Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pot of gold in a pepper

A few years ago, my meter reader stopped to talk to me while I was working in the greenhouse.  He told me about this wonderful pepper that his family had grown for years, called a Melrose.  He gave me some seeds the next time he was at the farm and told me the history of these peppers.  When many Italian farmers migrated to Melrose Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, they brought with them seeds for these wonderful sweet red peppers.  Those farmers brought bushels of them to the farmers' market in Melrose Park, and the peppers came to be known simply as Melrose peppers.

I gratefully took the seeds and have been growing them for years.  I looked on line from time to time to see if I could find the seeds, just in case.  Nice to have a backup, you know.  Well, lo and behold, I found the seeds a couple of years ago, and with it the same story my meter reader had told me.  Truly, that is their origin in the US. 

One of my greenhouse plant customers grows nothing but Melrose peppers and usually gets a dozen plants a year.  Alas, this year it was not to be!  Steve had some problems with germination in the greenhouse, and by the time I discovered what was going on out there, I found that he had used every last Melrose seed, and his germination rate was about 5%, as opposed to the 90% to 95% germination rate I always got.  Only nine plants total!  I sold six to my regular Melrose customer and kept three for myself, planting one in a bed well away from the main garden.  There can be some cross pollination with peppers and I grow a lot of others that might mix up the results, so I wanted the "mother plant" to be isolated.

My customer had promised to save me some seeds.  But then he stopped by my booth to tell me that the rabbits got all but one of his plants.

I am so relieved that my lone plant sitting in the middle of a bunch of tomatoes in a small caged area behind my garage had three beautiful red peppers on it.  Two of them were very ripe.  I picked them a few days ago, pulled the seeds out and spread them on a plate.  I let them dry a couple more days, packaged them and can now rest assured that I will have Melrose peppers galore next year! 

Here are some pictures of the peppers and the seeds.  Back in business!  Melrose peppers will live on at Ceres & Co.!

Melrose peppers in the garden
Two extra ripe ones harvested for seed

Chock full of seeds
Big ripe bundles of seeds

Too many to count!

Melrose pepper seeds in their origami packet


  1. That is good - I hope to grow some more next year if you have the plants.

  2. Looking good as of now. I saved the seeds from a third pepper, so I'm good to go!