There’s nothing quite like growing your own plants – especially if they can help with your health.
Chillies are rich in antioxidants and contain even more vitamin C than oranges. Vitamin C contributes to the normal function of the immune system, as well as healthy gums, skin and teeth.
A compound called capsicum is responsible for chillies spicy nature and comes with pain relieving properties. In fact, the active ingredient in topical preparations of capsicum is approved by the Food & Drug Administration for pain relief induced by rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriasis, shingle and even nerve pain due to diabetics (diabetic neuropathy).
Beautifully bright, homegrown chilli peppers add a delicious (and fiery!) kick to your cooking. Experiment with different varieties to find your favourite, from mild to super spicy. Don’t want to grow from seed, or starting a bit later in the season? No problem: just pick up a young chilli plant from your local Dobbies and start from step four.
What you will need –
From seed: Small seed tray. Several 9cm pots for growing on Seed & Cutting compost. Chilli seeds of your choice (from £1.99). Propagator (from £16.99) or create your own with a clear plastic bag and elastic band. Plant labels.
From young plant stage: Young chilli plant (from £1.49). Multi-purpose compost. Growing on pots.
1. Fill your seed tray with Seed & Cutting compost, firming the surface lightly. Scatter a few seeds on top – these should germinate well so be careful not to overdo it. Cover with a light covering of compost or vermiculite and stand in water for a few minutes to allow the compost to absorb the water from beneath. Label with your chosen chilli variety.
2. Chillies need warmth to germinate, so use a heated propagator, or if you don’t have one, cover with a clear plastic bag and stand on a warm windowsill. When the seedlings are about 2.5cm tall, with their first pair of true leaves unfurled, carefully prick them out into individual pots. Take care not to damage the roots and water well to settle them in.
3. Pot on into larger containers as the plants mature and roots start to appear through the drainage holes in the bottom. Use multi-purpose compost and support taller varieties with a bamboo cane.
4. Pinch out the tops of the chilli peppers when they are around 30cm tall to encourage lots of branches (and lots of chillies!)
5. Continue to grow in a greenhouse or polytunnel, or transfer outside to a warm sunny spot, once all risk of frost has passed. You can plant directly into fertile soil or transplant them into grow bags or patio containers, so you can move them around easily.
Water regularly and feed every couple of weeks with a highpotash tomato fertiliser once the first fruits have set. Start picking from July and enjoy your harvest through to October.
Once your chillies are harvested you can also freeze or dry for use at a later date. Chillies make a perfect replacement for salt for a flavoursome punch to your food. Try adding to soups, curries, stews, dressings or top on your avocado toast.