Eating chilli peppers will help you to feel good. This is due to the body producing endorphins that deal with the sizzling pain, which often follows a meal that’s laced with these fiery capsicums!
There’s more to these vegetables than just fire though, they come in a wide range of flavours to suit all tastes. Just as sweet or bell peppers have different flavours – orange cultivars are sweeter that red ones, and green ones have a level of bitterness, so too do chillis.
A good choice for patio pots is NewMex Twilight, that ripens over a period of time so the effects is a multitude of coloured chillis all at the same time
Ideal for patio pots is Pepper Spangles, which produces a good crop of teardrop fruits in orange and red and also white and purple, which have a fruity flavour and mild heat.
GYO FROM SEED
You can sow chilli seeds right up until the end of April, although it’s best to sow the early in January and February, to give the plants plenty of time to ripen before the end of summer. It’s a fact, that the hottest varieties often need the longest growing period.
Sow Chilli pepper seeds on the surface of moist, free-draining, seed compost and cover with a fine sprinkling of compost. Place seed trays in a propagator at a temperature of 18-25C or cover your seed trays with polythene and put them in a warm place to germinate.
Germination usually takes 7-10 days, after which you will need to move, your seedlings to a warm, sunny windowsill or a heated greenhouse. Keep the compost evenly moist but take care not to let it get soaking wet.
When the seedlings are big enough to handle, transplant them into individual 7.5cm pots of compost and grow them on until all risk of frost has passed. At this stage they can be transplanted to their final positions outdoors.
You can grow chillies individually in large pots, or plant them in grow bags allowing three plants per bag. You can grow containerised chilli plants in a greenhouse or conservatory but will need to hand pollinate them by moving from flower to flower, tickling the centre of each with a fine artist’s paint brush
BUY READY-GROWN PLANTS
You buy ready-grown potted plants that can be put immediately outside when the risk of frost is past. Home grown chillies, are best gradually acclimatised to cooler outdoor conditions, over a period of 7 to 10 days.
To keep the plants happy and healthy, water them regularly throughout the growing season – keep your soil a little on the dry side because slightly stressing your chilli plants helps to produce hotter peppers.
Pinch out the growing tip of the first flowering shoots to promote more branching and a better harvest. Taller varieties of chilli pepper may require staking
Once the first fruits have set, feed them weekly with a high potash tomato fertiliser.
If you’ve planted them in the garden, add a thick mulch of organic matter around the base of the plants to help conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.
Chilli peppers grown outdoors must be harvested before the first frost but if your crop has yet to ripen, bring your plants indoors and let them ripen on a warm sunny windowsill.
Some experts advise, snapping off first chillies while green to encourage fruiting all season (July to October). You can let the next fruit mature to red for a more rounded flavour. Harvest chillies singly by cutting them from the plant with secateurs.
The stems of the chilli peppers together so that they form a “daisy chain” of peppers, then hang them in a warm, well ventilated spot and let the air dry them over a 4 to 5 week period
Alternatively, freeze them straight after picking, without any further preparation. After you defrost your chillies, you’ll find the flesh slightly softened, but don’t worry, they’ll taste just as fiery as they did when you picked them.
Aphids, also know as greenfly, are the most serious pest of sweet peppers and chillies. Fortunately, controlling them is easy: they can be rubbed off or washed off with an organic soap spray.
IT’S A FACT!
2018 has been dedicated as The Year of the Pepper, by Fleuroselect Home Garden Association, an international non-profit organisation, that chooses a vegetable and flower each year, designed to boost seed and plant sales.
The Scoville Scale is the traditional measure for chilli heat. In 2017, Welsh fruit grower Mike Smith accidentally grew the world’s hottest chilli. At 2.48 million on the Scoville scale, his creation, Dragon’s Breath, pushed the variety Carolina Reaper into second place!
TOP 10 – Thompson-morgan.com
Bishops Crown – mild Described as tall (up to 75cm) with a branching habit and so they will need some cane support whilst growing (available from T&M as plug plants).
Summer Heat (Jalapeño) – hot An early ripening Jalapeno pepper with long, slightly tapered, 9cm fruits. Traditionally the chillies are picked green, but can be left to ripen to red. The unusual ‘scarred’ skin of Jalapeno ‘Rocky’ is a desired trait of Mexican Jalapenos which are commonly used on pizzas for their pungent, hot flavour
Inferno – hot a ‘Hungarian Hot Wax’ hybrid, produces early bumper crops over a long season on compact plants. The chillies are large, smooth skinned, and pale lime green in colour, turning red as they ripen. This moderately hot variety is ideal for roasting and frying.
Chilli Pepper Heatwave – hot Chilli Pepper ‘Heatwave’ is a fiery mix producing hot fruits in shades of red, yellow and orange. Beautifully ornamental and offering a ‘mind blowing’ hot flavour experience, this Cayenne is most suitable for greenhouse culture. It’s also used to season Doritos Heatwave Tortilla Chips!
Joe’s Long – hot produces high yields of hot, slender, cayenne-style chillies reaching up to an unbelievable 25cm long. The chillies ripen from a dark, bottle-green to red with a strong pungency that is excellent for making hot sauces or for drying to make powders. This variety grow well indoors or outdoors. It grows 50cm tall and has an attractive bushy habit
Tabasco – very hot Famed as the main ingredient of the well known hot chilli sauce. Chilli Pepper ‘Tabasco’ produces small, upright, yellow-green fruits that turn scarlet when ripe. This very hot pepper is easy to grow in the greenhouse or in containers on a sunny patio.
Demon Red – very hot produces upward facing, very hot chilli peppers throughout summer. This very dwarf variety RHS AGM variety produces prolific yields, grown indoors or outside. It was specially bred for growing on a windowsill or in patio containers, where it makes an attractive plant for edible or ornamental use
Tropical heat – scorching a hot mix of Caribbean ‘Habenero’ red and orange, plus yellow and red ‘Scotch Bonnets’. These very hot fruits ripen from green to red and have a fiery pungency at maturity.
Prairie Fire – scorching even though it has a dwarf bushy habit this RHS AGM variety will give you a non-stop summer crop of literally hundreds of tiny, extremely hot peppers and can be grown on a sunny windowsill or patio container outside.
Naga Jalokia – atomic! this chilli was officially recognised in 2007 as the world’s hottest chilli pepper, measured at just over one million scoville heat units (SHU). This extraordinarily hot pepper produces pale lime green chillies, later turning an orangey red colour, which should be used sparingly and with care!
Chilli heads, as enthusiasts are called, will love the following varieties…
chilli heads can build up a resistance, like alcoholics and heroin addicts but, if you have a weak heart, it might give up, because the capsaicin makes your heart beat faster
The variety Curry Pepper that produces pungent 15cm long fruits on compact plants. The fruits can be used fresh when still light green or left to ripen and dried to be used when they are full of hot flavour.
Pepper Golden Ghost, which is a hybrid version of the hot, hot, hot Bhut Jolokia – still has the heat but with a sweeter, more citrus twist. High yields of glossy, dark yellow-orange fruits.
Pepper Havana Gold produces large crops of attractive fruits that have the flavour of a Habanero chilli but with half the heat – Mr Fothergill’s Seed offer a vast range of peppers chosen for their superb taste and excellent garden performance
Peruvian Lemon Drop, which is a hot, lemony-flavoured Aji type with attractive green and yellow fruits, which can be grown successfully in large pots on a sunny patio.
Serrano chillies are too hot to handle – You should wear gloves while working with hot peppers because if you don’t, you may start to notice a tingling in your fingertips and if you touch your eyes or go to the loo without washing your hands beforehand you’ll feel the HEAT!
Chilli enthusiast, James Wong describes the Serrano Chilli as “Jalapenos baddass little brother, as it gives a similar bright, biting flavour with a ton more heat!”
And, if you can’t take the heat… try Hungarian Hot Wax, which is hot but not volcanic and the popular chilli Trinidad Perfume, which is packed with a tangy, fruity flavour but has virtually no heat.
Planning to have chilli for dinner but not sure how much heat your guests can stomach? Then try my tried and tested tips
Add more stock, canned tomatoes and refried or mashed beans to dilute the spiciness
Diary helps neutralize the spiciness so add a dollop of full fat sour cream or yoghurt
Serve it with plenty of rice or bread as this too will help turn down the heat.
Add some cubes of potatoes or kernels of sweet corn
A spoonful of peanut butter can help but make sure that nobody coming for dinner has a nut allergy!
Add a squeeze of lime – it helps cut through the heat
Add sugar or honey (keep tasting as you go) or try a cube or dark chocolate
Pop in a piece of pineapple – grated carrot also works
where to buy chilli plants
Buy pot ready plants from marshals-seeds.co.uk
suttons.co.uk; dobies.co.uk; marshals-seeds.co.uk; worldofchillies.com; southdevonchillifarm.co.uk; thompson-morgan.com; gardening express.co.uk: mr-fothergills.co.uk
chilli festivals in uk
chillifest.com are staging popup events throughout the UK from May to December 2018
west dean.org.uk host the UK’s biggest chilli festival, 10-12 August 2018 with live Latin music, dance, cookery, gardening demos and chillies
thefestivalofheat.co.uk is hosting their event September where they will have stalls selling chilli sauces, fresh chilli harvests & spicy world food