Bell peppers and chili peppers are common staples that add flavor and color to your meals. They're also easy to grow, even in small spaces.
The heat of peppers is measured in Scoville heat units. A green pepper scores a zero on the scale, jalapeño peppers earn around 2,500 to 4,000 and Mexican habaneros, 200,000 to 500,000 units.
There are many different types of peppers, from sweet to flaming hot, making more than one variety useful in a single dish, adding complexity to the flavors. Popular pepper varieties include bell, Chile, banana, Hungarian, cayenne,
jalapeno, Serrano, habañeros and others.
Below, I'll summarize growing tips for bell peppers1,2,3 and
hot chili peppers,4,5 both
of which are useful additions to a well-stocked home garden. I personally grow red bell peppers, habaneros and Thai chili peppers and love them all.
Uses and Medicinal Value of Peppers
Sweet and mild-tasting bell peppers can be sautéed with onions or
diced into salads, soups and casseroles; stuffed, grilled, placed on sandwiches, or eaten raw for a fresh snack.
Green, red and yellow bell peppers all contain phenolic compounds, ascorbic acid,
carotenoids and free radical scavenging activity.
Green peppers have the highest phenolic activity but lower carotenoid content than the red and yellow varieties.
Red peppers have the highest ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and a higher level of free radical scavenging activity.
The active ingredient in hot chili peppers is capsaicin,
which is what makes your mouth burn and gives the peppers their pungent odor. The smaller the pepper the hotter it tends to be.
The endorphin rush capsaicin triggers makes this compound an effective
remedy for pain and other medical conditions.
Research also suggests it helps shrink fat tissue,6 inhibits
the growth of breast cancer cells,7 and
may even reduce your risk of Parkinson's disease by nearly 20 percent when eaten regularly. Chili
peppers also contain other beneficial bioactive plant compounds, including:8,9
- Capsanthin. This is the primary carotenoid (antioxidant) in red chili peppers, giving them their red color and typically accounting for up to 50 percent of the spice's antioxidant content
- Lutein. Most plentiful in immature (green) chili peppers, it has been shown to help maintain and improve eye health10
- Violaxanthin. It is the main carotenoid found in yellow chili peppers, which accounts for 37 to 68 percent of their total content
- Sinapic acid. Also known as sinapinic acid, this antioxidant is known for its neuroprotective potential11
- Ferulic acid. This compound has shown promise in protecting against diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases12
Growing Bell Peppers: Preparation
Whether you're growing bell peppers from seed or using store-bought seedlings,
begin by selecting and preparing the site. Peppers need lots of sun and grow best in deep, loamy, well-drained soil where peppers have not previously been grown, so move them around your garden if growing several years in a row.
Add about 1 inch of compost to the soil, but avoid adding too much nitrogen, as this can cause excessively rapid
growth, making the plants larger and bushier but less productive and more prone to disease.
If growing from seed, start the seeds indoors eight to 10 weeks before your last frost date. You can
find frost dates for your local area by checking The Old Farmer's Almanac, which is available online.13 Soak
the seeds in lukewarm water for a few hours and keep the seed tray in a warm spot to encourage germination.
Before you transplant your seedlings into your garden, gradually expose them to outdoor
conditions. By reducing stress, the plants will become larger and more productive.
Begin by placing them in an area sheltered from high wind and excessive sun exposure for a few hours a day for
three or four days once daytime
temperatures are consistently in the mid-60s. Over the following week, slowly increase the number of hours you leave them outdoors.
Pepper plants grow best in warm soil, so if the garden
bed is still cool, warm the soil by placing a dark landscape paper over the area. Also make sure all threat of frost is over and nighttime temperatures are above 60 F before planting them in the ground
Did you know that gardening reduces stress and promotes health and wellness? For many reasons, gardening is a favorite stress management activity.
Benefits of Gardening
Gardening reduces stress through exposure to nature.
- Exposure to sunlight has been shown to increase serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is responsible
for keeping our brain balanced and us feeling good. Not only does sunlight increase serotonin but it also increases melatonin, which is the chemical in our brains responsible for inducing sleep.
- Fresh air is full of oxygen and it provides health to the cells in our bodies. Fresh air can help us feel more energized and even help us sleep better at night. Being outside in the fresh air promotes a sense
of well-being and good mental focus.
- Nature sounds like birds singing, waterfalls, bubbling brooks, rustling trees blowing in the wind all help to bring us into balance. The sounds
found in nature help us to get outside of our heads and appreciate the earth and all it has to offer. These sounds help bring us into the present moment of the here and now.
reduces stress through mental focus & meditation
- Through deliberate mental focus and meditating on the actions of gardening, you are taking time to set aside your problems for a while.
We all know it's healthy to take a break from our stressors and gardening provides that outlet for a lot of people.
Gardening reduces stress through personal creativity.
- When we are creative in gardening, we reap the benefits of the end result. Depending on what you are
gardening will determine your reward. For example, a vegetable garden rewards us with vegetables...a flower garden rewards us with flowers...an herb garden rewards us with herbs. Whatever you sow, you will reap. This is an exciting and rewarding stress management
Gardening Ideas for Stress Management
If you struggle with anxiety, panic or depression and love to garden, why not use your gardening skills to grow something
that can also promote stress relief?
1. You could grow vegetables in your garden that are high in Calcium, Magnesium and B Vitamins. Vegetables like these include kale, broccoli, spinach, asparagus,
sweet potatoes, cauliflower. Vegetables that are considered complex carbohydrates are also good, they are known for boosting serotonin, like squash, blackberries and potatoes. For more information try, Burpee : The Complete Vegetable & Herb Gardener : A Guide to Growing Your Garden Organically
2. Growing sunflowers for their seeds is also another way you can
promote health and wellness with gardening. Not only is this fun but you can harvest the seeds for yourself and eat them. They are high in magnesium, which is important in helping your muscles release tension. It's also important to know that magnesium deficiency
can also be the cause of your anxiety symptoms. Don't like sunflower seeds? Then grow them for the birds! Birds love to reap the harvest that sunflowers
Garden Seeds Sunflower Mammoth Grey Stripe Tall Single DHGSGA (Yellow) 50 Open Pollinated Seeds produce the most seeds I have seen in one flower!
3. Consider growing an herb
garden! Fresh herbs are great for those who love to cook. There are also quite a few herbs today that are used for natural stress relief. Herbs like passion flower, lemon balm, St. John's Wort all have a place in helping to reduce stress and anxiety symptoms. For information on growing an herb garden, Your Backyard Herb Garden: A Gardener's Guide to Growing Over 50 Herbs Plus How to Use Them in Cooking, Crafts, Companion Planting and More comes highly recommended!
4. Certain flowers, plants and herbs are used for stress relief through aromatherapy. For example, lavender is known for helping to induce relaxation. You can find lavender in soaps, lotions, oils, and potpourri, just
to name a few. Try tying up a bunch of fresh lavender with a little raffia and hanging it upside down in your home or better yet, learn to make your own aromatherapy products. It's amazing what you can do as you incorporate stress management activities into
your life. Sometimes they turn into cherished hobbies that you can share with others. The book Lavender: How to Grow and Use the Fragrant Herb (Herbs (Stackpole Books) offers more detailed information on growing lavender and it's many uses.
butterflies and hummingbirds? Then why not grow a butterfly garden? Butterfly gardens are gardens that are full of plants and flowers that attract butterflies. The great thing about butterfly gardens is that many of the same flowers also attract hummingbirds.
Lavender, Hibiscus, and Azaleas are all famous for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. There is a long list of other plants, flowers and shrubs that you can plant in your garden. It's all about what you love to do and your own creativity. Be sure to check
Hummingbirds and Butterflies to Your Backyard : Watch Your Garden Come Alive With Beauty on the Wing , don't forget... these recommended books can also be found at your local library!
Gardening is not
just for the outdoors!
If you live in an area that makes gardening outside virtually impossible, or if you are physically limited, consider growing an indoor garden. Gardens do not have
to be big in order to be beneficial. There are many things you can grow indoors under the right lighting or even near a sunny window. They actually sell garden kits for indoors that include everything you need, including the proper lighting. These things are
also great for those living in apartments and other small living quarters.
The Miracle-Gro AeroGarden
Harvest with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit, Black is a great place to start gardening indoors. Aerogarden makes many great products for indoor gardening, so be sure to check them out.
This is a great way to stay active healthy..I plant herbs in a large pot every spring and harvest fresh oregano, thyme, parsley, lemon balm... I also dry them for use later in the
You can grow them in little containers right on your window sill also.