Peppers come in many shapes, sizes, and heat levels. They are a big ingredient in my household as they find use in chilis, salsas, salads, hot sauces, and relishes.
The heat of chile peppers vary even within varieties - I have grown jalapenos that are as cayennes and as calm as anaheims. And they vary throughtout the year - early-season poblanos are mild but late-season ones can be quite hot.
According to scovillescaleforpeppers.com/, the following is a list of Scoville ratings for various common varieties:
100,000-350,000 Habanero Pepper
100,000-325,000 Scotch Bonnet
100,000-200,000 Jamaican Hot Pepper
50,000-100,000 Thai Pepper
30,000-50,000 Cayenne Pepper <-- this is where I stop. I'm sane.
30,000-50,000 Tabasco Pepper
5,000-23,000 Serrano Pepper
5,000-10,000 Chipotle Pepper
5,000-10,000 Hungarian Wax Pepper
2,500-8,000 Jalapeno Pepper
1,000-2,000 Poblano/Ancho Pepper
1,000-2,000 Pasilla Pepper
500-2,500 Anaheim Pepper
500-1,000 New Mexico Pepper
100-500 Pimento Pepper
100-500 Pepperoncini Pepper
0 Sweet Bell Pepper
Plant after all danger of frost is gone (late APR in Central MD). Seeds need to be started 8-12 weeks before then - closer to 12 for hot peppers.
Cage peppers - large fruits and high winds during tornado/hurricane seasons will knock them over.
Don't overwater peppers - they aren't big drinkers. Hot peppers become hotter with little water and high heat while growing.
You can pick peppers at any time in their growth - picking them early can limit heat levels, but the fruits have no other advantage. Mature fruits can often be left on the plant another 30 days after 'ripe' to turn colors (this is why they cost more, it's just a longer process and people like me are impatient). Also, leaving fruit on the plant may make the fruits each smaller - the plant is splitting its energy between more fruits.
Peppers don't require significant amounts of fertilizer - they can do without.
Peppers can be stored by drying, freezing, or canning:
Drying -- in the Mid-Atlantic you can't simply hang peppers outdoors as they do in the Southwest and hope they dry. It's simply too humid. You have two options: pop them in an oven overnight at the oven's lowest temperature or use a food dehydrator. Either way, you want to cut the pepper in at least halt first to aid in the process, except very small peppers like cayennes or tabascos.
Freezing -- Peppers are one of the few vegetables I don't bother blanching. I simply cut into strips, put them on a baking sheet in a single layer, and pop them into the freezer. This makes it easy to put them in a pan for frying, since they're already cut up. I've also frozen completed dishes, such as stuffed poblanos or jalapeno poppers.
Canning -- canned peppers are something special. I primarily reserve this method for hot peppers, although some sweet peppers show up in my hot pepper relish and canned salsas. Jalapenos and Hungarian wax peppers also can be sliced into rings as a condiment for sandwiches.
Matt's Garden Notes:
Matt's 2013 Map
Matt's 2013 Pepper Map
2011: planted 5 sweet bell pepper plants from home seeds. Transplanted late May, but this was in very clayey soil. They grew well but did not produce much before I pulled them out in September to till the garden.
2012: Planted about 12 sweet peppers, 15 hot peppers. Most of these were from transplants, as I killed the home-grown seedlings by over-fertilizing. Planted APR 15 during a very warm spring, mulched with black plastic. Occasionally gave plants fish fertilizer. They produced very well, to the point that many were given away even after freezing and canning.
2013: Planted 30 pepper plants - Approximately 11 sweet bells, 4 italian frying peppers, 5 jalapenos, 4 poblanos, 4 anaheims, 1 cayenne, and 1 pimento. All but the cayenne and pimento were from home-grown seeds. These seeds were sowed indoors 23 FEB through 1 MAR. They were transplanted approximately 1 MAY. We had a very late frost in May during which they all got covered, but survived. First peppers picked in Mid-JUN, the first being the Italian Frying peppers.
Recipes using Peppers:
Matt's Salsa Fresca
Chicago Style Giardiniera
Alton Brown's Guacamole
Cajun Dirty Rice
Cold Cucumber Dill Soup
Red Chile Enchiladas
Hot pepper relish
Burned Red Tomato Salsa
Burned Tomatillo Salsa
Bobby Flay's Jalapeno Hot Sauce
Black Bean Chili
White Bean Chili
Not-so Refried Beans
Freezer Spaghetti Sauce
Fajita steak marinade