José Pizarro’s pep­per recipe

Plus how-to-grow tips from Pad­stow Kitchen Gar­den

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page - Ross Geach pad­stowk­itchen­gar­den.co.uk

The great thing about pep­pers ( Cap­sicum) is that there are so many dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties – there’s one for ev­ery­one. Once you’ve mas­tered grow­ing one type you can grow any of the hun­dreds avail­able.

Be­fore you buy pep­per seeds think about what you use them for in cook­ing. Do you need big ones for stuff­ing? Small, sweet ones for sal­ads, mega-hot pep­pers for curry pastes? Or one of each?

Just one plant, if grown right, can pro­duce ki­los of fruit from mid-June right up to the end of Oc­to­ber.

For best re­sults I al­ways grow my pep­pers in a poly­tun­nel or green­house. How­ever, you can grow them in a sunny spot out­side. They will just be ready a bit later and you won’t get quite as many pep­pers.

If you have a prop­a­ga­tor and are plan­ning on grow­ing your plants in­doors, sow seeds in early Fe­bru­ary in good qual­ity com­post (I use John Innes seed com­post) in ei­ther a small pot or cell trays. Lightly cover seeds with com­post and try to keep the tem­per­a­ture around 18-21C.

Wa­ter reg­u­larly but don’t over­soak your com­post. All pep­pers hate to be wa­ter­logged.

Af­ter two weeks, seedlings should emerge. Make sure you keep a good tem­per­a­ture of 15-21C and once your plants reach about 4in (10cm) in height (about six weeks af­ter ger­mi­na­tion) it’s time to trans­fer them into slightly larger pots with new, mul­tipur­pose com­post. Grow them on un­til early May when they are ready to be moved into their fi­nal po­si­tion.

If you are plant­ing the young pep­pers di­rectly into soil, make sure you in­cor­po­rate some well rot­ted ma­nure or com­post be­fore­hand. Lay a sheet of ground-cover mem­brane where you want your plants to go and cut holes in it 2ft (60cm) apart.

Dig plant­ing holes through the cuts, po­si­tion the plants, firm them in and wa­ter re­ally well. I find that most chilli plants don’t need any sup­port but you can use a cane or tie some string at the base of the plant and at­tach it to a sup­port­ing rail.

If you don’t fancy grow­ing pep­pers in the ground you can just as eas­ily use pots in­stead which have the ad­van­tage of be­ing mov­able and warmer for the plants. How­ever, they can dry out faster, so keep an eye on the wa­ter­ing.

As for feed­ing, treat pep­pers the same way as to­ma­toes. Use a reg­u­lar tomato feed ev­ery few weeks or a home-made com­frey feed. Be care­ful not to over­feed, though, or you will af­fect the po­tency of your chill­ies.

By early June you should see lots of flow­ers and pep­pers form­ing on the plants. This is the time to look out for green­fly and other aphids on the young grow­ing shoots. If you see any, try spray­ing with a weak wash­ing-up liq­uid so­lu­tion or an or­ganic spray. I use pro­fes­sional grade Pyrethrum 5EC (from pro­green.co.uk). If the prob­lem con­tin­ues, try grow­ing onions and gar­lic nearby. Their strong scent is said to dis­cour­age aphids.

To har­vest pep­pers, just pluck them from the plant care­fully without break­ing the plant. You can dry them by mak­ing a chilli ris­tra, a South Amer­i­can tra­di­tion that is also great for dec­o­ra­tion. Make a large knot in one end of some fish­ing line and thread a nee­dle on the other. Thread pep­pers on to the line through their stems. Turn them slightly each time to en­sure they’re evenly spaced, then hang your ris­tra in a non-hu­mid area.

Some like it hot: José Pizarro with a bowl of padrón pep­pers, a tapas favourite

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