The Marvel of Growing Green Chillies

Have you ever wondered how green chillies and red chillies are related? Surprisingly, they come from the same plant, with the former being picked early and the latter being fully ripe. While there are countless varieties of chilli peppers available, growing them is a breeze, and you can even start from store-bought seeds. In fact, most of the hot chilli peppers in my garden originated from chillies we purchased years ago. Once you have a few chilli plants of your own, you’ll never have to buy them again. Not to mention, you can become self-sufficient in green chillies and save money in the process.

green chilli plant
A green chilli plant in my garden. As you can see, chilli plants produce an abundance of fruit year-round, especially in tropical climates.

Green Chillies: An Introduction

Today, I want to delve into the world of green chillies. We’ll explore everything from growing them to using them, and caring for the plants themselves.

Growing Green Chillies from Seeds

Believe it or not, you can successfully grow chillies from store-bought ones. If you decide to give it a try, opt for a red chilli as it will have more mature seeds compared to green ones. Simply split the chilli open with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds. No need to dry or process them, just plant them directly. Surprisingly, these seeds stay viable for a long time. I’ve even had success with seeds from dried chillies or those kept in the fridge for weeks.

orange and green chili plant
Some green chillies eventually ripen and turn into vibrant orange chilies, such as the orange habanero or orange naga.

While chilli seeds require some heat to germinate, you can use good quality seed compost and bury them less than half a centimeter deep. Keep the soil consistently moist and wait for germination. Alternatively, you can germinate chili seeds on wet kitchen paper before transferring them to pots.

Once your seedlings grow strong and sturdy, you can transplant them into their permanent homes. You could also sow them directly in the ground, but growing them in pots is generally easier, allowing you to provide the necessary care.

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There is a possibility of cross-pollination among different chilli plant varieties, but I have yet to witness any peculiar hybrids. So far, all my chilli plants have retained the characteristics of their parent plants.

Ideal Time to Plant Green Chili Seeds

In warm tropical climates like ours, you can sow green chilli seeds at any time of the year. However, if you live in colder regions, it’s best to wait until spring when the weather warms up. The exact timing will depend on your specific garden or hardiness zone.

You can purchase chili seeds online or from a local store. Alternatively, you may find chili plant starts available at your nearby nursery, although this tends to be the costliest option.

green chili seedlings
Wondering what green chili seedlings look like? Here’s a glimpse: jalapeno seedlings (commonly eaten while green) and Hungarian sweet seedlings, both started from seed.

If you reside in an extremely cold climate, growing green chillies in a greenhouse or indoors in pots would be more suitable. In the event of frost, you’ll need to bring your chillies indoors to keep them safe.

In tropical regions, chili plants grow as perennials, producing flowers and chillies year-round with some seasonal variation in terms of quantity and quality.

Optimal Temperatures for Chili Plant Growth

Typically, chili plants require a minimum night temperature of 12°C (54°F) to thrive, as any frost would prove fatal to them. However, some varieties can tolerate cooler temperatures, allowing for experimentation. During winter, temperatures in my area drop below 10°C (50°F), and even as low as 3°C (37°F), yet certain chili varieties flourish.

On the other hand, excessively high temperatures above 30°C (86°F) can pose challenges for chilli plants. If you encounter such conditions, provide shade and ensure proper ventilation. Ideally, chillies should be grown in full sun, with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. However, I have successfully grown chilli plants in deep shade, so don’t be afraid to break the rules and find what works best for you.

Propagating Green Chillies from Cuttings

Yes, it’s entirely possible to grow new chili plants from cuttings of an existing one. Simply take a branch, remove all leaves except those at the growing tip, and place it in a jar of clean water in a warm spot. Once you see roots developing at the base, transfer the cutting to potting compost.

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Alternatively, you can insert the cutting directly into moist potting compost to clone the plant. To encourage the initial stages of growth, consider covering the plant with a plastic bag, as it helps retain moisture and warmth.

Exploring the Versatility of Green Chillies

Naturally, you can pick green chillies and consume them raw or use them in your culinary creations immediately. However, you may find yourself overwhelmed with an abundance of chillies. Personally, my green chilli harvest amounts to kilograms, and my plants continue to produce throughout the year. To make the most of my harvest, I employ various methods to preserve or store green chillies:

  • Freezing them
  • Drying them in the oven, sunlight, or a dehydrator
  • Processing dried chillies into flakes and powders
  • Creating chutneys
  • Fermenting them
  • Crafting chilli sauces and condiments from raw, fermented, or cooked chillies
  • Making chilli jam
  • Preparing ema datshi, the national dish of Bhutan, also known as chilli cheese

fermented green chillies
My preferred method of dealing with chillies is fermentation, as it not only preserves them but also enhances their health benefits. I use the fermented green chillies to create a unique sauce with a distinct flavor.

Thriving with Green Chillies in the Tropics

Living in the tropics grants us a significant advantage when it comes to growing chilli plants. They thrive effortlessly, providing an abundance of useful and productive results. Whether it’s summer or winter, these plants flourish all year round, with even higher fruit yields during their second year. While some chilli varieties die off after a good harvest, most of our plants live on for multiple years. I once had a Thai birdseye chilli plant that survived for an astonishing seven years, thriving on minimal care. These plants are truly native to the tropics and can even sprout from bird droppings.

Cultivating Green Chillies in Pots

From my experience, chilli plants succeed equally well in pots, the ground, and raised beds. As long as the soil quality is high and they receive adequate watering, they thrive. Opt for the best potting soil you can find, as some cheaper alternatives lack essential nutrients. If you produce your own fertilizers, such as worm tea and compost, utilize them to enrich the soil and nourish your plants. Additionally, choose the largest pot available, especially if you live in a tropical climate like mine, where chilli plants can grow up to 1.5 meters tall.

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One advantage of growing green chillies in pots is the ability to move them around. If you anticipate a cold snap, you can even bring them indoors to protect them. In cooler climates, potted chillies can be over-wintered indoors, ready to sprout again the following summer. I have observed that my chili plants grow equally well in full sun and partial shade, as long as watering remains consistent and the soil quality remains high. For young plants, it’s advisable to shield them from excessive sunlight during hot weather to prevent dehydration.

green chili plant
Green chillies thrive in a pot, just as they do in the ground or raised beds. Choose high-quality potting soil and provide ample watering to ensure their growth and productivity.

Handling Pests on Chilli Plants

At times, our chilli peppers mysteriously vanish, leaving us puzzled. Eventually, we discovered the culprits of this disappearance—red-eyed birds. These flocks would descend upon my Thai chili plants, which resembled small trees, and strip them bare within minutes. Another common pest is mice or rats, which have no qualms about devouring your low-hanging chillies, regardless of their heat level.

Yet, the most troublesome enemy of tropical chilli plants is the fruit fly. Their larvae infest the chilli fruits, causing them to become soft and mushy. These damaged fruits eventually drop to the ground, allowing the next generation of fruit flies to emerge. To combat this, it’s advisable to pick your chillies while they’re still green, as fruit flies tend to target ripe fruits more heavily. If you notice any soft and damaged chillies, promptly remove and dispose of them. I prefer freezing such fruit before disposing of it, as it helps disrupt the fruit fly life cycle.

Occasionally, I spot green shield bugs on ripe chillies, but they tend to prefer my tomatoes, so they aren’t a significant issue. As a proponent of organic growing, I opt for manual removal rather than resorting to chemical pesticides. It’s worth noting that we strive to cultivate our plants using organic methods whenever possible.

So, embrace the wonders of green chillies! These plants are undoubtedly one of my favorite tropical garden vegetables (though technically a fruit), given their simplicity and prolific growth. I love their versatility and the fact that I can pick them fresh every day of the year. If all else fails, my freezer is always there to lend a hand!

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