Chillies come in all shapes, sizes and colours ranging from tiny pointed extremely hot chillies to the large mild fleshy peppers like the Jalapeno. This is the best time of the year to select as you can harvest almost immediately. In our family it's always a challenge to see who will eat the hottest but somehow afterwards they always make it into the meal.
Indigenous to Central and South America and the West Indies, they have been cultivated there for thousands of years before the Spanish conquest, which eventually introduced them to the rest of the world. Today there are probably over 400 different chillies grown and the fruit is eaten raw or cooked.
What makes them hot? The fiery hot flavour is concentrated along the top of the pod. The stem end of the pod produces what we taste as hot, the capsaicin. The white flesh, that surrounds the seeds, contains the highest concentrations of capsaicin. Removing the seeds and inner membranes is thus effective at reducing the heat.
Grow the best chillies
Chillies will grow very easily from seed or establish fast from seedlings. Whether you are growing them in containers in the garden or the Veggie patch here’s our recommendation to get your food garden hot.
- Plants thrive in full sun.
Chillies will grow in some light shade but grow best in hot sunny spots. They will grow well in containers or in the beds in a well-drained soil. Feed with an organic plant food, this will produce stronger plants with better flavour than plants that are forced with chemical fertilisers.
- Keep them dry
Chillies do not need much water at all, perfect for the #WaterWise gardener. Water them once or twice a week and keep them slightly dry between watering.
- Feed them with organic fertiliser
Organic feeding will result in better taste and tougher plants. Use Nitrosol as a liquid feed for container grown chillies. In the garden feed them with BioGanic every two months to keep them producing fruit right through to early winter.
- Easy to propagate.
Chillies are self-pollinating and can be grown easy from seed. Many of the varieties grown today are from cross-pollination from different varieties. Harvest seed from your own crop and replant next summer. Many varieties are annual and it is best to plant fresh every year for a good harvest.
- To grow chillies from seed
Use a sowing tray with plenty of holes for drainage. Fill with seedling soil and level out by pressing the soil down firmly. Sprinkle the seed evenly across the tray. Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite and press down again. Water well and keep damp until they germinate. Place the tray in a dappled shade spot till you are ready to plant out into the garden or into pots on the patio.
Here are some of the most popular varieties and their Burn/hot status:
- Jalapeno 3/10
- Tabasco 5/10
- Cayenne 5/10
- Habanero 10/10