Solanaceae’ family Capsicum annuum
Small bushy plant about 40cm high
As with all food crops disease spreads much more slowly if organic carbon levels are high. This is due to increased soil microbial activity that favours more beneficial fungi and bacteria that help to suppress pathogenic organisms, as well as improve drainage, aeration, nutrient availability and reduced salinity. These all make plant roots stronger and less susceptible to disease.
Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed 20 – 50 cm apart Capsicum seeds do best planted at soil temperatures between 18°C and 35°C in October, November or early December. Soils must be well-drained, with optimum pH of 5.0–6.0
Plants can be started earlier in August or September if undercover in seed trays. Then plant out when about 10 -12cm (4-5in) tall.
Capsicums, like tomatoes, are perennial and will last over winter in a frost free area. In their second year, if you have healthy plants and no frost you can’t cut the plants back or remove the ‘leggy’ bits and let them keep growing.
For best results use crop rotation, treating them as an annual, plant them each year in fresh soil and reduce the effect of any soil-borne diseases.
Capsicums are mainly self-pollinating and do not need bees for pollination. Green fruit is mature for picking 30-35 days after flowering and red fruit takes a further 20-25 days.
Capsicums are frost tender and need warmth to ripen the fruit. . Chillies are more tolerant of high temperatures than Capsicums and both need slightly warmer temperatures than tomatoes or cucumbers. Optimum temperatures for fruit set are between 16°C and 21°C. For good fruit development, night temperatures of 15–17°C and day temperatures of 24–30°C are ideal. The fruit may become sun-scorched during very hot weather with poor setting and poor colouring at temperatures above 33°C.
There are a number of colours available, chocolate, black, yellow, orange as well as red. They all start off green and change as they ripen. They can be eaten earlier when still green however the sugars have not developed so the taste is more savoury.
Compatible with (can grow in same bed): Eggplant (Aubergine), Nasturtiums, Basil and Parsley.
Capsicum can be sliced and deseeded and used raw in salads. Stuffing and baking is a popular Mediterranean method, Or brush with olive oil, roast at a high temperature until the skin blisters and changes colour then cover until cool and rub off the skin and remove seeds.
These keep well stored in a cool place covered in olive oil.
Capsicum will freeze successfully without blanching if seeded and sliced.
Research, published 9 May 2013 in the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society’s journal Annals of Neurology, found that people who ate plants belonging to the ‘solanaceae’ family showed a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s.