A Complete Guide to Growing Capsicum
Growing capsicum is the same as growing peppers. Capsicum is a plant that is in the Solanaceae or nightshade family, and it includes varieties of hot peppers which contain capsaicin, and the green bell pepper--a totally mild pepper and the most popular pepper in the United States. Pepper spray is made from the capsaicin ingredient in capsicum (peppers).
Capsicum includes all types of peppers, including the very hot chili peppers. The substance which makes them so hot is capsaicin, or methyl vanillyl nonenamide. This is the chemical which burns the tongue and has newbies reaching for a quick glass of water. The only pepper which really does not have any capsaicin at all is the bell pepper. You can find it in grocery stores in the United States as a green, yellow or red pepper. Each is simply a different stage of development as the color changes when the plants age. None have that bold, burning sensation that truly hot peppers do. A red sweet pepper is still just a red sweet pepper.
Growing capsicum begins in the early spring because they need eighteen weeks to produce a fruit that is ready to harvest. If you live in a very warm region you can plant capsicum directly into the ground but in colder climates you should plant the seeds inside in March. Begin in peat pots with a good starter mix and two seeds in each pot. You can later thin to one seedling per pot, keeping the strongest plant. As the plants get bigger, transplant to larger pots. By the time they are ready to go into the ground, peppers should be in eight-inch pots.
Because the seedlings were started inside, make sure to harden them off before planting them in the ground. You can do this by putting the pots outside in the sun during the day and bringing them in at night until day temperatures warm up sufficiently for planting. You want day temperatures in the 60 to 70 degree range and no dropping to freezing levels overnight.
When it’s warm enough to set the seedlings into the ground, plant them approximately eighteen inches apart. Prepare the soil beforehand with plenty of dried manure and compost. Growing capsicum requires good soil with plenty of organic matter. Water thoroughly after planting and then not again unless there is inadequate rainfall. Peppers need to be dry in-between waterings. The peppers will grow best if you prune the plants so that no more than a half-dozen plants grow on each one.
You should add more compost or synthetic fertilizer approximately once a month as the fruit is forming. You can harvest when the peppers have a diameter of around three inches. If you continually harvest, the plants will produce more and more peppers. These are green peppers, but as the peppers get more and more mature they will turn to yellow, then red, and then orange. You should pick the green peppers until you have all you want and then let the last batch of the season turn to red or orange. The taste will not change very much between the young peppers and the oldest ones.
No matter whether you have hot peppers or mild ones, both can be eaten either raw or cooked. They are great in salads and spaghetti sauce and, of course, chili peppers make great hot chili. You can grow peppers just about anywhere as long as you start them inside when the weather is cold. It is one of the most popular vegetables to grow and to eat.