It’s easy to make your own hot pepper flakes

January 1, 2014
Some like hot and some like it really hot. For those heat seekers, Diablito, a Thai pepper, is the pepper of choice.

Her years of serving at a now-defunct Dandee Donuts gave Aunt Mary a hearty laugh and a mischievous smile. Family lore was that to please her husband Hank, she cooked her spagehetti sauce with cinnamon.

After all, mole is a Mexican sauce that combines chili peppers and chocolate, so combining a warm spice like cinnamon with a sharp taste of tomato sauce might work.

Once around the new year, we asked Aunt Mary about cinnamon in spaghetti sauce. Aunt Mary covered her mouth and laughingly confessed that as a new bride she had the family over for spaghetti dinner.

She was so flustered that she mistook the cinnamon for black pepper. She then tried to cover it up the sweet, earthy taste of cinnamon and spaghetti sauce by adding hot red pepper flakes.

The family ate politely if somewhat startled at the hot pepper cinnamon spaghetti sauce.

The good news is that you can grow your own red pepper flakes.

There are several new varieties of hot peppers (Capsicum annuum) for 2014. Harris Seeds offers the Ghost Pepper. Contact Harris seeds by phone: 800-544-7938, online at or by mail at Harris Seeds, P.O. Box 24966, Rochester, NY 14624. Ghost pepper, also known as Bhut Jolokia, may be one of the hottest peppers in the world. While a common jalapeño pepper might register around 8,000 Scoville units, the wrinkled red ghost pepper will go as high as 1,000,000 Scoville units.

They are slow growing at first, but by late season they can grow as high four feet tall. Ghost pepper fruits are medium- sized, around three to three-and-a-half inches long. Expect your first harvest 95 days after planting.

The hot pepper Diablito is new for 2014 from W. Atlee Burpee & Co., 300 Park Ave., Warminster, PA 18974, online at It’s described as flame-thrower hot. It is a Thai pepper exclusive to Burpee that came to the United States from Portugal.

Diablito has two-inch-long, conical red fruit on short 20- to 25-inch-tall plants. Diablito matures in 80 to 90 days.

New from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (PO Box 299, Waterville, ME 04903 or online at ) is a habanero with just a little heat. With only about 800 Scoville units, they are barely warm to the tongue. Numex Suave Orange comes through New Mexico State University with a fruity, citrus flavor with a sweet apricot aroma.

Expect very high yields of up to 100 peppers on each plant. These two-and-a-quarter-inch peppers are a brighter yellow-orange than most habanero peppers.

At 95 days to maturity, these are earlier than most habanero varieties.

Because peppers are a warm-season crop, they will not do well if temperatures are below 60 degrees F.

Sow the seeds in light, well-drained soil indoors six to eight weeks before you want to set them in the garden.

Hot pepper seeds germinate in 16 to 20 days. Thin the seedlings to three inches apart or plant in individual small pots.

Harden off your seedlings gradually before planting them outside. Set out pepper transplants as soon as the weather is warm, under black plastic mulch to absorb the sun’s heat. Avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen or you will get lots of leaves and few fruits.

To make your own hot pepper flakes, wash and rinse the peppers, remove the stems and set them on foil-wrapped cookie sheets.

Bake the peppers in a very low oven, only 160 to 170 degrees F. Roast them for about eight to 10 hours, cool completely, and process in a food processor or blender until cut into fresh pepper flakes.

Even a few pepper plants will give you enough flakes to last a season, and surely enough to cover any cinnamon mistakes in the kitchen. Aunt Mary is laughing.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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