The Scotch Bonnet Remix Story – Crossing Hot Pepper From Different Species

Everyone tells me that different pepper species don’t cross.

That’s not been my experience.

Years ago I gave up growing our strain of Hot Paper Lantern Habanero because it got so crossed up with sweet peppers.

(That would be Capsicum chinense x Capsicum annuum.)

And last year, we started seeing a similar situation with our Scotch Bonnet peppers.

But this time I didn’t see this unexpected cross pollination as a problem but as an OPPORTUNITY!

Here’s the story of our Scotch Bonnet Remix

Origin Story

In 2018, I noticed something different in our patch of Scotch Bonnets.

There were two plants that didn’t look like Scotch Bonnets. Instead of the round ruffled bonnet shape with thin walls, these were longer fruits with thicker walls.

One plant had yellow fruits, and the other had red fruits.

They did not look like any of the other hot peppers we grow.

The seeds for these two plants must have been pollinated with the pollen from a Non Scotch Bonnet Plant. Probably a sweet pepper.

I cautiously tasted the fruit, starting with the tip of the fruit where there is usually less heat. It was definitely not as hot as a Scotch Bonnet or Habanero.

I tasted higher on the fruit and then a little higher.

Oh, there was that heat. 

Yeah, it was hot. At least as hot as a Cayenne pepper. And those thicker walls made for a good crunch.

So I did what I do whenever I find something different in the garden.

I saved some seeds!

2019 Scotch Bonnet Remix Grow Out

This year we grew 100 plants from the crossed seed I saved last year. (This would be the F2 generation.)

Through the growing season I most left these plants alone occasionally peeking to see if there was fruit.

And then two weeks ago, it was harvest time!

Harvest Time

We pulled each plant out by the roots and looked at the fruit set.

Each plant was different. There was a range of fruit sizes and shapes. Some plants also had a lot of ripe yellow or red fruit. And others were mostly green.

The first thing we evaluated was yield and earliness. We tossed any plants that weren’t heavy with rip fruit a pile.

We laid anything that had a lot of mature yellow or red fruit on the ground.

We had two rows of plants that met our yield/ripeness criteria.

Where’s the heat?

I noticed that someone had nibbled heavily on a few plants. I’m guessing a mouse.

I wondered, how hot could these be if mice were eating them?

I tasted a pepper from this nibbled plant. These peppers had no heat.

I tasted peppers from a few more plants and realized that several plants were mild. (Some were definitely spicy!)

Now we had a bunch of potential plants. And some might not be too hot.

We would have to taste any plant we wanted to keep for seed to see if it was spicy.

As long as the plants turn out to be mild, it is easy to keep tasting but as soon as we hit a spicy fruit we would need to take a break.

We had to narrow down the contenders.

(One unexpected thing was that the most nibbled on plant was amazing. It was so sweet and delicious! Not what I expected from this cross.)

Focus on the best

Here is how we proceeded with the next phase of selection

  • choose your favourite plant based on appearance
  • explain to the rest of the team why you like it
  • taste with caution

If the plants were mild

  • put mild plants in one pile
  • taste your next favourite plant

If the plant was hot

  • put hot plants in a different pile
  • wait 10-15 minutes for your mouth to cool down before you can play again

At first we chose from all the plants in the selection area but the more we talked about the plants, the more we noticed different aspects of the plants and fruit.

We started to organize the remaining non tasted plants into groups to then tackled each group one at a time.

There was the smaller fruit:

The rounder fruit:

And a few other groups.

Where are the seeds?

We found a couple phenomenal individuals.

They had ripeness, they had yield, they had heat, and they looked beautiful.

But what they didn’t have were seeds. Or I should say they barely had any seed.

This is a challenge for a seed grower. It is hard to grow a seed crop out of a crop with no seeds.

I kept a few of these and we will see what happens after one more grow out. But I think their fate might be sealed.

The final selection

Once we chose the plants that met all our criteria, I harvested a handful of fruit from each plant. I placed all the fruit from each plant in the same pint.

There was one tray of yellow spicy fruit we liked.

There was one tray of red spicy fruit we liked.

And one tray of mild yellow fruit we liked (and the two red fruit with next to no seeds.)

What to do with the extra peppers?

When you start with 100 pepper plants and you only keep 20 pints for seed, you wind up with a lot of extra peppers.

Don’t worry, we’ve got plans for these extra peppers.

We will extract the seed from the remaining selected spicy peppers and list them this winter on our website as our Scotch Bonnet Remix.

We’ve stripped all the fruit from the plants that didn’t meet our ripeness criteria and we’re offering this to our vegetable clients who want bulk hot peppers.

I will also take out my crock shortly and ferment a huge batch of hot sauce.

And next year?

In 2020, we will grow 20 plants of each selection to see what happens.We will keep sweets isolated from the hots.

We will choose the most promising lines to keep working with.

Of course, I’ll keep you posted!

Do you have any mysterious crosses in your garden this year?

Did you save any seed?

2 thoughts on “The Scotch Bonnet Remix Story – Crossing Hot Pepper From Different Species

  1. If you had rooted clones of the low-seed 901-25 F1 plant, kept it alive over winter, you could back-cross some of its progeny F2 seedlings to further reinforce that trait. Some individuals clone easily, others not. I have a Fresno, Fatalii and Carolina Reaper that clone easily, grow and fruit very well in successive summers. And a HotRod serrano that is more difficult to root, more failures to root, but is just a beautiful, prolific, early bearer. Lots of variation of clonability even in the same seedlot. Or consider overwintering the entire F1 901-25 plant in a pot to give pollen the following year for backcrosses to your saved F2 seed.

    Or you could ratchet up your propagation skills to give a hundred 901-25 clones every spring for planting out and selling the fruit at the farmers market.

    I saved clones of 2022 F1 Cherrybomb pepper (super yummy) after learning that this commercial cross might be slated for extinction (state of horrified shock, blended with panic). Farmer here in mid-Oregon gave me permission to take whatever cuttings I wanted. Chose 10 handsome plants for cuttings from several hundred individuals. All eventually rooted, but only 5 different clones survived, the rest died from various incompatabilities with my overwintering system, or they were ultimately too weak to thrive. That is okay, though, as I will only use these remaining hardy F1 clones to hand pollinate summer of 2023, emasculated, F2 Cherrybomb flowers, attempting to stabilize and/or reinforce the heat, flavor, and thick flesh characteristics. I also pay attention to ease of cloning and crop load. Saved seed for 2024 will be from individual F2’s that actually demonstrate a little flavor, at the very minimum. Must have flavor! It will be a work in progress.

    My cheap home made pepper ID labels:
    I tag each emasculated, hand-pollenated flower (I make intentional hybrid seeds every summer) with 4 inches of whimpy string/thread tied loosely in a knot, with a 1 inch square of light colored masking tape folded to itself around one end of the string with the date and any other details written on it. Works very well if pencil is used, as it does not fade in sunlight. Some Sharpie markers work OK.

    Cherrybomb F2’s seeds totally independently assort their genetics. A real mess! I grew some out one summer. It is hard to find that special flavor in the F2 generation (or the heat), but any F2’s that have it (maybe one in 20 plants) will get reinforced, in theory, by adding genes from the F1 parent line. Next season, grow out the backcross seeds, maintaining the same F1 clone for pollen, further increasing the flavor gene frequency of future generations, etc. And heat. And flesh thickness. Lather, rinse, repeat. Or this might be a total waste of time.

    It’d be fun to somehow get this flavor and heat combo stabilized or intensified for heirloom purposes. I have never tasted the Cherrybomb flavor profile anywhere else. It is pretty special and makes a super tasty shake-on-your-food sauce. Fatalii and Scotch Bonnet also have unique floral flavors not found elsewhere. They make wonderful yellow hot sauces too, our favorite super-hot. High on my list of beautiful sauces is red ripe Anaheim and thick-wall Cayenne. My universal pepper sauce recipe: 1/2 cup white vinegar (=4 ounces), 28 ounces pepper/water, usually 16-18 ounces peppers and 10-12 ounces water (total including vinegar must always add up to 32 ounces), but that ratio of peppers to water is negotiable. 4 ounces vinegar is not negotiable. Simmer on low, lid on, for 12 minutes, let cool. Blend fine with 1/2 to 1 tsp salt. Keeps well in refrig for 10 years or more if necessary. Do not let this sauce contact metal lids for extended periods of time, unless you like the taste of corroded metal. I use a double layer of Saran-type plastic film over the mouth of a (recycled) jar when using metal lids. Trim excess plastic off with scissors. Keeps vinegar, salt and water from corroding the lid. Good tip. Always label what kind of sauce is in the jar, date made, recipe details, etc. It’s hard to remember all the details 12 months from now, when storing various batches from various years in that spare refrig.

    End-of-season sauces made with green unripe or half ripe fruit, harvested just before killing frost, are a good way to maximize your annual sauce yields and provide interesting green flavors. They never turn out bad as sauce! It’s a shame to waste green tasty peppers.

    I have grown most of the cherry pepper iterations out there, but it’s hard to find the special, abundant, rich flavor of the Cherrybomb. Timebomb has roughly half the flavor.

    University of New Mexico pepper breeding program, Dr Paul Bosland, has no idea what compound is responsible for the Cherrybomb flavor or where else it might occur in nature. I asked his assistant to check for me. A person just has to work with the genetics he can get his hands on. Thanks for letting me air my pepper aspirations! My wife thinks I have an autism just for peppers.

    Just think how bland our diets would be without the various pepper flavors and heat levels. I guess some like it bland. For others, peppers are a blessing.

    1. Rooted clones of the pepper would have been a great way to go.

      And if I were to do a project like this, I would definitely go that root.

      I love your cherry bomb plans. I hope it proves fruitful!


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