Pepperoni, also called chilli, belong to the Solanaceae family. From a botanical point of view, peppers are actually the same as the popular vegetable peppers – only they are much sharper depending on the variety! Most commercially available chilli varieties are cultivated varieties of Spanish pepper (Capsicum annuum).
Peppers come from South America. The name Chili derives from the language of the Mexican Aztec natives. In the Nahuatl language the fruits of the vegetables were called chili. When we talk about chili in the United States, we mean both the fruit and the bean dish. With the conquest of the Latin American continent, chilli peppers were introduced to Europe via trade routes and have been appreciated for their pungency ever since.
Meanwhile there are the warmth-needy peppers or Chili in innumerable forms, colors and above all sharpness degrees. The ingredient capsaicin is responsible for the sharpness. The plants also thrive in our latitudes and, in addition to their use in the kitchen, are an extremely decorative balcony decoration.
Appearance and growth
The bushy plant grows up to 80 centimeters high. Dark green, elongated oval leaves sit on short petioles. From June to September, small white star-shaped flowers appear in the leaf axils. The fruits of the pepperoni are berry fruits that contain a lot of vitamin C and carotene. They are elongated or spear-shaped. The pods are green at first and turn yellow, orange and a bright red as they mature. The fruits stand upright on the bush. They contain yellow to light brown, flat seeds containing capsaicin, which is mainly found on the partitions.
Location and soil
Almost all types and varieties of chilli need considerably more heat than tomatoes and thrive best in a greenhouse or in a place sheltered from the wind on a warm house wall. The soil should be deep, humus and medium heavy. Sandy soils are also suitable if they are improved with compost. Low-growing pepperoni varieties can also be grown in tubs on the balcony or terrace. For this you need buckets that hold at least 20 litres of soil.
Crop rotation and mixed cultivation
Low-growing pepperoni varieties thrive in the open at a distance of about 60 centimeters next to fast-growing summer salads, radishes and parsley. In the greenhouse, low herbs such as basil can be placed next to the pepperoni plants.
If sowing is too tedious for you, you can also buy early chilli seedlings and plant them outdoors from mid-June. Pre-coat the soil with compost. In cooler locations, you should place the young plants in the greenhouse from mid to late April. Make sure there is a distance of about 60 centimeters between the rows. Commercial vegetable soil is suitable for planting in large tubs. Place the pots on a warm and protected house wall.
Pour the peppers sufficiently and evenly, especially before and during the fruit preparation. After the fruit has set, you can increase the capsaicin content of spicy varieties by watering them gently – so the plants can let their leaves hang for a while. Chillies are fertilized in moderation: As soon as the plants start to produce fruit, they can be fertilized with nettle manure in a weekly to 14-day cycle. When growing in a greenhouse, also ensure that the air humidity is around 75 percent.
Since the fruits, some of which grow large, represent a certain burden for the plant, the side shoots should be tied to rods, otherwise there is a danger that the shoots will break off. In higher growing species such as the decorative bell chili, the shoots are cut from a height of about 30 centimeters after each leaf axil. This results in the plant remaining compact and developing more fruit-bearing side shoots.
Harvesting and recycling
The time of harvest for chillies can be easily recognised by the colour of the fruit. Most cultivars ripen from green to yellow or orange and turn red when fully ripe. Depending on the variety, even yellow pods are already ripe. Red pepperoni varieties taste best when the fruits are coloured. The sharpness hardly still increases with progressing maturity. The fruits gain in sweetness and healthy beta-carotene and can be harvested under glass until November. Peppers cannot be stored for long and should not be kept in the refrigerator! Alternatively, chillies can be dried: Put the harvested fruit in the oven for a few hours at 40 degrees Celsius and leave the lid slightly open so that the moisture can escape. You can cut the dried chillies into small pieces and powder them if necessary.
Degree of spiciness of pepperoni
Capsaicin, a naturally occurring alkaloid, is responsible for the pungency of the pepperoni. Via specific receptors, it triggers an excitement to heat or sharpen the senses in our body. In addition, capsaicinoids have an antibacterial and fungicidal effect, which makes them interesting not only for sharpening but also for preserving food in the kitchen. The highest concentration of capsaicin and capsaicinoids is found in chillies in the placenta, the light tissue that surrounds the seeds, and in the seed partitions. For hot peppers, the placenta and seeds should therefore be carefully removed during preparation. And: When processing sharp chillies, it is best to put on gloves or wash your hands thoroughly with soap afterwards. If it burns in your mouth, you can’t extinguish it with water, on the contrary, it makes things worse. It is better to use milk or a piece of butterbot to reduce the heat, as capsaicin is fat-soluble.
The piquancy of pepperoni is expressed in the unit Scoville. The values range from zero to over a million for the sharpest pods. Nevertheless, the information should be treated with caution. Depending on the location, climate and influence of drought or nutrient deficiency, the degree of sharpness varies considerably within the same variety or even between fruits of the same plant. The hottest chillies are the red ‘Bhut Jolokia’ from India and the hybrid ‘Carolina Reaper’ bred in South Carolina. Both should actually be enjoyed with caution, as Scoville values beyond the two million were already measured here. For comparison: Tabasco sauce is between 2,500 and 5,000 and pepper spray for self-defense is between 180,000 and 300,000 Scoville.
Because of their sensitivity to frost, peppers are often only cultivated here for one year, but in fact they are perennial plants. In a heated greenhouse they can easily be overwintered. If you grow the spicy vegetables in tubs, you can winter the plants indoors and keep the root ball dry so that the roots do not rot. If there is a lack of light, the plants are susceptible to pests.
Picture gallery: Colourful chili varieties
There is a variety of pepperoni varieties. Popular is the classic ‘Jalapeno’, with hot fruits and a degree of sharpness of 5 to 6, as well as ‘Serrano’, a chili variety that is even hotter with a degree of 6. Poblano chillies are Mexican varieties that are reminiscent of sweet peppers, but have a sharper taste. A rich variety is ‘Capela’ with small, triangular fruits that taste hot and aromatic. Habanero Amarillo is extremely hot.
Pepperoni can be multiplied by sowing.
Diseases and pests
Aphids can cause problems with the pepperoni. As a precaution, you should make sure that the planting distance is sufficient and do not fertilize too much. Rinse the leaves if they are infested with water. If the air humidity in the greenhouse is too high, fungal diseases can occur. Therefore, ventilate the glasshouses regularly.
In an interview with our store editor Dieke van Dieken, plant doctor René Wadas reveals his tips against aphids.Credits: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera and Editing: Fabian Primsch
Pepperoni in the our store-Shop