm using Jeff Nekola's design for inexpensive cages, this year. Basically this entials making draw-string closed tubes out of Tufbell, and covering wire cages with them. Those peppers I want to remain pure will get caged this way. If anybody wants full instructions, let me know and I'll post them.

If you cage peppers using any method, however, you should introduce ladybugs. If not, aphids will clean your clock.

Why not just cover the blooms with pantyhose? Is that a proper method with peppers, without spending a fortune on the cages?


Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)

Nothing wrong with it, Dave. But it could be a real pain in the butt. Pepper flowers are kind of small---about the same size as tomato blooms. It really is a lot easier to cover the entire plant.

Knowlesville, NY

Have you found the hand pollination necssary? I know Ashworth recommends it for "some" varieties.

New Paris, OH

No I haven't found hand pollination necessary.

Another question-are you saving seed from ripe (red) peppers? I have met many folks who wanted green pepper seeds so they just cut up a green pepper and got the seeds and had no luck because the seeds, of course, were immature. pepper seeds shouls be a golden brown in color, not a dark brown nor white. I do not meant to insult your intellegence with this question, BTW, I have seen perfectly intellegent folks pull this sort of thing because they were ignorant to how peppers worked.

Santa Barbara, CA


I would be interested in the Tufbell tube method you mentioned. By the way, I thought you caged one variety while another is exposed to pollinating insects...what I do with my cucurbits to maintain purity.


Peppers are proned to seed-borne pathogens that can greatly reduce germination. You might try a bleach treatment prior to planting into a sterile plug mix. Commercial organic transplant operations no longer use hotwater bath treatments because of seed sensitivity to temperatures high enough to control pathogens.

Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)

I'd mentioned that to Scott when he started this thread in another place. But it's a point worth repeating, Ohiorganic.

Many people do _not_ realize that green peppers are not ripe. And thus, seeds saved from them will not be viable. Peppers should be fully ripe, or even slightly over-ripe, to assure the best seed production

Knowlesville, NY

Isn't it sad that people don't know a ripe vegie from a green one--they just get used to low quality produce at the store as long as it "looks" good.

Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)


It's a matter of how things get pollinated. For plants requiring insect pollinators, like cucurbits, alternate caging _is_ a good method. But it isn't necessary for self-pollinators like peppers. The concern there, when caging, is pests like aphids. We introduce ladybugs to control that.

For those who don't understand the above reference, alternate caging means you cage all your varieties. On day one, you expose variety A to pollinators, replacing the cage at night. Day two you expose variety B.

All these various methods work to a greater or lesser degree. The only sure-fire method, however, is to grow just one variety at a time, and make sure none of your neighbors are growing the same type of veggie.

The hardest to control, BTW, is corn. Corn pollen is wind-borne, and you need _at least_ a mile separation between varieties to maintain purity.

Santa Barbara, CA


I treat my peppers, those that I want to keep pure, fully caged as you recommend because they do crosspollinate expecially the species with more open flowers. I hear from people from time to time complaining about how hot their sweet peppers have become. ;>))


Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)


Jeff Nekola, who grows as many as 150 pepper varieties a year, says that on average he gets three out of five that do not breed true to type, and has gone as high as four in five.

Obviously, people---even SSE growers---have not been as careful with peppers as they should be. Which is what led to the design of the Tufbell cages in the first place. He wanted an inexpensive way of isolating them.

Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)

>complaining about how hot their sweet peppers have become<

I've heard this more than once myself, Marsh. Although impure seed is the likely cause, it's not the only one. Pepper taste is effected by growing conditions even more than tomatoes. So it can be something in the soil.

Another culprit is accidental selection. Even though they're in-bred, there's still enough genetic diversity in peppers that they are easy to select for physical properties.

The classic case is Bullnose Pepper. In her 1794 "American Cookery," Amelia Simmons identifies this as a small pepper with some heat, especially in the ribs. However, by the middle 19th century, it was the #1 sweet bell pepper among commercial growers. Large and blocky, by then.

Obviously, what they did is keep selecting for size and sweetness.

What I'm saying is that we sometimes do this accidentally as well.

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