By Matt Gibson & Erin Marissa Russell
With a heat level which is on par with a mild jalapeno, the Anaheim pepper ranges between 500-2,500 Scoville Heat Units, and is considered relatively mild amongst hot peppers. Anaheim peppers did get its name from the City in California where the medium-sized pepper was popularized. However, the Anaheim species is native to New Mexico.
Anaheim peppers are practically identical to New Mexico’s famous hatch chillies, but they are much milder in heat level. Anaheim peppers can vary quite a bit in heat level depending on their growing environment. The climate, soil, and sunlight provided can have a major impact on the heat level of your peppers. Anaheim peppers were taken to California to grow so that they would be milder in heat, to appease the American palate, while Anaheim peppers that are grown in New Mexico typically fall on the high end of the Scoville Heat Unit range, and can even exceed the Anaheim SHU range entirely, and can pack a heat level equal to the hottest jalapeno (8,000 SHU’s). Anaheim peppers grown in New Mexico are nearly identical to hatch chillies in both flavor and heat level.
Anaheim pepper plants are perennials, and can produce peppers prolifically for three or more consecutive years before replanting is needed. The one-and-a-half foot Anaheim pepper plant is relatively easy to grow, especially in sunny climates, and will provide you with plenty of mild peppers to add a little spice (but not too much) to your favorite recipes.
Anaheim peppers grow best in USDA hardiness zones five through 12. Your pepper plants should produce green Anaheim chilies all throughout the year once the plant is established, but will produce most prolifically during the summer months. The medium-sized peppers grow to between 15 and 25 centimeters long. They have a cone-like shape with a larger diameter on the stem side and a small tip. The pepper pods are long and curved, with a crisp, crunchy texture and a fresh, slightly sweet, peppery flavor. Unripened green Anaheim peppers are commonly used in recipes, though the ripened red peppers are usable as well, and can also be dried for a longer shelf life.
Cooking with Anaheim peppers brings out the sweetness, as well as the fruity notes, and adds a distinct smokiness to both the flavor and aroma of the dish. Anaheim peppers can be a little bit spicy, but the kick is not overwhelming, and does not stick around long enough to make you regret your bite.
Anaheim chillies are packed with vitamins A and C, both of which are excellent sources of antioxidants that help eliminate free radicals in the body and improve the body’s immune system. Anaheim peppers also provide fiber and potassium, as well as vitamins B6 and K.
Anaheim chilies are consumed raw and cooked, and can be roasted, grilled, baked, or, most commonly, fire roasted. To fire roast your Anaheim peppers, roast them until the outer skin is thoroughly charred, then you can remove the skin and use the tender, inner flesh in a variety of ways. Anaheim peppers are commonly used in salsas and sauces, tossed into soups, stews, omelets, pastas, and more. They are also commonly stuffed with various ingredients, most commonly meats and cheeses, and used to add a spicy kick to various cocktails, like margaritas and palomas.
Varieties of Anaheim Peppers
Though there is only one variety of Anaheim pepper, it is a pepper which has accumulated many names, and is also very similar to New Mexico hatch chillies, which makes it a bit confusing to identify. Anaheim peppers are also called California peppers and Magdelena peppers.
When Anaheim peppers are picked and dehydrated, or dried while the peppers are still green and immature, they are called, verde del norte, chile de la tierra, or seco del norte. When they are dried after they mature and have turned red, they are referred to as chili Colorado peppers, or California red peppers.
When these peppers are grown and cultivated in California, they are called California peppers, or Anaheim peppers, but when they are grown in New Mexico, they are much hotter, and are called New Mexico peppers, or Hatch chillies. The name Hatch chillies comes from the town of the same name, which is in New Mexico where they are most often grown and sold.
Growing Conditions for Anaheim Peppers
Anaheim peppers are easy to grow, low maintenance plants which thrive in USDA hardiness zones five through 12, and prefer hot, dry climates. As Anaheim peppers are tender vegetable plants, it is recommended that seeds are started indoors, and seedlings should only be moved outside once the soil has thawed out and become warm. Like all peppers and most vegetables, Anaheim peppers require a full sun location in order to grow vigorously and produce prolifically.
Anaheim peppers enjoy a soil that consists primarily of sandy loam and perform best in a soil with a pH between 7.0 and 8.5. Make sure that the in-ground soil, or the container you are using has adequate drainage. Keep the soil moist throughout the entire growing season, watering your peppers regularly to avoid stunted fruit. The soil should stay moist, but should never be waterlogged or soggy, as too much water can lead to root rot and fungal diseases.
How to Plant Anaheim Peppers
Start your Anaheim pepper seeds indoors, planting them eight weeks before the last frost date in your region. It is important to be sure not to plant your pepper seeds too deeply into the soil. Plant your Anaheim pepper seeds only one half centimeter deep, or 0.2 inches deep in the soil. When transplanting outdoors, space seedlings out around two feet apart, or about one and a half feet apart if you are planting them into raised beds.
Care for Anaheim Peppers
Anaheim peppers are a relatively low maintenance plant once they are established. All they need is lots of sunlight and consistent watering. Anaheim peppers can also benefit from a nutrient boost prior to their growing season. Pretreat the soil with lots of compost and organic matter before planting and use a few tablespoons of 5-10-10 fertilizer to side dress the plants right around the time that you transplant your seedlings outdoors. Dig little trenches around the plants about four inches away from their stems and add the fertilizer to the trenches.
How to Propagate Anaheim Peppers
The easiest way to propagate Anaheim peppers is by saving the seeds of a mature pepper from your garden. Cut the Anaheim pepper in half, then remove the seeds and lay them on a paper towel to dry out for 24 hours. Then move the seeds to a plastic zipper bag labeled with the variety and date. Store the bag in a dark, cool (but not too cold) place until the next spring when you are ready to use them.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Anaheim Peppers
Peppers are very easy to grow, but even the most careful of gardeners may encounter one of the following pests and diseases. Keep reading to learn how to spot these issues and how to treat them if they show up in your garden.
- Anthracnose: Anthracnose is a fungal disease that begins with small spots in shades of yellow, brown, or black that are irregular in shape. The spots widen and join as they grow, merging to cover larger areas of the plant. Prevent anthracnose by keeping your garden clear of debris or potentially infected plant material. Plants that show signs of infection should be removed from the garden and destroyed. Keep the disease at bay by rotating crops, watering plants properly, choosing disease-free seeds and only transplanting healthy seedlings.
- Aphids: These tiny insects come in various shapes and shades, but you can recognize the way they group up on the undersides of leaves. Plants infested with aphids are also recognizable because the foliage becomes distorted as the aphids feast on the moisture inside. One of the simplest treatments for aphids is spraying plants with a gallon of water, tablespoon of neem oil, and four or five drops of dish soap, though the treatment may require repetition.
- Armyworms/Cutworms/Fruit Worms: These sizable larvae will leave holes where they’ve feasted on leaves or, where infestation is heavy, may leave only skeleton leaves behind. Bacillus Thuringiensis (botanical Bt) is an effective prevention or treatment, or you can find insects that prey on the species of worms you have in your garden.
- Blossom End Rot: As the name suggests, blossom end rot starts on the end of peppers that began as a blossom. Water-soaked lesions start small and get larger, becoming sunken, leathery, and brown. Prevent and treat blossom end rot by making sure not to over-fertilize and by using nitrate fertilizers instead of ammonium. You can also protect against it with mulch, amend the soil with lime, and maintain the soil pH level at 6.5.
- Fusarium Wilt: This fungal disease moves quickly through the garden, most frequently affecting peppers and other plants in the nightshade category. However, plenty of other plants are also susceptible to fusarium wilt. The first sign of infection is stunted growth, but affected plants also turn yellow and pale before withering and potentially dying. The most effective preventive measures are rotating crops and planting resistant seeds. Once fusarium wilt sets in, solarizing the soil to kill the disease with heat can be an effective treatment.
- Leafminers: Damage from leafminer insects is easy to spot because of the winding trails they leave on foliage where they’ve fed. You can even follow the insect’s path by tracing these trails to find the leafminer at the end of the line. One of the best defenses against a leafminer infestation is deploying predatory wasps, which you can find at most garden centers.
- Pepper Weevil: These insects do their feeding inside the peppers, so as they mature you’ll notice deformity and discoloration where pepper weevils have been. Buds or peppers may drop completely off the plant before ripening, and you may also see damage to foliage, young peppers, or buds where pepper weevils have fed. If your garden has pepper weevils, don’t plant other nightshades too near to your peppers. Rotate crops the year after to prevent further spread. Keep the garden clear of debris, making especially sure to pick up any peppers that drop from the plant as quickly as possible.
- Powdery Mildew: You can diagnose powdery mildew in the garden by the trademark powdery-looking white fungus that collects on the underside of foliage. The tops of leaves may be discolored to brown or yellow, and foliage may curl before eventually dropping from the plant. Humid weather allows powdery mildew to spread more quickly. Keep the garden clean, avoid overfertilizing with nitrogen, and keep up with pruning to keep powdery mildew to a minimum. You can also choose resistant strains of pepper plants to grow.
- Tobacco Mosaic Virus: This is one of the most common diseases to impact gardeners of pepper plants. If you consume tobacco (as with cigarettes), avoid doing so too near to your plants, and wash your hands before working in the garden with soap and water. The virus causes discoloration of peppers as well as turning leaves yellow in a mosaic-style pattern. Tobacco users can prevent infecting the garden with this virus by wearing gloves before getting to work.
How to Harvest Anaheim Peppers
As soon as peppers turn green and have grown to about seven inches long, they are ready to be harvested. If you harvest your peppers as soon as they are ready, it will encourage the pepper plant to produce more peppers, increasing the yield of your pepper plants.
Use shears to snip off the peppers instead of trying to pull them off the plant with your hands. Trying to pick Anaheim peppers using your hands can damage the plant. Clip the peppers from the plant, leaving part of the stem attached. If you remove the stem from the pepper before you’re ready to use it, the pepper will not stay as fresh as if the stem remains in place.
Whether this is your first time growing Anaheim peppers or you’re just brushing up on how to care for them after years of experience, there’s plenty to learn about Anaheim peppers in this article. After reading it, you’re ready to raise healthy, productive plants that will yield lots of Anaheim peppers to use in the kitchen.
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