Page 26 - ALG Issue 4 2019
P. 26

chilli peppers
Capsicum frutescens
Chilli in all its forms is now a cupboard staple for many British cooks and grown across the UK on windowsills and in greenhouses, but the earliest evidence of the cultivation of capsicum dates back around 6,000 years to
two sites in Ecuador. Wild chillies
are believed to have originated in the Bolivian Basin and were brought to Europe by Spanish adventurers. They are still a vital ingredient in the cuisine of Central and South America and now used widely in Africa, Asia and Europe. Chillies were first recorded in the UK in the 16th Century; however, they were regarded as more of a garden novelty than a cooking ingredient, but by the 18th Century cayenne pepper was being added to recipes such as potted shrimps. As the nation’s tastes changed so did our consumption of chillies; between 1991 and 2011, our per capita intake of dry chillies increased by 130%. UK chilli farms export to the likes of Mexico and Pakistan, and the UK hot sauce market is worth more than £17million.
Growing chilli peppers at home or on the plot means that you can try some of the more unusual and colourful varieties not available at the grocers. Kings have a wide variety to choose from including mild varieties such as Machu Pichu to scorchers such as Scotch Bonnet and Chilli Serrano.
Chillies require a long growing
season, high humidity and consistent temperatures of 60F/16°C. They are best grown in greenhouses to maintain steady growth. It is possible to grow the chilli peppers outdoors in the warmer parts of the country but there may be problems with maintaining the
humidity. Purple Gusto is a variety bred specifically for the UK climate.
Peppers are raised from seed. Sow the seed for greenhouse plants from mid- February to late March in small pots or trays filled with fresh seed compost. Place in a propagator set at 70F/21°C. Sow the seed for outdoor plants during late March. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick them out individually into 3”/9cms pots filled with fresh potting compost. When the roots of the young plants have filled the pot, it is time to re-pot them into a 12”/30cm pot filled with fresh potting compost, or to transplant them into a growbag (two plants per bag).
...they were regarded as more of a garden novelty than a cooking ingredient
Depending upon the prevailing
weather conditions, it should be safe to transplant the outdoor peppers during June. Harden the plants off properly; some protection may be required during the early stages of establishment. Pinch
           26 Allotment and Leisure Gardener

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