Melrose Sweet Pepper
65-70 days. Celebrate Chicago and Italian-American heritage with this delectable, sweet pepper! We are blown away with Melrose’s earliness and high yield – so many peppers that we were giving them away! This heirloom was brought to Melrose Park, IL by the Napolitano family (later renamed Naples), and the pepper has remained culturally significant in restaurants, farmers markets, and home gardens ever since. 4-6” long, pointed peppers have thinner walls than bells but are crunchy raw - Lily, age 11 says, “they’re delicious!” The flavor is sweet, with a subtle smokiness when raw but the real magic comes through cooking Melrose. Sauté or roast with garlic and olive oil and serve with Italian bread for a simple, exquisite appetizer. These plants are highly productive, so you can experiment with new recipes, like “cruschi.” Hang peppers to dry for 3-4 weeks, then deep fry in olive oil for a crunchy pepper chip that adds flavor and texture to any dish. NN[[end tab]] [[start tab]]
Growing Instructions (for USDA Zone 5b):
All peppers are warm-weather loving plants. Sow seeds indoors 3/15-4/1 into good seed starting mix (we recommend Vermont Compost’s Fort Light). Ideal temperature for germination is 80-90° (use heating mat). Days to germination: 6-28. Once leaves appear, grow plants at 72°. Be sure seedlings have adequate light (a windowsill will not do for peppers) and keep plants from becoming pot-bound because this will permanently stunt plants. If seedlings are getting too big for their pot but the weather is still too cold outside, transplant them into bigger pots. Plant seedlings outside late May into fertile garden soil with lots of compost or decomposed manure. If your soil pH is greater than 7 (which is typical of clay soils in Southeast Michigan) add sulfur to acidify soil before planting. Space plants 1 ½ - 2ft apart. If plants begin to flower when plants are less than 1ft tall, hand remove early flowers for 2 weeks until plants are bigger. Stake pepper plants if they begin to fall over.
Harvest when fully red ripe. Can be eaten fresh or dried.
Seed Saving Instructions (for gardeners):
Peppers are primarily self-pollinating but insects will cause significant cross pollination between pepper varieties. To keep variety pure, cover plants with low tunnels (using thin row cover fabric) to exclude pollinators. Or, isolation distance: 300 ft. Always save seeds from the best plants. Save seeds from fully ripe peppers. Cut open peppers and remove seeds. Rinse and dry seeds.[[end tab]]