The stunning puma pepper is not only scorching hot at 300,000-400,000 Scoville units, but also pretty enough that you could use it as an ornamental plant in the front garden bed!
About Puma Hot Peppers:
Dark deep purple foliage and flushing on the fruits make this dramatic plant stand out among pepper varieties. Like other hot peppers, it does take a while to get growing, but with patience and an early indoor start, you should get a steady trickle of peppers across several months.
Puma peppers are slightly hotter than habaneros, and can be used in similar recipes, with the caveat that they are ultra hot!
What are Scoville Heat Units (SHU)?
The Scoville Scale is a unit of measurement that gives you an idea how much capsaicin is in a hot pepper. High numbers are very hot, while lower numbers are milder – though there are big variations depending on how a plant is grown, processed, etc.
Here’s a comparison of some better known peppers to puma peppers, to give you an idea of its heat level:
Bell Pepper — 0 SHU
Pimento — 500 SHU
Poblano Pepper — 1,500 SHU
Jalapeno Pepper — 8,000 SHU
Chipotle Pepper — 10,000 SHU
Hot Banana Pepper — 15,000 SHU
Serrano Pepper — 23,000 SHU
Cayenne Pepper — 50,000 SHU
Puma Pepper — 300,000 to 400,000 SHU
Habanero — 350,000 SHU
Carolina Reaper — 2,200,000 SHU
At a glance:
- Plant: Heirloom Hot Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
- Color: Purple-black coloring on fruits with undersides ripening to tangerine-orange, sometimes with light bits of violet around the edges. Dark purple to hunter green foliage, the back of the leaves are a lighter green.
- Days to maturity: No exact date at the current time: peppers may take a long time (several months) to set fruits, depending on your climate and weather. In order to get a harvest, those people living in climates with short growing seasons may want to grow the plants in pots to bring indoors once it is too cold outside for them to grow.
- Frost-hardy: No
- Lifespan: Tender perennial grown as an annual
- When to plant: Start indoors 10-12 weeks before estimated final frost date
- Edible: Yes, commonly used in hot sauces
- Part eaten: Fruit, that has a roughly habanero level heat
- Requires support: No
Where to buy:
We got our puma hot pepper seeds from Baker Creek and they performed well. The seeds had an excellent germination rate, and the plants grown from them were vigorous and lovely.
This seems to be more of an uncommon pepper. As of the time of writing this article, not many other online seed retailers appear to carry it. If you decide to grow it, you might want to save some of the seeds because of its limited availability!
How to grow:
See our Growing Peppers Guide to learn how to start and grow your puma peppers. You grow them just like any other pepper.
While not strictly required, mulching around the base of your puma peppers is a good idea. Mulched plants, more often than not, are happy plants!
Harvesting puma peppers:
When should you pick your puma peppers? Let their color be your guide!
It’s super easy to tell when they’re ripe: the unripe solid purple peppers will turn shades of sunny yellow-orange to tangerine-orange, with burgundy or purple accents.
Simply pick the peppers as they ripen. The peppers will not all be ready at once, so check every day or two for new peppers.
If a frost is expected, you can pick partially ripe peppers and bring them indoors to finish ripening.
These peppers are great for hot sauce! They’re definitely on the hot side, with heat similar to the spiciest of habanero peppers.
Here’s the one we make – it’s on the mild side, similar to cayenne hot sauce, but has options to make it spicier if you’d like!
These hot peppers have a fruity sort of heat to them. If you’re bold, and have a very high heat tolerance, you could try adding them to salsa or pizza to kick up the flavor – just be careful! With a score of 300,000-400,000 SHU, these peppers can burn!
Ripe peppers can also be dried, ground, and added to seasoning blends. (See how to dry below.)
On that note, as with all hot peppers, if you’re chopping or handling puma peppers, always make sure to wear gloves to protect your hands from the oils, and do everything you can to avoid getting the juices on sensitive body parts such as your eyes. These peppers are hot enough to make your skin feel like it’s on fire, and once it starts, it can last for hours.
If you got the juices/oils on your skin, dunking and soaking the area in milk can help tame the burn.
To keep the peppers fresh, keep them in your refrigerator. Avoid leaving them out on the counter longer than necessary, as they will go soft and spoil pretty fast this way.
Inside the refrigerator, the peppers are good as long as they do not feel to be going soft and/or wrinkled. Toss any that are starting to turn that way, or if you see any signs of mold or rot.
You can also dry puma peppers. We cut the tops off and deseed. After that, either slice the peppers again in half before moving on, or go ahead and place the hollowed whole peppers in a single layer on a rack of a dehydrator.
Dry the peppers at 125°-135° F until completely dry. Store in mason or glass jars, out of direct light and in a cool dry room.
While dried food does have a long shelf life, for best flavor, try and use them up within a year, and compost if they start looking drab and faded.