Warm up this winter with home-grown chillies
We’ve got quite the winter warmer for you this month, for both your plot and plate! Try growing chilli peppers for a sizzle of heat into your winter dishes, with some top tips from our friends at BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine. What’s more, put your delicious chillies to good use in a recipe from Ching-He-Huang, as seen on the Summer Kitchen at the BBC Good Food Show Summer 2023.
Chilli peppers can be sown anytime of year, but you’ll need a heated propagator and a grow lamp to give them a good start.
How to grow
Chillies need a warm, sunny spot for the best results and the hottest chillies. Ideally, grow them in a greenhouse or raise them in pots on a south-facing patio or windowsill. Chillies need a long season to grow, so it’s best to sow seed early in moist, peat-free multi-purpose compost, and keep in a heated propagator under a growing light, to prevent seedlings going leggy (sow seed in March if you don’t have a heated propagator).
Pot on into individual pots when the first true leaves appear. Keep potting on if growing in pots or plant out into the greenhouse when night temperatures exceed 10ºC – ensure the soil or compost is free-draining. Feed weekly with a high potash fertiliser once plants have started flowering, and harvest chillies as and when they appear.
Once planted out, chillies require very little attention. Pinch out the growing tips when plants are about 20cm tall to encourage bushy growth. Tall varieties may need staking.
Water your chilli plants little and often. As soon as the first flowers appear, feed weekly with a high-potash liquid fertiliser such as tomato feed.
In hot weather, mist chilli plants to increase humidity and deter spider mites.
Chillies will be ready to pick from late summer. For the mildest flavour, pick chillies while they’re still green, leave them to mature for more heat.
Hawaiian sticky mushroom and pineapple fried rice
As seen on the Summer Kitchen at the BBC Good Food Show Summer 2023 with Ching-He Huang.
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 2 1/2 cm-sized piece ginger, finely grated
- 100g carrots, chopped into small pieces
- 200g can sweetcorn, drained
- 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
- 200g fresh king trumpet mushrooms, sliced into strips
- 300g cooked jasmine rice
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- 1 tsp sriracha
- 2 tbsp tamari or low-sodium light soy sauce
- 150g fresh pineapple, chopped into small pieces (if you’re using fruit from a whole pineapple, keep the hollowed-out shell to serve)
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- small handful chopped chives
- 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, to serve
- 1 tsp chiu chow chilli oil, to serve
Fresh king trumpet mushrooms, wok-fried in tamari, sweet chilli and sriracha, then served with chickpeas, sweetcorn and carrots in a hollowed-out pineapple. Serve with chiu chow chilli oil for a spicy kick.
- Heat a wok over a high heat until smoking, then add the rapeseed oil. Once hot, give the oil a swirl, then add the ginger and stir-fry for a few seconds. Add the carrots and cook for a few seconds, then add the sweetcorn, chickpeas and mushrooms and cook, tossing, for less than 1 min. Add the cooked rice and use your spoon to gently break down the rice in the wok.
- Add the dark soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, sriracha and tamari or light soy sauce and toss to mix well. Add the pineapple and stir to combine.
- Now add the ground white pepper and toasted sesame oil. Spoon the mixture out of the wok and into a hollowed-out pineapple, if using. Sprinkle over the chopped chives and chilli, then serve with chiu chow chilli oil on the side.