So this time last year I wrote about our success with growing outdoor chillies, and I declared to be ‘drowning in them’. Pah, drowning my foot, that was a mere puddle of chillies. This year we have a red sea of them, I now know what drowning in chillies really means.
I learned by last years mistakes, I started them earlier (late January, in a heated propagator) and by using larger transplant pots and a longer period of warm protection, I got them to a bigger size prior to planting outdoors (late May, early June). This made all the difference, they established well, they were given plenty of water for the first couple of weeks, and then they were left to their own devices, apart from weeding. This variety (Ring of Fire) doesn’t grow particularly big plants, but before long they were smothered with flowers and then fruit, which are especially hot.
I’m no expert with growing chillies, but from my experience, grow them in the sunniest spot you have, preferably ensure they are not shaded out by other plants. Leave a bit of space around each plant for airflow, and keep them weed free. Water them in initially, but then leave them to rain water only, unless you see them flagging. I don’t feed them at all, feed the soil with some blood, fish and bonemeal prior to planting, but that’s all. Some of the lower growing chillies might touch the soil and start to rot at the ends, so harvest these first, or just remove them. I didn’t have any trouble with any pests or diseases.
We harvested our first red ones by the end of August, and have been harvesting chillies ever since. We’ve been giving them away by the bagful, and we now have chillies in various states – dried and ground to a powder, dried and sealed in a big kilner jar for freshness, a basket load in the process of drying (prior to garland making), chopped and frozen, frozen whole, fresh in the fridge, and still growing and ripening on the allotment.
If you also have a chilli glut right now, I shall expand on some of these preserving methods:
- Ground to a powder. I highly recommend this recipe by Restless Chipotle: https://www.restlesschipotle.com/homemade-chili-powder-from-scratch/ It smells divine, the roasted cumin especially adds a wonderful aroma, and even though I made it with only 1 chilli variety it is still fantastic, though she has inspired me to grow a host of different varieties next year.
- Also, thanks to this article, I have now sealed some of my ‘dry but still flexible’ chillies into a large glass preserving jar.
- A chilli garland is purely decorative, though of course you can still take the chillies off and use them in cooking. Also, this years chillies were grown from the seed from one of my garland chillies. They germinated within days, unlike some others that I had painstakingly removed from a fresh chilli, washed and dried and carefully stored. Typical.
- Freezing chillies works well. I like to de-seed and chop them, flat freeze them, and then keep them in a little plastic tub in the freezer, so you can easily take a pinch to use in cooking. But a little bird told me you can freeze them whole and then use a mini grater to grate them while frozen, taking as much as you need at a time. So I have also frozen some whole to try this.
I hope some of this helps, if you can offer any more let me know. Of course you can also make your own chilli sauce, jams, chutneys. I’m tempted to make an apple and chilli jelly which I’ve heard is delicious.
And finally (shameless plug alert) if you’d like a chilli tea-towel to use alongside your chilli endeavours, I have just 2 left in my shop.