Botanical Name: Capsicum frutescens
Some other names: Pepper, hot pepper, chili
How to grow it: The Chilli tree is a perennial bush to about two metres that provides generous supplies of consistently flavoured chillies.
I’m unsure of the botanical name for the species I grow (I bought it many years ago at a market stall), but it differs from all other chillies I’ve grown by the fact that it develops into a larger plant & rebounds more strongly in spring. Many of the other chilli varieties I’ve grown tend to struggle with winter & then regrow at less vigour than the first year.
It handles a wide range of conditions – from drought to quite wet (not boggy) but will respond with better fruiting it grown in well drained soils that receive regular water. It prefers heat, but would grow in cooler climates with a shorter fruiting season. In my cool sub-tropical climate it gives fruit for at least 6 months of the year.
Responds well to fertilising and mulching – go easy on high nitrogen fertilisers – you want fruit not leaf!
Propogation works from tip cuttings, but is much easier by seed. Just pick some ripe fruits in late Autumn, dry them out over winter, and plant them when the weather warms up. You’ll get good crops in the first year.
It does well in large pots – You might have to trim it’s roots every 2-3 years for best results.
Nutrition: Fruit is high in protein & contain vitamins A, B, & C, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc.
It has many herbal actions and is considered very good for the circulatory system and the blood. It is thought that regular consumption reduces the risk of heart attack.
Using it in the kitchen:
Chillies can be harvested at anytime they are fully grown, whether they are green, red, or any colour in between.
Anyone who cooks would be familiar with their use, but if you’d like to get more chilli into your diet, try adding them to the omelettes, scrambled eggs, soups, pasta sauces, and basically any dish that could handle a bit of spicing up.
At the end of their season, I harvest all the red ones I can, dry them out, crush them slightly and then put them in a bottle with cold pressed olive oil. After a couple of months this infusion tastes very good (and hot!) and can be added cold at the end of cooking (stirred in after the heat is turned off), or even drizzled onto pizzas for a bit of bite.
I can also vouch for chilli’s ability to ward off & reduce symptoms of colds and flus. Make a strong tea of dried chilli, fresh ginger slices, crushed garlic and lemon juice – add honey if you’d like the tea sweetened.. During the day or days you’re fighting off the cold, dilute this tea with hot water & sip regularly throughout the day. It works!
Chilli tree is a great survival plant as it grows for many years in a wide range of conditions, gives an abundance of fruit which is great for cooking and for your health.