The cubanelle pepper, also referred to as the Cuban pepper and Italian frying pepper is a slightly hot but mostly sweet pepper that can add flavor to a wide variety of dishes. If you like bell peppers, chances are you’ll love the cubanelle, a more flavorful bell pepper.
First appearing in shades of yellow or green, many varieties of the cubanelle pepper ripen into a red color, adding interest to dishes in which it is used and to gardens in which it is grown.
Read on for more on how to use the cubanelle pepper and how to grow it.
Looking for cubanelle pepper seeds? Check availability.
Characteristics of the Cubanelle Pepper
The cubanelle is an intriguing variety with a tinge of honey underlying its mild pepper flavor. It grows between 6 inches and 8 inches in length and is typically harvested commercially and sold when bright green.
Home gardeners, however, might want to harvest their cubanelle peppers a bit later when they display colors ranging from yellow to orange to red.
Cubanelles are often compared with bell peppers, but a major difference between them is the cubanelle’s thinner skin. That makes the cubanelle easier to sauté than bell peppers, but its skin is not so thin that it can’t work in stuffed pepper recipes.
History of the Cubanelle Pepper
The known history of today’s cubanelle pepper stretches back to the 15th century. Spanish and Portuguese explorers discovered the earliest versions during voyages to what is now known as South America and Central America.
While they were introduced in Europe after being brought back by those early explorers, cubanelle peppers didn’t find their way to the United States until 1932. Today, they are a great option for novice gardeners interested in growing their own peppers.
Ways to Enjoy the Cubanelle Pepper
The cubanelle pepper has some heat but is recognized more for its sweet flavor. To understand how mild the cubanelle is, compare its Scoville heat unit rating of 0-1,000 to the average jalapeño pepper’s Scoville rating of 5,000 units.
Because it is such a mild pepper, the cubanelle is perfect for stuffing with your favorite filling. You also might want to try the cubanelle as a pizza topping. Proving its versatility, the cubanelle also can be used in salads or as an addition to your favorite sandwich.
Health Benefits of the Cubanelle Pepper
Like other varieties of chili pepper, the cubanelle contains capsaicin, the chemical that gives them the heat that, to varying degrees, characterizes their flavor. Capsaicin also is the primary ingredient in topical medicines aimed at pain relief.
Beyond that, cubanelles are high in Vitamin C, which is vital in forming blood vessels, muscles, and bones. Vitamin C also protects the body from the formation of free radicals, molecules that may have a role in heart disease and cancer formation.
Additionally, cubanelles are an excellent source of Vitamin B6, which facilitates metabolism and produces energy for the body.
How to Plant Peppers
As a general rule, you should plant your seeds in indoor containers no less than a month before the anticipated date of the last frost of the winter.
When you’re ready to move your seedlings into your garden spot, ensure they will get sun each day for as long as possible. Cubanelles like loamy soil, so consider adding compost — organic is best — to the garden spot.
When transplanting your cubanelles, place the plants at least 18 to 24 inches apart to ensure room to grow. If you plant more than one row, keep the rows about 3 feet apart.
As your pepper plants grow, they’ll need regular watering, particularly as flowers and again later as peppers begin to appear. Keep the soil moist during the growing season, and consider applying mulch around the plants to retain moisture.
Pruning is not strictly necessary for your cubanelle pepper plants, but there are a few stages during its growth when pruning can be beneficial. First, consider some pruning four to six weeks after the seeds have sprouted to encourage more vigorous growth.
Also, periodically prune branches to ensure that peppers have plenty of room to grow as they appear on your plants.
And finally, pruning the bottom branches of your pepper plants can help protect them from pests and diseases.
Cubanelles will reach maturity in 70 to 80 days. You can harvest them while they are still green, but if you wait until they reach their final ripeness color of orange or red, their taste will be sweeter.
Don’t simply pull the peppers off of the plants. Instead, use pruning scissors to snip the stem. Once picked, your peppers will stay fresh in your refrigerator for at least two weeks.
Pests and Diseases
Your cubanelle peppers will require significant moisture to grow abundantly, but you will need to watch out for humidity, which can develop if the garden spot doesn’t drain properly. Watching out for humid conditions, and addressing them when they are found, will keep fungal diseases away from your plants.
Cubanelles, including pill bugs, slugs, aphids, and leaf miners, are susceptible to pests. Vigilance is key to preventing pest problems. As soon as you see bugs, a good first step toward eradication is spraying the plants with soapy water.
Where to Buy the Cubanelle Pepper
You may have some trouble finding cubanelles in your grocery store, and you’ll need to be careful not to confuse cubanelles with the somewhat similar banana pepper.
If you want to find cubanelle peppers, your best bet will be a grocery store with a specialty produce department. You could also try your local farmers’ market, where growers can assure you’re getting cubanelle peppers.
You can buy seeds online at Hoss Tools to grow your cubanelle peppers.
Wrapping up the Cubanelle Pepper
The cubanelle is an excellent alternative if you’re tired of using bell peppers when cooking or looking for a new pepper to grow at home. Grow this pepper yourself and use it to spice up your cooking and gardening! Love peppers? Keep reading about all about peppers!