I began my search for Peter (Penis) Peppers on the Internet as I had been told that my best bet for finding an abundant source of Peter Pepper Chili Peppers would be there. Eventually, I found the perfect place to not only get access to red hot ‘Peter pepper’ seeds but to also make them really grow into something totally unique and remarkable.
For those more familiar with plants rather than the food they produce, these are known in the gardening kingdom as capsicum annuum and it’s a plant species native to the Southern part of North America, with most commercially grown capsicum annuum plants exported to Asia and South Korea. They’re rare to find in the West.
If the type of bell pepper or spicy ingredient you’re on the hunt for is a medium heat pepper, the capsicum annuum is likely a good choice. The best metric is to use to measure the heat of peppers is the Scoville Scale. The capsicum annuum measures from 5,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), going up to 30,000 SHU, depending on where it’s grown.
The Korean Chilli Pepper is among the hottest capsicum annuum . With a SHU of up to 30,000, the capsicum annuum is considered to be a medium hot pepper.
In the culinary kingdom, the capsicum annuum pepper plant has grown somewhat of a cult following owing to how versatile the pepper plant is. It’s commonly used sliced and added to hot salsa sauces, and ground into powder, such as cayenne pepper. The heat of the peter pepper is usually likened to jalapenos, but they do have more heat, therefore a more pungent kick to them.
One of the most exciting things is that the amazing seeds to grow these peppers can be purchased for just a few pounds or dollars, which is a real bargain, and they require minimal attention. Basically, as long as your capsicum annuum seeds are given a little food and water, and grown in the appropriate pot size, these plants will grow from seeds to a good size with just a little effort.
The difficulty you’ll have in finding capsicum annuum plants is there aren’t many stores stock them because they’re difficult to source. Capsicum annuum seeds aren’t though which is partly why those who use this ingredient a lot, will tend to grow a peter pepper or two rather than buy them prepared or already ground into a powder. To find these freshly grown, you need to be on the lookout for them because that’s a rarity as a lot of gardeners grow these as ornamentals. Commercial growers export the majority of their harvests.
One other reason that could be why you don’t see these in stores is because of the odd shape they have. The capsicum annuum plants resemble a penis. So much so, they’ve been nicknamed as a Peter Penis, the food industries porn food.
Peter Penis is more correctly known as ‘Peter Pepper’ or to use its scientific name ‘Capsicum annuum var. annuum or ‘Peter’ (Penis Pepper).’ Previously considered too hot to eat, (despite it being a medium hot spice) it was Judged “Most Pornographic Pepper” By Organic Gardening Magazine with a heat level of 7-8.
Sadly, this pepper (Native to Louisiana and Texas), is becoming very hard to get hold of (if you will forgive the pun), largely due to the belief that these are purely ornamental plants when in actual fact it can be eaten if used in moderation, (and many say it is actually very tasty). Close relatives of ‘Peter Pepper’ include the Tabasco pepper and the jalapeno, the difference being that Peter Peppers are hotter than Tabasco, and at least 10 times hotter than the jalapeno.
Peter Peppers (also known as ‘Chilly Willy’) are also available in green and yellow if you prefer a range of colors, and whilst the fruit shapes produced by each capsicum annuum plant do vary, you should still have a good percentage that comes out looking much like their nickname if you grow them correctly from seeds, with good nutrients, not too much sun, and enough water.
Today these are largely grown under nursery shade cloth and have a growing season that lasts from late March to early October. Each plant should produce approximately 100 hot peppers at 2″ to 4″ long with chilli pods around 1″ to 1.5″ wide, on plants up to 3 feet tall with green stems and green leaves.
The company ‘Papa Jeabert’s’ was the first to grow capsicum annuum for commercial purposes after founder Phil Gremillion grew a Peter Pepper plant in his back yard from seeds given to him by his father. His subsequent experiments blending the crushed and dried pepper with other spices, (onion, cayenne, lemon, papaya, green and red bell peppers, and a small amount of salt), ultimately formed a unique flavor and lead to the creation of the popular ‘Spice de Terre’.
Gremillion has been quoted as saying, “Working with Peter Pepper is very difficult. The pepper has oil that is fiery hot, and touching the fresh pepper and then touching the skin can cause blistering. Crushing the dried Peter Peppers creates a fine, almost invisible, powder that burns the skin and can cause choking. I have to wear a gas mask and rubber gloves whenever I crush Peter Peppers.”
Personally, I love the idea of these as a naughty gift, or something to be grown purely for novelty value, (not to mention the fun you could have showing your elderly relations around your greenhouse!). As you can use these for cooking medium hot dishes, then that has got to be a bonus in my book. For my own warped sense of humor, I really want to grow some of these simply to enter them in our local agricultural and horticultural show in August (so I am very much hoping they mature in time). The amount of people who visit this show each year is well into the thousands, and I am guessing the laughs this kind of vegetable will produce is well worth the effort of growing them.