Horace Pippin was an African-American artist who was well known for his paintings of the African-American experience. He was from the Westchester, PA area, but was part of a larger community, or network, that included people from the Baltimore area. African-American slaves and freedmen in Antebellum Maryland used the pepper as a 'secret ingredient'. At one point, it was believed the Fish pepper was almost extinct due to the decline of the fishing industry in the Chesapeake Bay. Since that time, the seeds have been distributed and shared over the years and they have spread to gardens all over the world.
The Fish pepper is very different than most peppers. It has a variegated-leaf and is quite stunning in the garden. The plants usually are about 2 feet high, but I have had them reach about 3 feet. They are striking! Their leaves are almost like someone splattered a cream-colored paint on them and the peppers themselves actually start out a light, cream color. This color is why they were so well suited to the cream-based sauces for seafood. As the peppers mature, they get a nice variegation of green and cream and then ultimately, they will turn bright red. I have found that you can use them at any of the three stages and you will have variations in terms of heat!
The Fish pepper actually originated in Baltimore where they were used to make white paprika for the cream sauces used with fish and seafood. Raw, the peppers are quite hot, but they do seem to mellow with cooking. I let the red peppers dry and then I crush them for the 'red pepper' I use in my recipes.
So, needless to say, when I saw my Fish peppers were starting to sprout, I was absolutely excited! I try to due my part to help keep this wonderful plant remain a part of the garden scene. If you are interested in trying to grow them as well, I think they would actually do quite well in a container if you do not have the garden space. I will share seeds that I have, and if I don't have enough now, I will by the end of the growing season and you can have them for next year. If you want to try them right away, I would go online to John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds. You will not be disappointed!