This popular plant is a member of the nightshade family and produces spicy little fruits known as “chili peppers.” These hot little numbers are believed to have originated in the Americas but have, since the 15th century, become increasingly popular all across the globe. There are hundreds of varieties of chili peppers that vary in color, size, and hotness, but most types are red, green, orange, purple, or yellow in color and pack a serious punch in terms of spice compared to other types of peppers.
The Greek Pepperoncini is a mild chili pepper most often seen pickled and used as a delicious topping on pizzas, salads, and sandwiches. Although this pepper eventually ripens to red, pepperoncini lovers favor its golden stage, when the skin is young and tender, yet firm. Although optimum growth will occur in climates that mimic those of this pepper’s homeland (Greece, duh!), it’ll still produce large quantities of peppers in regions with short growing seasons as long as the weather stays warm. Not quite a “knock your socks off” kind of pepper, the Greek Pepperoncini only ranks between 100-500 SHU, placing it just above the benignly mellow bell pepper.
Seed Depth: 1/4″
Space Between Plants: 12–24″
Space Between Rows: 24″
Germination Soil Temperature: 60–80°F
Days for Germination: 10–25
Sow Indoors: 8–10 weeks before average last frost date. For fall crop in USDA Zones 9 and above, start in midsummer.
Sow Outdoors: 2–4 weeks after average last frost date.
Vegetative: Can be propagated by taking stem cuttings.
Grows best in a warm, tropical or subtropical climate. Seeds will germinate slowly in soils below 65°F. Plants can survive light frosts if well protected and can be grown as perennials in USDA Zones 9 and above. Although Greek Pepperoncinis won’t grow when temperatures become too cool, they’ll still produce peppers quickly and abundantly when temperatures are ideal, so be sure to save some space for these peppers in your summer garden even if you live in a cooler climate zone.
Natural: Full sun. Prefers partial afternoon shade in hot weather.
Artificial: Will grow well under high output fluorescent, LED, or HID lamps. Needs at least 8 hours of light daily; however, more is preferred.
Soil: Prefers well-drained loamy or sandy soils. Sandier soils actually tend to be better for peppers, but make sure to keep an eye on watering since this soil type tends to drain quickly. A pH of between 6.0 and 6.8 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Hydroponics: Thrives in a variety of hydroponic systems, including deep water culture, ebb and flow, and drip system.
Aeroponics: Thrives in aeroponic systems.
Water: Requires low to moderate levels of water. Aim for about 1–`2 inches of water per week. Drought tolerant but will produce more fruit if kept consistently moist. Use drip irrigation to avoid getting leaves wet.
Nutrients: Requires low to moderate amounts of nutrients. Too much nitrogen can result in an abundance of foliage with low fruit production, so make sure fertilizers contain sufficient amounts of phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. Apply after the first fruits have formed. Sidedress with compost tea once every 3 weeks.
Foliar: Will benefit from foliar applications of 1 tbsp Epsom salts mixed with 1 gallon of water. Apply when blooms start to form and again about 2 weeks later.
Pruning: Perennial plants will benefit from light pruning once or twice per year.
Mulching: Use mulch to suppress weeds and conserve moisture. While plastic mulches are commonly recommended as a method for retaining heat and moisture while suppressing weeds, we recommend using eco-friendly, reusable landscaping fabric or straw to help your peppers grow.
COVERING: Protect from frosts using row covers or tarps by forming a tent over your plants. Remove during the day.
SUPPORT: Use cages or stakes to provide support for larger plants.
Deficiency(s): A calcium deficiency can result in blossom end rot. To remedy this situation, reduce your nitrogen application and/or ensure that you’re keeping your plants evenly watered. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, a calcium-based foliar can help your plants fight off this disorder.
Rotation: A 3-year rotation away from all plants in the Solanaceae family is recommended.
Companions: Grows well with basil, coriander, onion, spinach, tomato, and peas. Avoid beans and kohlrabi.
Harvest: Cut peppers from the plant once they are ripe and have reached their full size, which for this pepper is generally between 2–6″ long. Leave some of the stem attached to the tops of your peppers to help them stay fresher, longer.
Storage: Fruits can be refrigerated for up to 10 days.
Fun Fact: Although you might believe you’ve had pepperoncinis many a time at your favorite deli or restaurant, it’s possible that you were fooled by an imposter! The extremely similar banana pepper is often mistaken as a pepperocini due to almost identical size, color, and flavor. Unlike the banana pepper, which can get down to 0 SHU, the pepperoncini doesn’t generally dip below 100 on the Scoville scale.
Preserve: Fruits can be dried and ground or crushed for later use as a spice. Also can be frozen.
Prepare: Thanks to its milder flavor, this pepper can be used in all sorts of dishes, ranging from pizzas and sandwiches to soups and stews. Although it’s most commonly found pickled in stores, it’s just as tasty when eaten fresh. To use, cut off the stem end and remove the seeds with a sharp knife. Slice into rings and sauté, bake with other veggies, or simply eat raw in a salad or on their own!
Nutritional: Provides small amounts of vitamin(s) A, B6, E, C, riboflavin, potassium, and manganese. Also a good source of phytochemicals.
Medicinal: Capsaicin causes blood vessel dilation and boosts metabolism. This can result in reductions of weight, increased circulation, and a suppressed appetite. Additional benefits include regulation of high blood pressure, promotion of a healthy liver and other organs due to increased blood flow and mucus production, and regulation of digestive functions. It has also been classified as a aphrodisiac, so pack some cayenne-infused chocolates on your next date.
Warnings: Capsaicin can be a skin irritant, especially on sensitive skin. Avoid handling peppers with bare hands and always wash your hands well before touching your face (or going to the bathroom!).
Why settle for store-bought pickled peppers (say that five times fast!) when you can make your own? If you’re as much of a pepper fanatic as we are, we’re sure that you’ll appreciate having a supply of Pickled Pepperoncini Peppers in your cupboard for use all year round!