We use the terms sweet peppers and bell peppers interchangeably, but in reality not all sweet peppers have the classic bell shape. Many heirloom varieties, such as the Italian Corno di Toro pepper, are long and thin. The name of this Italian heirloom translates as ‘Horn of the Bull’, a tribute to this Sweet Peppers' full, tapered shape.
When fully ripe the fruits are a gorgeous deep crimson red and grow 15 to 25cm (6 to 10in) long and 4 to 6cm (1½ to 2½in) wide at the top. Suitable for cultivation in the greenhouse or outdoors, they mature 70 to 80 days from transplanting. They can be harvested while still green or can be left on the plant to ripen.
These uncommon large fruited peppers are a traditional favorite of Italy and are so popular that they have spawned an almost fanatical following. They have a sweet, crisp, full-bodied flavour that makes them popular among chefs and homemakers. Often served fried in Italy, they are also used in salads or stuffed, grilled with olive oil or in pizza and pasta dishes.
Uses for this pepper are seemingly endless from slicing into salads or stir fry, roasting in the over or barbecue, or stuffing with rice and herbs. A great alternative to the standard stuffed pepper and a great companion plant to its golden cousin, Corno di Toro Giallo.
Sweet Pepper 'Corno di Toro' has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Sowing: Sow indoors from mid February to April
'Corno di Toro' peppers need a long growing season. They can be sown February to April but are best sown before the end of March. They flourish in a sunny, sheltered position on a south facing wall, in fertile, well-drained soil or grown in a green-house, in pots or in the ground.
Fill small cells or trays with a good sterile seed compost and sow the seeds on the surface. 'Just cover' with a fine sprinkling of sieved compost or vermiculite. Keep the compost moist - don't let the top of the compost dry out (a common cause of germination failure) If you wish, spray the surface with a dilute copper-based fungicide.
Cover the pot or tray with plastic or place in a heated propagator, south facing window or a warm greenhouse. The ideal temperature is around 22°C (72°F). They can be slow to germinate from 21 to 28 days. Remove the cover as soon as seedlings appear.
When the seedlings have produced their first pair of true leaves and are about 5cm (2in) tall they can be transplanted to individual 9cm (4in) pots. Use good quality potting compost and mix in some organic slow release fertiliser. Pot the seedlings on again into 2 litre pots before they become root-bound.
Water the seedlings regularly, but don't let them become waterlogged as this encourages rot. Don't let them dry out as they rarely recover at this stage. Water the soil, not the foliage. Once the plants have established, it is better to water heavy and infrequently, allow the top or the compost to dry out in between watering.
Seedlings should be grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight from late spring to early autumn. Weaker sunlight from autumn to spring is unlikely to do them harm. Once seedlings have put on some growth they need lots of light. Growing them under a grow-light produces excellent stocky plants, as will a warm sunny windowsill. Adult plants need lots of light. However, more than 4 hours or so in hot direct sunlight will dry them out quickly.
In May to June transplant to greenhouse border, growbags or large pots. Wait until June for plants that are to be grown outdoors in the ground or in 4 to 5 litre pots
Acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 2 to 3 weeks before they are moved permanently outside. Plant them into rich moist soil. Flowers do not form and fruit will not set if the temperature is much below 17°C (62°F) for most of the day, so wait until June for best results with outdoor planting.
The plants can be left to grow as cordons with supports and just pinch out the top when they reach the greenhouse roof. But the best method is to pinch out the growing tip and produce a smaller bushier plant that will only need a little staking and produce earlier fruits which should ripen easier.
After the first flowers appear, feed every one or two weeks with a half-strength liquid tomato feed. You could also add some Seaweed extract to the water once a week.
Pollinating Flowers: (optional)
The plants are self fertile and will generally pollinate themselves. However, if you want to give them a helping hand to ensure that lots of fruit are set indoors, use a cotton wool bud or paintbrush to gently sweep the inside of the flowers, going from one flower to the next, transferring the pollen. The flower's petals will drop off as the green middle part of the flower starts to swell slightly. This is the pepper beginning to grow.
Harvesting: July to October - 70 to 80 days from transplant to harvest.
The peppers will take a few weeks to develop and a further couple weeks to ripen. You may pick them off the plant any time after they are fully developed but do not leave them on for too long, as delaying after the pepper is ready for harvest will result in a decline of further yields.
Store in a plastic bag in the fridge for several days, or chop and freeze for up to six months.
They can be dried by putting them into a mesh bag, hang the bag up in a dry, airy, but not sunny spot.
Good Companions: Tomatoes, geraniums, and, petunias.
Bad Companions: Avoid beans, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 500mg Average Seed Count 75 Seeds Common Name ‘Horn of the Bull’. Heritage (Italian) Other Common Names Sweet Pepper Family Solanaceae Genus Capsicum Species annum Cultivar Corno di Toro Rosso Synonym Aka Corni di Toro, Corne de Taureau Hardiness Tender Perennial Fruit Ripens from green to red Height Grows to around 150cm (48in) tall Position Grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight Soil Rich moist soil. Time to Sow Sow from mid February to mid June Harvest Pick them off the plant any time after they are fully developed Time to Harvest 70 to 80 days from transplant to harvest