#Peppergate: Home Gardeners Are Mad Their Seeds Are Yielding the Wrong Crops


Aug. 22 2023, Published 2:23 p.m. ET

Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a newbie in the garden, you probably want to eat the vegetables you planted after all that effort and time. But in 2023, many people have experienced what's been dubbed "Peppergate" — they planted specific pepper seeds, only to harvest totally different pepper varieties than expected.

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Growing fresh veggies means contending with drought, heat waves, weeds, and critters threatening crops. But shouldn't you be able to expect that whatever it says on a seed packet is the vegetable you'll get when the crop is ready? #Peppergate suggests otherwise.

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The Peppergate seed mix-up is causing frustration.

If you've never heard of Peppergate, it's a gardening controversy that is affecting a lot of U.S. households. TikTok creator @herbal.mama.1982 posted a short video with a text explanation of it, calling Peppergate "a scandal in the gardening community". She says that Peppergate, also called "jalapeñogate," is happening as gardeners plant seeds but don't end up with the plant variety they expected.

As CBS Minnesota's WCCO reported, a number of gardeners around the country are finding surprises in their garden harvests. Experts believe it could be happening due to cross-pollination or even simply mislabeling of seeds.

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"You work so hard at keeping a plant alive through the months and this growing season has been so weird, it's a little bit of a disappointment," Erinn O'Keefe, a Minnesota gardener, told WCCO. People in many online communities are swapping their stories of #Peppergate.

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Videos of Peppergate 2023 show how widespread the problem is.

One TikTok video by user Jasmine in Tha Garden has the tagline, "I too am a victim of #Peppergate." The video shows the text " Me: I'm growing my first Jalapeño plant!" A clip of Tim Robinson from I Think You Should Leave is shown as if he's playing the role of the seeds, saying "You sure about that?" The plant from her garden shown is much lighter than jalapeños usually are.

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Jasmine in Tha Garden's commenters chimed in their support, saying they also got banana peppers after planting jalapeños. One noted: "Every jalapeño plant I bought was a banana pepper!!" Several others echoed the same complaint.

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Another person posting a video about the controversy was corrected by viewers. TikTok user @carlsgardenlife posted a video of her garden saying she had bought a sriracha plant but didn't know what the plant was producing. The video shows a dark green pepper, and she says "Any ideas on what this little liar might be? Please let me know."

Unlike other #Peppergate videos, commenters jumped in on this one to explain this was not a labeling error. "Jalapeños are what’s used for siracha, they don’t turn red until they are ripe," said one commenter. The TikTok creator responded, "Well, ya know, I'm learning. Never grown this plant before."

Why aren't seeds matching what they produce?

As WCCO CBS Minnesota noted, part of the problem may stem from the fact that four companies control most of the seed market. Plus, a Reddit thread about #Peppergate offers some explanation. Responses explain that pepper plants are often indistinguishable at the seed stage, making it easy to mix them up.

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