Growing your own chili peppers can be a rewarding experience and easier than you might think. This guide covers everything you need to know, from sourcing seeds to harvesting and using your chilies.
Chili Seeds & Sowing
There are various ways to obtain chili seeds. You can collect seeds from store-bought chilies or from last year’s harvest. Asian grocery stores often offer a wide variety of chili types. You can also order seeds from reputable online vendors such as www.Pepperworld.de or Rühlemanns.
Sowing should be done relatively early in our latitudes, usually in early January. Regular seedling soil is suitable, but you should also add some perlite to keep the soil loose. Chili seeds require a relatively high germination temperature, around 25 degrees Celsius. After the formation of two pairs of leaves, the plants can be transplanted into a larger container.
Chili peppers love sunlight and warmth, so south, southwest, or west-facing positions are ideal. If natural light is insufficient, you can use plant lamps, although this solution can be expensive and is more suitable for the seedling phase. Be careful not to expose young plants suddenly to direct sunlight to avoid sunburn.
Chili peppers should not be overwatered to avoid root rot. The nighttime temperature should not drop below 5 degrees Celsius; otherwise, it is better to bring the plants indoors at night. Fertilize your chilies sparingly to avoid root burn. When they start to bloom, you can assist with a phosphorus or potassium fertilizer.
Harvesting usually begins late in the year (August/September) and can continue until November. While some chilies can be harvested while still green (like jalapeños), it is worth waiting for others to turn red for better flavor. Starting the harvest early can increase the overall yield as the plant continues to produce flowers and fruits.
Of course, you can enjoy your chilies fresh! But there are many other uses, especially for the hotter varieties. You can prepare salsas, chili sauces, or a hearty chili con carne. Visit my recipe page for more ideas.
Some chili varieties (like chiltepin and cayenne) are excellent for drying, while thick-fleshed varieties (like habanero, jalapeño, serrano, and rocoto) are better suited for freezing. You can also dry the thick-fleshed varieties in the oven or using a specialized dehydrator.
There are many other online resources and communities that can help you further develop your green thumb. Here are some recommended ones: