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How to Grow Chillies


Red Chili Pepper Clip Art
Chillies are certainly one of the most intriguing plants God has created and is mostly known for its hot qualities. the biggest value lies in the spicy flavor it ads to many dishes, although it also has some medicinal purposes that are lesser known. On this page, we are giving a brief introduction to the history of the famous chilli pepper, its chemical makeup, and some basic guidelines how you can grow your own chillies. We are in the process of creating this page so please check back for updates.
 
 
The botanical 'genus' to which all chillies belong is Capsicum (CAP-see-coom), from the Greek "kapto" meaning 'to bite'. The genus Capsicum is also a member of the wider Solanaceae or Nightshade Family and therefore Chile peppers are closely related to their genetic cousins, the tomato, potato, tobacco, and eggplant. Capsaicin is the active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. Capsicum produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact. It is an irritant for both humans and animals. Capsaicin and several related compounds are called capsaicinoids and are produced as a secondary metabolite by chilli peppers. Pure capsaicin is a hydrophonic, colorless, odorless and crystalline to waxy compound.
How to spell "chilli"
There are many spellings for this word. The Oxford Dictionary defines the two main spellings as follow: noun - chilli, also chilli pepper, US chile or chili: plural - chillies, US chiles or chilies. We would like to stick to the spelling as found on this page as it seems to be the favoured spelling.
Chemical Makeup
Capsaicin is a chemical compound that stimulates nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes inside the mouth and throat. The chemical makeup of chillies consists of the following combination of chemical elements: (CH3)2CHCH=CH(CH2)4CONHCH2C6H3-4-(OH)-3-(OCH3). With all those chemical compounds one begins to understand why chillies burn so much. 

African Bird's Eye Chillies harvested from our chilli garden

How the sun dry our chillies
   
 
A simple system for sun drying chillies. As the sun heats up the plastic container it develops a draft of hot air that speeds up the drying process. Cayenne chillies can be sun dried within a day on a very hot day. Jalapeno chillies take longer to dry due to its higher moisture content.
 
Our Final Product 100% organic
Chilling News
Plants may be able to 'hear' others THEY can "smell" chemicals and respond to light, but can plants hear sounds? It seems chilli seeds can sense neighbouring plants even if those neighbours are sealed in a box, suggesting plants have a hitherto-unrecognised sense. (New Scientist, Issues 2868, June 2012)
 
The Scoville Heat Scale
The Scoville scale is the measurement of the heat of chillies. The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin present. The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. His method, devised in 1912, is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test. The modern commonplace method for analyzing the capsaicin content uses what is known liquid chromatography, making it possible to directly measure capsaicinoid content.
 
 
Chilli Varieties
With close to an estimated 3000 kinds of chillies it is understandable that there is often confusion in the classification of chillies according to different varieties. Most of us are known with those that we see at the local market or grocer store but there are countless more varieties that are mostly the domain of growers for specialist markets.  Domesticated Chili varieties are classified in a the following main groups:
 
Capsicum annuum, which includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalapeños, and the chiltepin.
Capsicum Chinese, which includes the hottest peppers such as the naga, habanero, Datil and Scotch bonnet.
Capsicum pubescence, which includes the South American rocoto peppers.
Capsicum baccatum, which includes the South American aji peppers.
 
More about Capsicum frutescens 
Capsicum frutescens can be annual or short-lived perennial plants.  Flowers are white with a greenish white or greenish yellow corolla, and are either insect- or self-pollinated. The plant's fruit typically grow erect. The flowers are usually very small, growing 10-20mm long and 3-7mm in diameter. Fruit typically grows green or a pale yellow and matures to a bright red, but can also be other colors. C frutescens has a smaller variety of shapes compared to other Capsicum varieties. This variety is closely associated with various sauces and the famous Tabasco Sauce. It has become also the logo for countless businesses, products, and a famous rock band. Some of the better-known names are Tabasco Pepper, Thai Pepper, Piri Piri also called African Birds Eye or African Devil, Kanbuzi Pepper, Malawian Pepper and  Malagueta Pepper.
 
ORAC Units (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity)
ORAC is a method of measuring antioxidant capacities in food samples. The antioxidant values of foods are expressed in ORAC units, a unit of measurement for antioxidants developed by the National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US. The antioxidant value of chili powder described in ORAC units is 23,636 μ mol TE/100g. (The ORAC value is expressed in micromoles (μ mol) of Trolox Equivalents (TE) per 100 grams of sample). 
 
Health Benefits 
A recent scientific study showed that chili powder has cholesterol-busting potential.
Capsaicinoids – the compounds that give chili peppers their ‘heat’ – may lower cholesterol levels and boost heart health, suggests new data from a study with hamsters undertaken by
Food and Nutritional Sciences Programme, School of Life Sciences, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong. The article describing the research that was undertaken was published in the European Journal of Nutrition. Unless one has got some research and scientific background in this particular field the article will make little sense. Nevertheless, it was a significant study that gets one step closer to proving the healing qualities of Chili peppers. Find an abstract of the article here 
 
Pests and Diseases
Capsicum varieties (peppers) are unfortunately exposed to, and prone to attracting a wide range of diseases and pests. We have learned this the hard way. But we do not want to put you of planting your own peppers. The reward of a healthy crop far outweigh the struggles one encounters on this journey of growing your own peppers. Peppers are therefore not the easiest crop to grow and it will require patience and experience to maintain a healthy crop in a sustainable way. The correct diagnosis of diseases is critical but without the help of an expert difficult. So for the backyard farmer, it is very much a matter of learning through trial and error. Many diseases display similar symptoms and it is only through experience or the help of an expert that one will be able to identify the root of the problem. The whole plant from the roots to the fruit is prone to diseases. Following is a list of the most common diseases and pests:
 
The Plant:
- Browning stems (Bacterial Leaf Spot and Phytophthora Blight and or insufficient watering)
- Plants falling over (The result of soft and waterlogged soil, wind damage, insufficient support for the plant especially bigger plants and or poorly developed roots)
- Slow or stunted growth (Can be the result of inadequate sunlight, poor soil and not enough nutrients and low temperatures)
- Wilting (Verticillium Wilt, Bacterial Wilt & Phytophthora Blight and or too little or too much watering)

The Leaves:
- Curling/Distortion (This is bad news and caused by Aphids, Thrips, Spider Mites, and viruses)
- Browning (Bacterial Leaf Spot and Phytophthora Blight)
- Holes (Something is eating away at your plants and it is most probably during the night. Grab a torch  and inspect your plants. Most common are slugs & snails and flea beetles)
- Yellowing
- Scorching (The result of a scorching sun and high temperatures. It can also be the result of chemical or fertiliser burns and organic mixtures that have gone wrong)
- Spots/Blotches (Bacterial Leaf Spot, Cercospora Leaf Spot, Powdery Mildew, Phytophthora Blight and Viruses)

 
The Pods:
- Distortion (Thrips, Spider Mites, and viruses. Sometimes poor pollination can also be the problem)
- Holes (Yes, there are actually bugs that will eat the fruit as well, most probably slugs & snails and pepper maggots) 
- Spots/Discoloration (Anthracnose, Bacterial Leaf Spot, Blossom End Rot, Phytophthora Blight, Grey Mold and Thrips)
- Soft Rot (Bacterial Soft Rot and Grey Mold)
 
 
Major and Minor Pepper Virus (Cornell University VEGETABLE CROPS - Virus Diseases of Pepper)

Major Pepper Virus
Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) is one of the most important virus diseases of pepper worldwide. The virus exists as a number of strains, but all are apparently capable of infecting pepper and differ only in symptom expression. The age of a plant at the time of infection strongly influences what types of symptoms will be manifested. CMV symptoms can be transitory and often appear on lower, mature leaves as ring-spot or oak-leaf necrotic patterns (fig. 1). Ring-spot symptoms are more prominent on determinate-type peppers. The necrotic symptoms, whether they occur on the foliage or on the fruit (fig. 2), are basically a shock reaction attributed to early virus infection. Sometimes plants adjacent to ring-spotted plants display only a mild to moderate mosaic pattern and have a general dull appearance (fig. 3). This difference may be influenced by the particular CMV strain involved, but more likely reflects the age at which plants are infected. With early infection, both quality and quantity of fruit produced will be affected.
CMV can infect more than 775 plant species including many weed species (chickweed, milkweed, purslane, etc.). CMV is spread by many aphid species in a nonpersistent manner, meaning that insecticides cannot prevent the spread of this disease. Strategies to delay early infection should be used to enhance yield and reduce the number of cull fruit. Isolate pepper plantings from weedy border areas or grow them next to taller border plantings, such as sweet corn, which can function as a nonsusceptible barrier crop. Mineral oil sprays have been used, primarily in the south in larger commercial pepper operations, to interfere with the transmission of all pepper viruses by aphids. No acceptable level of tolerance to CMV is available in any commercial variety.

Minor Pepper Viruses
Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) is generally not a problem for pepper because most varieties are resistant to the common strains of the virus. Resistance is conferred by a single dominant gene, but two additional factors may be involved. Resistance operates by allowing an infection to occur on inoculated leaves, which develop necrotic local lesions and abscise prematurely, thus preventing the virus from spreading systemically. Some strains of TMV, however, can systemically infect pepper and cause a mosaic on the foliage. Those strains are transmitted through seed, and the virus may also be mechanically spread by contact. Growers should be sure to start with healthy transplants.
Potato virus Y (PVY) is a common virus among solanaceous crops, infecting potato and tomato in addition to pepper. In southern states, PVY ranks as one of the more important vegetable viruses. The symptom most useful for diagnosing PVY infection is a mosaic pattern that develops along the veins, commonly referred to as veinbanding (fig. 4). With early infection, plants are stunted, fruit set is reduced, and fruit express strong mosaic patterns making them unmarketable.
Like CMV, PVY is transmitted by several aphid species, but the green peach aphid is generally considered to be the most important vector. PVY has a limited host range, so elimination of solanaceous weeds bordering the crop would remove one potential source of inoculum. Because PVY is tuber borne in potato, isolation of peppers from potato plantings would be prudent. Other controls for PVY include choosing resistant varieties, which are presently limited, but should increase in number as more breeding is accomplished; weed control; and other methods outlined under CMV.
Tobacco etch virus (TEV) normally occurs along with PVY. However, sporadic occurrence of TEV alone has previously been noted in New York. Typical symptoms consist of broad dark-green mosaic bands along the veins, beginning at the leaf base and often continuing to the tip (fig. 5). The planting of PVY-resistant varieties generally helps control TEV because resistance to both viruses is closely linked; however, there are a few strains of TEV that can infect PVY-resistant varieties. Other control measures have already been noted.
Pepper mottle virus (PeMV) bears many characteristics in common with PVY and TEV, including symptom expression. Veinbanding, as seen with PVY, is present, but the mottling is more extensive in interveinal areas and over the entire leaf surface (fig. 6). Fruit mosaic as noted in figure 7 is common for TEV, PVY, and PeMV. PeMV is limited to solanaceous spp., and control measures are those mentioned tor other pepper viruses.
Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) can cause disease in a wide variety of plants including pepper, tomato, and lettuce. The virus is common in both temperate and subtropical areas of the world. Thrips transmit the virus, but only larvae, and not adults, can acquire the virus. Thus, only adults that fed on infected plants as larvae can transmit the virus and then only after a latent (incubation) period of 4 10 days. This type of transmission is much different from aphid transmission. The virus causes sudden yellowing and browning of the young leaves, which later become necrotic (fig. 8). Fruit formed after infection develops large necrotic blotches.
Use of insecticides to control the vector reduces disease incidence. Elimination of virus reservoirs (weed and ornamental species) near the crop is important but difficult to achieve.
Alfalfa mosaic virus (AMV), or "calico mosaic" as the disease is called when this virus infects potato, can occasionally be recovered from the pepper. AMV is aphid transmitted in a nonpersistent manner and produces spectacular white or yellow calico symptoms on solanaceous crops, but milder symptoms on crop resevoirs like alfalfa and clovers. Infection probably causes little damage to pepper. Isolating peppers several feet from alfalfa and other legumes should diminish the chance for infection.
 
 
Pepper Viruses Photo Collage
 
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