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Sizzling hot or super mild? Here's how to grow chillies - and match the right chilli to the right dish


By Hannah Stephenson
If you've grown chillies this year and you're still harvesting them, you may want to know which chilli goes best in which dish.

Arundel Castle head gardener Martin Duncan and his team grow more than 55 types of chilli peppers in the glasshouses, which are still being harvested throughout October.

Chillies were first introduced to Europe from South America in 1493, and the plants were soon dispersed around the world for their medicinal properties (ripe chillies have six times more vitamin C than an orange) and pungent flavours.

"You can easily grow chilli peppers at home inside polytunnels, glasshouses, conservatories or on windowsills," says Duncan. "I recommend sowing yours indoors in early spring, with an inside temperature around 21C."

So what else do you need to know? Follow our guide to get going with growing chillies, along with Duncan's mouthwatering ideas on matching the right chillies for the right dish...

Growing tips
Gently level the compost in the pot, sow a few seeds on top, and cover with a fine layer of Vermiculite and water. If you don't have a propagator, cover with a re-used clear plastic bag or film and secure with an elastic band around the pot. Place it on a windowsill that gets the best bright, indirect sunlight.

Once seeds have germinated and grown to 2.5cm tall, re-plant into their own individual 10cm pots in good seed compost and Vermiculite. Make sure their roots are well covered and the foliage is just above the compost.

When the seedlings have reached 15-20cm tall, pinch off the tops to make the plants bush out. Add fertiliser once a fortnight, such as extract of seaweed, to ensure a healthy crop.

The flavour profile will develop from the variety of chilli, which determines whether it's a mild, medium or hot flavour. Pick immature chillies to encourage an extended crop, or leave the fruits to mature on the plant to fully appreciate their endless shapes, colours and sizes.

Top tip: Near the end of the growing season, when your plants have ripe fruits, you can uproot your plants, hang them upside down in a warm, dry place and wait to collect the seed for next year's crop.

Mild: 'Friars Hat' chilli chocolate ice cream
'Friars Hat' is a striking late chilli variety with a distinctive fruit shape and scarlet colour. Its mild, variable heat is ideal for spicing up a homemade chocolate ice cream.

Simply warm the chillies and double cream in a saucepan, stirring continuously until just below boiling, then remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes. Then strain the cream, discard the chillies and seeds, then re-heat.

Carry on making the mixture for your ice cream maker with egg yolks, caster sugar, dark chocolate and water. Freeze and serve topped with candied chillies.

Medium: Pickled jalapenos
The traditionally early green and juicy jalapeno intensifies in heat as it ripens to red. They are popular in Tex-Mex cuisine but are endlessly versatile in cooking - and snacking.

In the Basque region of Spain, pickled jalapenos are popularly served as bar snacks, known as 'pintxo'. Pop thinly sliced chillies and a couple of whole garlic cloves into a warm mixture of white vinegar, water, cane sugar and sea salt and leave to pickle for at least half an hour.

Then skewer pickled chilli slices, white anchovies and green olives on a small stick and serve to guests with a refreshing drink.

Hot: 'Hungarian Hot Wax' chilli con carne
Finally, take your weeknight chilli con carne to the next level with the 'Hungarian Hot Wax' chilli.

Chop them up and fry on a low heat along with the onions, until softened. Then follow your go-to-recipe, being sure to simmer for an hour to marry the flavours.

Serve with cooked rice, fresh coriander, sour cream and more chopped, fresh chillies. The fiery and flavoursome hot pepper is also ideal for warming up winter casseroles and makes a great smoking-hot paprika.

Many chillies in the castle's flamboyant display are too hot to handle, such as 'The Cat' and 'Scorpion Ghost', so gardeners growing fiery varieties should wear gloves when tending their chillies.

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