Peppers and Egg plants
11th Feb 1998
Two vegetables that deserve to be listed in many more show schedules than they are now are the Capsicums and the Aubergines or the Peppers and the Egg plants as they are probably more commonly known. Three is such a vast range of different types of these available now that they must surely be amongst the most colourful of all the vegetables. Because of this wide colour range they are a definite must for any display and will be an important feature in my Chelsea display this coming May.
They are not the easiest of vegetables to grow to perfection and both of them are very prone to attacks of white fly and once this dreaded little pest takes a hold, it can be extremely difficult to eradicate.
The peppers can be the normal Sweet bell types or the chillies or even the Hot pepper types with quite a range available in each if you are prepared to look around the various catalogues.
The Peppers have a maximum points value of 15 divided into 5 points for Condition, 4 points for Size and Shape, 3 points for Colour and 3 points for Uniformity.
In order to have these ready on the day of the show, particularly the earlier once, it does mean that a sowing now in a heated greenhouse will produce some excellent specimens for the August shows. Some growers believe that the green and red pepper are two distinct types, however they are generally all green to start with turning red as they mature. If therefore you want to stage some Red peppers then you have to allow for this extra period of growth in order for the fruit to have time to mature on the plant. This can take a further three weeks to a month with most varieties.
Other colours available are green to Sweet chocolate, I had this one on my stand at Chelsea last year and starts off as a dark shiny green turning to a rich chocolate brown. There is also a Light lavender skin with a pale yellow flesh which eventually turns to Red. A different type is the one starts off yellow and eventually turns red on maturity and the orange ripe type that starts off green and matures to a glowing orange.
The Aubergine or Egg plant is higher pointed vegetable having a maximum points value of 18 divided into 5 points for Condition, 5 points for Size and Shape, 4 points for Colour and 4 points for Uniformity.
Up to few years ago these were all predominantly shining black. Times have changed though and we now have all sorts of different coloured ones as well as different shapes. Over the past few years I have grown the small white variety called Ova which is available from Suttons and believe me this makes a beautiful looking plant with broad pale green leaves and the fruits are as large as a small hens egg. Bandera is another variety that I grew last year, this is a light purple colour with white stripes along it; both would be excellent for the 'any other kind of vegetable' class
This year I'm trying some newer varieties on trial that may form part of my Chelsea display, these were sent to me from America, Kermit is a green and white Thai speciality which produces small 2" diam. round fruits with a white blossom end and green striped shoulders. Neon has striking deep pink fruits which are semi cylindrical mid sized fruits and described in the catalogue as being 'a productive, edible work of art'. Tango was a brand new variety for 1997 and produces 7" x 2" medium size, cylindrical white fruits. The last one that I intend to grow is called Machiaw, another new variety in 1997 producing long skinny pink fruit averaging 9" x 1" which should look really well provided I can grow them!
The seed of both peppers and aubergines as well as the growing regime can be treated exactly the same. The seed are large enough to be handled individually so I space them out about an inch apart on top of some Levington F2 and are then covered over with some fine Vermiculite. The seed trays are then placed in a propagator to germinate and then pricked out individually into 3" pots using Levington M2. From this stage they are continually potted on until their final size of around 9". I have found that old florist buckets are perfect for this job with plenty of holes drilled through the base for drainage. The compost I used last year with great success was the Levington tub and container compost which seems to have plenty of nutrients for sustained growth, even at the latter end of the season.
Once in flower, feed with a high potash liquid feed and I find Phostrogen is perfect for ripening the fruit. One thing that is paramount is to keep the plants pest free I therefore spray regularly with double strength Polysect to make sure that they are kept free from white fly in particular. In milder southern areas both species can of course be grown outdoors in fertile soil.