Turn the heat up with chilli

Some like it hot, and I’m one of them. I love chilli. The hotter the better as far as I’m concerned. And, I know I’m not alone. Every time we’ve mentioned chilli plants on the Awapuni Nurseries Facebook page there’s been a lot of excitement from other die-hard, and not-so-die-hard, chilli fans.

For quite a while now we’ve sold Bhut Jolokia (also known as Ghost Pepper) which until 2007 was the world’s hottest chilli. And in the last couple of years we’ve added more varieties like Chilli Red Hot Pepper, Jalapeno, Jalapeno Red Flame and Habanero Red (measured at more than 200,000 Scoville Heat Units for those who are interested).

But what’s really got people talking is the addition to our plant range of Carolina Reaper. This chilli, named for the shape of its tail, is the current holder of the ‘world’s hottest chilli’ title and measuring an incredible 1,569,300 SHU. Though there is disputer to the throne called Dragon’s Breath waiting in the wings.

Carolina Reaper is in fact a hybrid of Bhut Jolokia and Habanero Red and, as I write this, I’m nibbling one I’ve grown at the nursery. Great flavour!

What I also like about growing chilli, other than the taste of course, is that you don’t need a lot of space for them and once planted they don’t require much care. They grow well in confined spaces (including in pots) and thrive with little watering.

You can order seedlings of bhut jolokia, habanero red, jalapeno, red hot pepper and jalapeno red flame as an established plant now from our online shop. But you’ll have to wait until after Christmas to order Carolina reaper (which will be available in our established plants range), they’re still enjoying the heat in our glass houses.

Once you’ve got your seedlings or plants, look for a well-drained, sheltered and sunny spot in your garden - the same type of place you'd grow tomatoes. In fact, tomatoes are a great companion plant for chilli and they taste great together in home-made relish!

Other plants you could grow your capsicums with are basil and parsley - they also like the same conditions. And, it’s also good to grow chilli near bee-friendly plants to encourage pollination.

Later on, if you’re in doubt as to whether the flowers have been pollinated (which needs to happen for them to produce fruit), simply gently brush each flower with the end of a paint brush. This will spread the pollen and pollinate them.

When you’ve found the right spot to plant increase the quality of your soil by mixing in some compost and a good general fertiliser. If you're growing your chilli in pots, simply use a good potting mix.

Then plant each seedling around 40-60cm apart from the next. Give them a light watering when you plant and then just every once and a while give them another drink. 

You can expect to see chillies in around eight to 12 weeks. If you like things really hot, reduce your watering once the fruit have set – this is when the flowers start turning into fruit.

Some chilli (like our red hot pepper) will start off green and turn red as it ages. Try to harvest the fruit by cutting, rather than pulling and do it just before they look ready – this will encourage your plant to produce more fruit.

Lastly, if you’ve grown your chilli plants in pots, be sure to move them somewhere like the under the eaves of the house or indoors before the first frost. This way you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour again next year.

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