Chillies or Peppers are the easiest and least fussy plants to grow. All they need are good soil with organic matter and protection from pests like aphids and leaf miners. You will need some patience though as they take some time to reward you and are heat dependent.
Chili might have originated in South America but India internalized it. Today, it’s unimaginable to think of Indian cuisine without it. Green Chilies, dried Red Chilies, Chili Powder – all used in everyday cooking for every meal. The red sun-dried ones are used in taalichal/tadka ( tempering ) along with green chillies. I just love the aroma. Andhra Pradesh in India is a well-known state for the heat/spice levels in their food. Hot Pepper pickles are famous too.
The world’s hottest chili “Naga Jolokia” is cultivated in the hilly terrain of Assam in a small town Tezpur, India. It also found its way into Ayurveda, with many medicinal properties such as stimulating good digestion and endorphins, a natural pain killer to relieve pain. They can also keep water borne diseases at bay.
Chillies are known as Milagai in Tamil, Mirapakay in Telugu and Mirch in Hindi. It’s used to provide some heat to the food we eat. It can be added to anything cooked or raw ( if you can handle it😅 ).
Where can you buy seeds : Use seeds from your kitchen if you have. Keep aside those that are turning red or yellow/orangish in color. Let them turn red and use those seeds right away. I have seen best germination rates this way. They can be purchased from Indian grocery stores around you ( use one chilli for seeds and the others in your food; you can also pick up as many chillies as required in these stores as they sell based on weight ). Seeds can also be found in the nursery section of Home Depot, Lowe’s and the likes.
Many think of them as annuals but they can be grown as perennials with proper care, even in snow laden climates. They can easily flourish for 2-3 years. Mine are 1+ years old now. (Edit 2020 : 3+ years old now)
Sunny Sunnyvale, CA is an excellent location for growing some year round peppers. Moving to this coast of the country has been a blessing in disguise for me 😇
Time to pack some heat :
- Prepare your soil first . Add organic matter, slow release organic fertilizer, crushed egg shells and some epsom salt.
- Now, if using fresh seeds , you can sow them right away. Or, I would recommend soaking them in water overnight before sowing.
- Sow them 1 inch deep. Keep the soil moist until seedlings emerge. I sow them directly in the pot I want them to grow. I have mine in 1 & 2 gallon pots and they are doing good. Usually, one or two plants should be enough for a household.
- You could sow multiple seeds in one pot and take the strongest one forward.
- Make sure the pot is in a sunny spot. Chillies love the sun and heat. How else do you think they pack so much heat in them?
- You can use fish emulsion or sea weed organic fertilizers during the green leaf growth time but shift to a balanced fertilizer once the flowers emerge.
- Pinch them periodically for a bushy growth.
- They are self-pollinating i.e they have both male and female parts in the same flower. So, you wouldn’t really need to hand-pollinate. Any hand pollinating that my plants might need is being taken care of the train that runs nearby 😜
- Water regularly. Don’t panic if you miss a day unless its really very hot. They can take a day or two without watering. Some flowers might wither though
- Wait for the flowers to turn to beautiful green chillies. And, enjoy them in your food.
- You can leave them outside during the winters if you are in zone 9 and above. They will lose all their leaves but will sprout back next Spring.
The Harvest :
I prefer using scissors or shears to harvest the chillies instead of tugging at them. You could also let the green chillies ripen on the plant if you wish to save seeds for next season, just in case.
- Pests/Insects ( that I have encountered so far )
- Aphids – Hand pick and dunk into a mix of water and dish-washing liquid.
- Leaf Miner – Pick the affected leaves promptly and discard.
- Seed Germination
- Soak seeds in water overnight and use the seeds that sink to the bottom
- Ziploc method : Wet a paper towel and squeeze the water away such that the towel is moist and not dripping wet. Place your seeds in the towel, fold and put in a Ziploc bag. Place this bag in a warm place like the top of refrigerator or inside the oven. Check in 2-3 days and sprinkle some water on the towel if its dry. You can sow the seeds once they germinate.
- Prune your plant for a bushy growth
- Hand Pollination – If your flowers don’t turn to fruit, try hand pollinating them. In case of pepper plants, all you need to do is just tap the flowers lightly as they have both male and female parts int the same flower.
Please feel free to ask my any questions you might have and leave your name and insights in the comments section.
The Visual Tour 😎
Get out , get your hands dirty and let me know how yours turned out !!
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