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Pretty Peppers

Master gardener Paul James picks a peck of pretty peppers. Discover the unique beauty of ornamental peppers.

"I grew a number of beautiful peppers this year in my garden," says master gardener Paul James. "But long after the traditional pepper harvest is over, there are other peppers to enjoy and grow." They're the ornamental peppers, so named for their unique colors and shapes. In truth, the term ornamental is a bit of a misnomer because these peppers are, in fact, edible even though people have claimed for years that they were poisonous. However, if you are looking for that true, genuine taste of a pepper, you'll definitely want to stick with those that are grown for consumption because, according to James, ornamental peppers aren't really all that tasty. Yet what they lack in flavor, they more than make up for in beauty.

For example, this one produces compact green peppers that gradually turn red, and once they hit the red stage, they begin to wrinkle in a curious but cool way (figure A). They produce so prolifically you can barely see the foliage for the peppers.

Figure B

On this variety, the elongated peppers start out yellow then turn a fiery red, while the foliage is fairly typical of all peppers (figure B).

Figure C

This variety has gorgeous dark green foliage and peppers that start out purple and turn to a roaring red (figure C).

These and other so-called ornamental peppers can be grown in the ground or in containers. They require several hours of sun; water only when the leaves begin to wilt.

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