The chilli pepper is meek in size but known for the burst of heat it brings. Originating from Mesoamerica, the perennial shrub comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and lively colors. A majority of chilies are simple to grow from dried seeds; the following are the different types of chili peppers and how you can grow your own bunch.
Chilies belong to the Capsicum species, and the burning sensation associated with eating them is caused by a compound known as capsaicin which sets off pain receptors in the body. Fortunately, not all chilies scorch the taste buds; there are approximately 4000 varieties of chili in the world that range from sweet to blaring hot. These varieties are classified into five categories, namely, Capsicum annuum, Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum chinense, Capsicum frutescens, and Capsicum pubescens.
Bell Peppers: Bell peppers are the most commonly eaten pepper; their mild taste and bell shape is easy to recognize. They also come in varying shades of color, typically green, yellow, and red, dependent on their maturity. Due to their palatable taste, they can be used in an assortment of dishes, from salads to pizza toppings.
Banana Peppers: These peppers are known for their bright yellow to light green appearance. Like bell peppers, they have a versatile mild taste and can be included in many dishes; their slim and elongated shape makes them perfect for stuffing.
Pimiento Peppers: Noted for their cherry size and hue, these bite-sized chili peppers are dried to make Paprika a popular spice around the world.
Jalapenos: Branching off into slightly spicier territory are Jalapeno peppers. They are commonly harvested while they are green, but they can turn purple and red as they ripen. They can be consumed raw or pickled; either way, they add a spicy verve to food.
Habanero Peppers: This pepper is considered to be one of the hottest around; before you watch your mouth, it’s best that you watch your fingers first. Hailing from Cuba, this creased chili is noted for its floral scent and citrusy taste, which can bring tears to the eye when it unleashes its heat. Its spice is also transferable, and gloves are recommended when handling it. Habanero peppers are usually featured in sauces, and in some parts of the world, they are soaked in alcohol to convey their strong zest.
Factors to Consider When Planting Chillies
Due to their assortment, different chilies have different needs. However, there are a few factors to take note of when planting chilies.
The best temperature to grow chili plants is between 70-90 F/21-32 C. They are most productive when fully under the sun. Most peppers mature from 60 to 150 days, with sweet and milder peppers taking between 60 to 90 days while hotter peppers take more time.
Potting mix or a fair quality soil that allows drainage is ideal for chili plants. The addition of manure is optional. However, fertilizers are encouraged to be added into the soil to ensure a well-growing plant. Tomato fertilizers generally work well, so do 5-10-10 fertilizers that comprise 5% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorus, and 10% Potassium. For both manures and fertilizers, it is essential to blend them into the soil before transplanting.
Watering the peppers
Peppers are equal lovers of the sun and water. However, it is important to not overwater them as it makes them prone to rotting and waterlogs their roots. Good soil will remain moist and provide effective drainage. To prevent evaporation, mulch can be added to the soil to enrich and insulate it. If there is uncertainty about watering frequency every two to three days is a safe bet in its early stages.
Diseases and pests
It is important to keep a watchful eye over your chili plant to catch out rotting or a bacterial spot, usually caused by overwatering. Spiders and aphids are common pests that lurk around the plant, which can be remedied with complementary plants such as basil and mint.
Steps on Planting & Growing Chillies from Dried Seeds
Factors out of the way, now on to the nitty-gritty. Here are steps detailing the growing process from seeds to peppers.
Step 1: Germinating the Seeds
This first step can vary in difficulty depending on what chili you are growing; for example, chilies under Capsicum Chinese are regarded as the more difficult variety to start germinating.
Seed Inspection can get the process on to a clarified start; usually, small or discolored seeds struggle to sprout, so they should be sorted out and separated from the other seeds. With that done, you can create a productive environment for your seeds to germinate with the bag method:
- Start off by folding a paper towel into quarters then spraying it with water until it is damp
- Place the seeds in the folds
- Put your damp paper towel in a ziplock bag and seal it
- Place the bag in a warm spot; the best temperature is 70-90 F/21-32 C
- Dampen the paper towel and seeds daily with a water spray
- Lift the folds to check for any sprouting seeds
Once you have a germinated seedling, cut out its portion of the paper towel because pulling it can rip the delicate root.
Step 2: Transplant the seedlings
On to transplanting, sow the seedling about 5 to 6mm deep in a tray or individual containers. Depending on the season, you can either; wait for the winter frost to pass so you can transplant the plants into 30cm pots, or in summer, you can plant them outside in a sunny spot, keeping them 45cm apart.
Step 3: Watering and Feeding frequency
Once the chilies are planted, they don’t require much attention; as long as warm and moist conditions are maintained, the plant will thrive. Water lightly and frequently, especially when it begins to flower after the first 3 to 4 weeks of being outside. In summer, spraying the plants with water can prevent pests and increase humidity. With regards to plant food, be sparing with nitrogen as it hinders the plant from starting fruit. Fertilizing every 1-2 weeks is recommended with the ratio of 3 pounds per 100 square feet.
Step 4: Picking the Chillies
Chilies can be harvested at different stages of their maturity; depending on their variety, they can follow a sequence of colors: green, yellow, and red or green, yellow, and orange. The rule of thumb is: the earlier a chili is harvested, the milder it will taste. As long as the fruit is firm, crisp, and shiny, it can be picked. Tasting the harvested chilies can also indicate whether they need more time to develop their flavor.
Bonus tip: How to get hotter chilies
If you desire a potent chili, ensure that you have the right variety, such as Habanero or Bhut Jolokia. They take longer to grow but once they have been planted outside in the sun, putting stress on the plant increases its capsaicin production. You can put stress on the plant by pulling off stems and fruits and withholding fertilizer and water to make their heat stronger.