The Fish Pepper is an extremely flavorful, productive, and decorative variety that makes an excellent hot sauce. The white unripe fruit were used to flavor seafood dishes in the Black catering community of Baltimore in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The foliage is variegated white and green, as is much of the unripe fruit, which is 2-3" long and turns from white with green stripes, to orange with brown stripes, and then bright red. The heat is a 3 on a scale from 1-5.
A note on the variegation: We've found that many plants in our Fish Pepper population are less variegated on their leaves and fruits, and we leave these in as they tend to be healthier, stronger, and more productive, improving the long-term health of this population.
Horace Pippin, the now-famed painter, shared this variety (and many others) with H. Ralph Weaver in the early 1940s in exchange for bee-sting therapy. Weaver's grandson (William Woys Weaver) found the seeds in a baby food jar in his grandmother's deep freezer a couple decades later, many years after his grandfather's death, and was able to reintroduce via Seed Savers Exchange. For years, we have been making gallons of delicious fish pepper sauce from the ripe red fruits after deseeding. Soilful City in Washington DC also makes Pippin Sauce from fish peppers grown by black farmers and urban gardeners in the DC and Maryland areas, and now offers their seeds through Truelove Seeds. The fish pepper has been designated by Slow Food as an outstandingly tasty, culturally important, and endangered heirloom from Philadelphia and Baltimore, and is listed in their Ark of Taste as a way to invite everyone to take action to help protect it.
Days to Maturity: 80
Seeds per pack: 25
Germination rate: 93% on 12/21/2021
Planting / harvesting notes
Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost and transplant into garden well after the danger of frost. Keep seedlings moist but do not overwater. Transplants should be initially watered in well, and plants will be most productive with regular irrigation and full sun.
Seed keeping notes
Peppers are generally self-pollinating, though we isolate different varieties of the same species by at least 50 feet, in hopes that flying insects will not cross pollinate them unexpectedly. There are several important species of peppers, so check your scientific names! Pepper seeds are ripe when the fruits have turned their final fiery color - in this case, red. Cut the fruit (consider wearing gloves), scrape out seeds, and lay them out to dry on a labeled screen or paper product in a ventilated place away from direct sunlight for a week or two. Drying the peppers before seed extraction can slightly lower your germination rates, but works fine for home seed saving as long as the peppers do not rot.