From the plant genus Capsicum (related to potatoes and tomatoes) , the fruits are variously named capsicum, bell pepper, or pepper.
In Australia they are typically called capsicum, and we leave the word ‘pepper’ for the berries from our native Tasmanian Pepperberry tree (Tasmannia lanceolate) and for the black pepper corns from the Piper nigrum vine. As an aside, did you know that white pepper is simply the black pepper corns without their outer skin?
Late last Spring I planted capsicum seeds into pots hoping they would sprout in the warmth of my sunny front porch. Three turned into seedlings and eventually I planted these outdoors. I had never grown these plants before and I failed to research their best habitats, and seldom nurtured them with compost. Nevertheless the three survived but didn’t flourish – my poor watering habits are almost guaranteed to have been the reason. They all produced flowers and one plant eventually produced one small capsicum. I tried to remember to water and over time it swelled. I let it age, and finally picked it when a beautiful rich deep red.
The skin was firm but not hard, and its ‘shell’ membrane was juicy and sweet – so that it tasted well in a salad and then sliced on a home-made pizza. I have retained some of the seed and later, when spring arrives, I will plant with the expectation of growing a crop.
Meanwhile, over a sad and dying ginger plant in a pot in my sunny porch, I threw the soil from pots which contained ungerminated capsicum seed. Of course, nature worked it’s mysterious ways and up came a seedling. I didn’t pull it out because it didn’t fit with my memory of any weeds. I let what turned out to be a capsicum bush grow, and it has been incredibly productive.
The plant grew stacks of flowers and so I nipped the tops and ends occasionally in the belief the plant would never support so much fruit. Again the fruit was small. Now most are reddening richly. Because these are small, they are perfect as part of a meal for one so there is no wastage.
I realise many readers will have grown capsicums reliably and easily and think nothing of their achievement. For me, this is a new success (albeit a very small and fragile success) and is one to be built on in future seasons. Before then I will gather more information in order to grow more and better capsicums.
Tino Carnevale, during a Gardening Australia broadcast in 2011, shows how he prepared the soil and planted capsicums. Read information here. Watch the video here.