On Chillies and Ferments

in Natural Medicine2 months ago

Something I never realised until we came to Australia was that chilli plants can be perennial as long as winter doesn't get too cold for them. The ideal climate is tropical or subtropical, which is unfortunately not the South Australian climate. Here it's arid and in some areas it will drop to light freezing in winter. However, in the region I'm in frosts are rare and brief if we see them, so I've been trying to see if we can get our chilli and capsicum plants to survive the winters.


Until now, some of them have scraped through a winter before, but never really managed to thrive the next season. This summer we had two plants pull through, one was a jalapeno, which is a milder chilli and I wonder if that has anything to do with it. I've heard that the heat of the chili is to protect against fungal infections in the hot, moist climates of the tropics, so perhaps the lesser heat means they can tolerate a cooler, drier climate. I'm not sure, though, because this wouldn't explain our capsicum plant dying. What probably would explain that is me being late to get it out of the pot and into the ground so it didn't have chance to establish itself well before winter.

This jalapeno plant actually looks healthier in the photo than in reality.

While the jalapeno has been producing, the plant itself hasn't looked particularly healthy, with the leaves being blotched with yellow and the fruits not being very big or nice looking. Initially I thought it was just because it was recovering from the winter, but it stayed that way until recently and now as we're heading into autumn again the new leaves are finally growing green. I keep trying to keep the nutrients up, but our soil is also on the alkaline side, so might not be allowing for easy nutrient uptake.


The other plant was a pot luck. I had some old chilli seeds and didn't know what they were, so I chucked them in the ground in a bare spot. A few came up, but the soil wasn't great there, so I lost a few. I moved a couple to the final position I wanted them and one got a bit better established before winter, but didn't produced much. Perhaps its hard start in life prepared it for weathering the winter or perhaps it was sheltered from the worst of the cold by the copious amounts of nettles hiding it over winter. Either way, it pulled through and seems to be a cross between bird eye and Thai chilli.

Maui purple

My absolute favourite chilli plant, the Maui Purple, seemed to be about to make it through, but succumbed towards the end of winter. I had some seeds from it, though, and got them going in the spring. I had enough plants as backups, for if the transplant failed, that I could give some away and the new plant has grown even better than its parent. However, It's now autumn and I'm only just starting to get fruit. The chillies start out deep purple, almost black, before turning green then red.

Maui purple

The two plants that survived the winter had a head start with production so I've had more chillies than I knew what you do with. I love fresh chillies on things, but there's only so much you can use each meal. So how to preserve for winter use?

I often dry the chillies out and put them in a pepper mill to grind over food or use in cooking. The small ones don't even need much preparation. Just remove the green stem and leave them on a plate or tray to dry. The larger chillies tend to go mouldy if you do this, so I'll slice them before drying.


Previously I have pickled them in vinegar before, which is a quick way to preserve as pickles, but I wanted to do them as a ferment for the probiotics. For various reasons I've been wanting to get my hubby eating probiotic foods, but he doesn't like yoghurt, might be lactose intolerant anyway, and won't touch sauerkraut. So the only thing I could think of to ferment that I already know he enjoyed pickled was chillies. Cue my first chilli fermenting trial.

The recipe I got for making the brine was 1 cup of filtered water to one tablespoon of salt. Other recipes say a ratio of 2 cups to 1 tablespoon. I don't remember which I chose now, but second time around I did the 1 to 1 ratio.


First time around I made the mistake of using a jar where I couldn't get anything in to hold the chillies under the brine solution. I thought I could avoid the exposed ones going mouldy by mixing them daily, but I'm not sure if this affected the fermentation negatively or slowed it. It's an anaerobic process, so ideally they shouldn't be getting any oxygen at all in there. Either way, they were a hit and I moved them to the fridge after 5 days to stop the mould happening. Second time around I used a wider jar and could then fit in a narrower one to hold the chilies under the brine, so they had a good ferment for six days and seemed to process a bit better.

Finally I'm getting probiotics into hubby and he's enjoying them! Chillies aren't always the easiest harvest to give away either. So it's good to know they'll get used and enjoyed.


It’s amazing how they start off deep purple and then eventually to red!

So glad your husband is enjoying them and you are able to put them to good use :)

I don't understand the probiotics part as I can only relate that to yogurt. Anyway, Taiwanese have something called skinless peppers where they flash fry big long peppers to remove the skin, then the peppers goes in a brine. It's a very versatile and popular ingredient for cooking. Probably doesn't have the probiotics effect you're after, but your posts reminded me of that delicious ingredient which I'm missing so much now

 2 months ago 

They sound nice too! What sort of dishes did they use them in?


They're really versatile, a popular dish is stir fry chicken or chicken soup, but you can stir fry them with any thing really, we even made a cheese toastie. I wrote about it previously, if you're interested


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I love anything that adds a little hotness to a dish and chilli peppers sure do the trick.
I don't know if you have ever tried this.


Hydrogen peroxide is used to control diseases on plant leaves, roots, and cuttings. The soil can also be treated with hydrogen peroxide before a plant is started in the soil. Hydrogen Peroxide provides additional growth benefits, it also helps the plant deal with stress.
I wish we had as much luck with peppers, but the short growing season doesn't allow most of our pepper plants to produce many peppers.

 2 months ago (edited)

I haven't come across that before. I actually wouldn't even know what where to look for hydrogen peroxide. Is that a chemist's kind of product?


Hydrogen Peroxide can be purchased at most pharmacies or just about any store that carries an assortment of first aid supplies. It's used as mild antiseptic on the skin to prevent infection of minor cuts, scrapes, and burns. It may also be used as a mouth rinse to help remove mucus or to relieve minor mouth irritation due to canker/cold sores, and gingivitis.
Hydrogen peroxide is most commonly available as a solution in water. For consumers, it is usually available from pharmacies at 3 and 6 wt% concentrations and is sold over the counter.
Hydrogen peroxide has the same composition as water, only with an additional atom of oxygen.
Using hydrogen peroxide in your garden is an environment-friendly way to care for your plants.

Thanks for your generosity @minismallholding.

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 2 months ago 

I'll have to remember to put it on my shopping list. Thank you for all the info.


You are welcome. It is always a pleasure engaging with you, thanks again

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There's the Sweed, all quick to offer hints.

Here is a quick hint for you, keep that shit about being born and raised in California under your hat.

Blogging tip #14

 2 months ago 

This is so Awesome. You know I was just telling Jamie about overwintering my caps and eggplant...

Fermented chilli? You are speaking my language.

Care to send me some Maui Purple seeds?

 2 months ago 

I'd love to hear your poems for over wintering. You're colder than us in winter, so if you can manage it then it should would for me too. As long as you don't say pots... I'm terrible with potted plants.

I'll definitely save and dry some for you when they've fully ripened. I didn't keep any of last year's, unfortunately. They're pretty much birdeye chillies with a prettier start.

I think chillies are delicate, sometimes I am afraid to transplant them because I think they might die.

 2 months ago 

I've found them to be tougher than some plants. Considering they're tropical, they're surprisingly drought resistant and bounce back will on the hot days. It's just winter I struggle with here. I'm wondering if I can erect some sort of polytunnel over them for the cold weather.


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I like hot things like hot sauce and peppers and hot things. My wife, on the other hand, she's hot too, by the way, like hot-hot, smokin-hot, is the cook. She doesn't necessarily like hot things. She'd rather a painfully unenjoyable heat with compulsory reactions such as, but not limited to, "I can't feel my face!!!"

Ooh! Reminds me of a song.....

And I just checked my calendar, the weirdest shit just happened. Just so happens it's Sunday right now, an officially scheduled day of The Weekend and just so happens that's who sings the song I just linked. They performing at the WOMAD thing you're aching head is keeping you away from you think? Wait.. don't think too hard.

 2 months ago 

It's like planets aligning, or some such spiritual thing. 😆 Still, I'll enjoy The Weekend music on the video you've provided me instead of at WOMADelaide. Thank you kindly for giving me the experience without the stress. 😁

I'm with you, I like a bit of heat, but I also like to feel my face and not feel the exit hole too much the following day either, if I'm honest.


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 2 months ago 

Fermented chili sauces and pickles are out of this world. In Cambodia, we used to a 6-week fermented chili sauce that was basically our version of green Tabasco sauce. Looks like you have a wide variety of chilies to enjoy and experiment with. Save some for me!!

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 2 months ago 

I guess you're the one I need to hit up for fermented chilli sauce recipes. 😉 I've got some chilli sauces I canned last season, but it's a more westernised recipe.

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Here in the Northeast USA, we can take the plants inside for the winter and they do fine once brought back out in Springtime😎 My neighbor has been doing this for years, with much success. I stopped growing them, because she gives me plenty from her garden.

 2 months ago 

I'm not very good at keeping things alive in pots, unfortunately. I been wondering about some sort of temporary polytunnel over them for the winter.

I love to eat with chiles, I always have a plant at home too.
I always have a plant at home too. as for the plant to survive the winter, you can try opening a hole in it, put damaged wood, abundant leaves and organic waste, and then cover it with soil prepared with nutrients.
the slow decomposition of the wood and the waste generates a lot of heat inside.
I hope this is helpful.

 26 days ago 

Ah, a bit like the hugelkultur method. Now I'm wondering if the organic matter I originally dig in helped the survivors get through winter.


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