Save your chilli seeds for the next season! - Part 2 of seed saving series.

Growing your own chillies, is a passion for many and it is becoming increasingly popular! It is cost effective, fresher and it gives you more options than what you can buy in the shop. Everyone has an inner chilli that needs to show itself!! I am sure you will find yours with us! There is a vast variety to choose from:  mild varieties to hot ones, if you consider yourself a Firestarter, these varieties would tickle your fancy, Carolina Reaper, Bhutlah Scorpion Pepper, Trinidad 7 Pot Doughlah Red Pepper and much more…

Preparing Chilli seeds for seed saving.

Chillies are known for cross-pollinating very easily so either grow one variety or put space between your several types, about 30m or use netting to keep them separated. If you want even more certainty that cross pollination does not occur it is best to use blossom bags to cover the flowers on each plant and hand pollinate. If you don’t mind having a new hybrid variety and it is just for your own use, then you don’t have to take the extra steps.

Chillies that you want to harvest for seeds need to be your strongest, healthiest looking chillies. You need to pick them when they are mature! Immature / unripe seeds will not be viable for planting. Please use gloves when you are handling chillies even mild ones (and double up on the gloves when handling hot and extreme chillies), as the burn can last for days, I do speak from my own experience, the capsaicin in the chilli is the ingredient that creates the burning sensation.

When the chillies on your plants have reached the stage that they are mature, you need a flat clean surface and a sharp knife and gloves plus a mask. Please make sure you are not touching your face while you’re busy and any visitors will think you have gone chilli crazy, with all your protection gear on, but please take care! Cut them open in the length and scrape the seeds out. Once you have the seeds out rinse them in a sieve with tap water.

The seeds can then be placed, on a round drynet or on paper towels or on a wire rack or if you don’t have a lot of seeds or space to hang a rack, in a single layer on paper plates. The seeds will take about 2 weeks to dry. They need to be dried in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Be careful though to keep them away from a windy spot as the seeds are light and you may come back to find that your precious seeds have blown away! If the seeds are flexible and don’t crack, they are not dry enough, as a good check to know if they are ready is that they need to split in half when you bend them. Now that your chillies are dry they can be stored in brown envelopes or a small plastic bags that seal completely.

Preparing Chilli seeds for cooking and culinary uses.

If you want dried chillies for using later (not for seed saving) you can follow the following method.

To dry the whole chilli, it can be hanged up by the green stem, ensure that they do not touch each other and hang them in a cool, dry place, with no direct sunlight but with good airflow or on a drynet if you have the space available. They should be dry in a few days to a week or two, they need to be brittle, cracking and wrinkled. It is preferred to dry the whole chilli because the placenta, the white fleshy bit that the chillies are attached to still increases the strength of the burn of the seed. Then the whole chillies can be stored for up to 3 years in a jar for cooking or you can even make chilli salt. There are a lot of uses for them, you can even cut them open, the seeds should be loose inside and then you will know its dry enough and collect them to store for your next season.

Chilli seed can be stored up to 3 years and will provide you with lots of inspiration for your future culinary dishes! I hope I have inspired you to find your inner chilli!

About the Author

Adele Siemssen is the Seeds for Africa Operations supervisor.  Adele is a qualified horticulturist with 30 years of hands on experience and loves pets and assisting customers to make their garden dreams come true!