Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

Update on #jalapeñogate: Mystery peppers identified

Possible varieties matched up with mislabeled jalapeños and purple bells; listen to podcast with Farmer Fred

Fred Hoffman created this chart to show how similar the seeds from very different peppers can look.

Fred Hoffman created this chart to show how similar the seeds from very different peppers can look.

Courtesy Fred Hoffman

It wasn’t just jalapeños that got mixed up in #jalapeñogate. Probably five pepper varieties distributed in at least 14 states were entangled in this seed distribution mess.

By now, most gardeners who bought jalapeños – or purple bells – have discovered whether they’re growing the pepper they thought they purchased. But thousands found out they did not.

Farmer Fred Hoffman and I chatted about #jalapeñogate during this week’s edition of his podcast, “Beyond the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred” – “Why Your Jalapeño Peppers May Not Be the Real Deal.” Listen to it here:

For his newsletter, Hofffman also recapped the #jalapeñogate saga and added his own experience. Pepper seeds tend to look alike, he noted. Also, online seed vendors may be suspect. Seed sleuths theorize the mislabeled seeds were imported from overseas, possibly China.

Peppers aren’t the only seeds that get mixed up; it can happen with all sorts of vegetables and flowers but rarely on such a scale.

Hoffman recalled, “A few years ago, I was on the hunt for a particular gaillardia, also known as blanketflower. The particular variety I was searching for was ‘Arizona Apricot.’ This red-yellow colorful perennial puts on its best show of daisy-like flowers in the summer.

“I finally found a source for this particular seed via Amazon. Imagine my surprise when the seed arrived, in a nondescript small plastic bag, labeled ‘Gaillardia seed from Qatar.’ Qatar? What the heck, let’s try it. When it blossomed the next summer, it was not ‘Arizona Apricot.’ Oh well, an inexpensive mistake on my part, shopping in a lightly regulated, online marketplace.

“But imagine this scenario playing out on a much larger scale: an American seed distributor who purchases seeds overseas for their clients here, which include home gardeners, wholesale and retail nurseries, as well as farmers growing particular varieties for restaurants and canneries. That is the current situation in the world of Jalapeño peppers – as well as a myriad of other vegetable and ornamental seeds – where seeds grown overseas were mixed up before shipment. And it’s only after the plants grown from those seeds started fruiting that the alarm bells went off.”

Hoffman noted research by John Porter of the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension. Porter tentatively charted out the identities of what was planted and what they turned out to be. Plants labeled as green jalapeño cultivars were actually yellow ‘Caloro’ jalapeño hybrids. The ‘Tam’ jalapeño plants, a mild green variety, grew into sweet banana peppers.

Not only jalapeños were mislabeled. Hungarian sweet wax peppers turned out to be the bell pepper variety ‘Diamond.’ ‘Chocolate Beauty’ bell peppers were actually ‘Red Cherry’ peppers. And ‘Purple Beauty’ bells were Hungarian hot wax peppers.

So, some of the jalapenos actually were jalapeños – just not the variety on the label.

For more on Farmer Fred’s podcast and newsletter:

How did your peppers grow this summer? Did you get what you expected? Did you have other garden surprises? Tell us. Email us at


0 comments have been posted.

Taste Summer! E-cookbook


Find our summer recipes here!

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Local News

Ad for California Local

Thanks to our sponsor!

Summer Strong ad for

Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

Taste Spring! E-cookbook


Find our spring recipes here!