Every grower naturally wants to get the best out of his or her plants, whether you’re just starting out growing chilies or already have a lot of experience. But how can you enhance the heat of your peppers? Are there methods to make your peppers produce more capsaicin or does this have more to do with chance? Don’t hesitate any longer and read below our best tips to grow significantly spicier chillies.
5 ways to grow even hotter chillies
You can simply leave plants of the genus Capsicum to their own devices, as long as you take care of them and water them occasionally. But why not try to get the most out of your pepper plants? Below, we offer five handy tips for boosting the spiciness of your hot peppers, without having to put in much effort!
Start with the hottest chili pepper (SHU)
This is probably the most important tip: make sure you start with an incredibly hot variety. It’s not feasible to get a similar spiciness with an Anaheim pepper as you would with the Naga Jolokia or Carolina Reaper. So do your homework and choose a pepper plant that is most suitable for you. Then you really can’t go wrong. But although we’re sharing tips here for enhancing the heat of your pepper plants, you don’t necessarily have to choose the hottest varieties. If you like milder flavors, but still want to turn up the heat a bit, that’s possible too. But how do you know which chilies are spicier than others? You can of course try to grow as many as possible and then determine your preferences in terms of flavor and heat. However, it is much easier if you use the Scoville scale. In this handy system, the heat of peppers is measured in Scoville heat units, or “SHU. These units are determined by how many drops of water are needed for the heat to dissipate, to the point where you no longer taste it. The scale runs from the bell bell pepper (0 SHU) to spicier chilies, such as the jalapeño (5000 SHU) and finally the Carolina Reaper (2.2 million SHU). So delve into this scale and choose the variety that best meets your needs.
Be economical with water
Just like growing weed, you sometimes need to give your pepper plants a little stress to improve their performance. In doing so, a unique method for chili peppers is to be sparing with water. Allow the substrate to dry out completely between waterings. Many growers even wait until the leaves start to droop and look weak before watering again. Because of this stress, the plant will try to make the most of the available moisture. In doing so, it puts all its energy into producing fruit. We admit that reducing water or not administering it consistently may reduce harvest weight slightly. Nevertheless, the harvested hot peppers do offer the maximum degree of spiciness. Some daredevils also give their plants plenty of water after a short drought to cause even more stress. However, this should only be attempted if you are experienced and can judge when a plant has been pushed to its limits.
Keep the nitrogen content high
This tip may sound a bit complicated and far-fetched. But controlling the amount of nitrogen in the soil can really affect the spiciness of the final fruit. This is evidenced by a recent study from the University of California (Rosenberg, 2018). This paper claims that higher nitrogen levels lead to hotter peppers, with no negative impact on harvest weight. The study also showed that lower nitrogen levels still improved spiciness, but significantly reduced yield. However, this study was conducted in a laboratory. So how can you imitate this at home? There are a few ways to do this. For example, if you add some manure to the soil, you automatically add extra nitrogen to hopefully get spicier peppers. You can also buy compost with lots of nitrogen. In addition, there is even special plant food to increase the nitrogen content in the soil. Easy Boost Plant Food (57) View
Harvest at the right time
Good planning is super important in many cases and this is also true when you harvest hot peppers! It is certainly true that you can pluck peppers from the plant as soon as they appear, but it is better to wait for clear signs. There is also the story that only fully ripened chillies offer the most heat and flavor, but this does not always hold true! In reality, a chili pepper is at its spiciest when it no longer increases in size. If you wait longer, the capsaicin content will first drop sharply, which then gradually continues. For example, research tested three types of chili peppers that are widely used in Mexico. It was shown that the capsaicin content in the Habanero and the Arbol peppers reached its peak on day 45-50 after fruiting. In Pequin peppers this occurred after forty days. After that, the amount of capsaicin decreased (Contreras-Padilla and Yahia, 1998). In contrast, a test on the serrano pepper showed that capsaicin levels did not change during the transition from the green to the yellow and red stages (Rocha-Herrera, 1997). Conclusion: do you want more flavor and also more spiciness? Then give your chilies a little more time.
Keep your plants warm at night
It’s no secret that chili peppers thrive best in a sunny, warm environment. And while this is often easy to accomplish during the day, many people forget about nighttime temperatures. Pepper plants, however, require consistent temperatures to perform well, regardless of your climate and whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors. Simply put your plants in the warmth of sunlight during the day and help them through the colder nights with a heat mat. Your pepper plants will then grow during the night as well and can produce even more capsaicin! And that in turn leads to, you guessed it, hotter chili peppers. If you grow outside, you can also choose to set up a small greenhouse or polytunnel. Mushroom Heating Mat (Infrared) (752) View
What should you avoid if you want hotter peppers?
Now that we’ve covered all the tried-and-true tips for growing incredibly hot chilies, it’s time to clear up some myths. If you search online for information on growing hot chilies, you’ll often come across unsubstantiated, out-of-the-blue claims. For example, some people recommend giving bittersalt to your plants, crossing them with peppers, or adding sulfur. But this is guaranteed to cause your peppers to lose their spiciness. Moreover, these tactics may even cause damage. Of course, there are growers who have had success with these kinds of methods, but real evidence for them is lacking. If you do want to try them, it’s at your own risk. That said, you can grow glowing hot chili peppers with confidence by following the tips above!