Louisianians have been appreciating the qualities of spicy foods for generations. The fire in Louisiana's cooking is provided primarily by the use of hot peppers or products made from them. Thanks to modern breeding efforts, we can now grow bell peppers that ripen to a red, yellow, or orange color, and can even be purple, lavender, or chocolate brown when unripe. Many pepper varieties are attractive enough to use as ornamentals in the landscape as well as in the vegetable garden.
There are a number of varieties of ornamental peppers selected for their colorful foliage and colorful fruit. The fruit of the ornamental pepper is perfectly edible, although not very hot.
Early March to mid-April is the ideal time to plant your peppers. Bell peppers are more sensitive to the heat, so plant them early in spring. Hot peppers and other sweet peppers are much more heat tolerant.
Pepper is native to the tropics and has probably been cultivated for thousands of years. When Christopher Columbus came to the Carribbean and sampled the pepper vegetable being grown by the natives, it reminded him of the black pepper familiar to him, so he called it the pepper as we call it today. However, Columbus was mistaken. The plant isn't related to black pepper. It belongs to an entirely different genus, capisicum.
Peppers are a member of the nightshade family, making them related to tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco, eggplant, and petunias.