8

I recently planted several types of chilli including the insanely hot Carolina reaper. Now the plants are doing well and one is producing a lot chilli fruits.

However the fruits have not even started turning red and some have been around for more than a month. I am worried if I leave it longer they might become mushy and unusable. The chillies are also getting quite huge and even though I use them in cooking I only need a small amount at a time, these chilli's are low grade tear gas.

Note that I planted some Ghost chili with this(pale white variety) and they are also fruiting and turning paler.

Some background about the growing conditions.

  1. Chilli plants are housed in a grow cage with a shade netting(lets 90% light through), I live in Sydney west where we are seeing temperatures of 40 degree centigrade and the sun can be deadly scorching at times. UV index is normally between High and extreme during summer. More information here moist not wet

  2. I feed them PowerFeed fertiliser every 1-2 weeks. This fertiliser works wonders on my other plants but since I am still a light green thumb I am worried about being over eager in my care of my plants. The fertiliser product can be viewed on this product page. Here is the Typical Analysis:

    • Nitrogen (N) 14.0%.
    • Phosphorus (P) 1.4%
    • Potassium (K) 9.0%

Questions:

  1. Are Carolina Reaper always suppose to turn red? Could it be I have a green variety? Have not seen anything on the net about this.
  2. Generally speaking how long does it take for chili to mature.
  3. Could the fertiliser be providing an problem by providing a unbalance in nutrients?
  4. Maybe I should move them into direct sunlight as they are not established and not going to scorch to death.
6

A month is not a particularly alarming amount of time for a chile pepper of any variety to stay green, especially depending on your soil and growing conditions. If the variety isn't used to the growing conditions, it's possible that this might also delay ripening.

Carolina Reapers are supposed to take between 70 to 90 days after the transplant before maturity, but other varieties may be earlier or later (it really depends on the variety). However, in some areas and/or soils (such as mine) it may take much, much longer for Carolina Reapers to mature (like maybe longer than the season). I believe the variety comes from South Carolina (so the growing conditions there may be more like ideal than many areas). I don't know what kind of soil they're used to (but probably the usual ideal for peppers).

I tried growing a Carolina Reaper this year, but I only got fruit indoors, while the Orange Carbonero chile plant I grew indoors next to it got loads of fruit after the transplant outside. I did, however, get a very large plant from the Carolina Reaper seeds (it may have needed a bigger container; I had it in a 5-gallon bucket, and it was bigger than all my other pepper plants). I also got plenty of fruit from a number of other varieties (Ring of Fire, Aji Omnicolor, Yatsufusa, Grandpa's Home, etc.) at varying stages of the season.

Peppers generally take between 60 and 120 days after the transplant to get mature fruit. (I've read about a whole lot of peppers, and that's the general range I've seen.) Most chile peppers take somewhat longer than sweet peppers to ripen, however, but there are early chile peppers. Ring of Fire is supposed to be 60 days, in fact (but, it was much later for me—although still productive and tasty).

I'm not sure about the Carolina Reaper, but many chile peppers (including all of those others I mentioned) will ripen a large amount of fruit at approximately the same time. So, I wouldn't be surprised if that happens. However, don't fret if it does. Chile peppers are normally pretty easy to dry, and if you dry them, you can use them at your leisure.

Here's a link that outlines some processes for drying peppers, including safety tips. It has good advice, and several methods, but some of what they say about the bowl method is rather overkill for some areas (although following all the advice certainly won't hurt). I mean, in my semi-arid area, I don't have to worry much about light levels when I dry peppers. I just wash them, dry them, put them in a bowl in the kitchen or dining room, and wait. I can even pile them higher than the stated one layer of peppers with good results (maybe three or more layers, but there is still a limit: if there are too many, the peppers may leak juice, attract fruit flies, and go bad; if they start to leak, you can separate them into more bowls). If your area isn't arid to semi-arid, you may want to worry about sunlight, ventilation, only doing one layer of peppers, etc. Ventilation seems to help things dry faster and stay good longer in my area, too; I recommend worrying about ventilation even if you don't have to, per se. It's just a good idea. I recommend using a dedicated fan, especially if you're drying them in a small room.

Chile peppers can take a long time to dry with the bowl method, but if all you care about is preserving them, it doesn't really matter (you can still use them while you're waiting for them to dry). If you're selling dry pepper pods on a schedule, it might matter to you, though.

If your peppers have thick walls, they may be more difficult to dry. You may have to cut them into strips (and in that case, you might want to use such as a dehydrator to dry them—but it can be done successfully just in the open air or in brown paper bags, in my area, at least). Food dehydrators may change the flavor of your peppers, however. I prefer just to let them sit and dry, for flavor.

Chile peppers (and peppers generally) are also extremely easy to freeze, however thick the walls are. Just wash them, put them in sandwich bags (or other zipper bags that you can freeze stuff in), and freeze them. If the peppers are whole, you shouldn't have to struggle to separate them when frozen. If they're cut into pieces, you may or may not, depending (but it shouldn't be too hard, most of the time).

I've personally never had peppers get mushy from being on the vine too long (unless they had blossom end rot), but it's possible in a more humid area, they might be prone to getting mushy (I don't know). So, if you're familiar with the concept of mushy peppers in your area, maybe someone else will answer with more details on how to handle the situation according to your needs. It's also possible that certain fertilizer programs may result in mushy peppers, but I don't know. Maybe they need extra silica or other nutrients to make them stronger (they might if they're container-grown with a pre-mixed soil). I would guess that disease might be responsible (but you'd think there would be visible signs of disease, too).

Carolina Reapers are supposed to turn red, eventually. I don't know of a kind that stays green. There is a new yellow variety, however. They may or may not turn red while drying them if it's not too cool, if you have to pick them green.

I do not recommend refrigerating your peppers. This will slow ripening, make drying them difficult (if not impossible) and limit their shelf life. (I'm actually kind of surprised they refrigerate fresh peppers in the supermarket. It doesn't seem to help, in my experience. Maybe it helps in humid areas.)

Direct sunlight might help your plants, but maybe not. It probably depends on your sun and air. If the UV index is high, it'll likely result in hotter peppers, though. I haven't noticed a big difference in ripening speed for chile peppers between partial shade and even more shade, personally (but I've only really tested it with Ring of Fire, a Capsicum annuum variety; the Carolina Reaper is Capsicum chinense).

Giving your plants more phosphorus could possibly speed ripening. I noticed the amount in your fertilizer is very low compared with the ratio in most NPK fertilizers. Phosphorus is often lower than nitrogen and potassium in fertilizers, but in this case, it's lower than usual. The nitrogen levels in that fertilizer are somewhat high, for peppers, I think (especially if it has already set fruit). Unless the soil is high in potassium, I might just give it a dose of monopotassium phosphate and see if it helps (but getting a soil test first would be a better idea, if you can do it).

I think fertilizing every 1-2 weeks is too often. The plant probably won't use it all, and eventually the nitrogen may burn your plants, cause root rot and stuff (and the soil may become too salty and maybe even too acidic). However, if the soil is high in nitrogen, I do recommend more sun (unless the UV rays are too harmful for the plants). If you've been fertilizing that often, you can (and probably should) take a break from fertilization (nitrogen especially) for a long time. Trying to balance out the nitrogen with other nutrients may help, but it may be dangerous if your soil has too many nutrients already.

High nitrogen (and/or low potassium) could possibly result in weak fruit (which may be the mushy fruit you mentioned). Weak plants/fruit may be more susceptible to disease. Disease can increase the spoilage rates, and even partially diseased fruits may be more difficult to dry successfully (you may not want to try it). If it's edible as is, you can freeze it, if you can't dry it. Silica and the proper proportion of calcium can also help strengthen a plant. Calcium can raise your soil pH, though. Silica sources include such as sand and rockdust.

  • Thanks mate. Will take the advise and once I can confirm the answer will mark it right. Sounds like I am making typical over eager beginner mistakes. Learn as we go – Namphibian Dec 31 '16 at 23:27
  • 1
    Update: So I stopped with the high nitrogen feed and since the soil in Australia is typically solid clay added some Phosphate. Seems to be working the chilli is getting yellow and I noticed more buds forming. Also moved them out of the shaded area as they are pretty well established and leaves are a deeper green. My last attempt at growing chili was such a fail that I might have been overzealous this time in how I protected them. Another week and I will confirm and mark as accepted. Thanks a million. – Namphibian Jan 5 '17 at 2:33
  • 1
    She is red and I am on fire.... thanks a million. Wish I could get a ground ph sensor for Arduino. – Namphibian Jan 8 '17 at 1:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.