Aloha Hawaii Home & Garden Network,
Chili peppers are amazing and a great addition to any organic home garden. So many varieties – bell, jalapeno, poblano, serranos and Anaheim to name just a view. All have different shapes, colors, tastes and levels of heat. Peppers can be roasted, stuffed, pickled or eaten raw. After years of growing and cooking with many types of peppers, I recently discovered the local favorite – Hawaiian chili peppers. Perfect for an organic home garden.
A Hawaiian household staple, these chili peppers are used in many recipes including the legendary Hawaiian chili water (*See attached recipe). Despite their popularity, they are not readily available in supermarkets. I would look for them at farmers markets, or better yet grow them at home in your very own organic home garden!
They are easy to grow and, unlike some pepper plants, produce a great yield. Another reason making them great for an organic home garden. Once again, we are lucky to live in Hawaii since these peppers grow best in warm soil. They will grow nicely year-round. Also, the Hawaiian chili pepper starters are available at local home improvement stores and nurseries. Starters are hard to find outside of Hawaii. You should be able to purchase the starters for under $4.00.
I recently included Hawaiian chili peppers to my backyard home garden on mauka Big Island. I like using starters, available locally, as they give you a jump start over seeds. Planted seeds take one to three weeks to germinate. To plant the starters, simply dig an approximately 3″ by 3″ hole in a location that receives good sun exposure. Gently place the starter pepper in the hole and cover with dirt. Plant additional starters between 12 and 18 inches apart. Hawaiian chili peppers require consistent water so don’t let the soil get too dry.
If you are working with a lanai home garden, no worries, Hawaiian peppers can also be grown in containers. I would recommend using a larger container to allow their roots to expand and support their growth. I used a 14″ by 14″ size container. Feel free to get creative with your container. I find that half the fun of a lanai home garden is finding containers with bright colors, bold patterns and unique shapes to add the to the character of your garden. Just remember that the container needs proper drainage so make sure there is at least one hole (approximately ¼” in diameter) at the bottom of the container. Inexpensive planting soil is fine for the container. Plant one or two starters per pot. As with the backyard home garden, make sure the starters get good sun and consistent water.
Regardless of the location of the plant, trim it back when it gets to be about a foot tall. The plant will become fuller, ultimately producing more fruit. After a couple of months, you will notice small, white, delicate flowers. These will turn into yellowish-green peppers. Soon they will begin to turn orange. When they turn vivid red and are about 1″ long and a ¼” wide, they are ready for harvest. Be patient. The process will take between four and six months but the high yield is worth the wait. My current plant contains easily over 200 peppers in various stages of ripeness.
For any home garden, whether the peppers are in the ground or in a container, they may attract critters such as aphids. To keep your peppers organic, treat your peppers with organic neem oil products sold at local home improvement stores. If you are not familiar with neem products, check out this article from the National Pesticide Information Center http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/neemgen.html.
As most know – these cute little guys are HOT! The infamous Scoville scale measures the heat displaced by peppers and other foods. All chili pepper varietals register differently on this scale. The mild, benign, sweet bell pepper registers at a 0. We all have tasted the popular jalapeno and chipotle peppers and they register between 2,500 and 8,000 on the scale. Our Hawaiian pepper comes in between 50,000 and 70,000! Who says little guys don’t pack a punch?
Capsaicin, the active ingredient providing the heat to chili peppers, also provides plenty of health benefits, so our hot little peppers must be pretty healthy! Peppers are full of Vitamin A, C and B components which assist in reducing cholesterol, heart attack risks and blood pressure. Other benefits include increased blood circulation and recovery time for cold and flu. A plus; vitamin C maintains collagen which helps your skin and hair.
Don’t miss out on all the benefits of these spicy little peppers. Include Hawaiian chili pepper plants in your organic home garden today. Soon you’ll have plenty to share with ohana, friends and neighbors. Enjoy!
Hawaiian Chili Water Recipe
Brighten up any dish with the spicy, delicious and addictive Hawaiian chili water. Most rely on old family recipes for creating the wondrous water. If you don’t have a family recipe, there are many out there. This is a good one featured in Maui Magazine online, courtesy of MNKO dining editor Becky Speere.
8 oz. water
2 oz. white vinegar
1 tsp. Hawaiian rock salt, ‘alaea salt, or kosher salt
1 clove garlic, smashed
1–3 fresh red chili peppers, preferably Hawaiian (hot)