Happy Valentine's Day. If you haven't made plans for the big day yet, perhaps try a different gift, such as a hot pepper plant? After all, it does have red fruits and may spice up the evening for you.
While most gardeners are familiar with jalapeno, chili, and cayenne pepper plants, there are many other versions that can add medium to very hot spice to your foods.
Habanero peppers are considered one of the hottest in the world. With variety names such as Dragon's Breath, Carolina Reaper, Naga Viper, and Trinidad Scorpion, you know you're dealing with some nasty stuff. While most are dangerously hot, there are a few newer varieties such as Suave and Roulette that are mild tasting.
If extreme heat isn't for you, try Anaheim peppers or Ancho peppers, which are popular in Chile Rellenos. Jalapenos can range from spicy to almost sweet. For a low heat Jalapeno, try Felicity. There are even odd shaped hot peppers such as Binquinho peppers from Brazil that look like a bird's beak and can be eaten raw or cooked.
If you'll only need peppers for spicing occasional meals, grow just a few plants in containers on a deck or patio. In the garden, hot peppers don't like the cold, so wait until the soil has warmed before planting and protect plants from cool spring nights. Keep plants well-watered and weeded, but don't over fertilize. The degree of hotness will vary depending on the weather and plant health. Cool, cloudy summers yield milder tasting fruits. Slightly water and fertilizer stressed plants tend to have spicier fruits.