Chilli Seeds are Hot This Summer

Chilli seeds or chili seeds ??  Never mind the spelling !! It seems that most Americans use “chili or chilies” and the rest of the world uses “chilli or chillies”. Here are some great ideas for helping you to successfully grow your own chillies from chilli seeds. Get planting now.

chilli seeds

chillies grown from seeds

The sight of the glorious glowing red fruit makes most people feel happy!!

But they are also another of those vegetables that people either love or loath. Chillies have been cultivated in Latin America since 7500BC. Christopher Columbus’ physician is credited with bringing chilli seeds back from the New World on Columbus’ second journey. The Portuguese then took chilli seeds along their trading routes and within only 50 years they had spread to Africa, Asia and Europe.

 

Small chillies are hotter and shorter lived than bigger chillies. Sometimes chilli plants will live for two seasons. Last year I kept some of my chilli plants alive through winter and they were ready to start harvesting in December. We live in Wellington so it is out of the question to grow them outdoors as there is not enough summer warmth.

The heat in chillies comes from a compound named capsaicin, most of which is in the chilli seeds and white flesh. Generally the smaller the chilli the more heat. The heat is measured on the Scoville Scale which  is a method of comparing the heat of all kinds of chillies. I will write more about it another time.

 

Chilli seeds growing conditions

Chilli seeds are really easy to grow provided you follow some basic rules. Chillis love hot humid conditions. The more sun the better. The roots like good aeration so the air pocket under the false floor of a GreenSmart pot provides great aeration. They love rich, free draining soil and hate having wet feet. Once established, they are quite tolerant of dry conditions so I find that the plants keep thriving even when the top couple of cm of soil is quite dry. Warmth is essential.

Start the seeds in September or October. They can be slow to get started – it varies from one to six weeks. They need warmth, oxygen and moisture.

Options for chilli seeds. If you try growing chillies from store-bought chillies, there is a possibility of them being hybrid seeds. Better to buy certified seeds or save your own from non hybrid plants. However if you have grown more than one variety of chilli and saved some seeds there is a high risk of them being cross bred ie not true to type.

Moisten the seed raising mix, add the seeds – at a depth of only about 1 mm. It is critical to provide enough warmth – they need to average about 20 deg C over 24 hours. Here in Wellington, I grow them in a tunnel house. You can start them off in a sunny spot inside the house. They don’t need light until after the first leaves emerge. Then shift the GreenSmart pot to somewhere warm and light. If you grow four to six plants they will provide you and your friends with an abundance. Aim to plant seeds in September – October and transplant seedlings in November- December.

Kings Seeds have a selection of about 30 types of chilli seeds. www.kingsseeds.co.nz

Use 50 cm long bamboo stakes to support the plants so they don’t fall over.

The plants will draw very little water as they approach maturity. Don’t worry if the top layer of the soil is very dry.The plant roots will draw the water up at the right rate.

Pests and Diseases

Generally not a problem. If growing in a hot house be sure that they have plenty of air movement to minimise  mould problems. Avoid overhead watering. Add water via the water sight glass to keep the top layer of soil dry.

Sapsuckers…Aphids may gather in clumps. Move quickly – a daily quick squirt with high pressure hose for a few days. Or a garlic spray.

Fertiliser

From flowering, feed them fortnightly with liquid seaweed or comfrey tea directly into the water sight gauge.

Companions

Tomatoes and basil are good friends with chillies. Grow a marigold with your chilli plants as a deterrent to aphids and white fly.

Harvesting

Start picking as soon as the first few are ready – to encourage them to keep fruiting. It is better to harvest when they are mature but before they are fully ripe.

Handling chillies can be a dangerous business. Avoid touching them. Don’t let the juice get under your finger nails.Be careful about touching other sensitive parts of your body. If you do get burned, moisten yours hands with cold water, apply plenty of dish-washing detergent. Scrub for at least five minutes.Better still, use gloves to harvest the hottest ones.

A few years ago when we were holidaying in a rural part of southern China we came across these chillis being dried on the school playing grounds during the summer holiday.

chilli seeds to chilli harvest

Drying chillis

Photo of drying chillies in Chinese school

Storage

Chillis are easy to dry for storage or you can simply bag and freeze them.

For the real NZ chilliphiles you can register on this forum site: www.chilliforums.co.nz

Happy gardening,
Bill.

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