Also known as Cubanelle, Gypsy Pepper is an heirloom, hybrid type of pepper native to the United States. It is a hand-bred cross between a bell and sweet Italian rams horn pepper with the looks of jalapeño. It averages around 4 to 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. With its long length and wide cavity comes a lobe that looks like a bell pepper, but its tapering shape resembles that of jalapeño. It has a thin skin that starts as whitish or yellowish-green. As it matures, it transitions to yellow, orange, and finally red. Despite this, it can be harvested at any stage of maturity. Likewise, it provides a crisp, succulent, and juicy texture. It has a very sweet yet slightly acidic flavor, accompanied by mild floral notes. It doesn’t provide any heat at all that it’s classified at 0 Scoville Units. Thus, it’s noted for its prolific sweetness, which is intensified as the pepper ripens. It is best consumed raw, but its skin or walls are thick enough for frying and stuffing too.
Nevertheless, it is the Petoseed Company that we should thank for the existence of these peppers. Since 1950, this seed company from Southern California is noted for its hybridization of peppers and tomatoes. It’s also known for the production of seed varieties that can resist certain diseases. As a matter of fact, when a disease almost wiped out San Diego, California in the early 1970s, Petoseed bred a tomato that is resistant to the disease. As a result, the tomato industry came back and the company got the credit. In 1980, the tobacco mosaic virus struck again. But this time, Petoseed bred gypsy pepper to resist this disease. A year later, the pepper was given the distinction for its garden value. Nowadays, gypsy peppers are being grown principally by small farms. Thus, they are mostly available for purchase in specialty grocers and farmers’ markets across the United States and Mexico.
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade)
Genus: Capsicum (Pepper)
Species: Capsicum Annuum
Binomial Name: Capsicum Annuum ‘Gypsy’
Gypsy Pepper Trivia
- Gypsy pepper is 2,500 to 8,000 times milder than jalapeños.
- These peppers are actually fruits rather than vegetables. It is due to the fact that they are harvested from a flowering plant that contains seeds.
- Gypsy pepper started to gain its popularity as a quick-cooking sweet pepper. It became extremely popular within restaurants in the early 2000s.
Gypsy Pepper Buying Guide
- You can find gypsy peppers on farmers markets and local grocery stores, especially on the West Coast of the United States.
- Choose gypsy peppers based on its color. All these peppers start as whitish or yellow-green on the plant. They change to yellow, orange, and red as they mature. Thus, immature gypsy peppers are the most bitter among the colors. Orange and yellow ones are sweeter, with the red ones being the sweetest.
- Check the size of the gypsy peppers and choose the ones that are 4-6 inches long and 2 inches wide.
- Check out the pepper’s skin. Choose the ones that are thicker, firm, smooth, dry, and glossy. Avoid the ones that have soft spots or shriveled.
- If possible, buy organic gypsy peppers during its season. Organic ones might not be as perfectly shaped as the conventional or GMO ones, but they’re sweeter and more nutritious. Not to mention that they’re kinder to the planet too.
- As always, peppers from farmers’ markets are better than the ones in stores. Here, the products are usually organic and you might be able to taste them before you buy them.
Gypsy Pepper Production & Farming in Texas
All kinds of peppers are tropical perennials. These warm-season crops thrive in most Texas areas, where growers start sowing seeds indoors, in the spring or summer. Once the seeds germinate and start to outgrow the pot, they should be transplanted outside, provided that the temperature remains above 70ºF. If necessary, use a heating pad under the seed tray.
Gypsy plants can grow up to 3 feet tall. Yet, given the right conditions, they can easily produce 50-100 peppers per plant in a season. They should be planted on a well-drained soil that is rich in nutrients and have a pH level between 6.2 and 7. They also need full sun, with at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Depending on the cultivar, these peppers usually take 60 days to mature and they can grow up to 4-6 inches long. They will also change their color from white to green, to yellow, to orange, to red as they mature and get ready for harvest. When they are, start picking the peppers regularly as this will encourage the plant to continue producing. Cut the stems using a scissor of a sharp knife rather than pulling the peppers away from the plant to avoid damaging the branches.
Moreover, these plants are resistant to tobamovirus, a virus that causes white spots and damage to its leaves. Still, they are not resistant to cucumber mosaic virus, which is usually spread by aphids. In addition, the plant can also be susceptible to verticillium wilt, a fungus that can lead to the plant’s death. Thus, to avoid these, buy plants that have intact leaves, with no signs of lesions or cankers. Also, avoid planting a gypsy plant in the same location that a tomato or other pepper plant was sowed or grown the year before.
Conventional or organically grown, fruits and vegetables are essential components of a healthy diet. However, many of these contain potentially harmful pesticides, even after thorough washing, peeling, or scrubbing. Thus, what we can only do is to be aware of which items are the most or least contaminated.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American group that focuses on the advocacy of agricultural subsidies, pollutants, and toxic chemicals. They have created the Dirty Dozen List, which is being updated each year to rank fruits and vegetables that contain the highest pesticide contamination based on the samples tested by the USDA and FDA. However, this list doesn’t rank peppers. But, since they tested positive on pesticides that are known to be toxic to the brain, they’ve created their Dirty Dozen Plus™ list instead and included these peppers.
Between the years 2010 and 2012, the USDA found oxamyl, acephate, and chlorpyrifos in peppers. These toxic pesticides are banned from use on some crops. However, they’re still permitted to be used on sweet and hot peppers. Thus, it is better to buy organic peppers to reduce your pesticide consumption. If they’re unavailable or too expensive, we suggest you cook the conventional ones instead before eating them as heating these peppers can reduce the levels of pesticides. Or better yet, consider growing your own peppers organically.
Gypsy peppers are crops that thrive in both warm and cold climates. Thus, they grow in many states across America. Among them include California, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas. Fort Worth, Garland, and Hutto are the three major producers in the state of Texas.
Fresh gypsy peppers are commonly sold and priced by weight, either by the pound or kilogram. But, if you’re planning to buy on wholesale, go to your nearest local producer, and you can get these peppers in bushels, cartons, and even crates.
Enjoying Gypsy Peppers
Gypsy peppers are traditionally enjoyed raw or cooked. When eaten raw, they provide a more complex flavor than a bell pepper. Thus, its sweet taste works perfectly as a raw snack or a topper on pizzas, salads, and sandwiches. Even chopped ones are best served with dips. You can also stuff these peppers prior to baking or frying.
All fresh peppers are best kept unwashed, in a sealable and airtight container lined with paper towels. They should be stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, with a temperature that ranges between 40 and 45ºF. Properly stored, they will retain their freshness for 1-2 weeks. You may also marinate peppers in olive oil to extend its shelf life for up to 1 month. It’s also good to consider that peppers with thicker skins last longer than the thinner ones. And, whole peppers are more shelf-stable than the sliced ones. Meanwhile, you can also freeze fresh peppers. Spread them evenly, on a single layer in a sheet tray, and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the peppers onto freezer-safe bags. Here, it’ll last for up to 6 months but take note that frozen peppers can only be used in cooking. It’s not meant to be eaten raw as it requires further heat to kill the bacteria. But, to further retain its crispness, you can half-cook the peppers in oil prior to freezing. Fully cooked gypsy peppers usually last 3-5 days while pickled gypsy peppers can last for 1 year.
There are a lot of ways to cook gypsy peppers. Their thin walls make excellent frying peppers yet it can support and hold its shape when stuffed. Due to this, it also cooks evenly and is less likely to be undercooked. Roasting is also convenient as these peppers don’t require peeling. When charred, it gives a delectably smoky-sweetness that works perfectly on its own or as a side dish to hoagies or roasts. Moreover, pale or green-colored gypsy peppers are best-suited on Eastern European delicacies while the ripe red ones pair well on Mediterranean specialties. Nevertheless, regardless of its age, they pair well with grilled fish, poultry, corn, cheese, greens, and more.
Raw gypsy pepper is composed of 92% water, 3% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and 1% fat.
- Carbohydrates: Gypsy pepper is naturally low in calories, which are primarily composed of water and carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are mostly sugars, such as fructose and glucose, since they’re the ones that give these peppers their sweet taste.
- Fiber: Gypsy pepper contains small amounts of fiber, accounting for 2% by weight. Still, it makes a decent source of fiber.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Gypsy pepper is an excellent source of vitamins C, B6, K, and A. As a matter of fact, one medium-sized gypsy pepper provides 200% of RDI for vitamin C, making this fruit one of the richest dietary sources of this nutrient. It’s also a good plant-based source of potassium, manganese, copper, and folate. It is also loaded with antioxidants.
- Gypsy pepper promotes weight loss because of its high water content.
- The high levels of vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant. It helps in boosting immunity and repairing cells, which retards the human aging process. It can also reduce the development of gout significantly.
- The high levels of vitamin B6 reduces the development of rheumatoid arthritis. But if you already have one, gypsy peppers can help control the pain.
- The high levels of vitamin K contributes to bone health and wound healing while reducing the formation of blood clotting.
- The high levels of vitamin A promotes healthy vision. It helps in preventing cancer too.
- Potassium improves heart health while folate improves our body’s function. Folate is especially important to consume during pregnancy.
When Are Gypsy Peppers in Season in Texas?
To find out when Gypsy Peppers are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.