Container or garden, habaneros will thrive…
The savviest heat-lovers grow their own chili peppers, and rarely have to go without that extra kick. That’s especially true for some of the hottest chili peppers, like the habanero, that may not be available at your local store. If you seek the heat of this spicy chili more often than most, growing habanero may be your best choice. Below, you’ll find some simple tips that’ll help you grow these chilies at home.
Growing habanero peppers at home
One of the easiest ways to get started growing peppers is container gardening. A healthy pepper plant will produce many chilies at a time, so even a large, pepper-crazy family would only need to grow two or three plants to have copious quantities available. A container garden would hold just enough to keep you more than satisfied. It’s a terrific solution especially for urban areas – you can easily grow habaneros even on a balcony through container gardening.
It’s ideal to start habanero pepper seeds indoors using seed-starting pods and your favorite germination method, then transfer seedlings outside into a container or directly into your garden. Only transfer plants outdoors once any possibility of frost damage has passed for the cold season in your area. Be sure to thin out the seedlings, as many more sprouts will develop than you want or need developing into full-size plants.
Seedlings should have several glossy leaves before they are transplanted into a bigger container or placed out in the garden. Use a potting soil designed to grow vegetables, and add fresh compost if at all possible. Choose one container that holds at least three gallons of your potting soil and compost mixture per plant.
Tips for successfully growing habanero plants
It’s important to water your pepper plant only when necessary. Overwatering can cause issues such as root rot and encourage fungal diseases to crop up. Water deeply, but only when the soil feels dry an inch or two down. An ideal watering schedule will depend on many variables, such as air temperature, exposure to sun and humidity. If you will be planting your peppers in your garden, where they can’t be easily moved according to changing sun needs, consider row covers that will shield the somewhat delicate leaves from the full sun the plant truly wants to grow you those fiery, spicy chilies you crave. On cloudy days, remove the row covers.
When to pick habanero peppers
You can pick habaneros when they are green, or wait until they are a deeper, darker color; often red or orange, depending on the variety. While all habanero peppers are spicy (and some spicier than others), allowing the fruit to fully ripen before picking will often greatly intensify the heat. Experiment with different picking times as your fruit develops to determine the optimum picking time for your tastes and recipe needs.
Ways to enjoy these chilies
These peppers are some of the hottest that you will find in the average kitchen. There are many ways to use this heat to your advantage. You can use habanero in soups, potato dishes, homemade chilies, omelets, and of course, your very own hot sauce. You may find you prefer less ripe habaneros for some recipes, and spicier, more fully ripened ones for others.
When in doubt, ask your local nursery or gardening center for advice on the best pepper varieties and growing methods for your particular region. What works well in Arizona may not work in New York, and vice versa, but it should be possible to grow habaneros in most parts of the United States.