In this post:
- Growing chillies from seed.
- Saving seed from chillies.
- Drying chillies.
I like growing chilli plants, they crop reliably, they are great to cook with, can be preserved and they look pretty. What more could you want really? They do provide one small hazard (or source of potential comedy if you are of a particularly cruel bent) and that is that the fruit are seemingly irresistible to 15 month old hands. My toddler did only try and eat one once though… predictably there were a lot of tears although that may have been as much from my reaction – a quick hosing down to prevent any of it reaching his eyes, rather than the sympathy he was looking for. Now that he has learnt the hard way that eating them can be painful he throws them anywhere and everywhere, no doubt much time will be spent next spring weeding out chilli seedlings….
How I grow them – Getting Chillies through winter:
I grow my chillies from seed and in pots. I have grown them in the ground previously with great success and if I had more room I would favour this option as the plants get bigger and generally the crop is larger. There is one significant advantage to growing them in pots and that is: they can be over-wintered fairly easily. Chillies can survive winter in the ground as well but if you have limited space it makes more sense to not have perennial plants in your main beds from a crop rotation perspective, also if the winter is particularly cold or a frost is forcast you can move them to warmer ground so to speak. All my pot grown chillies survived last winter (which was fairly cold) and consequently fruited considerably earlier than this years seed grown batch. My garden is fairly sheltered and does not get frost (or has yet to in the 4 years we have been here). If you plan to over-winter your chilli plants then don’t pot them up in autumn, even though they may look like they need it, and also hold off the fertiliser after about March. This is because you want to minimise the new growth that either potting them up or feeding them may bring, this new growth is most likely to be susceptible to the colder weather.
I tend to only grow hot chilli varieties. This year I grew tiny birds eye chillies (pictured above), cayenne, scotch bonnet, a couple of unidentified ‘hot’ varieties and a very long chilli I grew from the seed of one I bought at a farmers market.
How I grow them – Growing Chillies from Seed:
I sow chilli seed anytime between July and September in my usual seed raising mix (for further info see the Planting notes page). If I sow earlier than September I sow inside as it is too cold outside for the seed to germinate. I then pot the seedlings up into 7.5cm ‘herb’ pots in September/October, repot them into 15cm pots in December and a larger pot again (usually about 30cm) in January or whenever they look root bound. . I have tried moving the plants straight from herb pots into 30cm pots but the plants often don’t seem to like it – presumably because they don’t like their root system being surrounded by too much potting mix during our coolish Spring months.
I feed them monthly with liquid fertiliser to complement the slow release stuff in their potting mix. My chillies tend to fruit all autumn into early winter. Chillies can be eaten at either green or red (or in between) although the flavour will differ as will the heat. Chillies usually become hotter the riper they get.
Seed Saving: How to extract seed from chillies:
- Use the ripest chillies you have for seed saving. Ideally they should be left on the plant until they are red and a bit ‘over ripe’ or withered. However they should work as long as the chilli has reached its ripe (almost always red) stage.
- Cut the chillies down the middle with a sharp knife .
- Scrape out the seeds.
- Leave seeds to dry out on kitchen paper.
- Once completely dry (a couple of weeks in my lounge room), transfer to a seed envelope or other appropriate receptacle.
- Once the weather warms sufficiently (usually September in Melbourne – or August if sown under heat or glass) sow the seed.
I like to preserve the Cayenne type chillies (pictured above) by drying them as they are a good size to use whole, and they are reasonably thin skinned making drying possible (meatier types tend to rot rather than dry). Finally, they have nice thick and long stalks which make them easy to string up which is my preferred method of drying. To string them I use a needle and thread to pierce the stem of the chilli and thread the chillies along the length of the thread which can then be hung for drying. Occasionally a chilli will rot rather that dry – remove any that do this from the string before they can affect the other chillies. Dried chillies can either be used dried (usually be frying in hot oil to draw out the flavour) or rehydrated (by soaking in water).
For recipes containing Chillies see the spicy section in the Recipe Index.