Some Like it Hot, Extremely Hot!
Striking both in look and taste, the chilli pepper is an
ideal plant to grow in containers, and will spice up
your cooking too, as Fiona Lawrenson reveals
If you have never tried to grow your own chilli peppers
now's your chance to experience a whole new world. I
must admit that I can't eat too many chillies, but one
of my friends is addicted and maintains that the more
you eat, the more you want!
Over the last five years, so many unusual varieties
of chilli have become available providing a whole new
range of both colour and flavour. Colours include greens,
yellows, creams, reds, purples and blacks, and tastes
range from sweet to napalm strength.
How to grow?
I prefer to grow these attractive plants in pots. This
tends to address all the problems that these little
chaps hate, such as the soil being too cold and wet
or not providing enough shelter.
Growing peppers is very similar to growing
tomatoes, although they do require warmer conditions
and a higher light intensity. Sow the seed in mid-March
in soil that is slightly acidic, moisture retentive
and fertile, with plenty of humus
worked in. Initially, I sow three seeds in a small pot
at a depth of ¼ inch. The temperature required for germination
is critical, the minimum being 21°C. As the seedlings
grow, keep them at a temperature of between 12°C and
15°C. When they reach 5cm in height, transfer each one
into individual 7cm pots. Gradually lower the temperature
to harden off the young plants. Either in the late spring
or when the first flowers appear, repot the chilli plants
into 23cm-wide containers.
Don't over-water the compost or allow it to dry out.
Maintaining the correct level of moisture is particularly
important when the plant is flowering and the fruit
is beginning to set. Feed the plants every two weeks
using a suitable high potassium tomato feed. In hot
weather, your chillies will also benefit from high humidity,
since this prevents immature fruits from dropping. So,
encourage evaporation either by spraying the plants
with water twice a day (morning and mid-day) or by leaving
buckets of water nearby. This has the additional advantage
of discouraging the appearance of red
Harvest your chillies at the end of July/beginning of
August. Mature chillies should be smooth and glossy
as opposed to the crinkly, matt appearance associated
with the immature fruits. Remember that they do tend
to become hotter in flavour when left for a longer time
on the plant.
Allow the chillies either to dry on the plant by hanging
them up in a cool, dry place, or pop the chilli peppers
in olive oil in airtight jars.
Suggested varieties to try:
'Yellow Cayenne'- large, hot, yellow chilli. Good for
'Apache' - prolific plant, brilliant for growing in
pots. Can produce over 100 small, hot chillies.
'Hungarian Wax' - sweet and hot.
Visit West Dean Gardens, West Dean, Chichester, West
Sussex on the 12th/13th August, between 10:30am and
5:00pm, for a Chilli Fiesta. Tel: (01243) 818210.
West Dean Gardens grows over 200 varieties of chillies.
They sell a wide variety of products, catering both
for the 'chillihollic' and the more tenderhearted amongst
Adults: £ 4.00
OAPs: £ 3.50
Children: £ 2.00
Family Ticket: £10.00
Photograph by Andrew Nichols
with premission from Greenfingers.com