Sow: January – May
Harvest: July – December
Conditions: A pot full of good compost in a sunny position.
Plant the seeds in damp, fine compost in a propogator and place in a warm position. Once they are big enough to transplant, gently separate them and plant carefully in a prepared hole in the pot. Water, then leave to grow on on a sunny windowsill.
You can keep transplanting the chilli plant, moving it into bigger pots as it grows bigger or simply put the seedling straight into a 20cm pot. Add some gravel to the bottom of the pot for drainage and when the weather improves, move them outside to a sunny spot. You can feed with a general liquid feed or special purpose pepper feed once a week if you want to.
In regard to watering, it’s best not to water peppers too much. Try to let the top of the soil dry out a little between waterings, especially once the fruits have appeared. I slightly overwatered them during my first attempt to grow peppers and they took forever to ripen.
If you’re growing the plant inside, you will need to pay close attention to the flowers. Most peppers require insect pollination to produce fruit so if your plant is flowering and not producing any peppers, you may need to begin hand-pollination. There are several ways to do this; one, you can gently shake the plant once a day and some of the flowers should cross-pollinate or two, you can use a small, slightly damp paintbrush to carefully brush the centre of each flower. Sounds fiddly but it’s actually quite a soothing activity and if you do this between 12pm-2pm and you’ll get the best results.
Chilli peppers can be fairly prolific and once they’ve started, they’ll keep growing and ripening peppers until the weather gets cold, at which point you can move them inside and they’ll keep going.
Chilli peppers are best grown in pots, especially in the UK climate. The plants aren’t generally huge and pots allow you to always make sure they’re in the best spot, whether that’s greenhouse, patio or windowsill. See above for growing instructions.
Dried – Snip the chillies from the plant at the top of the stem. Using gloves and a needle, thread some cotton through the base of the stalks and create a string or bunch to hang up somewhere cool and dry. After about a month, they should be dry at which point you can take them down, grind them and pour into a jar to use. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after touching chillies though.
Frozen – Lay the chillies on a baking tray and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag or container.
Oil – For chilli-infused oil, add 5-8 dried chillies (depending how hot you want it) to a pan of simmering malt vinegar. After about 10 minutes, remove the chillies and pat dry with kitchen towel to remove all the vinegar. Next, heat up a pan of olive oil and add the chillies, simmering for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, drop the chillies into a sterilised bottle or jar and pour the oil over the top. Allow to cool, then seal the bottle.
GOOD: Basil, Carrots, Garlic, Onions, Oregano, Parsley, Tomatoes
BAD: Apricot, Beans, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Fennel