Chilli peppers can turn from immature green or purple through to yellow, orange and red, and with their fiery flavor, they have many culinary uses, from spicing up stews and stir fries to jellies and sauces. As members of the capsicum family, they are thought to predate the larger, milder peppers and to have been in cultivation for more than 9,000 years. There are more than 3,500 varieties to choose from, but remember: chillies are originally from Central and South America, so you need to grow them in warm, sunny conditions.
HOW TO GROW CHILLIES
Chillies are best grown in pots. Sow the seeds from March onwards in seed-raising compost and keep in a glasshouse, conservatory or on a windowsill in strong sunlight. They need temperatures of 23-25 ° C to germinate.
Prick out when seedlings have several leaves, then feed with a weak seaweed fertilizer. Pot on a month later and pinch out seedlings at 15-20cm to encourage branching.
Outside, keep pots against a south-facing wall or on a sheltered terrace; bring inside in cool or rainy weather, as chilli plants can not tolerate low temperatures.
Be aware that chillies are susceptible to slugs and snails.
Large-fruited cultivars will need staking.
WHERE TO BUY CHILLIES
– Cookoo Box Chillies – Plants and seeds, including Jekka McVicar's favorite, C. 'Chenzo'.
– Gardening Direct – Includes a selection of sweet peppers and hot chillies.
– Nicky's Seeds – Sells 170 different varieties of chilli seeds.
– Plants of Distinction – Large range of plants, including a good selection of chillies.
– Simpson's Seeds & Plants – Sells a variety of chillies and offers advice on the website.
– South Devon Chilli Farm – Specialist nursery growing over 10,000 chilli plants a year.