- Prairie Fire Pepper: Light Bright
- Tiny, colorful, and with surprising punch…
- How hot are prairie fire peppers?
- What do these chilies look like?
- What do prairie fire peppers taste like?
- How can you use these peppers?
- Where can you buy prairie fire peppers?
- Chili Pepper Ornamental Prairie Fire Capsicum Annuum Seeds
- Bhut Jolokia (also known as Ghost or Naga)
- Black Pearl
- Basket of Fire
- Carolina Reaper
- Chilly Chilli
- Chocolate Habanero
- Cuban Black
- Demon Red
- Heat level: Hot
- Ear Bob
- Explosive Ember
- Fatalli Habanero
- Little Elf
- Mini Meanie
- Orange Habanero
- Peruvian Purple
- Pretty Purple
- Purple Princess
- Purple Tiger
- Red Habanero
- Royal Black
- Thai Hot
- Trinidad Scorpion
- Chilli Growing Varieties
- Varieties of Chillies to Grow
- Inspired to get growing?
- Need further help?
- Growing Chillies (Capsicum Annuum, Capsicum Var.)
- Growing Chilli Peppers
- How To Grow Chillies From Seed
- Growing Chilli Plants
- Problems When Growing Chillies
- Harvesting Chilli Peppers
- Growing Chillis In My Permaculture Garden
- You might also like these
Prairie Fire Pepper: Light Bright
Tiny, colorful, and with surprising punch…
Prairie fire pepper fast facts:
- Scoville heat units (SHU): 70,000 – 80,000 SHU
- Median heat: 75,000 SHU
- Origin: Mexico
- Capsicum species: Annuum
- Jalapeño reference scale: 9 to 32 times hotter
- Use: Ornamental
- Size: Approximately 1 inch long, bulbous (tapering to a point)
- Flavor: Fruity, Tangy
Prairie fire peppers may look more like little Christmas lights (or even Light Bright pegs) than chili peppers, but you’re in for a real surprise if you pop one in your mouth. There’s a surprising heat, comparable to spicy Thai peppers, and a fruity undertone to these chilies that’s more flavorful than your typical ornamental pepper. Though it’s their looks where they shine, with a multitude of chilies growing on one plant in a wide array of colors – from greens and purples to yellows and reds. It’s a prime option for colorful landscaping and container gardening.
How hot are prairie fire peppers?
Take this chili’s name literally: Their size belies a real fire here. With a Scoville heat range from 70,000 to 80,000 Scoville heat units (SHU), prairie fire peppers sit well above our jalapeño reference point. They are nine to thirty-two times hotter. They are in line with two other smaller chilies: Thai peppers and chiltepin, both with heats that range from 50,000 to 100,000 SHU. Prairie fire peppers never reach the maximum heat potential of Thai chilies, but they will typically have a similar spiciness.
What do these chilies look like?
Imagine a strand of colorful Christmas lights and you’re pretty close. In fact, prairie fire peppers go by another moniker, too: Christmas peppers. They do look like Christmas lights: tiny and thin, approximately an inch in length, and a whole world of color. Prairie fire peppers, as they mature, take on a wide range of hues including shades of green, purple, cream, yellow, orange, and red. One plant can have dozens of each color visible at any time creating a beautiful scene.
But it’s not only the colors that make the prairie fire an exceptional ornamental pepper, the plant itself helps its cause as well. It grows bushy and its branches cascade providing the perfect backdrop from which the prairie fire can shine. The sprawling effect makes this plant an excellent option for landscaping ground cover, but it works just as well for container gardening and even indoors for a pop of color.
What do prairie fire peppers taste like?
This may be this chili’s secret weapon. There’s an actual flavor here, and that’s not always the case for ornamental peppers. In fact, ornamentals are typically all heat, no flavor. Instead, the prairie fire pepper delivers a short-lived fruity tang to go along with its significant spice. It’s nowhere near as flavor complex as chilies grown for culinary use, but it’s certainly more flavorful than most other ornamental varieties.
How can you use these peppers?
Given their size, you’ll be tempted to pop them into your mouth, but be prepared for the heat! Obviously, the major use case is as an ornamental pepper, but you can make a mean salsa from fresh prairie fire peppers. It’ll no doubt be the most colorful salsa you’ve ever created. They can also be chopped and used for sauces and stews.
Where can you buy prairie fire peppers?
These aren’t typical culinary chilies, so don’t expect to find them at your local grocer. Instead, look for prairie fire pepper seeds to grow them yourself. Many gardening centers carry the seeds, but you can also purchase them online to avoid sourcing issues.
Few peppers provide the color pop that prairie fire peppers provide. Their miniature size actually heightens the dramatic effect of this plant. If you’re seeking a plant for bright and beautiful color impact for landscaping or container gardening, it should be at the top of your shortlist.
Chili Pepper Ornamental Prairie Fire Capsicum Annuum Seeds
Chili Pepper Ornamental Prairie Fire Capsicum Annuum is a compact ornamental annual plant. Easy grown from Chili Pepper seeds, this plant has another common name Christmas Pepper, because of its popularity for growing as a Christmas gift. Pepper Prairie Fire is a small, only 12 inches tall, sprawling plant. This Capsicum Annuum bears upright chiles that constantly change colors from yellow to orange, then red and eventually purple at full maturity. The fruits of Ornamental Chili Pepper Prairie Fire are unique in appearance because they stand out above foliage creating a colorful eye-catching display.
Chili Pepper Ornamental Prairie Fire is a robust plant for outdoor borders or for growing indoors in pots. Chili Pepper Prairie Fire features cascading to the ground branches, and this growth habit makes the plant an excellent groundcover. For the faster establishment Capsicum Annuum seeds can be planted indoors, and the seedling can be transplanted outdoors after last frost. Prairie Fire Pepper likes to grow in full sun and moist but well-drained soil. The fruits of this Capsicum Annuum are edible and have bright, fruity, and hot flavor. The cut branches are used in floral designs.
Height: 6-12 Inches
Bloom Season: Spring/Summer
Environment: Sun/Partial Shade
Soil Type: Average/Dry/Moist well-drained, pH 6.6-7.3
USDA Zones: All Regions of North America
Sow Indoors: Spring (4-6 weeks before last frost)
Sow Outdoors: Spring/Late Summer
Seed Depth: 1/16 Inch
Germination Time: 14-21 Days
Listed here are some of the varieties that we often sell as seeds, seedlings or as pot plants. Our pot-plant and seedling selection can be seen here.
We also have a ‘Which Chilli Plant‘ graphic guide to help choose the best seed or plant for your needs.
Heat level: Hot
Apache is an F1 hybrid – which means it has been bred for qualities such as: reliable yield and good vigour. They are very productive chilli plants with a long growing season.They usually start fruiting in June/July and continue through to December.The fruits are 1-2 cms long and dry well either on the plant or after harvest.The chilli fruits are hot (around 70,000 – 80,000 Scoville Heat Units) – you only need one or two in any dish.
Bhut Jolokia (also known as Ghost or Naga)
Heat level: Extremely Hot
This was the first chilli to record a heat level of over 1 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU), this chilli should be handled with care, literally !! This chilli held the world record for hottest chilli in the World between 2007 and 2011. Every year there are new rivals for title of world’s hottest, such as the Trinidad Scorpion and Carolina Reaper.
All of the super-hot (Extreme) chillies can be tricky to germinate and are slower to produce ripe fruits. The fruits usually ripen from August and if you can get past the heat, have a fruity flavour; they are frequently used in Caribbean cooking.
Heat level: Hot
This is a very attractive chilli plant with striking black foliage. It produces small hot chillies which turn from a shiny black to red.
Basket of Fire
Heat level: Hot
Semi-trailing plant good for patio pots and hanging baskets.
This chilli is from the USA and is cross between a Bhut Jolokia and a Red Habanero. In 2012, it recorded a massive 2.2 million on the Scoville Heat Unit scale and still held the record in 2017. Heat Level: around 2,000,000 Scoville Units
Heat level: Medium
Cayenetta was bred in the UK to be a compact plant with good garden performance.These plants are ideal for containers. They produce fruits which are 7.5cm long, green maturing to bright red. The fruits are tapered and bayonet shaped with a medium heat.
Heat level: Heatless
One of the few heatless varieties that we grow here at the chilli farm; these are good if you want something “child-safe” and “pet-safe”. The fruits are about 5cm long and ripen to orange, then dark red. They add a colourful touch to a salad.
This is a stunning scotch bonnet / habanero type originating from Jamaica. Similar in appearance to other Habanero chillies but chocolate brown in colour. The bushes grow large with strong woody stems. Sometimes difficult to germinate, but well worth the effort.
Heat Level: up to 600,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Heat level: Hot
Small hot fruits on attractive purple/green foliage. Fruits ripen purple to dark red.
Heat level: Hot
This small hot chilli plant has been bred for growing in containers indoors or outdoors in pots – on the windowsill or patio. Height approx 35cm. Very prolific fruiter with upward facing 4cm long fruits. Used a lot in Thai cooking. RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Heat level: Medium
Unusual shaped fruits a little like pointy cherries, ripening pointy yellow to bright red.
Heat level: Hot
A beautiful chilli pepper. With its dark purple leaves and purple peppers. The 2.5 cm long fruits change colour during ripening from dark purple to orange and end up bright red. An eye catcher for every garden. Its compact size (25-35 cm) makes it very suitable for pots. Heat level: 30,000 – 40,000 SHU.
Heat level: Very Hot
Fatalli originate in the Central African Republic. They are seriously hot but not really “Fatally Hot” as their name suggests! They have a fresh fruity flavor, if you can get through the heat! Heat level: 350,000 Scoville Heat Units
A very attractive and neat plant with cone-shaped fruit in a rainbow of colours from purple, through yellow and orange, to red. Very hot fruits on a 40cm-high, bushy plant. Fruits can be chopped finely and added to cooking.
Harvest: Pick when fruits ripens to red – about 80 days from potting-on.
Heat level: Hot – 30,000 – 50,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Small, dark green leaves are the backdrop for masses of peppers that begin as yellow tinged with purple, then turn orange and finally red. The tiny fruit is no bigger than 1/2 to 3/4 inch long and appears in clusters, with all colors on the plant at the same time. Plants grow no bigger than 16 inches tall so they are great for borders as well as container growing.
Heat Level: 20,000 – 30,000 Scoville Heat Units
Heat level: Hot
A compact hybrid plant producing lots of hot 2.5cm oval fruits that ripen purple to bright red. The chillies appear above the foliage making it an attractive hanging basket plant, pot plant or container plant. Heat level 24,000 SHU
Heat level: Very Hot
Prolific fruiting with small fruity Habanero style chillies on a lovely compact bush.
Heat level: Heatless
This is a compact, spreading plant that produces orange bell peppers. Looks a little like habanero fruits but with no heat.
This is the most commonly grown Habanero and one of the easiest to grow. This is probably the most prolific habanero variety we have grown.
The fruits are a wonderful orange colour, very hot and fruity.
Heat level: up to 350,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Heat level: Hot
Heat Level: Medium
A pretty, edible ornamental with 2 cm round, ball/teardrop fruits. The fruits are medium heat and ripen from purple to red.
Good for growing in pots to about 50-60 cm high with plenty of fruit. The leaves may also have purple tinges.
Heat level: Hot
This is a very attractive chilli plant that produces an abundance of small hot chillies. It is a compact plant with greeny-violet leaves that produces dark green fruits which grow pointing upwards and ripen to a reddy-violet. Hot chillies – only one or two needed in any dish. Ideal as a pot plant for indoors. The fruits are early ripening.
Heat Level: Mild/Medium
A distinctive chilli plant with gorgeous tricolour foliage, purple, green and white.Pot size restricts growth so this is ideal on a sheltered patio or makes a great pot plant for a border with a long season of interest. It has teardrop shaped fruits that mature from purple to tricolour to red with the final result of medium hot, distinctively flavoured chillies.
Heat level: 6,000 – 9,000SHU
This bright-red Habanero plant produces large fruits up to 5cm long.
The fruits are very hot. Heat level: up to 350,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Heat level: Hot
This chilli has dark purple foliage and stems, almost black with an occasional variegated growing tip of green, purple, and creamy white. It produces bullet shaped hot purple/black fruits. Heat Level: 5,000 – 30,000 Scoville Units.
Very Hot variety originally from Thailand. Plants become covered with 1-1/2 inch long peppers that are green at first but ripen to red. Both colors appear on the plant at the same time making this variety ornamental as well as edible. Thin fleshed peppers are used especially in Oriental dishes.
Heat Level: upto 100,000 SHU
Heat level: Extremely Hot
As the name might suggest, this chilli has a powerful sting! This chilli to joined the Bhut Jolokia by recording a heat level at over 1 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU). It is sought after by heat seekers and we have successfully started to grow this chilli in reasonable quantities. Recorded Heat level: 1,400,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Heat level: Hot
This is a beautiful shrub-like bush which can grow up to 1m tall. It is covered with small upright multi-coloured chillies with purple, orange yellow and red all showing at the same time. We use it on our promotional flyers. This is the one of the chillies grown in the 2006 BBC Gardeners World Chilli Trial after their visit to film us in the Autumn of 2005.
Heat level: Hot
Another compact upright variety, these chillies are rounder and fatter than the traditional Thai chillies and have a slightly sweeter flavour when ripe. They are small plants but they produce a good spread of small green chillies that will ripen to red in late summer. Volcano has a spectacular-looking eruption of bright red chillies, held upright in distinct bunches like volcano craters. The chillies are hot at around 65,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Chilli Growing Varieties
Varieties of Chillies to Grow
When growing your own chillies, you will need to choose a chilli variety which will grow comfortably in your growing space. The size your chilli plant will grow to will depend on the variety you choose, as chilli plants grow into small or medium sized plants from half a metre to two metres tall.
The colour and size of the fruit your chilli plants produce will also vary. Chillies all start off green, then they can ripen to red, yellow, orange, purple and even brown, dependant on variety. Chilli varieties are bred from several different capsicum species. The most common include annuum, chinense, baccatum, frutescens and pubescens.
Annuum are the most common species and include Cayenne and Jalapeno as well as bell peppers.
Chinense chilli plants are quite delicate, and are best suited to growing inside. Habanero chillies are of the chinense species, along with the Trinidad Scorpion
Baccatum chillies originate from South America and can grow upto 5 feet tall. They include the Aji variety.
Frutescens are from Brazil and the Mexican city of Tabasco (giving its name to the popular variety). They are a bushy species growing up to 4 feet.
Pubescens are also known as Rocoto and originate from Bolivia. These are hardy plants with a long growing season.
Some of our favourite varieties are described below along with their relevant species.
- Fresno Supreme (annuum) – excellent for stir fries etc., thick, mild flesh.
- Pasilla Bajio (annuum) – Part of the Mexican Holy Trinity, zesty fruit are dark and brown.
- Padron (annuum) – Spanish tapas pepper is mild when small and green, and hot if left to mature.
- Hungarian Black (annuum) – Short, brown/black fruit with good flavour.
- Georgia Flame (annuum) – Sweet and spicy, thick flesh.
- Krimson Lee (annuum) – Excellent choice for pizza, thick sweet flesh
- Portugal (annuum) – Medium hot, large cayenne fruit, one of the first to begin to fruit
- Rocoto Red (pubescens) – Resembles a small bell pepper, sometimes called ‘Gringo Killer’, slow to mature
- Joes Long Cayenne (annuum) – One of our favourites, good for paprika as it dries well.
- Friars Hat (annuum)- Attractive, short, squat shaped fruits are brightly coloured, slow to mature
- Ring of Fire (annuum) – Thin, cayenne type fruit are good for drying and very hot.
- Pusa Jwala (annuum) – Popular in Indian curries, excellent knobbly feature.
- Trinidad Scorpion (chinense) – So called because the curl at the end of the fruit resembles a Scorpions tail, exceptionally hot.
- Chocolate Bhut Jolokia (chinense) – A chocolate coloured version of the Guinness Book of Record’s hottest chilli in the world
- Bih Jolokia – Another name for the Bhut Jolokia
- Tasty Grill Yellow (annuum)
- TastyGrill Red (annuum)
- Corno Rosso or Corno del Torro (annuum)
- Red Demon
Inspired to get growing?
We sell chilli seeds and chilli growing kits on our site. Our ‘Chilli Seed Collection’ contains 3 packs of chilli seeds, specially selected by chilli-legend Matt Simpson for their reliability and suitability for growing outdoors as well as in greenhouses and polytunnels.
Our ‘GardenPop Chilli Growing Kit’ contains 3 packs of chilli seeds as well as everything you need to get growing – perfect for first time chilli growers!
For the more experienced grower, why not consider our ‘Deluxe Chilli Growing Kit’, which contains everything you need to grow a bumper crop from seed to harvest, including bumper harvest producing Chilligrow Planter with 7 Day Smart Reservoir!
Need further help?
Don’t forget, our Gardening Angels are here to help you grow strong, healthy plants with bumper harvests. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions here. We’re always here to help!
Have a look at our chilli advice pages below to learn more about growing your own chillies from seed.
• Grow Your Own Chillies Guide
• Chilli Growing FAQ
• How to grow Your Own Chillies Videos
• Chilli Growing Essentials
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Growing Chillies (Capsicum Annuum, Capsicum Var.)
How To Grow Chili Peppers
Are you growing chillies or chilis? Nevermind the different spellings, there are even more shapes, sizes and colours!
At one stage growing chillis was a special passion of mine.
Do you know how many different varieties there are? And how ornamental they are?
For a while I had about 25 different chilli varieties growing…
But let’s forget about me. Everybody needs to grow chillis for cooking. Even if you don’t like hot food, just a little hint of chilli to warm it up stimulates the taste buds and everything else tastes just so much better. True.
And chillies will brighten up your garden!
But before we get to the instructions for growing chillis, lets sort out the spelling, lest you think I don’t know any better…
There are three ways to spell the name: chili, chilli and chile.
Yep, some people grow chile. This is the Spanish version of the name, which you also find used in English speaking countries, especially the southwest of America.
The Americans changed chile to chili. Originally chili referred to the dish chili con carne. Then it was shortened to just chili. Chili is the preferred name for the spice made from the fruit of the chile plant. But in America chili is also widely used as the name for the plant and fruit, the chili peppers. They grow chilis over there in the US.
The British are growing chillis. Chilli is also the commonly used spelling in Australia and New Zealand. Permaculture originated in Australia, hence we’ll stick to that version if you don’t mind.
As for the plural, both chillis and chillies is accepted.
Growing Chilli Peppers
What Do Chilli Plants Look Like?
Chilli plants grow into small to medium sized bushes from knee high to two metres/six feet tall. How big they get depends on the species and variety.
There are different species of chillies. Most chillies are grown as annuals even though they can live for a few years in warm climates. Some chilli varieties are true perennials.
Most of the common varieties however belong to the species capsicum annuum, the “annual” species.
(Bell peppers, called capsicums in Australia, also belong to the species capsicum annuum.)
Chillis have small to medium sized, shiny, dark green leaves. The fruit, the chilli peppers, vary wildly in size and shape.
Chilli peppers are green to start with. Most of them ripen to a rich red but they can also be orange, yellow, purple or brown.
They may hang down or stand up like little colourful candles. There are even ornamental varieties that are mottled and freckled.
The different chilli types not only vary in size and colour, they also vary in how hot they are! If you grow chillies for the kitchen, choose your variety with care…
How Hot Will Your Chillies Be?
The heat of chillies is caused by naturally occurring ingredients called capsaicins and is measured on the Scoville scale. The scale ranges from zero (capsicums/bell peppers) to 16,000,000 (pure capsaicin).
It’s not possible to assign an accurate Scoville unit amount to a plant because the heat of the fruit will vary with the weather, the age of the plant, the soil and however the plant feels on any given day.
Still, some varieties are hotter than others, so here is a list of well known varieties, in ascending order on the Scoville scale, from zero to around 500,000:
Sweet Banana, Anaheim, Jalapeno, Serrano, Manzano, Cayenne, Tabasco, Thai, Birdseye, Habanero.
The Chocolate Habanero, blistering hot at 500,000 SHU.
There are still chillies much hotter than that, but I don’t need to grow a variety called the Carolina Reaper…
(For a long time this was the world record holder for chilli heat at 2,200,000 Scoville heat units.)
Where Can You Grow Chillis?
Chilli plants love heat. They are closely related to capsicums/bell peppers and also related to tomatoes (they are in the same family, the solanaceae), but chillies prefer their growing conditions a lot hotter.
Chilli seeds need 20°C/68°F to germinate, and it should be 30°C/86°F or more for the fruit to ripen. Night temperatures should not drop below 15°C/60°F, at least not on a regular basis. The odd cool spell is ok.
Chillies also don’t mind humidity as much as sweet peppers or tomatoes do.
Most people will need to grow chillis in full sun. In the hottest, sunniest regions chillies still grow well with a bit of shade. Especially afternoon shade can even be beneficial. It will prevent the fruit from getting sunburned.
If you live in the tropics or subtropics, great. Your chillies should thrive. Even the “annual” varieties should live for two to three years and produce fruit for you all year round.
If your climate is not tropical, don’t despair. You can still grow chillies if you get decent summers. And you can extend the growing season by growing chilis indoors, just like you do with tomatoes.
Chillis are related to tomatoes, so the growing methods and requirements are similar. Except that chillies need more heat.
People with small gardens or balconies will be pleased to hear that you can grow chillis in pots.
How To Grow Chillies From Seed
You can buy chilli plants in a nursery or you can grow chillis from seed. Remember that the seed needs at least 20°C/68°F to germinate.
Start them in early spring in cooler climates or any time during the dry season in the tropics.
You could start them all year round in the tropics but it’s a good idea to let the plants grow strong before the wet season hits them.
Chilli plants are usually started in seedling trays or small pots. They are very vulnerable when small and they don’t grow all that fast.
Still, I prefer to start mine directly in the ground because like capsicums, chillis don’t like being transplanted.
Actually, I only start them in the ground when I have enough seed to allow for a high percentage of fatalities.
(I am the laziest gardener I know, so I don’t look after my seedlings much.)
I usually have enough because I save my own seed.
If I buy seed of a new chilli variety and I get one of those tiny packets with barely a dozen seeds in them, then I start them in pots.
You can plant several chilli seeds per pot. Once your seedlings have a few leaves, snip off the weaker ones and only keep the strongest plants.
You only want one chilli plant per pot when you plant them out.
Otherwise you will disturb their roots too much and they HATE having their roots disturbed.
If you grow chillies in seedling trays or little punnets, plant them out once they have four to six true leaves (are about 5 cm/2 inches tall). If you don’t, their roots will start feeling restricted and it will set them back.
Chillies don’t mind growing in bigger pots, so the timing for planting them out is not critical if you use pots. If you live in a cooler climate, use pots. Let them to grow to 10 to 15 cm/4-6 inches. Make sure it’s warm enough before you put them outside!
Water the chillies before transplanting, so the soil doesn’t fall apart when you remove them from the pot. Be VERY careful when removing the seedlings from their pots.
Drop them in a hole in the garden, fill it back in, firm down the soil, water. Done.
Growing Chilli Plants
Chillies grow in a variety of soils. Like most plants they grow better in rich soils and produce more fruit, but they will grow in any reasonably fertile soil and don’t need any special treatment. If you use plenty of mulch and compost in your garden the chillies will grow just fine.
If your soil is poor, you’ll have to fertilize your chillies. (And start using more mulch and compost.)
When fertilizing chillies keep in mind that, like their relatives and indeed most fruiting plants, chillies like potassium. Too much nitrogen will make them grow lots of soft leaves and no fruit.
It is important to keep your chilli plants well watered and mulched. Mulch not only improves soil over time, it also protects it from drying out.
Chillies have such a tough and hardy image, people often don’t realize how sensitive they are when it comes to lack of water. Make sure your chillies have plenty and never dry out.
At the same time, don’t overwater. The soil should be free draining. Chillies don’t grow in swamps.
Problems When Growing Chillies
Chillies have weak branches. If they are loaded with fruit they can snap off. The whole plants are prone to branches drooping on the ground and breaking off, so you may want to give them some support.
(I don’t. I just cut off the broken branches and the bush grows new ones. Chillies don’t mind if you prune them.)
A stake will also prevent the whole plant from toppling over, which also happens because their roots are only shallow and not very strong.
Root knot nematodes can cause the plant to wilt and die for no obvious reason. However, root knot nematodes are a sign of very poor soils. If you add lots of compost and mulch to your garden you shouldn’t have any trouble.
Other than that chillies grow happily and aren’t bothered much by any pests or diseases. If they struggle it’s usually a sign that the soil is not as good as you thought.
Did I mention that compost and mulch is great stuff?
Harvesting Chilli Peppers
Chillies are quick to fruit and flower. How quick depends on the variety and on the temperature.
You can harvest the first chillis green once they reach full size. Or you wait until they turn red, or whatever colour they are supposed to turn.
If you plan to dry them for chili powder or flakes, you can even leave them on the bush until they shrivel up and dry.
To harvest fresh chillies cut or pull off the mature fruit while it’s still shiny and plump.
If you pull it off, pull it upwards, exactly opposite to the direction in which it bends down. Then it should snap off at the joint, without breaking off the whole branch. Otherwise just snip them off.
The fruit will last in a sealed bag in the fridge for up to a week.
You can dry it in the dryer or sun dry it, you could also just string it up and hang it up to dry in an airy spot.
Pound it to flakes or put it in the blender to make cayenne pepper and chili powder.
A Word Of Warning
You don’t need to eat chillies for them to burn you!
Just wait till you get Habanero chilli juice under your fingernails for the first time…
When cutting fresh chillies, make sure to scrub your hands well after. Don’t touch your skin and especially don’t touch your eyes! The hottest chillies can make you go blind. I am not kidding.
When working with dry chilli be VERY careful not to breathe in any powder. Also don’t get it in your eyes.
Growing Chillis In My Permaculture Garden
I mentioned at the top of the page that I went through a phase of chilli growing obsession where I grew a couple of dozen varieties. They are so ornamental!
However, the most ornamental varieties seem to be less hardy. They seem to need better soil, more attention, don’t live as long etc.
After the initial enthusiasm wore off, my innate laziness took over.
These days I have only three types of chillis growing in my garden: those that grow themselves.
(Plus my beloved purple chili.)
Chillies self pollinate, but occasionally they also cross breed. If you save your own seed and grow more than one variety, then the offspring may grow just like the parent or it may be an interesting new combination.
All this to say, I am not sure what kind of variety my chillies are…
The toughest and most prolific, the one that anyone should be able to grow, is a huge bush of the Birds Eye type.
Those bushes grow to two metres/six feet in size and are always loaded with chillies.
The tiny fruit is blistering hot. The wild birds love them (did you know birds don’t feel the heat in chillies?) and so do my chickens.
The seed spreads through the garden via birds and chickens, and I am forever pruning and chopping the bushes everywhere…
My favourite culinary variety is a type of Cayenne pepper, a medium sized bush with darker leaves and long skinny fruit of medium heat.
I always have a few bushes growing near the kitchen door and I step out there on a daily basis to get some chillies. Some of the fruit doesn’t get eaten and drops on the ground where the seeds eventually sprout. From there I may transplant them when I feel energetic.
The third type of chilli I grow is a truly perennial type. I have a few bushes throughout the garden and they have been there forever. They bear fruit all year round though not as much as my other two varieties.
The fruit is a bit shorter and wider than the Cayennes. It has no noticeable heat and I use it as a stand in for capsicum/bell peppers in cooking. I don’t use them in salads, they are not as sweet or juicy or crisp as real sweet peppers, but for cooking they do the job.
I dimly remember once, many years ago and living in a different place, I bought seed for a “Perennial Capsicum”, a bell pepper that lives for many years and fruits all year round. I was a bit disappointed because it tasted nothing like the capsicums I knew. So maybe that’s its offspring.
Anyway, I do grow all the chillies I need and then some, without ever having to buy seeds and without putting any work into it. Who cares what they are called!
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How to choose the right chilli variety to suit your needs
To get the best experience in chilli growing it is important to grow varieties that best fit your needs, both in regard to where the plants will be grown and with your growing experience; and, of course, the chillies should fit what you like in the kitchen. The main issues to consider are:
• Do you want a spice-type or vegetable-type chilli?
Chillies can be divided into two types – spice and vegetable – depending on how they are used in the kitchen.
Vegetable-type chillies are relatively large-fruited and thick-fleshed, and tend to be milder than the spice-type varieties. Because of their bulk, these chillies are used mostly as a vegetable, playing virtually the same culinary role as sweet peppers – they are ideal stuffed with meat, rice or cheese; chopped into salads or salsas; and cooked in stews, stir fries and omelettes.
The spice chillies – including the habaneros and superhots – are generally small-fruited and thin-fleshed, and are usually hotter than the vegetable chillies. They are used to add heat and flavour to a dish, but contribute very little bulk. In addition, they are ideal for drying and milling into a powder. Some varieties are also very attractive and can be used as ‘edible ornamentals’, and do well as houseplants.
• How hot do you want your chillies?
The heat level in chillies is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Generally we at Sea Spring Seeds categorise heat levels according to the following formula:
Please note: the scale is highly subjective and depends on an individual’s tolerance to heat.
• How large do you want your plant?
Some chilli varieties will grow into large plants, e.g., Mulato Isleno and Pimiento de Padron. These need to be grown in the ground or very large pots. Other varieties will always be small statured, e.g., Stumpy and Prairie Fire. These are good in small pots, and can be kept as edible house plants on a windowsill.
The varieties we sell vary considerably in size, and we give an indication of growth habit in each variety description.
• How experienced a grower are you?
There are five species of domesticated chillies, and some species are easier to grow than others. Most of the chilli varieties we sell are Capsicum annuum or Capsicum chinense, but we do sell a few C. baccatum varieties.
If you have never grown chillies before we recommend starting with a Capsicum annuum or C. baccatum variety. These are generally quicker to grow and faster to mature than the C. chinense varieties.
Capsicum chinense chillies generally tend to require more care than the other species. However, they have a very characteristic fruity flavour that is a firm favourite for many people. They also include some very hot varieties, including the Superhots. Habanero is the generic name given to C. chinense chillies. For more information please see our habanero article.