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Participant Stories: “Growing Chilli”

By John Gannon

Chillis are a great spring/summer crop. They can be easily grown in small pots or containers and they originated from South and Central America. There are many varieties with different colours. They also have varying heat strength which is measured by the chemical “capsaicin” content in the chilli using the ‘Scoville scale’. The capsaicin level is neutral for standard capsicum. The cayenne is a mild variety with 35,000 units on the scale and the habanero is a hot variety at 300,000 units. There are also hotter varieties than this! Chilli plants love hot, sunny weather. They are rich in minerals and vitamins and are rich in antioxidant plant compounds.

How to grow?
You can easily buy some seedlings of popular chilli varieties. You can try growing from a cutting. (Dip the root into some rooting hormone or honey and plant it in the ground.) Or, you can grow from a seed. To grow from a seed, in spring, sow some seed raising mix into a pot (make sure it drains well), put it in a warm, sunny position and make sure the seed mix remains moist. The seeds need temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius to germinate. You can sow from seed in late winter if you have a heat mat, a greenhouse or are planting indoors, or you can wait until later in spring (October/November).

Obtain some pots or containers that are about 30cm wide. Fill the pots/containers with good quality potting mix. Make sure the pot/container has holes for drainage and transplant the seedlings into it when they grow to be 2.5 cm tall. You can move the plants outside in a sunny position, in mid-late spring after the last frost.

Keep an eye on each plant and keep watering them to keep them moist but not too damp. Watch them grow, flower and then fruit. You can harvest when the chillies are green, but they will get hotter if you let them change colour to red/orange. If you wish to make chilli powder let them dry and shrivel on the bush before picking!

Note: Be careful when handling, cutting or preparing chillies (especially the hot ones). Do not touch your eyes or face after handling them as they could burn you! It’s a good idea to wear gloves and wash your hands.

Chicken Chilli Recipe

You don’t need to be Gordon Ramsey to make delicious dishes. This Chicken Chilli recipe is a yummy way to use up some of those home-grown veggies you have in the garden. It’s healthy, hearty and easy to make. Hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 green capsicum (sliced)
  • 1 red capsicum (sliced)
  • Rice to serve

 

Chilli Sauce

  • 3 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 1 red chilli (chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • ½ cup water

Method:

  • Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Cut chicken into strips. Dip strips into beaten egg and dip into flour to coat.
  • Shallow fry strips for a few minutes each side until golden brown.
  • Add capsicum to pan and fry for a few minutes. Remove chicken and veg and set aside.
  • Cook chilli, garlic, soy sauce, tomato puree and water. Stir and cook for a little bit until the sauce thickens.
  • Add chicken and capsicum and stir back into sauce.
  • Serve with rice.

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