I fell in love with chillies while working on an avocado orchard in New Zealand back in 2007. I was living in a hut out in the bush and WWOOFing during our customary winter break from filming Gardeners’ World. Lunch often involved picking ‘avos’ straight from the tree, bashing them into a rough but oh-so-tasty guacamole with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and a shot of tabasco. We’d fry the mild ‘Hungarian Wax’ chilli peppers very slowly in olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and put them (with the guacamole) on sourdough toast. Heaven!
Chilli peppers are generally the first plants I sow in the gardening year. They need a long growing season, and a bit of heat to get them going, so I always sow them in late February in a heated windowsill propagator. Sow them shallowly in modules using good quality compost and keep them warm – if you don’t have a heated propagator, move them away from the window at night. They quickly make lovely looking plants which can be potted on in a month or so, then planted out in mid May once the risk of frost has passed.
The colourful fruits and bushy habits of many chillies and sweet peppers make them ideal pot plants. They grow fantastically well in containers, and appreciate the warmth and shelter of a patio or deck. Dozens of varieties are available, in a range of colours (and flavours) you’ll never find in the shops. I never realised, until I grew my own, that they came in shades from pale waxy green through yellow, orange, red to purple, black, brown and even white! So why not spice up your garden in 2015?