Ghost chili peppers are one of the hottest chilies in the world. They have been used as food since ancient times. The first documented use of them was by Chinese Emperor Shen Nung during the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Since then they have become popular throughout Asia and even in Europe where they were introduced to England around 1660 by Sir Walter Raleigh.
The most common varieties grown today are Habanero, Serrano, Jalapeno and Ghost peppers. All these types have their own unique taste but all of them share some characteristics such as hotness, heat production and pungency.
Habaneros are the hottest of all the chilies with a maximum temperature of over 500°F (260°C) while the other four varieties range from 250-350°F (121-212°C).
Serranos produce milder heat than the others but still very hot. They are usually grown for their small fruit size and for their seeds which are often used in Mexican cuisine.
Jalapenos have a medium heat level between the other three varieties and produce less seeds than any of them. They are sometimes used in Mexican cooking because of their mild flavor.
How To Grow Ghost Pepper Plants?
If you want to try something different in your vegetable garden give ghost chili plants a try. You plant them the same way as regular chili plants but keep them isolated from other chilies because of their extreme hotness.
The first step before planting is to prepare the soil. Work in plenty of compost or well-rotted manure. Raised beds are best since chilies need a lot of nutrients and do better with improved drainage.
Chili plants are not fussy about soil type but they need a well-drained soil. Work in a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus and potassium since this will provide the plant with nutrients as it grows.
Plant your chili seeds about 1/4 inch deep in moist soil and keep them warm until they germinate. This can take up to two weeks so be patient. Once the plants are 2 inches tall, transplant them into your prepared garden bed.
When planting your chilies, space the different varieties at least 2 feet apart because some of them can branch out a lot. Also, give them plenty of room to grow because when they start producing those big red pods they can get really big. Pick a spot in full sun for maximum growth and plant several varieties to add color and flavor to your cooking.
Ghost chili plants will grow 3-4 feet high and just as wide. They will need lots of water so be prepared to give them plenty of it.
After they start to flower, the pods will grow to about 2 inches in length and start turning from green to red. The red is a different variety than the traditional red chilies such as the cayenne because it is much hotter. Care should always be taken when handling these hotter varieties.
After the pods are fully ripe, harvest them and remove the stems. This can be a tedious process (especially for the super hots) but it is well worth the effort. Dried and crushed red pepper flakes are great to have on hand because you can add them to any recipe for a spicy flavor.
You can also choose to not dry or crush them at all. Just leaving them whole makes an attractive display in your kitchen or wherever you keep them.
Include chili varieties in your garden so you can enjoy all the flavors and different uses of these ancient plants. Remember that chilies can also be ornamental and can be grown in containers on your patio or deck. With a little attention, chili plants can really add some pizzazz to your outdoor living areas.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Esophageal rupture after ghost pepper ingestion by A Arens, L Ben-Youssef, S Hayashi… – The Journal of emergency …, 2016 – Elsevier
Spicing up restoration: can chili peppers improve restoration seeding by reducing seed predation? by SH Sauce, VH Sauce, MH Sauce, P Puree, P Pods…
Chile peppers by DE Pearson, M Valliant, C Carlson… – Restoration …, 2019 – Wiley Online Library
Chilli anthracnose: The epidemiology and management by RJ Ciju – 2019 – books.google.com
Impact of nutrient management, soil type and location on the accumulation of capsaicin in Capsicum chinense (Jacq.): One of the hottest chili in the world by A Saxena, R Raghuwanshi, VK Gupta… – Frontiers in …, 2016 – frontiersin.org
Antimicrobial properties of chili peppers by S Das, KC Teja, B Duary, PK Agrawal… – Scientia …, 2016 – Elsevier
Deterring rodent seed‐predation using seed‐coating technologies by MA Omolo, ZZ Wong, K Mergen… – Journal of Infectious …, 2014 – researchgate.net