If you really want to spice up your garden this summer then now is the time to plant a chilli bush or two.
Maybe you don’t much like the hot taste of chillis? Then consider this – there is more vitamin C in a chilli than in an orange and other health benefits besides. Chillis are also rich in vitamins A, E, potassium and folic acid. And, despite their fiery flavour, they are (used in moderation) very good for stimulating digestion.
The hot zap is all in the seeds and the secret is all in the cooking. If chillis are cooked long and well they lose some of their fire (and also some of their vitamin content). If you want to reduce chilli heat in a recipe, remove some of the seeds. Or buy one of the several less fiery varieties.
Chillis are dead easy to grow, in the ground or in the pot. They will tolerate poorish sandy soil but not heavy clay. The best growing environment is an improved, loamy soil and a sunny position. Water well every day or so for the first month after which a chilli bush will only need watering a couple of times a week. Feed with blood and bone or an all-purpose fertiliser though for best fruiting results I recommend using a special fruit and/or vegetable fertiliser. Cut the bush back once fruiting is finished.
The peppery fruit is, not surprisingly, repellent to most pests – but not all! Birds will take the fruit so your plant/s may need protection. Caterpillars and grasshoppers will eat the leaves and if this starts to happen use a spray or dust recommended by your garden centre. Chillis are in the same genus as tomatoes and though less susceptible are still subject to the same wilt diseases. So make sure the ground or container is well-drained and always use a good quality potting mix.
Chillis today come in large and small fruit sizes, long or round or “udder” shaped and in decorative colours from white to purple as well as red and orange. All can be used in cooking and green, unripe chillis are better than mature red for some dishes. If you have a large crop you can freeze or dry them and then use them whole or ground to make you own chilli powder. Crushed or powdered chilli spread on the ground around plants makes an effective slug and snail repellent.