Cultivation of Chillies, Uses and Nutrition Facts

Chillies (Capsicum spp. Family: Solanaceae), also called peppers are widely grown across the globe, from America to Asia and even in Africa, with China being the leading country growing chillies.

There are a wide variety of peppers which vary in pungency, size and color of the fruits.

Two main species are recognized, these are Capsicum annuum L. (Sweet Pepper) and Capsicum frutescens L.

It is commonly called green or sweet pepper and it´s the mostly widely grown all over the world.


The Origin of Chillies

The plant probably originated from Mexico. It was introduced into Europe in the fifteenth century and is now widely distributed throughout most tropical and subtropical areas.


Its Ecology

Fertile loam soils are preferable with a high level of organic material and reserves of essential elements.

Good drainage is important since water-logging is likely to cause leaf shedding.

Plants are tolerant of slightly acid conditions but a pH of 5.5-5.6 is preferable.

Most cultivars are adapted to temperatures in the range of 21-25°C .

It is usually grown as rainfed crop, with a rainfall of 600-1200mm but excessive rainfall affects flowering and fruit set and may also encourage fruit rot and decay.

Most cultivars are adapted to growing at altitudes up to 2000m.


The Botany

Sweet pepper is an annual or short-lived perennial herb which grows up to 1.5m in height.

The roots have well-developed taproots, often with many lateral roots. The main shoot is branched, erect or semi-prostrate, fleshy, often woody at the base that is either round or slightly angular.

The leaves are variable in size, simple, broadly lanceolate to ovate and tips pointed, and the leaves growing up to 12cm long and 7cm wide.

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The flowers are carried singly and the plants bear large fruits which can be yellow, orange, red, brown or purple when ripe.

These fruits vary in shape, pungency and sweetness. The fruit is a many-seeded indehiscent berry and are flat and kidney-shaped and usually yellow.

Bees and ants visit the flowers and both self and cross-pollination occur, with the latter being about 16%.


Cultural Practices

All cultivars are grown from seed with an approximate seedrate of 1-2kg/ha.

The seeds retain their viability for 2-3 years and germinate in 6-10 days after planting.

Seeds are normally down in containers or seedbeds in a nursery and transplanted when 8-10cm tall with 4-6 leaves (3-4 weeks old).

The beds are in rows, 60-80cm apart and 30-45cm within the row or in a square planting of 50-60cm x 50-60cm.

Direct sowing is possible in some conditions, followed by thinning.

Plants are sometimes established in double rows of 1m apart, 30cm between the double rows and 25-30cm between plants in the row.

Weeds can be controlled manually or with galex at 3kg a.I/ha applied pre-emergence.

Apply NPK fertilizer at the rate of 200kg/ha. Plants should be irrigated regularly during dry periods.


Harvesting Chillies

Flowering occurs 1-2 months after planting and a month later, the first fruits are ready for picking.

As the plant is indeterminate, picking may continue for up to 3 months or more and the fruits can be progressively harvested at intervals of 1-2 weeks.



Peppers lose 65-70% of their fresh weight on drying, making farmers’ yields characteristically range between 450 and 1000kg/ha of fresh weight (340-560kg/ha of dry weight).

With improved practices, Capsicum annuum can yield up to 10-15 tons/ha of fresh weight and Capsicum frutescens can yield about 3-4 tons/ha of dry pepper.

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Storage of peppers

Fruits may be harvested green and eaten fresh or sun dried when ripe.

Fresh fruits can be stored for up to 14 days at a temperature range of 7-10°C and a relative humidity of 95% but they are sensitive to chilling injury.

Ripe fruits can be sun-dried for 3-15 days before storage and can be stored for a long time if dried to a moisture content of  just 10-12%.


Chemical Composition of Chillies

Commercial samples contain 0.1% capsaicin.

Green chillies contain 83% moisture, 0.6% fat, 3% protein, 6% carbohydrate and 7% fibre.

Dried chillies contain about 10% moisture and Chillies are generally a rich source of vitamin C.


Uses of Chillies

It is used in soups and stew and also eaten raw in salads.

The pungent principle of chillies is capsaicin which is concentrated mainly in the placental region where the seeds are attached to the spongy central portion. Chillies are rich in vitamin C.


Diseases and Pests of Chillies

  • Diseases include bacteria wilt caused by Pseudomonas solanacearum
  • Leaf curl virus and mosaic virus
  • Fruit rot caused by Colletotrichum capsici;
  • Root-knot nematodes caused by Meloidogyne spp.

The most serious pests are thrips (Scirtothrips dorsalis) and fruit fly (Ceratis capitata).


Capsicum frutescens L.

It is cultivated mainly in then tropics and is commonly called ted hotor bird pepper. Centre of origin is South America.

Environmental response is similar to that of Capsicum annuum except that Capsicum frutescens is generally more tolerant of extremes of temperatures and rainfall than Capsicum annuum.

It is a perennial shrub, living for 2-3 years. The plant is similar in structure to Capsicum annuum but the fruits are small, narrow berries which are orange, yellow or red when ripe.

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The fruits are many seeded and usually highly pungent. The two species do not cross readily and the F1 hybrids are sterile.

Cultural requirements are similar to those of Capsicum annuum except that as Capsicum frutescens is a short-lived perennial rather than an annual. It will tolerate slightly less fertile soil conditions.

The first fruits are produced at 80-100 days after transplanting. Harvested fruits are sun-dried and can easily be stored. They can be ground and stored in powdered form.


Uses of Hot Pepper

Hot pepper is used in sauces, soups and stews and generally as a flavouring.

The powdered forms are used in curries and as well used traditionally as medicine or stimulant.

Capsaicin, the pungent constituent of capsicum pods is used in the manufacture of ginger ale and ginger beer.

The Distinguishing features between Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescens.

  1. All cultivars are annuals, usually with a short growing season. Short-lived perennial often grown as annuals in the tropics and have a longer growing season.
  2. The flowers are borne singly in the leaf axils and the flowers are carried in some clusters of two or more in the leaf axils.
  3. When ripe, the fruits are red, yellow or brown with some fruits up to 30cm long. The fruits are usually bright red in color. In general, they are much smaller (2-3fm long).
  4. The fruits have a thick flesh and are hollow. The fruits are usually thin-fleshed.
  5.  Vitamin C content is high in Capsicum frutescens but lower than that in Capsicum annuum.