My fiancé and I have recently moved into a new apartment and I decided I wanted to buy him a chilli plant. He has recently discovered his passion for knowing where your food comes from and for using as many home grown and local ingredients as possible in my cooking. He loves spicy food and the plants themselves look quite funky when full of chillies, so I began my search for the perfect variety to buy.
You only have to search chilli plants on Google images to find that there are so many different types of chilli. There are big chillies, little chillies, skinny chillies and fat chillies. They come in a variety of colours red, yellow, orange, green and even dark purple and black.
Then there is the variation in flavour, some chillies warm your tongue, others make your tummy tingle, some that make you feel as if you have swallowed fire and others that will make your head explode! Ok maybe not literally.
So after a little bit of research, based on looks and flavour I have chosen to buy a Hot Basket of Fire. Sounds dangerous if you ask me but I am confident that my partner will love it. These innocent little beauties measure 80,000 shu (Scoville heat units) which is a lot more than the humble Jalapeno which is 2,500-8,000 shu however it is considerably less than standard US grade pepper spray which is 2,000,000 – 5,300,000 shu. My eyes are watering just thinking about that last little fact.
I have scoured the internet for the best tips on caring for my basket of fire and below is consistently what the chilli experts say.
- Growing in a pot is more likely to be successful.
- A 20 cm pot is adequate for growing most chilli plants. You can even grow three different varieties in one larger 30 cm pot.
- Containers with a water-well in the bottom will only need to be watered about once a month. They don’t like to be over watered.
- Chillies like hot, sunny positions and well-drained soils with lots of organic matter.
- A moderately fertile soil is good, but be careful not to apply too much rich manure as it will result in lots of foliage, but not many fruit.
- Avoid frost, they really don’t like that.
Harvesting – this is providing that my chilli survives long enough and loves us enough to produce fruit.
- The more you harvest chilli fruits the more it will grow new ones.
- The fruits do not ripen after they have been picked so they need to picked when they are fully ripe.
- The green fruit has a different flavour to the red ones.
- Not all chillies are red when they are ripe, some are green, and others are yellow, orange and purple.
- When chillies are harvested, the chilli juice can be highly irritating to the skin and especially to the eyes, so care needs to be taken. Time to don the latex gloves!
- If they do burn your skin try rubbing olive oil or yoghurt onto it. Water will have no effect.
- It is the seed and the soft tissue that surrounds the seed that causes the burning sensation, so in most cooking the seed and the pith is removed, but hardened chilli eaters don’t bother.
I now feel like a chilli plant expert, we will have to wait and see how our first harvest goes.
N.B. This article has been written for Australian gardens. If you're reading this from around the world, we do hope you've found it a useful stepping stone for your own further research.