Chilli (Capsicum annuum) belongs to the genus Capsicum under Solanaceae family. The Chilli plant is a white flowered, dark green or purple leaved plant that grows up to 1.5 m in height. It is also called as hot pepper, cayenne pepper, sweet pepper etc. Five species of Capsicum are under cultivation, though several wild species have been identified recently. In India, only two species viz. Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescence are known and most of the cultivated varieties belong to the species Capsicum annum. Chilli was introduced in India by the Portuguese in Goa in the middle of 17th century.
Although the species name annuum means “annual” the plant is not an annual but is frost tender. In the absence of winter frosts it can survive several seasons and grow into a large, shrubby perennial herb. The single flowers are an off-white (sometimes purplish) colour while the stem is densely branched and up to 60 cm tall. The fruit are berries that may be green, yellow, orange or red when ripe. While the species can tolerate most frost-free climates, C. annuum is especially productive in warm and dry climates.
While generally self-pollinating, insect visitation is known to increase the fruit size and speed of ripening, as well as ensuring symmetrical development. Pepper flowers have nectaries at the base of the corolla, which helps to attract pollinators. The anthers do not release pollen except via buzz pollination, such as provided by bumble bees.
There are five domesticated species of chilli peppers.
- Capsicum annuum includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalapeños, chiltepin, and all forms of New Mexico Chile.
- Capsicum frutescence includes malagueta, tabasco and Thai peppers, piri piri, and Malawian Kambuzi.
- Capsicum chinense includes the hottest peppers such as the naga, habanero, Datil and Scotch bonnet.
- Capsicum pubescence includes the South American rocoto peppers.
- Capsicum baccatum includes the South American aji peppers.
- Chilli requires a warm and humid climate for its best growth and dry weather when the fruits mature.
- Chilli is best suited for tropical and sub-tropical regions. 20-25°C is the ideal temperature for its growth.
- The crop can be grown over a wide range of altitudes from sea level up to nearly 2100 m above MSL.
- It can be grown throughout the year under irrigation.
- It can be grown successfully as a rain-fed crop.
Heavy rainfall leads to poor fruit set and in association with high humidity leads to rotting of fruits. Pungent chilli is susceptible to frost.
Harvesting & Yield
- Ripe fruits may be noticed by 100-110 days after transplanting. Since dried fruits on the plant develope very high colour, it is advisable to harvest fruits after fully ripening.
- Three pickings are required to complete harvesting a good crop.
- The second and third pickings normally give better harvest.
- Rains during harvesting make the produce inferior in quality.
- In case there is a passing rain wait till fruits are dry after the rain for harvesting.
- Never harvest during rain as wet chilli will get damaged easily. Dry weight is about 25 to 30 % of harvested fruits and seed content is 30 to 35% of dry weight depending on the variety.