Johnny's Research & Farm

Video: Restoration of OP 'Hungarian Hot Wax' Pepper | Exclusively from Johnny's Selected Seeds

A recap of the multiyear restoration of a cherished, open-pollinated pepper variety. Learn how we recovered the 'Hungarian Hot Wax' ideotype, to offer this exclusive improved organic strain.

'Hungarian Hot Wax' pepper is a great hot pepper variety for our customers: it's very productive, and tends to produce excellent crops even in cool, wet springs. It generally yields very well, it has excellent flavor and a moderate heat level, and it can be eaten at any stage — green, yellow, orange, or red.

However, we'd noticed that most commercial strains of 'Hungarian Hot Wax' had deteriorated over time. The fruit shape had drifted; instead of being uniform, tapered, and pointed, some fruits were curved, had constrictions near the stem ends, or were too narrow — almost like cayenne peppers. Also, the plants had become floppy, rather than upright. Those floppy plants often fell over, which resulted in curved fruits and a greater likelihood that the fruits would rot.

Because of these issues, in 2015, Johnny's Plant Breeder John Navazio and Product Manager Steve Bellavia began to improve this variety through selective breeding. We started with 5 different strains of commercial 'Hungarian Hot Wax'. We found 2 of these strains had merit and saved seeds from them. We selected plants that had the smoothest, prettiest, and best-tasting fruits, with the most rugged, upright plants.

In 2016, we planted seeds from these 2 good strains. We then selected again for the plants that were the most upright and had the best fruit quality, and we saved seeds from them.

In 2017 we planted seeds from those 2 good strains. We then selected again for the plants that were the most upright and had the best fruit quality, and we saved seeds from them.

John and Steve along with folks from the Breeding Department then continued with this work from 2017 through 2021. By 2021, our strain of 'Hungarian Hot Wax' was now superior. The fruit quality, flavor, and uniformity were excellent, and the plants were rugged and upright. The breeding portion of the project was now complete.

In 2022, we used the seeds from our 2021 selection to produce an organic commercial seed crop. Here is our 2022 seed production of 'Hungarian Hot Wax'. It was located only a few miles from our Research Farm in Albion, Maine. This video was shot in September, and to prevent heat from getting on our hands, we always use gloves when harvesting hot peppers. Note that the plants are very uniform in height and shape, and that they are all upright, with no lodged plants.

Here are the harvested fruits that we've brought back to our home farm for seed extraction. This piece of machinery is called a wet seed separator and is used to extract seeds from many crops, such as cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, and peppers, to name a few. It has rotating rods that break up the fruits. Once the fruits are crushed, they drop onto a metal mesh. The seeds and some of the smaller pieces of pulp are washed through the screen and into the dark blue plastic tub just under the mesh. The larger pieces of pulp and fruit go into the green tub and are composted.

Once the processing is complete, the seeds are rinsed several times to remove the pulp. The seeds are then dried. Once the seeds are dry we do a germination test, to ensure they meet our minimum germination rate, which is above the federal standard. We also test them to make sure they are free of the seedborne disease called bacterial leaf spot (BLS).

Once the germination and disease testing are complete, the organic seed is packed and ready for sale. We're really proud of our new organic 'Hungarian Hot Wax' strain, and we hope you'll give it a try.