How to grow chilli

Red hot chilli peppers

How to grow chilli is important if you're arthritic; or do you spell it chili? Just as hot! Red hot.

So you like the flavour, and perhaps even the burn. You're not alone, half the world loves them; they are healthy, full of vitamin C and B, and many minerals. However, they are obviously eaten in small quantities, so I can't say you get a significant amount of these vitamins and minerals from your jalapenos. We eat them because they taste good, and as far as I know you enjoy them without any detrimental effect unless you have an ulcer; they are also a strong anti inflammatory.

How to grow chilli

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 24 December, 2018.

By Bernard Preston

They are an important part of your armamentarium of coloured foods that give us protection against cancer. The reds particularly have lycopenes that halve the rate of prostate tumours; enjoy your tomatoes and chillies; actually guavas and watermelons are the richest sources. 

How to grow chilli? It's not difficult, as we shall see. This is an page in development as our plants grow. I'll just have to curb my patience before making that homemade spicy sauce; see lower down for an update on a green chili sauce recipe. 

Well, it was in development but is now complete, and I've just updated it to add something on jalapenos and smoking chilies.

Fresh tomato recipes and chilli go hand in hand.

Fresh tomato with Mozzarella and chilli.

How to grow chilli

How to grow chilli as the pepper family is full of vitamin C and is one of the strongly anti inflammatory foods.

Week 1 is the 1st October in the southern hemisphere.

Actually that's a bit late. In the latter years, I've planted them in the spring once the danger of frost is over and they do even better; say, April or May in the northern hemisphere.

Choose your site in full sun. You really only need one plant, but eight came in a tray, so I've planted all of them. They are self pollinating so, if you share a tray with seven friends, you should all be happy.

Clear out the ground, removing all traces of the last crop and  weeds. The piece I've chosen is about ten foot square or 3 square metres. We had limas in here last, so it's good to follow a legume with a leafy crop; the beans have left a residue of nitrogen in the soil that is now available.

Here's a nice little puzzle. What's the difference between ten feet squared and ten square feet?

Type it into google and you get this interesting answer; "I think ten feet square is a 10 by 10 foot box; but ten squared feet would be something like 2 foot by 5 foot, but I'm not sure."

Is that right or wrong? Well, it's half right and half wrong. All the respondents think he's correct including a couple mathematics boffins. So, what's wrong? Talking of boxes brings in the muddle. Boxes have volume, and only the sides of the boxes have area. I'd rather say a 10 foot by 10 foot rectangle.

On the subject of organic gardening, one is very dependent on bacteria that form on the roots of legumes like beans and peas.

These little bugs trap nitrogen from the atmosphere which is vital for your organically grown vegetables if you are determined not to use fertilizers for your dark green leaves.

In any case we should be eating plenty of legumes. Reducing your red meat, and replacing some of it with beans, peas and chickpeas will certainly improve your health.

We aren't vegetarians, but we do supplement our diet with plenty of legumes to keep our cholesterol down. In any case fresh peas and beans from the garden are delicious, and the nitrogen they leave in the soil is just what your chillies need.

A common Dutch saying compares retirement with sitting behind the geraniums that fringe many of the television rooms in Europe. It's synonomous with becoming a couch potato, and much was made by my Dutch patients of the fact that I was returning to Africa to sit behind the Cape violas; Kaapse viooltjes in Dutch.

I couldn't bring myself to hoe out these beauties; they are  weeds really in the vegetable garden, but so beautiful at the moment, and a reminders of the many friends that I left behind in Europe. There common name is Heart's Ease; that describes our gardening perfectly.

Sitting behind the Cape violas

Cape Violas

There's nothing couch potatoish about gardening in Africa, however; it's hard work making a compost pile and gardening in general without the help of a serf.

Dig some holes @ How to grow chillies

I started digging some holes, about a spade square, and as deep. They don't need to be large unless you have very hard, unworked ground.

Starting a compost pile

Starting a compost pile is easy, but maintaining it requires fairly rigorous hard work; do your lower back exercises. Although they are hardy plants, the nutrition will certainly be much improved in how to grow chilli if you use plenty of humus. 

Your own organic compost, aka humus, is the perfect place for your chilli plants to spread their roots. I won't pretend that starting a compost pile is light work.

There's no place farther from sitting behind the geraniums than building a compost heap! It's hard physical work, but very rewarding. And oddly, I have a difficult back too at times, and it's been thriving on gardening. It's the chair that is the downfall of the average back, including mine. Two thirds of the secret of a difficult lower back is to vacate the couch and start these core exercises. LOWER LUMBAR BACK PAIN ...

It's astonishing how 5' of kitchen and garden waste decomposes down in three to four months into two miserly feet of humus like this. Made late last summer from all the cuttings and clippings of the garden, the bacteria, worms, snails and a million creepy-crawlies have done a fine job of concentrating the nutrients in all those leaves.


One wheelbarrow of homemade compost is what these eight holes got. It filled the hole about half way, and then of course you simply cover with the soil you've just dug out, compacting lightly.


Chilli plants are rather slender so I've taken the precaution of first placing a stake into each hole. Just in this instance, a thin bamboo cane that I've been chopping back.

Update: these plants remain quite small, so it's easy to trample them. So I've placed a small stick on the other side of each plant.

In actual fact, when heavy in fruit, their branches need to be supported with a branched stake; otherwise the first gust of wind and over they go. So I now put in a branched stake right away to save the schlep of doing it later and maybe disturbing the roots.


Make a small hole and pop your seedling into the hole, making sure that it's at the same level as in the seedling tray. Firm the soil around your seedlings and water immediately to ensure the soil is in contact with the fine seedling roots.

Often I'd put a little cap on the seedlings for a couple of days to protect them against the fierce African sun, but tomorrow is predicted to be cool and misty with a light drizzle, so it won't be necessary.

See, how to grow chillis isn't difficult!

Chili plants

How to grow chilli seedlings

Week 5

Come back in a month's time, beginning of November to view our " how to grow chilli " progress. Better still, get your own chilli plants into the ground so you too can enjoy chilli con carne recipes.

Update: They haven't grown much, but there are lots of tiny white flowers. The plants are looking very healthy.

Week 8

The plants are still quite small but already bearing fruit.

Week 13

Today I picked my first chilli. The thrill of how to grow chillies comes with the first fruit. Mm, I wonder if the padre would enjoy a few? The first bush has four chillies, three still green; the other plants have put their energy into growing much taller, and now have flowers. 

Low carb chilli

Today I had my own chilli from the garden for our authentic hummus recipe - chickpeas are number two in the foods that lower cholesterol; do you know what number one is?

Chillis also have proven cholesterol lowering properties by the way. Anything to get off those nasty statins.

Some of the low carb foods, like chickpeas, lentils and even a green salad can taste a little dull. There's nothing like adding spices and herbs to make them more interesting. Low carb chilli, garlic, ginger, sweet basil and your own favourite herbs go a long way to making these essential, but perhaps rather tasteless foods more palatable.

If you know about resistant starch, then even new potatoes with a slither of chilli can be enjoyed by those who are watching their weight, or are diabetic.

Vitamin C

After citrus, the pepper family is the second best source of vitamin C. How to grow chilli is not just for the fun of it, and the flavour it brings to your cooking; it's about better health too.

Whilst there aren't many cases of scurvy around these days, there are certainly millions of people who are mildly deficient, and some seriously so.

Vitamin C is one of four nutrients that have been identified as being essential in the war against the rapidly escalating frailty syndrome; premature loss of get up and go, vitality and muscle strength.

In short, eating a healthy diet, rich in coloured foods and nutrients is not small beer; it makes the difference between a happy sitting under the trees one once planted, sipping tea, and even a sherry, watching the grandchildren growing up, and premature disability and an early demise.

One of the joys of the jalapenos is that with luck they'll sprout again next spring; just cut them back in the autumn and... what's potting in the spring garden?

Green chilis

I love these babies as they make a green chili sauce recipe that's not too hot for my European tongue. Give them another week to mature and they'll start to burn.

You'll have a huge surplus; how to preserve jalapeno peppers and in fact all chillis is a breeze.

Keeping your own seeds is particularly successful with peppers; you really don't need to spend a fortune at the gardening shop.


The pressure of treating patients has meant that I haven't had the time to build pages on How to grow Bell Peppers, How to grow Australian peppers, How to grow Pepperdews and How to grow Jalapenos - they all belong the enormously diverse family of capsicums, all rich in capsaicin, phytogens and vitamin C especially.

Read more about the other capsaicin health benefits.

But they are all flourishing in our garden, next summer perhaps I'll have more time for writing about our garden. You could of course start yourself growing them in your northern spring.

Interesting that capaicin, the burning stuff in chilis, found mainly in the placenta that holds the seeds, it a very powerful anti inflammatory agent. Chilis are one of the many foods that help prevent inflammation in joints, muscles, the lumen of our blood vessels and even the lining of the gut. 

SPEAKING OF WRITING! New … my fourth book is hot off the press; and it's hot! It has nothing to do with how to grow chilli but it's certainly spicy.

A Family Affair for those who are not offended by having to mop the pate.

Backcover Book I: The Bostonians.

A Family Affair is the heart-warming trilogy about family with a difference. It has two Moms, but no Dad.

Janet has a happy childhood; it’s at her Diocesan  School for Girls where she first tastes the forbidden fruit. But Santie’s mother dies and the child is sexually abused by her father. Whilst at the Police College a gate slams shut, wiping all memory of her abused childhood from Santie’s mind, but leaving her sexually very conflicted.

After studying law, Janet and Santie’s friendship blossoms whilst doing their articles, but Janet is raped by their boss at a beach party. Deciding to keep the child, Klein-Jan is the honey in the sandwich that sweetens and cements their relationship; until the toddler is kidnapped by his father.

Darkness ensues. Eventually, in desperation, their gynaecologist suggests that they have another child. But how do two women conceive a baby?

Book II: Peter’s Children

Enter Peter Thomas… is it possible for a man to be hoodwinked into siring four children and be none the wiser?

Book III: The Return

Concealed in Holland from Interpol by his father, Klein-Jan, now aged twenty, undertakes a journey to discover his roots.

Set in South Africa, A Family Affair is both a lighthearted and easy read, but also takes an inside look at serious issues; women in love, rape, abortion, AIDS and the profound love of a grandmother. It was from her home that KJ was kidnapped.

Rather more than a Mills and Boon! Sample a few free chapters of Bernard Preston at the A Family Affair home page from the navigation bar on your left.

Unsure? Read a few sample chapters. Jan Jansen ...

Vitamin C

WebMD says:

Although citrus fruits are the best known source of vitamin C, many veggies and fruit also have abundant levels of C. Most adults need between 70 and 100 mg a day. Half a cup of sweet red pepper or a six ounce glass of orange juice provides that much and more.

Actually WebMD isn't accurate here. 6 ounces of orange juice out of a carton doesn't contain even close to 75mg of vitamin C. They make no distinction between OJ out of a carton and freshly squeezed orange juice and there's a world of difference.  Squeeze your own oranges if you want orange juice. It doesn't take long with the aid of an electric juicer but in fact I still use the hand juicer when wanting only one glass.

So, if you want to increase the vitamin C in your diet think of home squeezed orange juice and how to grow chilli and sweet peppers should be in the planning of this year's garden.

In choosing your minimum of five coloured foods per day try to eat from a broad a spectrum of foods as possible. I aim for ten as it's the coloured foods that are full of anti oxidants, the cancer preventers. It's amazing what you can grow in even a small garden if you're committed.

Still on a B and W diet? There's trouble coming, it's time to upgrade to colour!

The most important ingredient in chilis is in fact not the vitamin C but a substance called capsaicin than has proven painkilling, anti inflammatory and anti cancer properties. It's the burn in chillis; it's found in the pulp and especially the membranes that hold the seeds, but according to Wikipedia not much is found in the seeds.

Like all of the chilli family, pepperdews start out a lovely green colour; but then, given some hot African sun, they too become really hot. Eaten green in a salad they are fine, but once they turn red, we take out the chilli pips.

It's a moot point; should you remove the seeds and eat more of the flesh of the chili, or eat less, but seeds and all? However, if you want to enjoy the health properties of chili, you should at least eat the white membranes within the chili; there's where most of the capaicin is found apparently.

Dinkum, how to grow chilli is not difficult; they like a sunny spot in the garden, plenty of compost and frequent watering, just like any vegetables. You will have to support the branches otherwise they will break under the weight of the fruit. Actually that fruit growing in your flower beds adds so much colour; you will get comments from your friends, some ribald!

Paprika bell peppers
Australian peppers




A little tip about peppadews is in order. We've grown them for years and they never seem to turn red. They produce a very heavy crop, too heavy for the branches which droop under their weight; and never turn red.

This season I built a crude frame for them to grow on out of an old Pride of India that had overstayed it's welcome. The long and very strong branches made the perfect frame; growing peppadews is a breeze.

These are well supported off the ground and, lo and behold, they have all turned red. All gardening, and how to grow chilli is no exception, is a learning curve. We are just waiting now for a few more and we'll be pickling them so we can enjoy peppadews year round. With ten bushes we'll have bushels of them!

Pepperdews red are so rewarding in any flower or vegetable garden.

This is the first year I've grown jalapenos. Actually, they're not as fiery as I was expecting, but still too hot to eat raw. So I hollow out the pips and boil them briefly, and stuff them with hummus. Not with humus! Enjoy them with a large salad, or on bread they are simply divine.

This page at how to grow chillies is rambling now; apologies, but it goes with an aging mind, easily distracted. I've just made our panera bread menu recipe; it's so easy with a bread machine. I bake bread most days. Just the smell makes it worthwhile, and by adding olive oil and hummus to the dough you can turn it into low GI bread.


Jalapenos are perhaps my favourite pepper; not as hot as the chili, they have all the flavour, though perhaps rather less capsaicin. So, how to grow chilli would include these milder cousins in any case.

Jalapenos are blood red when ripe

So many dishes to use your chillies. A divine healthy food; I have a sensitive stomach, but it handles these chillis and pepperdews and jalapenos without a problem.

See what a wonderful crop grew by following a legume? It's all the nitrogen fixation bacteria in the roots of beans and peas that make the next crop such a success.

So, as you can see, how to grow chilli is very high on our priority list.

Smoked chilli

Preserving your chillis could be interesting. I first slice them,  perhaps remove the seeds, wearing glasses, and then freeze them. It's easy to open the bag and pull out a piece to go in your curry or hummus, or whatever.

This guy from down under has some great ideas on smoking chillies. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks good, and he's obviously been at it for a long while. If you didn't give away those seven other plants, and have been learning how to grow chillies then give it a shot. If you know how to smoke chillies then you can make your own chipotles. Apparently the world loves them but my education is lacking; when it comes to food there's always something new to try.

I reckon chipotles would be nice in our Baba Ghanoush recipe. After hummus that's my favourite way of keeping my cholesterol down so I can enjoy butter instead of margarine that I simply cannot and will not stomach. Foods that lower cholesterol is one of the favourite pages at this Bernard Preston site. Get off those nasty statins safely.

Look here for other best medicinal herbs and spices.

Cross pollination

With ten beehives nearby, fiery red hot chilis are crossing with mild peppers and peppadews. Anything can happen if you get involved in how to grow chilli from your own seed; you'll soon get to know that this plant is fiery, but that one is mild.

I simply remove some of the seeds if I find the peppadews are too hot in my roasted butternut soup recipe; then the grandchildren won't eat them.

Did you find this page useful? Then perhaps forward HOW TO GROW CHILLI to a fellow food and bookworm.  And don't forget to download your copy of A Family Affair onto your Kindle or smartphone! Only one dollar each, though Amazon fudges the price regularly. You won't be sorry; it's a great book, if I say so myself.

A sequel is brewing. Santie discovers she has an Italian half brother; he's a cardinal with a difference. Georg is married, and he has ambitions of becoming pope; and reinstating the married priesthood of the first millennium of Catholicism. Always something spicy and different from Bernard Preston!

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Mojo Picón

Mojos have been added by the Spaniards and Portuguese to their foods since ancient times. It's used primarily to dicky up an otherwise rather dull dish, rather like the food industry does today with flavour enhancers and the like.

The difference being of course that a side dish like this mojo picon is not a chemical additive; I personally have great doubts about them and feel sure they are one of the causes of the explosion of autoimmune diseases today.  Knowing how to grow chilli, and a determination to avoid processed foods is the way to avoid those nasty supermarket sauces and dressings.

Mojos are very simple to make.

  1. One whole garlic bulb, peeled. 
  2. 200 ml of olive oil.
  3. 1 tsp of sea salt.
  4. Half a lemon or lime, peeled and de-pipped; include the pulp; or white wine vinegar.
  5. One half red chilli; include the seeds as that's where the capsaicin is found. 
  6. 1/2 tsp of freshly roasted and ground cumin.

I like to use a stick blender; less fuss and easier to clean. Use more or less chili according to your taste; I put less in as a chiropractor convinced that we should increase the anti inflammatory foods in our diets, so we include the seeds where the heat and much of the capsaicin is found. 

I love mojo picon on the side with chicken dishes in particular.