McMahon's Texas Bird Pepper
Capiscum annuum glabriusculum
Jefferson was sent seeds of this pretty dwarf pepper by Samuel Brown from San Antonio, Texas, in 1812 and 1813. Brown stated how the dried peppers were as "essential to my health as salt itself." Jefferson, hopeful this species might be hardier than others, sowed the seed in pots and in square XII of the Monticello vegetable garden. He also forwarded seeds to Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon, who apparently popularized the bird pepper as an ornamental pot plant in Pennsylvania.The Texas bird pepper is a lush, compact plant (one foot high) covered in early fall with tiny, quarter-inch, red-orange peppers. Samuel Brown said, "The Spaniards use it in fine Powder & seldom eat anything without it. The Americans . . . make a pickle of the green Pods with Salt & Vinegar which they use with Lettuce, Rice, Fish, etc." An essay about the Bird Pepper is posted on this Web site.
Visit Monticello's Online Shop to check for seeds or plants of McMahon's Texas Bird Pepper.