Summer Heat with Chillies

This summer up the heat in the garden and the kitchen with a selection of chillies and peppers.

Christopher Columbus is credited with the discovery of chillies when he explored the Caribbean region, and he called them ‘peppers’ because of the spicy, hot taste – just like peppercorns. The official heat scale for chillies is the Scoville scale, developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912, and the higher the score the hotter the chilli.

Chillies come in a range of sizes, colours and pungencies and are ideal to grow in large containers for edible and decorative effect. The RAW range of seeds, which are both non-GMO and heirloom varieties, is a great place to start, with a selection of colourful mixes:

Chilli Habanero Mix

This is a selection of hot and spicy habaneros in a unique range of colours. A Caribbean favourite, the lantern-shaped fruits mature to chocolate, mustard, orange and peach, white and yellow in colour. Habanero has a delicious, pungent, smoky quality.  Habaneros score from 200 000 to 300 000 on the Scoville scale.

Chilli Caribbean blend

A colourful and fiery assortment of chillies from the Caribbean, the home of hot peppers. Differing levels of heat from mild to fiery hot and assorted colours will complement a wide range of dishes.

Pepper Cayenne Blend

A blend of red, yellow, purple, green and orange coloured cayenne varieties. Peppers dry to the same bright colours. This famously hot and pungent pepper, slightly hotter than the jalapeno, takes its name from a river in Guyana. Often dried into powder or flakes, it serves as a multi-purpose spice.  Yields are high, and extra peppers may be strung in ‘ristras’ for easy drying (or colourful Christmas décor!).

Ghost Chilli

If any of the above are hot enough or you really want to spice up the chilli wars try this one. Also known as Bhut jolokia, the ghost chilli is very hot, measuring 1 000 000 units on the Scoville scale! Originating in Northern India, the orange/red lantern-shaped fruit has a hint of citrus with their intense heat. Ideal for pot growing, it produces an abundance of pods. Cut rather than pull ripe fruit off the bush.

Something milder:

If chillies are not your thing, go for the Christmassy effect with sweet peppers. Also perfect for growing in large containers, the colours and versatility of these peppers are ideal for all summer dishes whether hot or cold. Although referred to as a vegetable, the pepper is actually a fruit.

Pepperone corno di torro rosso

The name of this Italian heirloom translates as ‘horn of the bull, a tribute to the peppers’ full, tapered shape. Ripening to a bright red, the fruit has a sweet, crisp flavour with mild heat that increases as the pepper matures. This Italian heirloom variety is delicious raw, fried, stuffed or just grilled on the braai

Pepper Rainbow Bell Blend

A colourful blend of open-pollinated sweet bell peppers including lemon, orange, red, purple, these can be harvested young at a green stage but are sweeter and tastier when fully ripe.

Pepper Mini Belle Blend

These dwarf, compact plants produce a huge crop of small, blocky, sweet peppers in red, orange and chocolate colours. As the sweet fruit has very few seeds, there is very little waste. Mini sweet peppers are thinner-skinned than larger peppers and their texture stands up to grilling and cooking.

The Gardener