Hybridization & Cross-Pollination of Peppers – A conundrum solved

A Lesson in Saving Pepper Seeds

Last year, we saved seed from store-bought cherry bomb peppers and store-bought habaneros.  We were able to germinate them and they’re growing in our garden; however, I noticed that we have a proliferation of red cherry-bomb pepper plants with some producing a slightly different shaped pepper, but very few habanero peppers.  So I dug around in the plants to try to see the tags better (no small feat because it’s a jungle out there!) and it turns out that the home-saved (from store-bought peppers) habanero seed is impure and many of the “cherry bomb” peppers are actually labeled home saved habanero.

So with some trepidation, I tried one of the resultant peppers (raw habaneros are hot), after first sniffing it to see if it smelled hot, and it turns out that it’s a slightly sweet pepper with a bit of heat (something in a mild Serrano range).  The actual habanero peppers we have growing were started from purchased Burpee seed.

We went to the internet to do some hybridization of peppers research and have learned that peppers (both within and between sweet and hot varieties) cross *very* easily so if you want to save pure seed, you really have to take a lot of precautions on how and where you’re growing them.  Otherwise, you can end up with hot “sweet” peppers (i.e., look like a bell but bite like a serrano) or sweet “hot” peppers (i.e., look like a cayenne but taste like a bell).  I knew some crossing could occur but I didn’t realize it was very easy when it comes to peppers.  Live and learn – at least the peppers are edible!

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