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Chilis are in the same family as tomatoes and potatoes. They are grown for their fruits, which are usually picked when green, although they can be left to turn red on the bush, which usually takes about another 2 to 3 weeks. They are best picked green as leaving them on the plant until red will not improve on the flavour. Chillis will grow in similar conditions to tomatoes although better results are achieved in higher temperatures and humidity. A better crop will be achieved by growing under glass, although they can be cultivated outdoors in sheltered sites with plenty of sun. The chili pepper, or more simply just chili, is the fruit of species of the plant Capsicum from the nightshade family, Solanaceae.

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

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      05.09.2013 23:56
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      Give them a try and grow some chillies at home :)

      Introduction:

      I add chillies to everything! Pizza, pasta, soup... Etc. every year I have a go at growing my own plants so I can harvest the chillies when I need to add them too food. They are very easy to grow from seed and need very little maintenance. You can grow many different types depending on how spicy you like your chillies to be. You can get the seeds to grow your plant from any garden centre, homebase, online etc. they are very common. Chillies can also be purchased from shops already grown, many places stock them and they come in a wide variety, from sweet chillies though to very hot scotch bonnet chillies.

      Price:

      At tescos, you can buy two packs of chillies for £1 and you recieve around 8 chillies. You can also buy smaller birds eye chillies which are spicy and come in larger amounts due to there small size. Chillies are cheaper if you grow them yourself, a pack of 50 seeds may cost £1, each seed will grow a plant and each plant may produce over 20 chillies if grown properly. If you have time and want to give the effort, growing your own plants can save you money, and also be fun!

      Getting used to them:

      Some chillies will give you tummy ache If you are not used to the spicy taste. The chillies may affect you for a while, so I think it's best to try mild chillies first of all. I love hot chillies and tend to buy the hottest on offer because I love the hot feeling in my mouth and what the chillie can do when cooking into curries, pasta etc.

      Would I recommend?:

      I would recommend that anyone gives chillies a try, especially growing the plants. Growing the plants is fun and takes a long time, it can take over 3 months to get a good plant with lots of chillies on it. If you have never had chillies before, then be caustious as they can play havoc with your insides! Chillies will always get 5 stars from me as I could not have many of my weekly meals without them! Give them a try and put them in some of your favourite meals to see the different flavours you can create.

      Thanks for reading my review on chillies!

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        03.09.2013 12:30
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        Great spice to make those dishes a bit more spicy, burns calories too!

        Since starting my healthy eating lifestyle change a few weeks ago, I started to read about different types of food that would burn fat. I came across a few articles referring to a group of foods known as 'fat burners', these include; Lean meat, lentils, low-fat dairy products, oatmeal, and hot peppers. Most of these foods use more calories to break them down, or speed up your metabolism, but chillies literally heat your body up and in doing so melt calories. A whole list of fat burning foods can be found here - http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/best-fat-burning-foods for anyone that's interested. There is stuff written in mens magazines too, I just used that as an example, healthy eating is not sexist.

        == What is it? ==

        Chilli peppers are the fruit of the capsicum family, which include the common red pepper. Various spices can be made from these peppers, such as cayenne and paprika. Like the capsicum family has many members, the chilli branch of the capsicum family has many different varieties, such as; Birds Eye Chilli, Scotch Bonnet (Extremely hot), Jalapeno etc. Chilli peppers give off a hotness when eating them, this is because they contain the component Capsaicin. It is Capsaicin that heats your body up, which in turn burns those calories. You should always be careful when handling chilli peppers, as I have found out on numerous occasions when rubbing my eye after chopping up a chilli, as it isn't a pleasant feeling at all, so either wear rubber gloves or wash your hands thoroughly after use.

        == Uses ==

        Chillies have many uses, I usually chop them into a stir fry and my curry recipe uses three birds eye chillies. When chopping up a chilli, you can either decide to take the seeds out, or keep them in. I find the seeds contain a lot of the heat, so quite often I leave them in, I wouldn't recommend this if you are new to eating spicy food though. Also, I wouldn't recommend going overboard with chillies, as it is more difficult to cool down a hot and spicy dish, than it is to add more spice to it. As chillies are native to South America, they are found in many Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes too.

        == Price ==

        Prices vary on these, it depends on what type of chilli you are buying too. I usually pay 75p for a small bag of birds eye chillies from Sainsburys, so they won't break the bank at that price.

        == Verdict ==

        This is another staple of my daily food intake, I eat at least one of these a day and my body has got used to the heat. The type I prefer are the small birds eye chillies, small but they pack a mighty punch of fire, although they aren't so overpowering that they overtake the other flavours in the meal. Because I eat quite a lot of chillies each week I plan to try and grow some next year, just need to get a mini greenhouse or something as they do like a hot weather. So if you want to burn off those calories, you can do a lot worse than add these babies to your diet, combine it with some exercise and you will be well on your way, I lost 12lb in 4 weeks and thanks is due to the humble chilli for some of that, so go on...spice up your life!

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          20.04.2013 23:35
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          Fantastic value for money, and they will transform your cooking

          INTRODUCTION

          If you want a bit of heat in your cooking and want an alternative to the measly two or three varieties that are available to buy in supermarkets, then I'd recommend growing your own chillies. There are about two and a half thousand different types of chillies that can be grown, yet for some reason all we are offered in the shops are scotch bonnets, jalapenos and generic, long finger like red and green chillies. Why?, when chillies come in all different shapes, sizes and colours?

          GROWING CHILLIES

          For a better chance of a big crop, start them off as early as you can. Some people plant them in January, but they need special conditions at that time of year like warmth and light which wouldn't necessarily be provided by the average kitchen windowsill. If you've got a heated propagator, this would be ideal, but if not, I would say that the expense of buying one doesn't justify the return. I start mine off in March, and while this prolongs the time it takes them grow, there's a better chance of warmth and light in the autumn months of September and October than there is in the back end of winter at the start of the year, so I find it evens itself out.

          Plant each seed in a 3 inch pot about a centimetre deep, and keep the compost warm and moist. Chillies are generally slow to germinate - it could be 3 or 4 weeks before they start to sprout so be patient! When the plants start to grow taller, they can be put into larger pots. These pots can be put outside if we have a spectacular summer, but there is more chance of Slovenia winning the next World Cup than there is of a British summer being hot so it's better to keep them either on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse - they need the warmth to grow and don't respond well to our grey, cool and damp British summers as a rule. After about three months, they will start to produce flowers - the chilli fruits appear from these flowers so it's a good idea to allow bees access to them in order to pollinate them and produce even more fruits.

          When the flowers appear, give them a good liquid feed that's high in potassium - this will give the plant an extra boost to produce lots of good sized fruits. Liquid seaweed feeds are a good source of potassium. By September onwards, the fruits should be ripe and you can start picking them. The colours will change depending on the ripeness of the chillies - most start off green and darken through different shades of yellows, oranges and reds as they ripen - although you can get some that look almost black, but which are actually just a very deep purple. As the plant (hopefully) gets covered in chillies, it may need staking for support, although I've found that I've rarely had to do this as it's surprising how relatively quickly the trunk thickens up and looks almost like a mini tree.

          PESTS AND DISEASES COMMON TO CHILLIES

          Grey mould has the potential to affect chillies - it's a fungus which survives well in warm, humid conditions, which are unfortunately the sort of conditions found in greenhouses where chillies are often grown. It can be prevented by snipping off dead or dying leaves, not allowing dropped leaves to pile up on the growing surface, allowing plenty of air to get around the plant and generally keeping the area around your growing plants as clean as possible so that the fungus has nowhere to live. Grey mould is easy to spot - it looks as its name suggests and will eventually kill a plant if left unchecked. Any parts of the plant affected should be removed and burned, or put quickly into your council garden waste bin for disposal.

          As chillies are related to tomatoes and potatoes, they can also be affected by the dreaded blight. Blight is a fungus spread in the air, and will settle on the leaves of plants until knocked off onto the soil by rain or watering. At this point, the spores develop and the fungus takes hold - the plant will turn brown and black and will literally look like it is dying - which it will be. Blight can spread very quickly, so if you see any signs then remove the affected plant straight away and burn. As a preventative measure against blight in my garden, I keep all my tomatoes, potatoes and chilli plants away from each other so that if I do get blight, then hopefully it won't take out all three of those different crops.

          Slugs will quite happily munch through a young chilli plant, so I try to keep mine inside as long as possible before they go out into the little plastic greenhouse I have. If you are planting yours into a soil border (only do this in summer, and only then if we get a proper summer ie not like the last few years' summers have been) then be sure to keep the area free from things like big leaves on the soil which a slug will take shelter underneath during the day. There are lots of different ways to control slugs - you can go down the Ghandi route and be non violent, simply removing them by hand and putting them into a different part of the garden (or your neighbour's if you don't get on!) or you can go full on Saddam Hussein and try chemical warfare - very satisfying as you go round picking up the corpses of your enemies which will have blue metaldehyde pellets stuck to their slimy bodies. If you do use chemical slug pellets though, please consider other animals / pets which may visit your garden - they can ingest the poison when they eat the dead slugs.

          Greenflies have in the past caused me some headaches with chilli plants, but they are easily removed by wiping them off the leaves with soapy water. Don't leave them unchecked as they will eventually kill the plant either by taking all the nutrients or introducing new diseases.

          AVAILABLE VARIETIES

          There is literally a couple of thousand types to choose from ranging from small round mega hot chillies to large, fat carrot shaped relatively mild chilli fruits. If you are mentally unstable, you could try growing one of the Naga types of chillies - although it would be easier to just set your tongue on fire and have someone punch you in the face. A chilli's heat is measured on the Scoville scale which goes over a million - a mild chilli would score about 10,000. Naga chillies have a rating which would be enough to retire on were that figure a lottery win.

          If you're not into spontaneous combustion, I'd recommend something like the Fresno Supreme chilli which starts off green in colour and deepens to a dark red as it ripens. It has a small, chunky carrot shape and the plants produce a lot of the fruits, it's quite a heavy cropper. Seeds can be bought via the South Devon Chilli Farm, a Google search will easily find their website. These chillies only score about 6,000 on the Scoville scale.

          For an in-between type chilli, I recommend Apache. These medium heat, easy to grow plants also produce a heavy crop of small-ish, cone shaped red chillies. Suttons Seeds sell a pack of 10 seeds for £2.45 - this might sound expensive but ten plants will give you enough chillies to solve world hunger so I think that's a fair price.

          USING CHILLIES

          They can be dried very easily and stored in an airtight container for around a year. When the fruits are ripe, I pick them all off, give them a rinse under the tap then pat dry with kitchen roll. I make a little slit down the side of the chilli, then do nothing more than leave them on a paper towel on the kitchen windowsill where they dry out within a few weeks. When fully dried, I crunch them up into flakes and keep in a jam jar, from where they are added to food as and when we cook it. They reconstitute very well when added to water (or a tin of chopped tomatoes in a pan for example).

          They can be frozen, although in my experience they lose a little bit of their heat. To stop them clumping together in a freezer bag, freeze them individually first on a tray then they can be added together into a bag.

          Another thing to try is making chilli oil. Take a washed chilli, then make pin pricks through the flesh with a sterilised needle. Place this chilli into a bottle of olive oil and it will flavour the oil and give it out heat. I don't like to keep a bottle of this for more than a month, as it will start to rot and go off. While it lasts though, it's fantastic as a salad dressing or for drizzling over food that otherwise would be bland without the heat.

          Something I made last year and will be trying again this year is chilli jam - a way of preserving them which goes well with cheese or meat. Recipes for chilli jam are easy to find on the internet - you'll need chillies (how many depends on how much heat you want in there), some sweet peppers to bulk out the jam, and vinegar and sugar. We made more jars of the stuff than we could possibly eat last year, so ended up giving a few away as Christmas presents for family members. They're a good thing to have in the cupboard at Christmas time, as it goes brilliantly with cold cuts of leftover turkey or ham.

          NUTRITIONAL VALUE

          They are a good source of vitamin C and are also thought to be good for relieving a bunged up nose. They also contain vitamin A which helps boost our immune system.


          SUMMARY

          Provided you provide them with a warm growing environment, they are fairly easy to grow. Their heat isn't to everybody's taste, but if you don't mind a bit of tongue burn then they are very useful for cooking with. One plant will give most families enough chillies to last a year, which when balanced against the cost of a packet of seeds makes them really good value. Overall, I think they're worth five stars.

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            15.11.2009 00:20
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            Mmmmmm Chili's!!!

            Chili's have been consumed by humans for thousands of years, they instantly impart their flavour and heat to any dish they are added to. They're also delicious to eat on their own.

            They are bursting with vitamin A which helps keep a healthy immune system. Also the capsaicin which gives them there heat triggers the release of endorphines in the brain which is a hormone related to the feeling of well being, happiness in effect. Chili's also contain anti oxidants which it has been said help prevent certain cancers.

            There are literally hundreds of varieties ranging in heat from the mildest chili known as the pimento chili to the new kid on the block and daddy of all chili's the Dorset Naga. (thats right it is grown right here in sunny England).

            The dorset Naga is a variety of the legendary habanero. It is also grown in India where it is known as the ghost chili, also going by the more formal sounding name of Bhut Jolokia.

            To measure said heat a rating system known as the scoville scale is used, the milder chilis are rated at a few thousand (maybe 1 or 2 thousand) while the newly crowned guiness book of record crowned Dorset naga is over 1 million scovilles.

            The hottest chili I've tried formerly held the title as worlds hottest, it was the red savina, another variant of the habanero. That was a mere 500,000 scovilles (although individual chili's will vary slightly in strength).

            My favourite chili is the scotch bonnet, a beautifully fruity chili that is used a lot in carribean cooking. Bursting with heat but still manages to impart a great deal of flavour into any dish.

            My brother has just finished growing a chili plant in his bedroom, it bore tabasco chili's which measure about 7 thousand scovilles. He managed a bewildering harvest of exactly one chili's, ah well maybe next years yield will be more impressive.

            The plants if treated properly are really easy to grow and are a great gift, or just a fantastic way for chili heads to receive a steady supply of fruits through the season.

            Chili's are grown all over the world from the kenyan Bird eye chili (a beautifully hot and tasty chili) which is short and thin (between half an inch and three inches). To the rather fatter and longer Thai Hot, grown amongst other places in Thailand.

            There are so many varieties varying in heat and flavour theres bound to be a chili for everyone so give them a try and become a fully fledged chili head : )

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              02.06.2009 22:31
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              Value for money and environmentally kind

              I may never need to buy chillis from the shops again!

              Last year in the spring I bought a packet of B&Q chilli Pepper de Cayenne seeds for the princely sum of £1.48!

              The instructions on the pack said can be grown in a greenhouse or in a sheltered spot on the patio, living in Scotland I thought the greenhouse was a safer bet! I planted some in a pot and waited for results, sure enough some green shoots appeared after a short time and I pricked these out and put each one in its own pot where they happily grew to tall very gangly plants each producing a profusion of lovely green turning to red chillis, they were fairly hot and I found that I had too many to use and too many to give away to friends so I threw some in the freezer and am still using them in June the following year!

              Although I grew in my greenhouse I am sure they would have done equally as wekk on a sunny windowsill. This is a great way to get chillis, and good for the environment as there is no transport involved!

              Being a canny Scot, I took some of the seeds from one of the chillis last year and stored them in one of my kitchen drawers, these I through into a pot this spring not expecting any results, but low and behold they have germinated and I am starting over again with free chilli plants this year. I have already given some plants away!

              This year I have pricked the top out of each plant in the hope that I will have bushy plants in stead of very tall gangly ones - I will have to wait and see!

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                30.05.2009 17:28
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                Great first step into edible gardening

                I have to start this review by 'fessing up to being possibly the least green fingered person on the planent. Frankly, i could kill weeds, but only of course if i was trying not to.
                For the last few years i've been growing just a handful of plant types in my garden that i know will be trouble free, and as that seemed to be going OK I thought i'd attempt something edible. A chilli plant was my first experiment, chosen because it irritates me that i end up throwing away most of every packet I buy in the supermarket, because they're a vital ingredient if called for, but I don't have the asbestos throat for large quantities. If i can get a plant going, i thought, that would provide me with a supply of just one or two chillis a week, just perfect.

                So, i got a small single seedling from the garden centre (previous experiences with growing anything from seed having left me grumpier than Bagpuss in a hailstorm). I think it cost about 99p. As usual, the label in the pot gave minimal guidance - a sunny spot, regular watering etc. Luckily for me, the lady on the till was obviously an old hand at these plants and gave me a good tip - apparently you shouldn't plant it into a bigger pot until the first flower has appeared, that way the plant grows more vigorously.

                I don't know how crucial that was, but i followed her advice and was very pleased with the results. The chilli plant went in the most sheltered and suntrap part of my garden, and just got regular water until a couple of small white flowers appeared. Then i potted on into a larger pot, and just kept an eye on it for watering. I wouldn't say these things are the fastest growers - it must have been a month or six weeks before fruits started to form - but eventually they did, and the plant kept me nicely supplied all summer. I think the variety was "Apache", which gave quite mild chilis, perfect for heat wusses like myself.

                The plant won't survive past the first frost, and was starting to look a bit sorry for itself before that. I believe that you can keep them going quite well as a house plant if taken inside, which i intend to try this year.

                The money side stacks up too - one plant at 99p saved me buying probably 10 packs of chillis at a similar amount - so a good option for those who're gardening mainly to save the pennies.

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                  16.05.2009 19:30
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                  .

                  I love Chilli's - I love adding them to food and I love growing them just because they look so pretty!

                  Last year I grew some Apache and Jalapeno chilli peppers from seedlings that I bought at a garden centre for just 49p each. After about 3 months or so I had lots of chilli's on both plants. I used some in stir fries, i froze some fresh ones and I dried some. They are such a great thing to add to all types of cooking! (As long as you like a little bit spicy!)

                  This year I grew some chilli's (along with some mini bell peppers) from seeds. I planted them in January and as I had just moved to my own flat I that has no garden I really wanted some plants that I could look after, that would thrive on my window sill and also once the chilli's appear especially if they are the red ones they look great too!

                  I had two different types of seeds (though one is just called hot thai chilli and came in one of those gift set type things that you get at christmas. My parents bought it for me so i don't know what actually chilli's they are as pretty sure there isn't one called Hot Thai chilli). Anyway i had a variety of little pots - bought a big bag of seed compost and filled up lots of pots with lots of seeds expecting that not all of them would germinate! I was wrong!! I have ended up with about 25 plants and have given some away to people as I just haven't had space for them. It was difficult to keep putting them in new pots wihtout disturbing them too much - one tiny pot i had put about 5 seeds in and all 5 had grown into plants so they were vying for space.

                  They need a warm dark place to germinate - i have in the past used my airing cupboard but this time i just put them in the pots on the windowsill and covered each pot with a coaster! This meant i could keep an eye on them very easily - worked for me anyway! No need for mini greenhouses or anything special!

                  I am now left with 9 healthy looking plants and different stages. So only 4 months after planting them i now have 3 chilli's on one plant and some flowers on the others so the chilli's hopefully won't be far behind.

                  I have found that although people say you don't need to water them that much if they are on a very sunny window sill then they will dry out very quickly. The leaves on mine plants tend to droop if they are really lacking water but theyu always bounce back and seem to be quite hardy plants.

                  If you pick the chilli's once they are ripe then more will grow. If you leave them on the plant then they will stay there for quite a while but no new ones tend to grow.

                  They do fine on a windowsill but once the weather is warmer outside you can put them outside on a patio. I don't have that option so love the fact that they seem to thrive on a windowsill.

                  Once you have picked them fresh chilli's add lovely heat and spice to lots of dishes. Since i got into chilli's i have found i'm almost building up a resistance and need to use more to have an effect on me! Sadly my boyfriend does not like anything spicy at all so this is a bit of a shame!

                  If you dry your chilli's they will keep for ages and you can either crush them and keep them in a pot of just chop a dried one up when you need it.

                  A friend of mine also told me to chop up very finely my fresh chillis and chop up some fresh ginger and lemongrass too and put it in a pestle and morter if you wish to make it into a paste. Then freeze little portions in an ice cube tray and you have instant flavouring for stir fries etc that you can just pop into your cooking frozen and it will defrost. Have tried it last year but never get around to actually using it! Seems like a good idea though!

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                    04.11.2008 21:36
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                    Work your way through the heat factor.

                    I love chillies and I have just pureed some home grown chilli with garlic to be used as a dip for a later date. And it was very hot, my tongue was on fire. You would think that the quickest remedy to soothe the hot chilli effect is cold water, well, not necessary. I remembered having a discussion with my friends about the best remedy to soothe your tongue is slightly hot water. I did just that and it works, in a matter of minutes the hotness disappear. The water should not be lukewarm but slightly hot but not burning and when the water rest in your mouth, you could instantly feel a tingly sensation in your tongue. Believe me, glasses of cold water wouldn't give instant relief but a filled stomach. There are also other ways to soothe the hear, such as cream, milk and yogurt which explain their presence as an accompaniment in chilli dishes.

                    There are about 400 types of chillies and most are cultivated in the Far East, South America and Caribbean. , India and Mexico. It is common knowledge that the smaller the chilli the hotter it is. Chilli varieties like bird eyes chilli,, apache, Caribbean red, Habanero and Naga are probably one of the hottest variety available. The face of chilli growing is changing, in 2006; the hottest chilli in the world was developed by a Dorset chilli grower. The world's hottest chilli is called Dorset Naga and it is twice as hot as the previous record holder, Naga Jolokia in India. It is said that anyone who dare to eat the whole chilli on its own will definitely need hospital treatment.

                    There is something about the thermal effect of hot chilli. The capsaicin found in chillies provides this thermal effect, speeding up the metabolic rate. As such, there is also a weight loss program that uses chilli as part of the regime of burning calories. I am sceptical about this claim and I don't think it will work on me.

                    Vitamin A, a potent antioxidant is present in chillies. Chillies also have large quantities of vitamin C. The heat inducing properties in chillies is also known to clear a stuffy nose and cold. Try eating hot chilli dishes like hot curry in a warm environment, you will sweat and then your nose runs, suddenly your will head clear and you can breathe easily.

                    However, overeating of chilli could also cause pain and discomfort in the stomach. Personally, I will not eat chilli when I have a sore throat as I feel the heat from the chilli might aggravate the condition.

                    Chillies can be consumed raw or used as flavouring in cooking. When eaten raw, it is always good to remove the seeds as it is one of the main heat sources. Personally, I will leave a couple of seeds behind to maintain a certain level of heat. Chillies are often made into sauces to add more spice to the dish. My favourite chilli sauces are Encona which is a Carribean chilli sauce (hot), Maggie sweet chilli sauce (sweet and quite hot) and some Thai branded chilli sauce.

                    Chilli can be dried and stored. Dried chillies are usually grind into powder for curries. Whole dried chillies can be found in Chinese cooking especially in the Kung Po and Szechuan dishes. Dried chilli flakes are sprinkle onto pastas and pizza in Italian cooking. Raw chilli can be kept in the fridge for about a month. I store raw chillies in the freezer which I would use over a period of 3 month.

                    Handle chilli according to your threshold for heat. Start with the mildest chilli and work your way up the heat factor. You could get so used to it that you can't do without it.

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                      25.09.2006 14:57
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                      Just take seeds, sun and water...

                      I love growing Chillis. I haven't bought any in the supermarket for several years now.

                      Chilli plants are easy to grow. I grow mine from seeds, or you can buy baby plants in the garden centre.

                      If you decide to try growing chillis from seed, plant the seeds in seed or multi-purpose compost, then cover them in a little more compost or vermiculite. Keep the seeds moist (ideally in a propagator, or cover the pot with a plastic bag). They can take a few weeks to germinate.

                      I find it best to plant chillis indoors early on in the year, and they put them outside in pots on the patio when there is no more risk of frost.

                      The really need very little looking after. Just make sure they are in a nice sunny spot, and keep them watered through the summer. Towards the end of the summer, the chillis will start appearing from the flowers.

                      The chillis start off green, but can turn red or other colours if they are left on the plant for longer. You can either eat the chillis fresh, or dry them to use later on in the year.

                      To dry them I just lay them out on a baking tray on a sunny window sill. Whey they are dry and crispy, I put them in an airtight jar and they keep for ages.

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                        19.10.2005 18:09
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                        Chillis are easy to grow and interesting to watch develop, as well as being a great ingredient!!

                        Mmmmm chillis' I am definitely on the love 'em side of the fence. We get through a good number of chilli's in our house which we whack in a selction of home made Indian, Thai and Mexican cusine week after week. Nothing beats a meal with a good bit of fire if you are in the mood!

                        A good while back now I was staying with a friend down in London and she had two very cool, fully grown chilli plants on her kitchen window sill. That was it. I REALLY WANTED ONE. I spent a year looking for one here and there in garden centres and asking around but to no avail and I couldn't believe it! So eventually we decided that we may as well simply cut our losses and just grow our own!

                        And so we have!

                        Chilli plant seeds are available in all garden centres for next a nothing. I am talking under a pound for a little pack of them. Then you will need your pots and compost, all of which can be purchased inexpensively, a little tender loving care and a handful of patience and you're set to go!

                        ***FACTS ABOUT THE CHILLI PLANT***
                        >>>Chillis come from the same family as tomatoes and potatoes.
                        >>> There are around 25 different varieties of chilli plant and each has a slightly different heat.
                        >>>The plants are native to the Americas although they will happily thrive in most climates.
                        >>>In South America, chilli peppers have been grown since at least 2500 BC.
                        >>> The name 'chilli pepper' comes from Christopher Columbus. During his travels around America in 1493, he mistook the firey taste of the chilli pepper for the pungent taste of black pepper corns and called them peppers. The name stuck and is still with us today.
                        >>> The scientific latin name for the plant is Capsicum annuum
                        >>>Today Indian is the largest producer of chilli's the world.
                        >>> The world's most famous chilli is the Jalapeño, the stubby green variety from the city of Jalapa, on Mexico's gulf coast.
                        >>> Chillis are good for you and it is said that they can help ward off a cold!

                        *** GROWING CHILLI PLANTS***
                        Plant the seeds in early Spring from the end of March-Mid April.

                        Seeds need to be sown in small pots with 2 to 3 seeds in each and thinly covered in compost. Germination take between 2-3 weeks if the plants are kept inside. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, place them out into slightly larger individual pots discarding any weak plants. The plants will still rquire high temperatures and therefore should be kept indoors or in a greenhouse. Apparently after about 12 weeks they should be large enough keep outdoors, but we live in Newcastle and frankly I am not going to risk this
                        Depending on the variety and the growing conditions, they will eventually grow to about 24 inches in total and they should start to yield chillis after 5-8 months depending on conditions.

                        >>> A couple of tips
                        In order to encourage the plants to bush out rather than grow straight up, pinch out the growing tips when 4 to 6 inches tall. Therefore the buds will grow from the sides of the main stem rather than from the top of the plant. This is really important as they grow up very fast.

                        Because the plants grow up so fast we found that out had trouble standing up right. Therefore we bought some wooden kebab sticks from the supermarket and used them as growing plants, tying small sections of string around the plants stems and the sticks. This worked really well.

                        The two main pointers are:
                        1) Ensure that the plants are kept well watered but not saturated.
                        2) Ensure that the plants have alot of light.

                        ***OUR CHILLI PLANTS***
                        We planted our chilli seeds back in March and from them grew ten chilli plants but we gave away six of them as presents as we didn't want to be eating curry until Christmas. They have been exceptionally easy to grow and currently they are between 30-40cm tall and each have about 20-30 big green leaves. There stems are just getting really woody and they can now stand up-right on their own just fine, without the support of sticks.
                        The chilli plants started to flower in about mid July. The flowers are little and white with five petels each. Each plant produced about 10-20 flowers and they last for about 4 days before they wilt, turn brown and die. After the flowers the chilli's begin to grow! They grow downwards and gradually get longer as the days pass. They grow very fast and in the space of a week you can get a chilli that is about 20cm long. At the moment our plants are laiden with chillis which we pick gradually!!!! We are very impressed!

                        ***HARVESTING THE PODS***
                        Ideally the pods will just be changing colour when they are plucked from the plant. Mature pods will feel firm and will look fairly glossy. If the pods still feel soft to the touch they are still immature. Picked chillis will continue to ripen after removal from the plant and may turn from green-red after being picked.

                        Picking stimulates the production of more flowers and thus eventually more chillis so it is better to remove them then to leave them to shivel up on the plant....

                        ***BUGS and OTHER PROBLEMS***
                        Apparently this is rarely a problem as the plant is too hot for the bugs. However we had one plant which fell ill to evil little aphids which devoured it before I had chance to get to get something to kill them off! Aphid killing spary (dimethoate, derris or malathioncan) be purchased cheaply in garden centers. If you do grow chilli plants and you plant gets sick then check out the following link for further chilli plant growth trouble shooting. http://www.dpi.qld.gov.au/horticulture/5291.html

                        ***SEEDS***
                        The seeds can easily be harvested from the pods, dried out and saved for another year to be grown again.

                        ***USE OF THE CHILLI'S***
                        Chillis will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge or they can be dried and preserved for longer. If you want to dry the chillis you should lay them out in the sun for about two weeks or string them up through their stalks and hang out. Alternatively they can also be placed inside a airing cupboard or on top of a radiator.

                        Once dried, the seeds can be removed and the chillis can be crushed into a fine powder or flakes using a pestle and mortar.

                        Once you have successfully grown or dried your chilli's I recommend that you make a lovely thai fish curry with them! I have a couple of fabulous recipes if anyone is interested. Be careful though, because different chilli's have different amounts of fire so go carefully at first.

                        If you don't like your food too hot and spicy then you should scrape out the seeds from inside the pods. Contrary to popular opinion it is not actually the seeds that conatin the heat but a membrane on the inside of the pod. When you scrape out the seeds you remove most of the heat in addition.

                        As a rule red chillis are two or three times hotter than green ones, the smaller ones will also contain more heat then the bigger ones.

                        I would also recommend that you wear gloves while preparing the chillis or at the very least be careful about where you put your hands after chopping them. From personal experience I can tell you that chilli's sting the eyes nose and mouth unless you wash your hands PROPERLY after chopping them up. Be warned!

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