Spice things up a bit by growing your own chillies this season. To help ensure that you can stand the heat, here are some quick tips on growing chillies, and a guide to what’s hot (and incredibly hot and merely mild!).
Choosing your chillies
The hotness of any given chilli can vary wildly. The growing conditions, and how ripe the chilli is when picked, can have a big impact on hotness. Their hotness is usually measured in ‘scovilles’; the higher the scoville rating of a chilli, the hotter it is.
Position and Planting
Chillies are best grown in full sun in a spot with free-draining soil. Plant Rocoto- and Manzano-type chilli plants in a frost-free spot to maximise the chance of them lasting more than one season. Where possible avoid planting them where you planted tomatoes, potatoes or eggplants last year; by rotating where you plant members of the solanum family you help reduce the risk of diseases. (This is more important when planting tomatoes and potatoes, however.) To plant in the ground, prepare the soil by weeding, forking and then mixing in compost and sheep pellets. Most varieties will need at least 30cm between each plant (and some will require even more space). When planting in a pot, use Kings Container Mix. For best results use a pot no smaller than 20L
Water the plant regularly, keeping the soil moist but not damp. Where possible, avoid wetting the foliage.Feed regularly with Kings TomatoFood, or for a natural option use Aquaticus Organic Garden Booster.
Choose fruit that are very ripe and free of cuts or blemishes. Cut lengthwise and discard seeds. If you live in a dry, warm environment, hang them from a string outside or in a sunny spot inside (if the air is humid, they may go mouldy instead of drying). Alternatively, place chillies on an oven tray and cook for six to eight hours at 80°C. Store in an airtight jar.
Other Things To Consider
Most chillies in New Zealand are grown as an annual. If you want to try growing one that is more likely to last through winter, try Rocoto or Manzano. These two varieties are members of the Capsicum pubescens family, and they can withstand much colder temperatures than other members of the capsicum family (though they won’t survive frost). They also taste great and can grow to an impressive height.