Growing Hot Peppers
Did You Know?
All peppers start off green then change color as they become ripe. As they redden the sugars develop. So the red ones are sweeter than the green. The more mature the fruit the more developed the flavour.
Where Should I Plant them?
Peppers or capsicums love heat so plant them in the warmest sunniest part of the garden. In warm temperate zones you can grow them all year round. They like to have warm feet – you should leave a about 18 inches around them so that the sun can get onto the soil and warm up the roots. Space around them also allows the air to flow which will help with fungus diseases if it humid. They don’t like frost or cold so try to pick somewhere that is quite sheltered. In cooler but frost free areas they will die off and come again in spring but you will probably get the best results if you treat them as an annual. If you want to have them in a pot choose one that is about 15 inches (40 cm) in diameter – chillies especially can make a pretty attractive plant. Make sure you keep them well watered as pots can dry out quickly.
They have a greater demand for heat than tomatoes so if you can’t grow tomatoes at your place because it’s too cold you won’t be able to grow peppers either.
The seeds need the soil to be warm – about 80° (26° C) to germinate so if you want to speed up the process or get an early start use a propagator.
What about the soil
Peppers need well drained soil – not heavy soil they don’t like wet feet. But be careful not to let the seedlings dry out. I usually just buy a few plants from the garden supply shop that way I can have a few different types rather than a lot of the same.
How Many Plants Should I Grow?
4-6 plants are probably enough for a family of four they take about 3 months for the fruit to be ready to start picking. They have fairly deep root system but are adaptable to most soil types. Don’t give them nitrogen based fertilizer until after the flowers have appeared or you will get heaps of green growth and no flowers. If your garden is windy you may need to stake them but generally they don’t need support.
All my flowers fell off – what happened?
Did you have a really hot spell – over about 100° (38° C) can sometimes cause the flowers to drop. It’s never happened to me – I have found them much hardier than most books seem to tell me they are seriously I just chuck in a few plants add water the same as everything else and after what seems like an eternity I get fruit.
When Should I pick them?
Like lots of vegetables and flowers picking encourages more fruit to grow – perfect.
You can pick them at any stage of ripeness depending on your taste. The longer you leave them on the bush the sweeter they will become. Always cut them off rather than pull them I’ve found the plants to be quite brittle – you can easily break off a whole branch if you pull them.
These are the boring squarish green things you see at the supermarket. They are just unripe if they left them on the bush they would turn red. You can get bell peppers that will turn a light cream whitish color, red, purple, orange yellow and even black.
Is an Italian variety that is long and slender are apparently pretty good for frying.
This is the variety that they grind down to make paprika – no surprise there.
Did you know that they have their own heat scale? The Scoville scale is a measure of the ‘hotness’ of a chilli pepper or anything derived from chilli peppers. There are whole websites dedicated to them you can see one here
Jalapeno – long 3 inch fruit pick when red when dried they are called chipotle heat rating 5.5 out of ten
Habanero – named Havana and Cuba it’s 30 times hotter than a Jalapeno
Cayenne 4 inch long fruit often used dried and powdered – cayenne pepper it’s about and 8 out of ten for heat.
Sante Fe Grande- pale yellow 2 inches long about 6 out of 10 for heat.
My Single Biggest Dilemma
Chilli Chili or Chile – How do you spell it?
The Oxford English Dictionary refers to the word chilli as the primary spelling. This was the original translation of the Aztec word for the plant. The variant Chile is used mainly in Mexico and chilli is used extensively in the United States, especially in California and Texas. My spell checker likes Chilli so I’ll use that so I don’t get the spell checker telling me I’m wrong all the time. So please excuse me if I spell it differently to what you are used to we are all right!
My Chilli Experience – Just a bit of History
Option 1- Dry Them In the Oven
So what was the result of this little fiasco – a house full of toxic chilli fumes. I imagine a bit like the capsicum spray that the police use. After trying to finish them off outside in the sun and having them pecked by the birds until they where strewn about the yard I threw them away.
Option 2 – Hang Them Out To Dry
Option 3 – Cook Them
This seemed like a reasonable option cook them and bottle it up again, if it turned out OK I could use it throughout the year and give some away. I decided to make a test batch first – lucky it was almost another fail. Well not really a fail it’s OK but how much of this stuff do you need. My test batch made a few good jars full. It’s good with cheese but I haven’t really found much else to do with it and unless you make masses of it you don’t use that many chilies. The photo on the right shows the ingredients it only used about ten chilies.