Ornamentals with great taste

November 09, 2009
Nov. 9, 2009 – Two new pepper varieties will debut next fall. The new cultivars have been released by the U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and are trademarked ‘Lil’ Pumpkin’ and ‘Pepper Jack.’
These plants are scheduled to become available in time to add seasonal interest to next year’s fall gardens during the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays.
Pepper Jack’ ornamental pepper.
‘Lil’ Pumpkin’
Photo by Robert Griesbach | ARS

The peppers were bred by ARS plant geneticists John Stommel and Robert Griesbach, both at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) in Beltsville, Md. Stommel works in the ARS Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory, and Griesbach is a former researcher with the ARS Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit.

‘Lil’ Pumpkin’ has unique black foliage and orange pumpkin-like fruit. ‘Pepper Jack’ bears greenish-black foliage and a mix of orange and black, small, cone-shaped fruit, similar to the ever-popular Halloween candy corn.

The breeders developed these varieties with both ornamental and culinary markets in mind. The peppers’ vibrant colours and unique shapes provide enticing ornamental interest, and their spicy flavour may be of culinary interest to hot-pepper lovers.

‘Lil’ Pumpkin’ and ‘Pepper Jack’ join a long list of popular ornamental vegetables that includes kales, lettuces, sweet potatoes and eggplants, as well as culinary counterparts such as multicoloured Swiss chard, orange watermelons, purple snap beans and purple asparagus.

The new ornamental garden vegetables can be grown as bedding plants and in containers, and they will be marketed in pots as annuals. Similar to culinary peppers, ornamental peppers perform best in high light and warm temperatures, according to the breeders.

‘Lil’ Pumpkin’ and ‘Pepper Jack’ have been licensed for retail sale by McCorkle Nurseries, Inc., in Dearing, Ga. They are scheduled to become available in various garden centres and retail stores in 2010.

Read more about this research in the October 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine available online at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/oct09/garden1009.htm .
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rosalie Marion Bliss is an ARS communications specialist.

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