Zunckel Ecological + Environmental Services

Sustainable Decision-Making

Pickle your Peppadews and make a Natural Pesticide with the Seeds

Peppadew bush low res

Steenkamp described them “as peppery but as sweet and tantalising as the dew”

My peppadews are ripening to a glorious red. I’ve had a bumper crop this year so its an opportune time to start bottling them.

Did you know that the Peppadew is today known as a South African variety of sweet piquanté peppers (a cultivar of Capsicum baccatum)? Though its origin is questionable and its story is a little intriguing and somewhat controversial. It goes something like this~

Businessman and farmer, Johan Steenkamp, first discovered the sweet piquant pepper at his holiday home in the Eastern Cape in 1993. He spotted an unusual-looking bush, standing head high, laden with small bright red fruit which looked like something between miniature red peppers and cherry tomatoes. He bit into one. It had a unique, delicious taste – a mixture of peppery and sweet, but with a distinctive flavor. Believing that he had hit upon something really new, he saved seeds from the ripened fruit of the mother plant, and cultivated them at his Tzaneen farm in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. He started off bottling and selling the product as a small cottage industry. Steenkamp had botanists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research verify that the Peppadew was a separate variety of chili plant that had sprung up, and he established the trademarks, and registered international plant breeders’ rights for that pepper plant. He formed the company Peppadew International. But when he ran into financial difficulty and needed a large capital investment, Phil Ovens, managing director of the company, was responsible for turning it around. What started out as a 51% investment in 2000, ended up with Ovens and his team eventually buying out 100% of the company. Today Steenkamp is not involved in the business in any way, although he does receive royalties for his original product. The secret pickling recipe today remains largely unchanged. Woolworths are the only store that Pepperdew International will do a home brand for- their loyalty lies in the fact that Woolworths helped to get the company off its feet in the early days. Today, Peppadew has a full listing nationwide.

Peppadew® Sweet & Spicy Fruits is a registered trademark and the plants are patented in the US and the company has international sole rights to grow the plant commercially. Ovens explains how the patent rights work:

Very simply, it’s a bit like a patent in that it gives the person who discovered or created something protection from competition for a period of time to allow them to commercially exploit their discovery. And what’s important is that not only does it preclude other people from growing the product in those regions where they hold rights, but it also prevents people from other regions from selling the product in the areas where Peppadew International has protection… Plant breeder rights were always seen by us as an opportunity to establish the brand, and we have used our rights extensively in marketing and public relations – emphasising the uniqueness of the product and its provenance.

The distribution of peppadew plant material is strictly controlled and the growers of the peppadew ‘fruit’ are made to sign a contract which, if they are found to be distributing seeds outside the company, could face prosecution from the licence holding company. So jealously controlled are the movements of this plant that the production fields are actually guarded! Contracted farmers in the Tzaneen area are given six-week old seedlings to start the bushes from.

This intense control and security over what is at best a naturally occurring hybrid has resulted in a growing underground movement formed by a small group of incensed yet passionate gardeners. Believing that the entire peppadew operation is extremely ‘thug-like’ and that any naturally occurring hybrid should belong to the world, they will go to any lengths to secure, grow and distribute peppadew seeds around the globe.

As to where the plant is native to is still open to debate but it is thought to originate from Central America. Ovens suspects that it came to South Africa because the previous owner of the house where Johan first discovered it was a botanist who had travelled quite extensively in Central America.

Presumably, my homestead patch of peppadews is legal, and like the ‘guerrilla gardeners’ above, I’m happy to question patents and plant breeders’ rights on the grounds that plants are gifts from God or from Mother Nature. They belong to us all, or to no one. What justification can there be for such finds becoming the property of an individual for their financial gain? Especially in this case where Steenkamp found the plant – there was no breeding involved on his part.

I received my seeds from a friend and am happy to share seed from my plants with others who may be interested in growing them non-commercially.

Pickled Peppers

The recipe I use is freely available online (it is not poached from Peppadew International) and comes from the Angela Day cookery school.


  • 1.5kg Peppadews
  • 250ml coarse salt
  • 2 litres cold water
  • boiling water
  • 750ml white wine vinegar
  • 15ml mustard seeds
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 5ml peppercorns
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2-3 red chillies
  • 250ml sugar (use less sugar to make a more tart pickle)


  1. Soak peppadews in water overnight

    Soak peppadews in water overnight

    Make a slit in the peppers and remove seeds. Save seeds aside for next years crop, to share with friends and to make a natural pesticide.

  2. Dissolve salt in cold water and soak peppers overnight. Weigh down with a plate to keep them under the water.
  3. Drain and rinse in fresh cold water. Drain again.
  4. Pour boiling water over peppers and allow to stand for 20 minutes. Drain.
  5. Pack into sterilised jars.
  6. Heat vinegar and add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
  7. Pour over peppers.
  8. Seal jars and leave for 2-3 weeks before using.

Et viola! Delicious on sandwiches and salads, or stuffed with cottage cheese to make a great appetiser.

Pickle your Peppadews

Pickle your Peppadews

Natural Chili Garlic Pesticide

Use the excess seeds from your pickled peppers that you won’t be giving away to friends or saving for next years crop. Wear gloves if you’re concerned about the burn and avoid rubbing your eyes!

  • 2-3 garlic bulbs
  • Peppadew seeds or 12 smaller hot chilli peppers
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 squirts of liquid detergent
  • 7 cups boiling water

Combine ingredients in a jug or jar (stir with knife), cover and set aside for 24 hours. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. Clearly label bottle with the contents and a warning!

Uses for this natural garden pest control are unlimited. Suffocates pests such as scale and mealy bug, will kill ants, aphids, caterpillars, grubs, bugs and just about anything small. Will also deter pets, mole rats and other critters.

Make a natural herbicide with your seed residue

Make a natural herbicide with your seed residue


Peppadew International: Phil Ovens – http://www.entrepreneurmag.co.za/advice/success-stories/entrepreneur-profiles/peppadew-international-phil-ovens/

Peppadew Peppers – http://www.cooksinfo.com/peppadew-peppers

How to grow Peppadew Peppers from seed – http://gardenofeaden.blogspot.com/2009/08/how-to-grow-peppadew-peppers-from-seed.html

Peppadew Processing –  http://www.ldrt.gov.za/application/freight_transport_databank/lim/industries/food/index.html

Pickle your peppadews today – http://www.iol.co.za/the-star/pickle-your-peppadews-today-1.1496547


About Karen Zunckel

I have a passion for sustainability and love to share with others as I grow in knowledge myself. I make it my business to keep my finger on the pulse of who's 'green' in the KZN Midlands. By day I am an Environmentalist, Ecologist and Sustainability Consultant working from home where we are continuously trying to become more self-sufficient. I enjoy being creative and have started a community empowerment project making paper bead craft out of waste. Deep within my soul is a longing for wild places which I seek out as often as I can.

6 comments on “Pickle your Peppadews and make a Natural Pesticide with the Seeds

  1. Alleyn Diesel
    May 15, 2016

    Lovely ideas, many of which we have tried – but always good to hear of other’s recipes. Thank you! Mary & Al


  2. J N
    May 1, 2017

    Interesting article!
    Can you provide any links or info on where to obtain the seeds?


  3. Robert Johnson
    August 3, 2017

    I live in the Western Cape Overberg Region in a coastal village. When is the best time to sow Peppadew seeds


    • Karen Zunckel
      August 3, 2017

      Not sure if you’re in a frost area, but peppadews, like most peppers and chilies grow best in the warmer summer months from about August / September. Enjoy! We’re still pickling from last season’s crop.


      • Robert Johnson
        August 3, 2017

        Thanks for your very prompt reply. I am going to use my own seed just to see what will happen


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This entry was posted on May 28, 2015 by in Ethics, Food, Gardening, Sustainable Living and tagged , , , , .
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