We are now enjoying a profusion of peppers.
This year we grew four types, two mild and two hot. Of the mild, the Bullnose pepper is a very old bell pepper variety. It is not as sweet as its modern descendants but is a reliable producer of large fruit.
For those, such as myself, who find the bell pepper to have a “tinny” after taste, especially when use in the salad, I would recommend the Sheepnose pimento. I find it to be a sweeter pepper with a much milder after taste.
These scarlet red fruit were known as tomato peppers in the 19th century due to their distinctive shape. Sweet peppers seem to be somewhat uncommon in colonial America and were used almost exclusively for pickles.
All peppers are native to Central and South America but were often recorded as Indian plants by European authors.
”The hot peppers were the most commonly cited. John Evelyn wrote in Acetaria (1699): “Indian Capsicum, superlatively hot and burning, is yet by the Africans eaten with Salt and Vinegar by it self, as a usual Condiment; but wou’d be of dangerous consequence with us.”
However, in a sign that opinions were starting to change he went on to explain that the pepper: “by Art and Mixture is notwithstanding render’d not only safe, but very agreeable in our Sallet.”
These fiery fruits were not the common condiment in colonial America that they are today but they seem to be better known in the American colonies than in England. Lieutenant Thomas Anburey, an English prisoner of war held at the Jones Plantation near Charlottesville, recorded in the winter of 1779: “many officers, to comfort themselves, put red peppers into water, to drink by way of a cordial.”
One reason for the wider availability of peppers in America is that we have a more congenial climate for growing these long season vegetables than the English do in the cool, cloudy British Isles.