August 12, 2009: There's Customer Service, and Then There's CUSTOMER SERVICE

Monday I was lamenting the fact that my jalapenos weren't hot, so I was unable to make my hot pepper jelly. Out of curiosity as to how this could be, I emailed Michael Dehlendorf, the owner of Ohio Heirloom Seeds, where I had purchased seed for my Early Jalapeno Peppers. I had been impressed with this small seed company from the beginning. Their customer service was excellent last spring, the prices are more than fair, and delivery was really fast and, most important to me, very reasonably priced. I get high blood pressure when I see the exorbitant prices for shipping in most seed catalogs! So I thought maybe Michael could shed some light on the problem of the mild jalapenos. And he did. Within five hours of my request for information, he came back with an answer. Following is our correspondence:

Mon, August 10, 2009 12:51

Michael, I planted your Early Jalapeno peppers, and they grew huge and healthy, and are loaded with peppers. However, they are not hot! There is corking on some, some have begun turning red, but they taste just like a bell pepper. I even chewed the seeds, and there is no heat. Can you tell me what could have caused this?

Monday, August 10, 2009 5:09

Granny (*of course he used my real name)

Here's what I came up with.

This Spring I started about 85 of the Early Jalapenos (same seed lot as your seeds) and sold about 60 of them. The rest went to a friend of mine who grows them for a local market. (I didn't grow any adult Jalapenos this year, just sold my seedlings). I spoke with him this afternoon and he said his were hot. I then emailed one of the people who bought plants from me and just received her response- fairly hot.

I have emailed several of my customers who bought the seed from me this Spring. I've heard back from 2 of them- both said theirs are hot.

I did a bit of research on the subject this afternoon and spoke with several pepper growers, including one of my local growers who has been doing it for 55 years. He told me that the capsicum levels can be reduced significantly by too much nitrogen and water. He told me that if your plants are large and beautiful, with lots of peppers, that you may have provided "too ideal" conditions. He suggested picking most of the peppers and then allowing the remaining ones to turn red, and trim a branch or two off the plants. Often times this type of injury will cause an increase in capsicum.

I wanted to let you know that I do not carry the mild version of the Jalapeno, so there isn't any chance I mislabeled a package or something. I apologize for your troubles, and really enjoyed looking at your website. You do some serious gardening!

Please let me know if this information helps.

Mike Dehlendorf

August 11, 2009 1:25

Thank you, Michael. I'll try brutalizing my peppers! Yes, I do have them planted in beds that are rich in compost, but I don't think too much nitrogen, although I did have greens planted on both sides of the two rows of peppers, and I did add extra nitrogen in the form of alfalfa pellets to those areas. I have one jalapeno plant in a container elsewhere. The peppers are still quite small, so they haven't been growing in such rich soil. They also only get water when they begin to wilt, unlike the main garden which gets watered more frequently (we have had a long period of 95-108 degree weather, with only .o8" of rainfall in the past month). If the container grown jalapenos turn out to be hot, I'll have found the reason. I heard from another blogger who planted Early Jalapenos, and hers don't have any heat, either. She's in Winchester, Massachusetts, and has had a lot of rain this summer. She was blaming the moisture for her problem.

By the way, I am very happy with the other peppers, although the Purple Beauty was very slow to germinate and grow. It just recently gave me my first purple pepper. The Golden Calwonder and the Quadrato Rosso D'Asti are gorgeous! I've never grown peppers so large and prolific. And I loved the Red Romaine!

Thank you for being so prompt with your answer. I was impressed with your customer service last spring, I'm even more impressed now.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009 7:20

You are welcome, (Granny). I simply do not like unhappy customers so I try my best to resolve any problems people might be having. I also use it as a learning experience, and if I don't have the answer I do my best to find it.

I haven't grown Jalapenos in 3 or 4 years simply because we don't eat them (too hot) and my garden space is fully commited to other varieties this year. Yes, my Golden Calwonders and Quadratos are doing great and I had similar germination problems with the Purples. They took a really long time this year and I'm trying to figure out why. I spoke with my grower several weeks ago and she is trying to figure it out too. They germinated in 12 days last year. There is a lot of variation in seed.

I've heard about your weather out there this year and was wondering how the gardens are doing. After looking at your blog I would say everything is great! We have had the coolest summer in about 100 years with temperatures averaging 4 degrees below normal- it's the same all over the midwest. It's been a little drier than normal too, but not much. The cooler temperatures have increased vegetable yields tremendously, with my tomatoes doing as well as any year since the 1970's.

Again, please let me know how you make out with the pruning. I am very curious as to what caused this.


August 11, 2009 10:01

Michael, today I tried a jalapeno from the potted plant, I took a bite from the end of it, heat. Then I picked out a seed and tasted it. Then I spent the next thirty minutes swishing milk in my mouth to stop the burning...from one seed! So the poorer soil and less water seems to be the answer. Next year I'll make sure they have a spot of their own, with no added nitrogen and less water. Thank you so much for your help, and I'm definitely not an unhappy customer.


Can you believe there are actually people out there who would go through that much trouble over a $1.29 packet of seeds?

On the other hand, I have been on the phone twice this morning, trying to get a newspaper. Our new paper carrier doesn't rubber band the papers on windy days, nor does he put the paper in a plastic bag on rainy days. Mr. H hates chasing the paper across the front lawn in his pajamas, and twice in the past week we've had an unreadable rain soaked newspaper. I paid $80 for six months of delivery (we've been customers for 36 years), and can't get a lick of satisfaction from the Tri-City Herald.

Yes, there's customer service like TCH's, then there's CUSTOMER SERVICE like Michael Dehlendorf's.

Ohio Heirloom Seeds is proud to sell only the finest quality vegetable and herb seeds available. We pledge to you that none of our seeds have been genetically altered in any manner. All varieties are open-pollinated, meaning that you can harvest seeds from your fruit and grow the exact same variety, year after year.

All seed packages are priced at $1.29. Shipping is $1.99, no matter how many packages you order. Paypal is the preferred method of payment, but we also accept personal checks (see "Contact Us" for details).

Our seeds are hand-selected, packaged in traditional paper envelopes, and mailed to you in a a bubble-mailer envelope for extra protection. The typical package contains at least 10% more seeds than specified. All seeds were harvested in 2008, for use in 2009, and have been germination tested.

Orders are shipped within 24 hours; most the same day.

We appreciate your business and hope you enjoy our products.


  1. thanks for posting, granny! i will definitely look into buying ohio heirloom seeds for next year.

  2. "Thank you, Michael. I'll try brutalizing my peppers!"

    Aha!!! See?, I knew you had no problem roughing up those peppers. Heh.

    That is impressive customer service, Granny....

  3. EG, I don't care what you say, I did not beat that purple pepper to death. It's supposed to be that color!

  4. I thought it was an eggplant.


    Great post, Granny. Just goes to show you there still are some good companies left.

  5. Thank you so much for posting about the heirloom seed company. The prices sound great and the shipping is so reasonable. Thanks for the info.

  6. I do like those prices! I am always looking for good prices on seeds. I got most of mine from PineTree because of their prices! But those look almost better!

    With all the rain we have had I am now wondering if my Serranos and Habanero's will have any heat! We do like the heat! Makes good salsa! We'll see I guess!

  7. A while back I had several issues I was trying to resolve. I called 2 different companies. 1 was so helpful and nice. The other, nasty. Good customer service means a lot to me. I'm glad you had such good results and I will look into their company.

  8. Wonderful recommendation! I will be looking at them for fall or next year. Every now and then I run into service like that and I make sure I tell everyone I know! In an economy like ours today, it is so important to keep your customers happy, obviously Ohio Heirloom Seeds knows the secret to staying in business! As far as the newspaper...I'm still shaking my head on that one, lol!

  9. BTW as soon as my constant rain stopped in August my Early Jalapenos have been getting hotter. They still aren't quite up to normal, but at least they have a bit of spice now. Not much I can do if it starts raining a lot again.

  10. Daphne, I'm hoping the seed heat spreads to the peppers! I suppose I could just add a few seeds to the jelly for the heat, but I wouldn't want to overdo it. My mouth burned for 30 minutes after chewing that one seed!

  11. Now THAT is customer service! Let us know how it goes after you pulverize your peppers LOL.

  12. Awesome! Thanks for the recommendation. I placed an order with them right away (I have a serious seed buying addiction) and just received an email that they already shipped!! Very cool.

  13. Thanks for letting us know about your experience. Its nice to know that there are some company's out there that really do care about their customers. Also as a newer gardener its nice to find a seed company who doesn't charge an arm and a leg for their product.

  14. My peppers are not hot this year either although I am growing ones that are mildy hot. The Big Chili II's had no heat at all but did taste very good in the green chili sauce. I have a photo up of the first purple pepper, it is now turning purple. I think it didn't start out purple because of the other peppers shading them.

  15. Dan, the bad thing about the purple pepper is when is it ripe? When the green ones turn color, they are ripe. When purple ones start out purple....I don't know when to pick it!

  16. Well, not only was that a nice testament to that company's customer service... I also learned a little more about hot pepper cultivation requirements today!

  17. Very impressed with Ohio Heirloom Seed customer service! Wow...

    I've bookmarked their site for future reference.

    How interesting about your Peppers. I've decided to take some of our Jalapenos to make Jelly.

    Thanks for sharing Granny!