Unless you live in a warm, moist area, you probably think you’ll never have homegrown chillis in your kitchen. If this describes you: listen up, chica, it’s time to consider growing chillis indoors. Don’t be intimidated: it’s actually easier to grow chillis inside because you can control the temperature and light they get. They’re also incredibly hardy plants that can handle beginner’s mistakes.
Where to Begin
From the get-go, chillis are simple plants. There’s no need to purchase chilli seeds or sprouts. Just save the seeds from the varieties you buy at the store. To sprout your seeds, place them in a moist paper towel in a plastic bag. Leave them in a warm, moist, dark place (under the sink works well) for 2-4 weeks. If you’re interested in chillis not typically found in the grocery store, explore 500 different varieties on this site.
Step Two: Potting Your Chilli Plants
Once they’ve sprouted, transfer them to a large pot with drainage holes and a pan. Terra cotta will draw moisture out of the soil, so it’s better to use plastic. The easiest mistake to make when growing chillis is to use too small a pot. Ten to 12 inches is good for most varieties, while larger plants will need 14 to 16 inches. Without enough space to grow, chillis will have weak stems and only reach a fraction of their potential height. Use a typical loam soil with perlite for drainage. The employees at your local garden center will be able to help you find what you’re looking for.
Chillis should be watered whenever the top of the soil is slightly dry to the touch. The biggest challenge when growing chillis indoors is to provide the warmth and heat they need. Placing the chilli pot in a south-facing window will help, but to ensure a long growing season you will want to position a lamp over the plant. Use a timer to ensure your chillis have 14 to 16 hours of light a day.
Growing Season and Harvest
The growing season will begin 10 to 12 weeks after you transfer your sprouted seeds to a pot. When they flower, pollinate them by rubbing your finger in each flower’s center to pick up pollen. The flower petals should eventually fall off, leaving the green center part of the flower to swell and grow into peppers. The peppers will likely cycle through various colors as they grow. Harvest them when they match the adult appearance of the variety you chose.
During harvest season you will likely have more peppers than you can use. Freezing them will keep their flavor, but the texture will soften. Save seeds to start the whole cycle again next year. You can also make homemade chilli powder. Either string up chillis in front of a window, or let them shrivel on the plant. Once they are thoroughly dried, follow the instructions in the video bellow.
If growing chilli peppers sounds easy, that’s because it is! It’s a great plant to grow with your children’s help. Between fresh pepper during growing season, frozen peppers, and homemade chilli powder, all chilli products in your kitchen can be from your own indoor garden.