In the world of unique chili peppers, there is not much more exciting than a black pepper. The pimenta da neyde pepper is the land variety that started it all, introducing high levels of anthocyanins into the Capsicum chinense species.
The rare neyde pepper was discovered in Brazil, and is said to be a natural cross between a C. annuum and C. chinense. The plants are a deep purple, almost black color, with pods staying dark through ripening.
So what happens when you cross the pimenta da neyde with the infamous ghost pepper (bhut jolokia)? You get the Black Panther pepper.
These peppers are viciously spicy, like the ghost pepper, but have visual characteristics of the neyde pepper. This makes for a truly gorgeous plant and fruits.
Black Panther Pepper Facts
- Diameter: 0.75″
- Length: 2-3″
- Scoville (heat): 1,100,000+ SHUs
- Color: Black to red, orange
- Species: C. chinense
- Seed to Harvest: 180+ days
- Seeds: Bohica Pepper Hut
When two pepper varieties are cross pollinated, the resulting plants are extremely unstable. Crosses between ghost and neyde plants have resulted in many different phenotypes, but the black panther pepper has been stabilized over many generations.
Learn more about properly cross breeding peppers here.
Plant Characteristics – Why is it so Dark?
The black panther pepper plant has extremely dark foliage, with leaves almost jet black when exposed to full sunlight. This phenomenon is caused by high levels of anthocyanins, also called purple pigments.
High levels of anthocyanins are found in blueberries, grapes and currants. They are known to be powerful antimicrobial compounds, as well as powerful antioxidants.
However, the most important characteristic of these compounds (to us) is the beautiful coloration they cause. Anthocyanins are activated by light, so leaves and fruits that are not exposed to direct light will not turn purple at all.
The black panther pepper fruits also contain anthocyanins, hence their deep, almost black color when unripe. When the peppers finally ripen, they turn to a deep red (or orange) color, depending on the exact variety.
Black Panther Pepper Scoville
Since the black panther pepper is a cross between a ghost pepper and another variety, the peppers are very spicy. In fact, out of all the plants we grew in 2020, the black panther had some of the most unforgiving heat!
In short, the black panther pepper comes in around 1,100,000+ SHUs on the Scoville Scale. This puts it on par with the original bhut jolokia from which it was bred.
When we grow hot peppers, we always taste each variety for flavor and heat. I was not expecting this pepper to burn as much as it did, so I bit into it casually.
For about 30 minutes after tasting the black panther pepper, my mouth was on a fiery roller coaster ride. It peaked within about 5 minutes, but continued to burn, especially in the mouth and on the lips.
I have eaten moruga scorpions, reapers and mustard habaneros, but none burned as fiercely as our black panther orange peppers. Truly impressive heat from these gorgeous pods.
Black Panther Pepper Flavor
While we didn’t get many peppers from our black panther orange plant, we did get to experience the flavor. For the few seconds before the intense heat kicked in, I was surprised and delighted by the taste.
It tastes similar to a ghost pepper, with a slightly fruity flavor and a mild potpourri floweriness. Overall, the pods are pleasant in taste, but would best be diluted with other ingredients in a sauce or a salsa to bring the heat to a reasonable level.
Black Panther Pepper Plants
If you love heat, the black panther chili will not disappoint! However, the plants are not nearly as productive as many other ghost varieties (at least in our experience).
Our plant reached a mature size of around 2.5′ (75cm) in height. The foliage was relatively thin, with very few flowers and fruits setting. The stem was about 3/4″ thick at the base.
When compared to other C. chinense plants in our garden, this plant was tiny. Some of our largest superhots, like the Jay’s peach ghost scorpion, reached a height of around 5′ (1.5m).
From our in-ground plant, we only harvested a handful of peppers (around 10 pods total). The plants may have been stressed from transplanting, and took a long time to recover after moving outdoors.
By comparison, a nearby C. annuum “purrira” pepper plant produced almost 1lb of fresh pods.
With such low yields, black panther peppers may be better suited as an ornamental pepper plant. However, we fully intend to continue growing them each year for their gorgeous foliage and fascinating ripening stages!
Time to Harvest
We harvested our first black panther peppers exactly 180 days after the seeds were originally sown (Feb 8 – Aug 5). The plant continued to produce fruits through September until the cold set in.
Overall, growing black panther peppers is a slow process, but the reward is a beautiful, completely unique pepper that you’ll never find in a store.
Other Black Pepper Varieties
The black panther is just one example of the various results from cross breeding C. chinense varieties with the pimenta da neyde. There are multiple phenotypes resulting from the same cross, including the Pink Tiger.
Pimenta da Neyde – Seeds
The pimenta da neyde pepper is one of the parents of the black panther pepper. This land variety was discovered in Brazil and carries the “purple genes” that bring the dark foliage and fruits to so many C. chinense pepper varieties today.
Pink Tiger – Seeds
Perhaps more popular than the black panther is the pink tiger pepper. These unique pods have more of a soft pinkish purple hue. They are also a result of crossing the pimenta da neyde with the bhut jolokia.
Black Panther Orange – Seeds
The original black panther ripens to red, but the orange variant ripens to, you guessed it, orange! We were lucky enough to save seeds from the orange variety, hence why all our pictures include the black panther orange. They’re beautiful!
To stay up to date on the most recent pepper crosses, check out the amazing Facebook group Phenos & Crosses. There are hundreds of amateur pepper breeders sharing their work with Pepper Geeks across the world.