If you are farming a small vegetable garden, ornamental plants or pots on your balcony, you cannot miss a plant that does not only produces tasty and useful fruits in the kitchen, but also which is also very appreciable for its ornamental qualities: the chilli pepper. Chilli is known throughout the world for its versatility in the kitchen and for its beneficial properties. The chilli pepper is a true protagonist of the Mediterranean diet and it is also used in many preparations to give spiciness and colour. The active ingredient present in the chili pepper, the main element that gives the whole fruit the spiciness, is called capsacin. The higher the level of capsaicin and the hotter the pepper is; the values are based on a Scoville scale. which were especially designed by dr. Scoville to measure the spiciness of our beloved chillies. The scale starts at 0 until it reaches 16,000,000 for pure capsaicin.
The chilli pepper is full of beneficial properties, if eaten in moderate amounts it improves blood circulation and metabolic action, gives aphrodisiac, revitalizing and good mood effects, vitamins and minerals. There are many species of chillies, not to mention all the natural and artificial hybridizations, let's talk about the Prairie Fire.
This plant is native of the United States, small in size and suitable for crops of all kinds; it produces a large number of small conical fruits, erect, 2-3 cm long, varying in colour from green to red, to violet depending on the stage of ripening. On average, the peppers are not extremely spicy, reaching 20,000 SHU. They are suitable for those who love strong but not excessive flavours. The plant has also a strong ability to adapt. Its growth process can last from 50 to 70 days, the end result is a pepper of about 2cm long, with a very elongated shape, yet not rounded at the tip. The dimensions of the fruits depend strictly on the size of the plant which varies according to the farming: we will have smaller plants and fruits cultivated in pots and vice versa of larger dimensions if cultivated on the ground. The plant has a shrub shape and presents a thick crown of dark green leaves on which stand the bright colours of the peppers that grow very prolific; the small white flowers from which the fruits are born confer a further note of beauty to the plant which is often used as an ornament.
The Prairie Fire produces a high number of fruits, but to ensure good growth and good production the plant must receive the care it needs. First and foremost, it must be placed in a position that ensures high exposure to the sun and proper ventilation. The pepper plant is well suited to all mild weather, but in general it does not tolerate too low temperatures and for this reason in case of intense cold it is good to repair it if possible. Irrigation must be constant, but make sure that stagnation does not occur as it can cause radical rot and the soil has the chance to dry out from time to time. If you want to increase the spiciness of the fruits you can choose not to water the plant during two or three days before harvesting, being careful to keep it alive. There are various fertilizers for chillies on the market; our first advice is to buy an organic one and to make sure it is rich in these three elements: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.
Each of these elements, in its own way, helps the chilli plant in its development: the nitrogen promotes the growth of the foliage, the phosphorus strengthens the plant at the root level and, finally, the potassium strengthens the stem and the branches favouring the ripening process of fruits. We suggest you to make sure that the fertilizer is well mixed to the soil to prevent it from remaining in contact with the plant stem. Other microelements useful for your chilli are the Boron, Zinc and Aluminum which increase the sturdiness of the stems, and again the Iron and Magnesium, toning for the greenery of the plant. You can check that these elements are included in the fertilizer you buy to ensure that your chilli grows healthy and lus. Once planted, you can enjoy the ornamental beauty of its colours and the intense taste that will give your dishes. If you wish to have more information on the farming of chilli, see the following guide: how to grow chillies.
When the peppers are ready, it is time to pick them up. Remove them gently from the plant leaving a small piece of twig at their head (petiole) in such a way so to make them last longer. You can keep them in various ways, fresh by putting them in the refrigerator, dried or in oil or picking them out in the kitchen with sauces, jams and more. Remember that chilli is the "ace in the hole" of every chef!