Ornamental Peppers edible?

veatchlawSeptember 28, 2008

I was given an Ornamental Pepper plant. The tag (from Sunlet Nursery, Fallbrook, CA) says "Ornamental purposes only. Not Edible." Are the peppers or the seeds poisonous? May we eat any part of the peppers or use them in cooking?

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chillilover(Zone 6b)

Most that I know of are, but if it said not to I wouldn't.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 8:17PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

The risk I see is that ornamental plants of any kind, not just peppers, may have been treated with systemic insecticides. I've never seen this specifically noted on a plant label, but I play it on the safe side and do not eat ornamentals I have not grown myself.


    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 8:38PM
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if it was a plant that was purchased I would say don't eat, as mentioned pesticides n whatnot.

My neighbor grew some this year and they were some of the tastiest peppers! They tasted like hot cherries! NO LIE! I am gonna grow some next year. I could eat them like candy like Black Hungarians!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2008 at 11:53PM
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No chiles are poisonous.

They have likely sprayed with poison........

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 9:34AM
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rdback(Z6 VA)

I agree with the others, probably wouldn't take the chance if it's labeled "don't eat". Also, there's a chance it's not even an ornamental PEPPER plant. I've seen ornamental plants with BERRIES labeled as pepper plants. There's definately some ornamental BERRIES out there you DO NOT WANT TO EAT!

Anyway, the link below lists some of the more common ornamental peppers (w/ pics). It might help you identify your plant. I still wouldn't eat it though.

Here is a link that might be useful: Various Ornamental Peppers

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 11:18AM
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I e-mailed Janet Kister at Sunlet Nursery, asking "The tag says "Ornamental purposes only. Not Edible." They look delicious. Are the peppers or the seeds poisonous? May we eat any part of the peppers or use them in cooking?"

She responded: "We are a grower of ornamental plants, not food crops. That is why we noted as such on the label. Although the peppers are edible, we do not grow them for that purpose. However, since they are edible, we do not use any systemics nor any chemicals that could not be used on food crops. They are an annual plant and will only produce fruit this growing season. Taking the peppers off will not promote more peppers. Once all of the flowers have set, they will not produce more flowers that will set fruit. Be sure to keep them in a sunny location and well watered. They are a very fun plant - enjoy!"

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 6:39PM
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Funny that she thinks peppers are annuals but nice to know they don't use systemics.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 8:29PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

Yep, funny. I suppose the industry considers them annuals because they are most often used that way, like tomatoes (which are perennials). Her statement that they will not produce a second crop in another season is not true, however.


    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 11:14PM
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Well if she got the 'annual, no 2nd crop' part wrong how can you be sure she got the no systemics right? Do they isolate the plants at the nursery so they don't get treated along with all the the others?

    Bookmark   October 2, 2008 at 11:56AM
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This is great. I've always wondered the same thing.


"And the number one question regarding Ornamental Peppers is: Are they poisonous or edible? They are definitely not poisonous. All members of the Capsicum genus are edible if your palate can handle the heat, and some of these little ornamentals are firebombs! The reason they are considered "not for consumption" is they have been grown as an ornamental just like a Chrysanthemum or any other non-food crop. This means they have likely been treated with a systemic insecticide to produce the best looking, pest free decorative plant. For this reason, consider them inedible."

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 9:15AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I have a personal experience. I was at a friend's house and she had a purple ornamental pepper. I picked one and popped it into my mouth. At first all was well, then the heat came... I almost died!! But just from the heat! Not from poison. It took about an hour for the heat to subside. I drove home eating yogurt the whole way. That seemed to help. Those little ornamentals are HOT!! If it was poisonous, I wouldn't be here to write about it.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 10:24AM
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sprouts_honor(5, southern shore of Erie)

I had a similar experience with a Black Pearl ornamental that I grew from seed. "How hot could it possibly be?" I thought as I barely touched a piece of pepper to the tip of my tongue. Nothing at first, but then my eyes began to water and my entire mouth and nose were burning. I swallowed a Benadryl but it was taking too long to kick in, so I applied a topical Benadryl lotion to my face and inside nostrils. Yeah, kinda gross but effective. It took several hours for the tingling sensation to subside. I probably drank a gallon of milk that day.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 11:16AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Listen to the nursery owner advice. There is a reason they are labeled "ornamental". ;) If they were meant to be eaten as food then they would just be called peppers.


    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 5:11PM
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slimwhitman(5b Kansas City)

I had the same question. Are these poisonous? Not because I plan to eat them. But because I have small children and the fruit are very tempting to them. I do not want to plant them this year if they are poisonous.

Sounds like they are not poisonous. It might be a good (harmlessly painfull) lesson to the kids if the do try to eat them.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 1:02PM
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Given that they were confirmed as peppers, you should not lose much sleep over them. Be aware that the Solanum pseudocapsicum (common name Jerusalem Cherry) is often sold as an ornamental pepper. This one is toxic.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 5:16PM
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My .02 ... Unless I knew for certain about pesticide use, etc. I would not eat anything labeled as 'ornamental'. I tend to be very cautious about these things, personally. However, I've read that many of these pepper plants are called ornamental because they are so hot, that they are *barely* edible. I'd suggest a site like ChilePlants.com if you want a pretty and edible chile plant....

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 3:05AM
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Jerusalem cherry is also called Persimmons ornamental.

Actually it probably won't kill you , but you'll see colors and things that aren't there and you might get sick pretty if you eat it- in stronrger doses you could have some real nasty things going on,possibly death or wish you were dead.
Same beladona/nightshade type stuff in it.

Here is a link that might be useful: jerusalem cherry

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 3:31AM
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lord_of_the_green(Argentina z9)

It's an old post I know, but suddlenly I started experimenting with peppers, a vegetable not very friend of mine, unless they're hot. Capsicum (peppers of any kind) are not poisonous (nor the fruit, nor the seeds), but don't eat any other solanaceae member with green/red/black berries, specially the spherical ones, unless you are sure what species is. Solanaceas ARE somehow poisonous, allucinogenic or analgesic in some form or another due to the solanin and other alkaloids of bitter smell that is contained on the green parts of the plant. And no, it won't be degraded by cooking.

For the case simple potatoes exposed to light for a time, with skin turning greenish, will not kill you but could give you a good high state or dizziness. Eating leaves on that family should be avoided as well. Even the safe green pepper (the non hot version) may cause you drowsiness if eaten in quantity as sole food. A friend of mine who love common peppers ate almost two pounds one night and he was drowsy for about a day.

And regarding the nursery comment, I don't think is relevant, even If they had used the worst systemic pesticides, they will be flushed in 7-14 days. The things you buy at the grocery, unless organic, probably have more or less the same amount of pesticide and a whole spectrum of chemicals, hormones, lack of nutrients from poor soils, simple NPK fertilizers, fungicide and alike (and also probably be GMO).

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 8:49PM
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DMForcier(8 DFW)

FWIW, the ornamentals I've eaten weren't worth it. Either soapy tasting or just all seeds.


Interesting comments, lord_of_the_green. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 10:11PM
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I use peppers off my thai ornamental from time to time if I just want to add heat to it. Thanks don't taste that great but are very hot.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 11:32PM
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