No, they do not taste nor do they look like fish! According to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Fish Peppers (Capsicum annum) were used to season fish and shellfish in the African-American communities around Baltimore and Philadelphia back in the 1930's and 1940's.
Fish Peppers are unique and identifiable by the splashes of white and yellow that decorate their green variegated leaves. In addition to the leaves being variegated the fruits of this pepper plant are multi-colored as well.
The immature fruits are predominately green and white or cream colored, changing to shades of red, orange, rust, and brown, with striped accents of green, yellow, and cream when fully mature.
Fish Peppers are very attractive 1-1/2 to 2 in. long with broad shoulders gradually tapering to a point -- the fruit is very hot (5,000 to 30,000 Scoville Units)!
You can grow these peppers in the same manner that you would cultivate jalapeños or sweet peppers. I started my plants in a covered seed tray outside back in April then transplanted them out in my garden in bags of “gardening” soil.
Plant Fish Peppers in clusters and situate them in full sun in the garden to take advantage of their ornamental appearance. Give them plenty of room as the plants will branch and spread to reach three feet in height and grow over three feet wide when fully grown. They do appreciate being mulched to keep their roots cool and to extend times between watering, but they seem to be very heat tolerant – do not over-water them.
The plants support themselves fairly well, but you may want to stake them for additional support as the plants mature to ensure that they remain upright when laden with peppers. Fish Peppers can also be grown in containers on a deck or in a patio garden.
Harvesting and Enjoying Fish Peppers
Fish Pepper fruit are borne in clusters all over the plants. You can harvest and use the peppers at any stage but if you let them mature and change into their reddish hues they have the best flavor and heat. The ripened peppers will hold to the plant after they mature and this heirloom variety continues producing new fruit all season.
Fish Pepper fruit are versatile and lend themselves to raw uses in salsa, salads or vegetable trays; they can be cooked as an ingredient in your favorite recipes (and will lose some of their heat from being cooked), roasted, dried or pickled. I understand that they make a pretty awesome dried chili powder.
If you enjoy growing peppers and happen to be searching for a variety that is interesting and ornamental be sure to add this African-American heirloom pepper to your list. Fish Peppers will reward you with a display of ornamental foliage and fruit, and loads of delicious peppers suitable for a range of culinary uses. Read more about Fish Peppers at Mother Earth News where the author claims today's Fish Pepper Seeds originated with Horace Pippin, a black folk painter in West Chester, Pa.