Chillies enjoy similar growing conditions to tomatoes except that they will do better if you turn the heat up. They can be grown on outdoors in a warm, sunny, sheltered spot but you’ll get a better yield if they are grown under glass (a sunny window sill is perfect for most varieties). Chillies make ornamental, decorative plants.
Sow: March to May under glass, in seed compost (although keen chilli fans get them started as early as January by providing heat for germination). Sprinkle with a light covering of compost and cover with a propagator lid or clear plastic bag to increase the heat and humidity until seedlings are up.
Transplant: into individual and/or larger pots once plants have 4 true leaves. If you are planning to grow on your chillies outdoors, wait until all risk of frost has passed, and choose the sunniest and most sheltered spot in your garden.
Aftercare: Continue to water regularly, adding tomato plant food or specialised chilli plant food to the water every couple of days once flowers appear. Misting can help to discourage pests and to help the fruit set. Pinching out the growing tip will encourage a bushy habit. Taller plants may require staking.
Harvest: August to October when pods are firm and glossy. Allowing the fruit to ripen from green to red/orange (depending on variety) will increase the intensity of flavour. If you intend to dry your chillies, harvest them just as they begin to change colour and they will ripen whilst drying. This will also encourage the plant to produce further flowers and fruit.
Fresh chillies will store well in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Chillies also freeze very well. Slice lengthways, remove seeds and pith and open freeze (on a baking sheet) for 12 hours, to stop the chillies sticking together. Once frozen, put the chillies in at least 2 freezer bags, one inside the other, to prevent freezer burn, and use within 3 months. The most common way of preserving slender chilli varieties is to dry them. Arrange on a sunny window sill, or thread onto cotton or twine and hang to dry, then store in airtight containers until required.
Important: When preparing hot varieties, it is advisable to wear gloves when removing seeds and pith as contact with skin, particularly on sensitive areas like mouth and eyes, can cause burning and even blistering. Washing your hands after preparation will not necessarily prevent this!
Scoville unit measurements for each variety are given below for indicative purposes only and can vary hugely depending on the seed itself, the climate and individual growing conditions.
Barak - around 50,000 SHUs
Early Jalapeno - 6-8,000 SHUs
Cayenne - 30-50,000 SHUs
Habanero Magnum - Up to 300,000 SHUs
Hungarian Hot Wax - 2-15,000 SHUs
NuMex Bailey - 80-100,000 SHUs
Ring o' Fire - 70-85,000 SHUs
chilli seeds - chilli pepper seeds - hot pepper seeds