Sweet and hot banana pepper plants (genus Capsicum) are easy to grow and plentiful producers. These plants offer nice flavor to summer dishes. Yet, if you forget which plant is hot and which is sweet, you may have to test them to see if the pepper is hot or sweet. But there are ways to prevent this mix-up.
Plant Them Properly
Do not plant sweet banana peppers and hot banana peppers close together. These two types of peppers can cross-pollinate, since they are very similar, and it will affect the flavor of both peppers. Sweet peppers will have a spiciness to them that is lacking in true sweet banana peppers, and the hot banana peppers will not be as strong as they would otherwise be. For best results plant them on opposite sides of your garden.
Sweet banana peppers and hot banana peppers look alike. For this reason, when you plant them, make sure you label them using garden labels and permanent markers. Make sure you check the tags on your banana pepper plants when you buy them for the mature image. Save those tags and check your mature peppers against the label if you aren't sure.
Check the Fruit
Look closely at the peppers once the fruit starts growing on the plants. Sweet banana peppers will grow out from the plant and up; though when they are larger, they will hang down due to their weight. Hot banana peppers will hang down from the beginning. Once you know which is which, place a plant tag in your garden so you can tell them apart.
Examine the color of the peppers. The hot banana peppers, also commonly called Hungarian wax peppers, tend to be a darker green than the sweet ones before they are completely ripe. As they ripen, both will turn various shades of gold and orange and will eventually turn red. If you put two of the green peppers side by side you should be able to tell them apart fairly easily.
Sample the Peppers
Cut into a pepper that has already been harvested. Smell the pepper or take a small taste of it. Sweet banana peppers will not be overly spicy. Hot banana peppers will have a strong, spicy smell and a hotter taste to them. Keep all peppers from the same plant together so you will know which are which after you have tested one of them.
Hot banana peppers aren't as hot as other types of hot peppers, although they offer more bite than sweet banana peppers. If you are looking at the peppers once picked, hot banana peppers tend to be light yellow to orange or red, while sweet peppers tend to turn from a deeper shade of yellow to orange to a deep shade of crimson. Hot peppers turn a deeper shade of green, however. Both types of banana peppers are about 6 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide.
Sweet banana pepper plants tend to produce more profusely than hot banana peppers, with the sweet peppers producing 25 to 30 pods per plant, according to Bonnie Plants. Store unwashed peppers, either sweet or hot, or washed and dried peppers, in the refrigerator in a plastic bag that is loosely closed.
A recipient of a business and technology degree from the master's program at West Coast University, Cindy Quarters has been writing professionally since 1984. Past experience as a veterinary technician and plenty of time gardening round out her interests. Quarters has had work featured in Radiance Magazine and the AKC Gazette.