Are you looking to add a mild pepper to your hot pepper garden? Are you longing to pick and eat crisp and tasty peppers straight from the plant?
Let me introduce you to the Italian sweet pepper. This high-yielding plant grows bushy but will need staking as the fruits are large.
I used to be all about hot peppers. But over the years, I have realized that you can only use so much hot sauce, dry rub and spicy salsas.
There are several varieties of Italian sweet peppers; the Friggitello  and the Lombardo are among the most popular.
Do not assume all Lombardis are sweet. They have different heat levels. Read the seed packet before you buy.
Sweet Italian Pepper Quick facts:
- Grow: Start from seed or buy a young plant from a local nursery
- Plant Characteristics: Bushy, about 80 cm / 30 inches tall
- Fruits: ca. 20 cm / 8 inches long, conical shape
- Support: I recommend staking as fruits grow large and heavy
- Harvest: Buy at well-stocked grocery stores or harvest from green to red (for full sweetness)
- How to use Italian Sweet Peppers
- How to Grow Italian Sweet Peppers
- Caring for Your Italian Sweet Pepper Plants
- You Can Harvest Fruits Green or Red
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Summing It Up
How to use Italian Sweet Peppers
The real fun starts when you have bought or harvested your peppers.
Here are my favorite ways to enjoy them.
1. Eating Them Raw
Italian sweet peppers are fresh and sweet when eaten raw. This is also the best way to enjoy the texture and natural sweetness fully:
- Pick and Snack: Right off the plant or slice into strips or rings and enjoy them as a healthy and tasty snack.
- Dip and Munch: Dip raw strips in hummus, tzatziki, or a mango and scotch bonnet hot sauce for a flavorful and crunchy appetizer.
- Add Color to Salads: Mix slices into salads for color, texture and sweetness. Pick some green and some fully ripe red for a true taste sensation. Pairs really well with leafy greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
2. Make your salad a meal
Use them to elevate your salads from a side dish to a meal or at least a starter.
- Sweet Pepper Medley: Mix red, green, and orange sweet pepper slices, drizzle with olive oil, and season with sea salt and pepper. Yummy!
- Antipasto Salad: Create an antipasto salad using Italian sweet peppers, olives, cured meats, and fresh mozzarella. Serve with a fresh vinaigrette for a taste of Italy.
3. Grilling Them
If you like smokiness, grilling peppers should be right up your alley. The char releases fantastic flavors and adds more layers of sweetness.
It’s as easy as 1-2-3.
- Prepare the Peppers: Cut them in half, remove seeds and membranes, and coat lightly with olive oil. Season with sea salt.
- Grill to Perfection: Now comes the fun part. Place on a hot grill, skin-side down. Be patient and grill until the skin is charred and blistered. It can take as long as 5-7 minutes.
- Peel and Enjoy: When ready, leave to cool slightly and peel off the skin. You are left with tender flesh perfect for sandwiches, pasta dishes, or serves as a side dish.
4. Enjoying Them Stuffed
Stuffing peppers is a classic. And there is a reason it is a classic: it is easy and tastes really good.
- Classic Stuffing: Fill green or red peppers with cooked rice, ground meat, onions, garlic, and spices. Bake until tender and the stuffing is cooked through.
- Veggie Delight: Looking for a vegetarian alternative? Stuff them with a mixture of quinoa, black beans, corn, and diced tomatoes. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake until the stuffing is cooked and the top is golden.
- Cheese Lovers’ Paradise: Sweet peppers pair beautifully with cheese. Fill with cream cheese, cheddar, and herbs for a rich, creamy treat.
5. More Tasty Alternatives
We grow a lot of peppers.
Here are 3 household favorites that work equally well with frozen and fresh peppers. But you will lose the texture and crunch when you freeze peppers; fresh is always better.
- Sautéed: Sauté with onions and garlic. Make sure you cut frozen peppers before they thaw. Great with fajitas, tacos, stir-fries, or as a topping.
- Pickle Them: Pickling is a fun way to preserve fruits and vegetables. Makes a tangy and crunchy addition to sandwiches and charcuterie boards.
- Soups and Sauces: Puree and use as a base for soups, sauces, stews, or dips. Adds sweetness adds depth to your dishes.
- Balance hot sauces and salsas: Use them to balance pepper salsas, hot sauces, and pepper pastes.
How to Grow Italian Sweet Peppers
It all starts with the basics – planting the seeds. Follow these steps to kickstart your journey:
- Select Quality Seeds: What do you mean by quality seeds, you ask? Look for seeds that are firm, dry, and free from damage. Make sure they’re labeled as sweet pepper seeds to avoid a hot surprise com harvest time.
- Choose the Right Time: Timing is everything in gardening. Plant your seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before your region’s last expected frost date. The fruits need time to grow and develop.
- Prepare the Soil: Fill seed trays with a pre-moistened seed starting mix. Ensure good drainage to prevent waterlogging.
- Plant the Seeds: Place seeds on the surface and cover the pot. I have experienced a higher germination rate when seeds are exposed to light.
- Keep it Warm and Bright: Temperature should be in the low 20s Celsius / 70s Fahrenheit for optimal germination. Consider using a heat mat and a grow light if there are not 8+ hours of natural sunlight.
- Maintain Moisture: Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. A spray bottle can help you avoid watering too much. Watch for condensation and air out the pots by lifting the cover every other day or so.
- Watch for Germination: From my experience, it can take 20-30 days for seeds to germinate. Be patient!
Caring for Your Italian Sweet Pepper Plants
Your journey continues as the sweet pepper seeds sprout and grow into seedlings and young plants. Here’s how to nurture them:
- Transplant with Care: When your seedlings have at least two pairs of true leaves, transplant them into larger pots. Handle the delicate roots gently. Unsure when to pot up? It is time to pot when you see roots through the drain holes.
- Provide Adequate Sunlight: Sweet peppers thrive in full sun, so ensure they get at least 8 hours of sunlight daily. If there is not enough sunlight, use grow lights for best results.
- Move outdoors: You can move plants outdoors when the minimum daily temperature is above 15 degrees Celsius / 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and there is no risk of frost.
- Feed Them Right: Fertilize your pepper plants with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks.
- Protect from Frost: Sweet peppers are sensitive to cold. Cover plants or bring them indoors if frost threatens.
- Watch the pH: Maintain the soil pH at around 6.0-6.8 for optimal growth.
- Prune When Necessary: Trim back any yellowing leaves or branches to encourage healthy growth.
You Can Harvest Fruits Green or Red
Finally, the moment you have been waiting for has arrived – it is harvesting time. You have two options:
- Harvest green fruits early: technically unripe, the fruits taste fresh with crisp texture.
- Harvest red fruits: Ripe fruits turn red or orange, delivering full sweetness and a softer crunch.
Here’s how I harvest my plants:
- Wait for the Right Time: Green or red, it is your choice. There is no right or wrong.
- Use Pruning Shears: Use precision garden scissors to cut the fruits while minimizing the risk of damaging the plant.
- Use or Preserve: Fresh is always best, but you can also freeze or pickle the fruits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I grow Italian sweet peppers in a container?
Absolutely! Choose a large container, at least 20 cm / 8 inches deep, and follow the planting and care instructions above.
Do they come in different colors?
Most turn red when ripe, but some varieties stay green or turn orange.
How do I protect my plants from pests?
Neem oil and companion planting with garlic and herbs like basil and oregano works well for me. And always isolate infected plants.
Are Italian sweet peppers hot?
No, but read the seed packet before you buy. There are plenty of hybrids and some have similar names and deliver serious levels of heat.
Summing It Up
Here is my attempt at convincing you to grow Italian sweet peppers. I admit I am biased, but I do encourage you to grow a plant or two. It is relatively easy; you can use a pot or container and harvest plenty of fruits.
- Choose quality seeds
- Start seeds indoors early (8-10 weeks before the last frost)
- Provide adequate light, warmth, and care as they grow
- Harvest green or bright red for the sweetest flavor
- Enjoy sweet Italian peppers in salads, sandwiches, or roasted dishes
All photos are from my garden; if you want to use any of them, you must get my permission first.