While Other Peppers Flop, This One Still Drops!


Backlit Lemon Drop chiles on a summery October afternoon.

This summer was a wonderful season for hot peppers. I would even hazard to say exceptional and rare, except that I fear that the heat we suffered will become more and more the norm. Still if that is the case, despite the hardships such shifts may cause, we will not have to worry about having enough chiles!

Padrons were absolute workhorses, with individual plants delivering scores of fruit and some reaching 4’high…that in 6” of soil, and we had impressive fruit sets on serranos and cayennes. Arriving at fall’s doorstep, however, these pepper plants look tired. I have already taken down a number of them for want of any more fruit or flower, and a few other sad looking cases have been mercifully granted a temporary stay to see if they will ripen a few remaining green fruit. There is, however, one wonderful little pepper that is still delivering the goods on the rooftop as fall comes on.

With the childhood innocence of a name like “Lemon Drop”, it packs way more punch than its pastille candy counterpart. Visually it is a gorgeous, eye-catching canary yellow. Gastronomically it delivers substantial heat (I think it’s in the tens of thousands as far as Scoville units, the hot pepper rating system) but not anything that makes you go through a brief existential crisis, as in “Why the heck did I just eat one of those? And will I survive?” I would describe it as a tolerable purity of heat, and in addition it does also have some appealing citrusy notes, which the chefs down below relish.

I got the seeds for this pepper from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com), and they list it as Capsicum chinense, though a posting on another web site lists it as Capsicsum baccatum. Whichever it is, it is clearly not Capsicum annum, as the long, thin stems and open form indicate. Also, it was much slower to develop, from germination right on up to fruit set, but though the last may not be first, they may be longest, as this wonderful pepper proves. As days in our long-play summer finally start to go their fall grey, it’s nice to still have a bit of the sun in the color and taste of these great chiles.

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