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'Jalapenogate is a real thing'

Mystery peppers cause headaches in Sacramento area, nationwide

Pepper seed and transplant mixups abound across the U.S. this year. Aimee Ring of the Facebook Sacramento Gardening Group planted this pepper that a friend grew from seed, thinking it was a purple bell. It clearly isn't.

Pepper seed and transplant mixups abound across the U.S. this year. Aimee Ring of the Facebook Sacramento Gardening Group planted this pepper that a friend grew from seed, thinking it was a purple bell. It clearly isn't. Courtesy Aimee Ring, Sacramento Gardening Group on Facebook

Call it “jalapenogate.” Or the Great Summer Pepper Mystery of 2023. Something’s up with our backyard pepper crops and it’s perplexing plant people coast to coast.

Gardeners planted purple bell pepper or (most often) jalapeno seedlings, expecting to harvest those varieties this summer. They got a surprise – the wrong peppers.

Instead of purple bells or glossy green (or red) jalapenos, they got peppers that turned yellow! (Sometimes hot, sometimes not.)

On online garden community bulletin boards, gardeners have shared their mystery veggies.

“A friend gave me this as a seedling, and said it was a purple bell pepper. Doesn’t look like any bell I’ve grown before,” wrote Aimee Ring on Sacramento Gardening Group’s Facebook page. “Any ideas?” (The photo definitely looked like banana pepper.)

Similar posts first popped up throughout Oklahoma and Texas; states where peppers tend to mature earlier. “Jalapenogate is a real thing,” wrote one North Texas gardener.

It’s not just amateur gardeners who were surprised by wrong peppers. Several produce growers who sell peppers at farmers markets or supply restaurants have been affected, too.

Green Acres Nursery & Supply, which has seven nurseries in the Sacramento region plus two in Texas, sold some of the mislabeled peppers this spring. Like their customers, the retailer had no idea.

“We received product from growers who were provided with the wrong seeds,” explains Greg Gayton, Green Acres garden guru. “It’s an unfortunate situation because gardeners nurture their plants for a while before they realize the peppers are not what they’d hoped for.”

Customers who got the mismarked peppers can contact Green Acres.

“At Green Acres, we’re happily taking care of our customers who have the incorrect product,” Gayton says. “Simply reach out to the store directly so we can make it right.”

Yellow pepper not a jalapeno
An Oklahoma gardener posted this for #jalapenogate.

Jalapenogate has been a headache for pepper growers nationwide. One major Midwest grower recounted their saga.

Ali Cude of Sedan Floral, a huge wholesale nursery in Kansas, wrote on Facebook, “It has been brought to our attention that a lot of the ‘jalapeno’ peppers from this spring are producing yellow peppers, either bananas or a hot wax variety. We immediately began looking at how much seed we ordered, what we sowed and how much remained. We determined fairly quickly that our inventories were accurate and that we needed to continue to search for the problem. We maintain and monitor inventories rigorously on all crops produced, as well as tags and trays used each season.

“After further investigation, this issue appears to be much more widespread than we could have imagined,” Cude added. “Greenhouses across the country are reporting the same issues. Complaints are also being made of seed packets sold at retail.”

Sedan Floral grows plants for nurseries in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska and New Mexico.

“It is believed that we received mislabeled seed packages from the seed vendor,” Cude wrote. “There is evidence that more than one seed vendor may have been distributing the mislabeled seed. It is also possible that more than just jalapenos may be affected; however, they are the most popular variety that consumers have been reporting. We have been in contact with our seed vendors but have not received definitive answers.

“We are sorry for all the headaches this has created; we are incredibly frustrated as well. We know that this does not help remedy the situation, but we hope that it will bring some clarity. We strive to produce the very best products for our customers every season and hope that you will continue to support your local independent garden centers for many seasons to come.”

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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