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How to Grow Green Chillies

At this time of year in Bulgaria, most gardeners who know how to grow green chillies will now be preparing their vegetable plots for the coming season. Peppers and chillies are widely grown in most gardens throughout the country and if you know how to grow green chillies

you will be rewarded with a crop of these little fiery fruits that will last you all year round by simply preserving a quantity of them.


What are Chillies?
Chillies are actually the fruit of the capsicum. Its main chemical ingredient is capsaicin which has been used in gardens for many years, not only for its edible fruits but also for its ability to deter pests from the garden.
The "heat" of chillies is measured in Scoville heat units and the higher the Scoville rating the hotter the chilli will be.

Chillies come in many shapes and forms, and of course heat variations, from being as mild as a sweet pepper to as hot a volcano, the capsicum family has the perfect fruit for all to enjoy.

How to Grow Green Chillies
In the right climate, chillies are very simple to grow and care for. Keeping them well watered and pruned will provide fruits from July to late September and depending of the Bulgarian summer you could still be harvesting in October.

There are 2 main options to obtain your baby chilli plants and Bulgarian gardeners will use either way. The serious gardener will often save seeds from their chillies from the previous season. These will be planted in pots or trays and kept warm until early May when the weather is warm enough and the young plants are mature enough to plant directly in the vegetable plot of the garden.

For those of us who want to jump the gun and don't have the patience of growing from seed, you are in luck. Almost all vegetable markets in Bulgaria will have an abundance of fruit and vegetable plants which are ready to plant in the garden. These "ready made plants" are usually very cheap and chilli plants typically come in bunches of 20-30 plants and cost from 1-4 BGN depending on the variety.

Planting the Chillies
Contrary to belief, Chillies will grow well in most soil types as long as they have adequate heat and sunlight. The ground around the plants should be kept moist at all times and never be allowed to dry out.
Prepare the soil by making sure it is loose and clay free, if it is in poor condition, use a fertilizer prior to planting. Separate your plants and discard any that look dead or in poor condition. Make rows of shallow holes of around 18" apart and 2" deep. Keeping the roots as straight as possible, insert the roots into the soil and close the hole up by gently using the fingers and thumbs to push the soil around the lower part of the plant. Do this for every chilli plant until they have all been used.

Using a garden hose or watering can, water the plants thoroughly around the roots. This is better done when there is very little or no direct sunlight. At this point your former fresh looking plants will probably be looking sad, hanging their heads in the sorrow of their disturbance. Don't worry about this, it is all quite normal and the plants will be stood upright and proud by the next day at the latest.

Caring for Your Chillies
Now that the hard work has been done, you can now take it easy because the rest of the growing season requires only a little work to keep the chilli plants healthy and prolific. As I mentioned before, your maturing plants will require frequent watering in dry spells. Most chilli varieties will not need to be supported by canes or sticks. They are a small bushy and sturdy plant and once they mature they are extremely resistant to harsh winds.

As your plants grow it is important to prune dead leaves and discard them. It is also good practice to remove lower leaves to prevent rotting and to promote fruit production.

Harvesting New Chillies
If you've followed these simple guidelines you will now be seeing the young chillies appearing on the plants. You have the option of harvesting the chillies when they are green, alternatively by leaving the chillies to mature for a further few days, you will be rewarded by some beautiful red chillies. Beware as red chillies tend to be a lot hotter than that of the younger green ones.

Chilli Uses
If you're a "chilli head" then you will no doubt have no problems in deciding how to use your chillies. By simply washing them, they can be eaten fresh and if you can stand the heat, fresh chillies are amazing. Both red and green chillies are used in different ways. For a milder chilli one can simply slice open the chilli and remove its seeds and white pith which lines it. They can be added to dishes such as chilli con carne for a fiery kick, and they are even used in confectioneries these days with chilli chocolate being highly popular.

Depending on the size of the chilli crop you may now have too many chillies to manage. At this stage many Bulgarian people will pickle there surplus fruits in air tight jars. This allows for a supply of chillies through the winter months.

Now that you know how to grow green chillies you can plan on where in your garden you want them to grow (sunny position is best), you need to decide on quantity and as a general rule, 100 plants will last through the summer leaving more than enough to pickle around 60-70 500ml storage jars.