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Jan 25, 2010 04:25 PM

Growing your own hot chilis

A few of us made a post-Chowdown shopping trip to HK Market in Malden after the lunch at Fuloon on Saturday. rockdoc noted that the dried chili peppers for sale literally paled in comparison to the vibrant color of those featured in the Feast....which reminded me of how easy it is to grow and dry your own chili peppers.

A few years ago I grew a small, red Thai chili pepper that I got through Seed Savers Exchange. It was incredibly prolific - as I recall, I got 80-100 2-3" fruits per dwarf-type plant. The peppers were easy to dry, too: when they were ripe, i picked them and strung them up using a needle and thread. I hung them in my pantry to dry and then let them adorn my kitchen all winter long. (If you have a barn or warm basement, you can uproot the entire plant and hang it upside down to dry the peppers). The dried peppers retained their bright red color beautifully. One thing I would do differently, though, is move the dried peppers to a glass jar in the summer - they re-absorbed a bit moisture from the air once the weather warmed up.

Unfortunately, Seed Savers doesn't have the red Thai pepper in their commercial catalog anymore (though maybe you can get it if you jobecome a member). They do offer an orange-colored one:

The best selection of seeds for hot peppers that i've foud is in the Kitchen Garden Seeds Catalog:

And finally, I found a Korean-style chili in one of the catalogs, but it's upstairs and my son is alseep...if anyone's interested I'll retrieve & post it later.

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  1. I always have the Thai chili in my garden My plants seem to live for around 5 years then die off and I just replant from a dry chili. I gave some to my sister and hers is going for 3 years now! This year I am planting a full 10 foot row. So I can try and make siracha chili sauce.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jay D.

      Lucky you...we are in Zone 6 (probably closer to Zone 5, tho) and my chilis don't make it through the winter.

      1. re: gimlis1mum

        I'm also in zone 6. We grow them in pots -- they live outside in the summer and come in for the fall/winter.

      2. re: Jay D.

        Hey, Jay D - how do you know when the Thai chili plant is totally dead, never going to give fruit again? I have two plants currently. One seems to have turned into a vine (unless it got cross-pollinated with something else) and hasn't given off fruit for a year, although it looks quite nice as a vine and I keep it around for decorative purposes. The other plant is sputtering -- looks raggedy and it gave me something like 4 chillies all summer. I'm trying to decide now whether to yank the raggedy chili plant and start over or to give it another chance this summer.

      3. I grow and dry them every year here in Boston. Thai, cayenne, last year a hybrid called Kung Pao (no different from a regular Thai as far as I could tell), jalapeƱos, sometimes habaneros. My home-grown cayenne is the only really fragrant cayenne I've ever found, even Penzey's doesn't compare.

        1. I use for my pepper seeds, they have a huge selection including Thai

          1. I like just using generic cayenne for drying. They are thin walled and dry fast, and more importantly they are available at my local nursery so I don't have to worry about finding window space to start them from seed. When it comes to dried hot peppers I've never really been able to tell much difference in taste anyway.

            1. I was able to get a packet of Thai chili seeds at a local nursery who carried the Botanical Interests line of organic seeds. I later spotted the same line at my local Whole Foods. Those chilies are the best in stir fries. Last time I grew a variety of Thai chili it was quite prolific but the seeds are slow to start so be patient.

              5 Replies
              1. re: HokieAnnie

                By slow, how slow? I am about to plant 7 different kinds of hot chilies. I have never grown them from seed before.

                1. re: omotosando

                  Some may start sprouting within two weeks, other can take longer. I've had certain chilies take as long as 6 weeks to show any signs of life. This year jalapenos, anaheims, cayennes, thais, and habaneros are almost ready to transplant outside, but my poblanos and bhut jolokia haven't come up yet. You have to be patient with chilies...they take awhile to get started but once they take hold they will grow to be pretty prolific plants if you take care of them the right way

                  1. re: omotosando

                    To speed my pepper seed germination I either soak in warm water overnight or put on damp paper towels, seal in plastic bags and put on top of my hot water heater until they sprout. Be sure and check often for sprouting and be careful not to break the root or sprout when you plant them them

                    1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                      This may be a stupid question, but I am in Southern California and it was over 80 degrees today. I actually thought I could just throw the seeds in a pot of soil outside, water and they would grow. Sorry to be so dense - as I said, I have never grown from seed before.

                      1. re: omotosando

                        In Southern Cali, you could probably do that, as your climate allows for plants to grow and produce year round. Here in northern Louisiana, I start my pepper seeds inside around the middle of February, when its too cold for them outside. I just finished transplanting some of my seedlings outside, but I still cover them at night for the time being, just in case.