If you want to grow one of the largest, sweetest and most delicious red peppers you will ever find, then you need to make this the year you grow the Italian Roaster Red Pepper, which happens to be our personal pick as the best red pepper plant around!
Whenever we dedicate an entire article to a single variety of a garden vegetable, you know that it’s not only going to be one of our absolute favorites, but also a plant we grow every single year in our garden. And one thing is for sure, there are always a few Italian Roaster plants gracing our growing paths every summer.
We actually first discovered this incredibly sweet red pepper nearly a decade ago. From the very first season in our garden, it took honors as our favorite sweet pepper. As you will see below, both its size and versatility are over the top. But it’s the taste that will really make you love this pepper!
The Italian Red Roaster – The Best Sweet Red Pepper Plant Ever!
So what makes this pepper plant so special? For starters, at full maturity, the peppers it produces are massive. The thick-walled fruit grow big, often reaching a full foot long. Even the more “average-size” peppers we pick are usually anywhere from 8 to 10 inches in length.
But what is really quite amazing is just how many peppers the plant can produce. Once the plant starts to fruit, it will keep on filling out with peppers right up until the first frost. For us, we have harvested as many as a bushel + per plant in a single season.
But even more than its size and productivity, the taste and versatility of the peppers the plant produces are what really makes this variety a winner for us. The Italian Roaster is filled with crisp, deep, sweet red pepper goodness.
The thick walls of the pepper are firm but juicy. They are great for all kinds of fresh eating, from salads, relish trays and more. But when it comes to grilling and stuffing, they can’t be beat. The beefy walls of the pepper hold up great on the grill. And the sheer size of them make them perfect for stuffing as well.
But if all of those attributes weren’t enough, the pepper can also be picked early as an amazingly flavorful green pepper! In fact, we pick a portion of them at the green stage every year to stuff or use as green peppers. And as a green pepper, their taste is equally impressive.
How To Grow Italian Roasters – The Best Sweet Red Pepper Plant Ever!
It can be difficult to find Italian Roasters in local nurseries and greenhouses. We were lucky enough to find plants the first year, but ever since, we’ve had to start them from seed. The good news is that they grow very well starting from seed indoors. Affiliate Link: Burpee Hybrid Sweet Italian Roasting Pepper Seeds
The key with these peppers is to start them indoors early. We like to start ours about 8 to 10 weeks before our outdoor planting day. This gives them plenty of time to grow into sizable transplants – and makes for an earlier summer harvest.
It’s important to note that the Italian Roaster variety is a hybrid plant. Because of that, you will not be able to save seeds to grow an identical plant from year to year. But for the peppers it grows – it’s a bargain to buy new seeds!
As with all vegetables, use a good quality seed starting soil and grow with artificial lights. These peppers don’t require special light indoors, an ordinary shop light over top will works wonders to grow strong, healthy transplants.
Unfortunately, trying to grow these in a window or windowsill will produce skinny, weak plants. Windows are just not a great place to start vegetable or flower seeds. See our article: The Best Way To Start Seeds Indoors
Planting & Care – The Best Sweet Red Pepper Plant To Grow In Your Garden
Italian Roaster plants need plenty of sun and space to reach their full potential. Locate in an area of your garden that gets at least 6 to 8 full hours of direct sunlight.
These are big plants maturing to 3′ to 4′ high and a few feet wide as well. Space plants 3′ apart to allow for plenty of room to allow for good air circulation. Because of their size and heavy fruit load of large peppers, you need to give them support too.
Stakes or large cages work well, but it’s best to get the supports in the ground the day you plant. Why? For starters, they need support early. But even more, driving in stakes later can risk damaging the growing roots under the soil.
When planting, amend the soil in the planting hole with plenty of compost. We like to mix our planting holes with an equal mix of compost and existing soil. We also mix in 1/2 cup of worm castings with the soil each planting hole. This gives the peppers plenty of nutrients for a great start.
Pepper plants need to get about 1 inch of water or rainfall per week. If hand watering, that equates to about a half gallon of water per plant a few times a week.
Fertilizing & Harvesting – The Best Sweet Red Pepper Plant To Grow In Your Garden
The real key with this plant is to give it plenty of nutrients during the growing season. We fertilize our plants every 14 days with either compost tea or an organic liquid fertilizer. Liquid fertilizer is great for vegetables as it absorbs both through the roots and the foliage.
The second biggest key to a big harvest is to pick often! The Italian Roaster will produce a heavy fruit load. Leaving too many peppers on the plant can cause limbs to break – and it will also slow the plant’s production of new flowers.
We like to pick a mix of red ripe peppers and a few green ones when picking to keep the fruit load manageable. Again, the green pepper stage is very delicious in flavor and crispness.
Finally, if you have never tried grilled peppers, these are the ones to try it with! We love to grill the deep red peppers on the grill and give them a little char. The skins peel right off, and you are left with nothing short of flavor heaven.
Here is to growing your own Italian Red Roaster sweet peppers this year, and to experiencing one of the best peppers around! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary
Jim and Mary Competti have been writing gardening, DIY and recipe articles and books for over 15 years from their 46 acre Ohio farm. The two are frequent speakers on all things gardening and love to travel in their spare time.
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