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Do you enjoy eating chili peppers and would you like to know how to grow them yourself? In addition to being very tasty, they look great as ornamental plants. With our guidelines, you will become a pro in growing chili peppers, also, we will show you how to dry them, preserve them, and some tips on how to cook them.
Although chili peppers hide behind exotic names, growing them is trivially easy and anyone who has ever grown tomatoes or cucumbers from seed has already been retrained because peppers require significantly less care. All that is needed for growing chili peppers is a quality seed, water, soil and a place under the sun.
Chilli peppers, close relatives of ordinary peppers, belong to the genus Capsicum of the flowering plants (Solanaceae). They originate in South and Central America and have been used for millennia.
What kind of chili peppers to grow?
The hot pepper depends on its type. However, even within the limits of one species, the heat level can vary from pepper to pepper. The degree of heat level is expressed in the so-called Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Plain peppers have SHU zero, Jalapeno peppers 3,000 to 6,000, while the biggest heat level has famous Jolokia chili pepper, grown in Bangladesh, northeast Asia, and Sri Lanka.
- sweet pepper = 0 unit
- pepperoncini = 100 – 500 units
- pasilla = 1,000 – 1,500 units
- rocotillo = 1,500 – 2,500 units
- jalapeno = 2,500 – 5,000 units
- wax = 5,000 – 10,000 units
- vserano = 10,000 – 23,000 units
- cayenne pepper, tabasco, guntur chili – 30,000 – 50,000 units
- red savina habanero = 360,000 – 500,000 units
- naga viper, infinity chili – 855,000 – 1,500,000 units
Generally, the hotter the pepper (or sauce), the better it is because it contains more capsaicin, which is a medicinal ingredient.
Chili peppers species we plant the most:
- Capsicum Annuum: The most common type of chili pepper, and is grown around the world. There are many intersections within the species, which contribute to the prevalence of this species. The most famous representatives of the species are red and green peppers and perhaps the most famous jalapeno chili peppers. The species is attributed to rapid growth and production.
- Capsicum Frutescens: The species is characterized by an abundant low shrub. It is especially sensitive to light conditions. It usually produces smaller but very hot peppers. It needs strong light to grow, and its most famous representatives are Tabasco, Bird’s eye….
- Capsicum Baccatum: The plant is specific in its shrubby form and small leaves. It likes colder conditions for growth, and at the same time, it likers drier weather better than other pepper in gardens. The most famous representative of the species: the Aji variety.
- Capsicum Chinense: Chili pepper with the highest heat level, it is known for its broad leaves. Of all other species, it yields the most delicious fruits. It loves shade and lots of moisture, and the most famous representative of the species is Habanero.
- Capsicum Pubescens: The leaves are of a specific shape and the seeds are black. Often referred to as ancient chili, some varieties can grow up to 80 inches in height and width. The fruits are thick and fleshy. It likes shade and a little light, the most famous representative being the Rocoto.
How to grow chili peppers
Chili peppers are plants from warmer regions, and in addition to the extremely long germination period, they also require a long period of warm weather to reach full fruition. With chili peppers, it is usually a rule that the hotter the pepper level, the longer it germinates and grows.
Growing hot peppers is not as complicated as it is rumored. As with other crops whose natural habitat is not in our area and in our climate zone, you must respect the conditions they require. The problem of germination of hot peppers is based on several facts:
- Temperatures between 77 and 86 (90) °F are required for germination success.
- Seed germination ranges between 70% and 80% under ideal conditions. The more ideal conditions you give, the better the germination you will have. If the substrate temperature is around 70 °F, the germination period is extended.
- Seed germination lasts between 5 and 30 days, depending on the variety of hot peppers, but even seeds of the same variety do not germinate at the same time. Also, the temperature is one of the factors affecting the uniformity of germination of the seeds of hot peppers and other plants. If the temperature of the air and the substrate throughout the germination period is constant (with little variation, of course), the peppers will germinate more evenly.
- Successful cultivation and yield require that nighttime temperatures do not fall below 50 °F.
Recommendation: do not sow chili peppers too early, it will make it difficult for yourself and them. Failure to provide the conditions listed here will cause the plants to stagnate, weaken and be susceptible to plant diseases
Don’t let these reasons discourage you, because when you grow your own chili pepper, everything pays off.
Chilli peppers are sown in early January to late March (depending on where are you from). For most people in our area, this is the perfect time to plant. In reality, we can plant chili peppers at any time of the year if we can provide the plants with the proper conditions for germination, growth, and flowering. Successful harvesting of chili peppers requires appropriate conditions such as suitable temperature, light, adequate moisture, suitable substrate, and fertilizers.
The biggest mistake when growing is too much watering which facilitates the development of fungal diseases but also reduces the heat level of chili peppers.
Water the chili peppers as needed. If the substrate looks dry on the surface, just slide your finger in to check the humidity of the substrate at the root level. If the feeling is that it is moist enough, wait with watering.
How to prepare the seeds of hot peppers before sowing
Since the seeds of hot peppers have a hard outer shell, it is advisable to soak them in water or chamomile tea solution for several hours before sowing, preferably overnight. In some online places, you can also read that it is good to use a hydrogen peroxide solution, but we would not recommend this if you are not sure what you are doing.
Chamomile tea also acts as a disinfectant if the seeds are infected with agents of plant diseases such as fungi or bacteria, and can be transmitted and maintained in the seeds and harm the plants in the first stages of growth. For seed disinfection, it is also possible to use a 0.5% potassium permanganate solution for 20 minutes. This solution also softens the seed shell, ultimately resulting in faster germination. If using this solution, after treatment, rinse the seeds in clean water and dry them before sowing.
Sowing chili peppers in pots or containers
The next step is to prepare a pot/container where you will sow the seeds. If you are sowing a large number of seeds, the Styrofoam seedling container is a great choice because it can fit a hundred seeds in one.
Later they can easily be transplanted into larger pots or soil. You can find such containers in almost all better-equipped farm pharmacies. If you sow a small amount of seed, you can use any pots, yogurt cups, mugs, or so-called Jiffy peat pellets (dip the pellets into water and let them puff, lay the seeds inside and have ready-made germination that does not require a classic substrate for start).
Make sure that the pots have holes in the bottom so that, in the event of heavy watering, excess water can flow out. If you use one pot for more than one seed, be careful not to place them too close as it may damage the roots when transplanted.
In terms of the substrate (soil), it is best to use some of the commercially available ones in garden centers or agricultural pharmacies. Such soil is sterilized, which means that it should not contain weed seeds or agents of plant diseases and pests (bugs, mites or roundworms) that could harm chili peppers.
Cover the soaked seeds with only a few millimeters of soil, no more than 5 mm, as the seeds may not have enough energy to penetrate a thicker layer of soil. The seeded pots should be kept in a warm place so that the temperature is between 77 and 86 (90) °F. If you do this at home, a central heating radiator is a good choice (although it is difficult to maintain a constant temperature on it), but if the temperature is high, place something between the pot and the radiator so that the seeds do not “boil”.
Also, to maintain the temperature you can use the space near the boiler, on top of the refrigerator, on some receiver, ADSL or WiFi router, cable receiver…
These are all potential places with constant temperature, just be sure to check that the temperature is right. When the seeds are sown, it is best to wait for the topsoil to dry before watering again, otherwise, algae and various fungi can be created on the surface, which can damage the seedlings. It is a good option to water the pots immediately after sowing if the soil is not already moist enough and then wrap them in a transparent kitchen wrap. Wrapping it in foil will prevent moisture from coming out of the pot and will maintain a higher temperature with the plants.
Germination lasts between 5 and 30 days. Do not be surprised if 5 chili peppers sprout in 5 days and then the rest only after 10 days or more. Do not be discouraged if your peppers need longer to germinate, be persistent, keep them warm and water them when needed. Light does not matter until the plant begins to emerge from the ground. When the plants sprout it is necessary to provide a good light source. The sun is a best friend to plants and one sunny day means more than a few days under artificial lighting. Be sure to keep that in mind.
Use a universal vegetable transplant substrate to fill the pots. You can find them under the names of different manufacturers: universal mixed vegetable substrate, tomato and pepper substrate, fruit vegetable substrate. For substrates, good drainage is essential so that water does not stay in the root area during watering, which can cause rot.
Pinching chili peppers
Pinching is the tearing of sprouts on peppers. It is done to remove the sprouts that the plant, when developing them, consumes too much energy instead of growing the stems, main branches, and flower buds. With pinching peppers, you can shape the growth of your peppers as you wish.
What is all the “excess” that needs to be eliminated? As a rule, everything that grows between the stem and the real leaf is pinched off.
Harvesting chili peppers
Cut the chili peppers with scissors to avoid breaking the twigs. You can harvest them mature and immature. The unripe fruits are juicy and more crunchy, so use them fresh or pickled.
Ripe fruits take on color and are more aromatic, but as they mature, the meat dries slightly and becomes thinner. Regular picking of fruits will encourage faster development of new flowers and fruits. You will probably want to preserve the seeds of a variety of chili peppers for the next year – be they that you have grown, bought or given as a gift.
The fruits must be fully ripe – the skin of the fruit is then somewhat thinner and has a full color (for example, red or yellow). Then you can be sure that the seeds inside are ripe too.
How to dry chili peppers
We can prepare chili peppers in many different ways, and among other things, we can dry them. To help you with this, we bring you practical tips for drying chili peppers.
The drying of chili peppers is becoming more and more popular, especially due to the fact that it can be used as a spice in various dishes. The life of dried peppers is much longer than that of fresh peppers, which simplifies their use.
The successful drying of chili peppers requires a lot of sun and heat. Namely, without these factors, proper and successful drying of spices and also chili peppers cannot be achieved. It is not necessary to clean or remove the seeds before drying the chili peppers.
Simply place the chili peppers on a thread at a 45-degree angle, and at the very end of the thread, place a small piece of wood, a toothpick, or something like that, so that the peppers do not slip off the thread. As the chili peppers dry, so will their color become darker. Drying time is not predictable, but most chili peppers usually dry for up to a month.
Chili peppers storage
Enrich your storage with chili peppers: add in ajvar, pindjur, ketchup, Sataraš, and mixed salads. They are excellent as an ingredient in many sauces (for example, tabasco). You can pick peppers and mix them in mixed salads.
You can also freeze excess green and ripe fruits (alone or in combination with common peppers). Ripe chili peppers are easily dried in the air, in an oven or in a dehydrator (at 120 – 140 °F).
Diseases and parasites
Chili peppers generally have fewer problems with diseases and parasites than common peppers. Provide plants with the best possible conditions and care to minimize these problems. The disease sometimes causes rot of leaves and stems, powdery mildew, water mold and wilting of plants, and from parasites red spider, aphids or thrips.
Interesting facts about chili peppers
Chili peppers originate from Mexico, where they have grown 9,000 years ago. In addition to Mexico, chili excels in the states of California, Carolina, and Louisiana. At first, they were used as an ornamental object and then as food and medicine. They were allegedly brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus from his travels in the Caribbean, believing he had discovered a new kind of pepper. Ferdinand Magellan has transferred chili to Africa and Asia, where today it is an almost an indispensable spice in a variety of dishes. It comes on the market in fresh, dried (whole, minced, crushed), but also in canned form.
Some chili peppers cooking recipes
Mexican cuisine has long been known as the cuisine in which hot dishes are preferred. So we will be heading to Mexico with their famous Beef, Cheese and Chilli Enchiladas. Mexican food would not be Mexican if it weren’t for the tortillas. In this case, they are stuffed with beef, salsa verde, grated cheese, and minced chili peppers. Bake everything together in an oven sprinkled with grated cheese.
Chickpea balls with various spices and herbs are a popular Middle Eastern dish. Falafel is considered a national Israeli dish and is popular in Lebanon. In the following recipe, Jamie Oliver combines falafel with tortillas and vegetables with the addition of harissa chili sauce. Another popular hot Mexican dish is Fajitas with coriander and lime. You will also need tortillas for this recipe, but also 3 types of common and two types of chili peppers, of course with the addition of cayenne pepper and minced chili. Yes, this dish is hot in the full sense of the word.
Spicy baked cheese is prepared with a minimum of ingredients. All you need are sausage, semi-hard cheese, mozzarella, sour cream, and chili peppers, all baked together in the oven. If you like to nibble on meat, we have the perfect recipe for you – hot of course. Hot chicken wings are ideal for eating in front of the TV. They should be fried in oil and then stewed with garlic, onions and chili peppers. If you are afraid of staying hungry, serve wings with rice or vegetables.
Spaghetti can also be served in a hot way. The whole preparation takes no more than 30 minutes. It is necessary to fry the chili pepper and garlic, stir in the cooked pasta and add the parsley. In addition to the aforementioned Mexican cuisine, we also add a Turkish recipe. Turkish stuffed eggplants are stuffed with turkey minced meat, onions, garlic, and chili peppers. Cream the toast in the oven for ten minutes.