The origin myth of the Tropic Lightning Habanero pepper
Carrollton, Texas mid-October 2005
33 00 North    96 53 West
Garden and pot grown plants

  This page is about my new Habanero pepper variety which I've named "Tropic Lightning" [TL], in honor of the 25th Infantry Division. The year I spent in the 25th in Vietnam from 5 May 1967 thru 5 May 1968 wasn't the most fun year I've ever lived, but it sure as hell was memorable.

  Hang on; more pictures are below. In 2004 I grew three varieties of Habanero peppers in my garden of about 40 plants, of which about 20 are still healthy in October; Red Savina, Devil's Tongue [bright yellow], and Chocolate, aka Congo Black [RS, DT, and Choc respectively]. I grew all this year's plants from 2004 saved seeds, carefully labelled. The RS and Choc's had the typical Scotch Bonnet shape, with the bottom curled in and twisted, almost like the pepper is trying to escape its own heat! The DT's were small, tapered, and pointed, and the walls were much thinner. The Choc's were similar to the RS, but generally larger. My experience with the Choc's this year is that they are not well suited to the Dallas area. Being so dark, the pods sunburn easily and leave thin dried areas on the afternoon sides. Only those pods almost completely shaded grew to full size.

  This year, two plants grown from seeds collected from DT pods turned out to be different. The pods were shaped like the DT's, but were larger and had the wall thickness and color of the RS. As usual, I selected the healthiest sprouts to go into the garden. about a month later, one of the DT plants was the healthiest remaining of the originals, so I transplanted it into a 16" ID pot.

   At the extremes of heat, where all these varieties reside, simple organoleptic heat tests are almost meaningless, meaning they all burn your mouth so much you can't distinguish one from another, but most retain the beguiling odor and flavor. The TL does this in spades. The surviving potted plant is huge, and is putting out lots of new green pods as habs usually do when temperatures begin to drop in the fall.
When several varieties grow in a small area, cross-pollination is common, so seeds may not breed true, yet my two plants are strong and the survivor looks to be healthy and putting out lots of pods before the local first frost date of about 20 November.

Great pepper seed starting tips.      Good info on diseases, pests; read comments.      Good germination info.

  The photos below were taken on 13 October 2005. Most are of my #2 TL potted pepper, in a 16 inch ID pot, with Miracle-Gro planting mix, grown in partial shade. This is my largest, healthiest plant this year. The dead plant in the garden view near the bottom was TL #1. Somehow, I killed it by adding too much fertilizer or something else. Who the hell knows; so sue me. Damnfino. Shit!

   Maybe these will breed true for a few generations, or not. I'm casting my seeds out to the world for you to take over from ancient me. Click on most photos below to see an enlarged version, except for the last two. Use browser Back button to return. First is two paper plates of TL's freshly cut in half to dry from Plant #2.

  Next are two views of the north side of my house; looking roughly West and roughly SE.

  See where this plant grows in the overhead view from Google Earth. That's my orange Nissan pickup with camper shell in the driveway, in both local and Google views. Note the silver plate in the back yard where the A arrow points in the enlarged view. Then see the potted TL plant with the inch ruler upright.

  HUGE plant. Note the green pods in the second shot. Tomorrow, this plant gets moved into full sun, now that daytime temps are down to the low to mid 80's F. Relate to the two above.

  Left shot below, note the pods marked with red dots; well camouflaged. Second shot shows some ripening pods.

   The garden with weedblock and soaker hoses. North Texas black gumbo clay soil modified over 25 years with about a ton of peat plowed in, so it resembles no other soil in the world, but about pH 7- with lots of organic matter plowed in over the years.

   The potted pepper moved into the sun 15 October. Even if you subtract the pot, it's still almost twice as high as the garden plants, and leaves are a darker green.

  Finally, the results. Stages of the TL pepper, green to pink to red. Note the thick walls, which mean more heat.

   Here's a mixed bag of the world's hottest varieties. Red Savina and Chocolate are obvious. Yellows are Devil's Tongue and Fatalii. They're now joined by the Tropic Lightning.

  Th-th-th-that's all, folks! For now, at least.