If like us you’ve enjoyed a bumper crop of chillies this year, then now is the time to dry and store them before there is a risk of damage from cold weather. If you’ve never grown chillies then it’s well worth considering adding them to your list for next season – Vigoroot planters are ideal to encourage healthy compact plants and a Sunbubble would be a great alternative to a greenhouse if you need a little extra growing space under cover.
By early October the fruits will have developed their rich colour, full flavour and heat if that’s what you’re going for.
Thin-skinned chillies, like cayennes and jalapenos, can be dried and strung, to hang up in your kitchen and use as you need them through the winter. Any thicker-skinned types, like habaneros, are best frozen whole – you can chop them straight from the freezer to use in your cooking.
Snip the chillies from your plant – Snip-its are ideal for the job - and cut a little way up the stem to leave the green cap and a short length of stalk intact. Avoid any imperfect fruit, as any blemishes will quickly worsen in storage and may turn rotten, infecting healthy fruits too.
Thread a large needle with strong cotton or fishing line, then poke the needle through the fattest part of the stem of each chilli, stringing them together side by side. If you angle the needle at 45 degrees to horizontal, the chillies will sit in a spiral, like a bunch of grapes – the traditional Mexican way of hanging them up, known as a ‘ristra’.
Aim for a string of chillies about 60cm long - any longer forces the chillies together, making it difficult for them to dry. Hang your chillies somewhere warm and after a couple of weeks they will have dried completely - use them to pep up your cooking or to make flavoured oil – a great present for keen cooks!
One of our customers, Victoriana Nursery Gardens in Kent, is a specialist chilli grower and they have been using our Domed Fruit cages and insect netting to isolate each plant from one another so that there is no cross pollination and they can harvest variety specific seed from their plants - we are looking forward to seeing the results next season!
They are holding a celebration of all things Chilli on 7-8 October https://www.victoriananursery.co.uk/Challock_Chilli_Fest and there are many other ‘Chilli Festivals’ all round the country so if you’d like to learn more, why not pop along and taste a few new varieties.