I have a soft spot for my Piri Piri plants. I don’t grow everything every year, I rotate other plants around and If I have a freezer full of something I might miss a year. It gives me a chance to try new varieties and keeps me interested but I will always have my Piri Piri. Partly this is because they are just the best for overwintering, and partly because they crop so amazingly in the second year.
Nobody sells the seed, my seeds come from my mother’s ‘mother plant’. She first collected the seeds about 20 years ago from a garden in Portugal, and has kept them growing ever since, she has a plant about 15 years old, though I have to say it is a bit ropy now. Because she keeps this one growing, and doesn’t grow anything else so the seed she collects is always true. If anyone wants seeds for a plant like mine I can give them some of hers.
As far as I’m concerned this is THE Piri Piri. There are lots of other chillies that look slightly different all over Africa (chillies were taken to Africa from South America by the Portuguese) that are given this name, but that is simply the name they give to a small hot red chilli, so while the name is the same, the chilli might vary. This is made worse by the fact that where chillies are grown for Piri Piri sauce, they tend to choose something that is quick growing and prolific, then brand it with the Piri Piri name afterwards.
Anyway, back to my plant, the one below is now 5ft (1.5m) tall, and it will get bigger by the end of this year. It is a second year overwintered plant, last year it got to about 4ft (1.2m).
These are great for overwintering. They are much more tolerant to cold temperatures than most capsicums, they will die back to stems, but this spent a few months last winter in a cool greenhouse with temperatures down to 0°c on a couple of nights. Last winter was a very mild one though (South Devon). Normally I wouldn’t expect plants to survive in the greenhouse, and nothing else that I left in there did.
Also, if frost hits in the autumn this one will survive where others don’t. According to my experiments nothing else will out-survive it apart from the tepin or Chiltepin, which are even more hardy, but pretty useless as a fruiting plant. This one pays dividends everywhere.
After winter it lays dormant for longer compared to other types. When I keep other plants they tend to start shooting out very soon after midwinter, and by early February they are shooting nicely. Not with this Piri Piri; maybe because the stems are quite woody, and it is a slow growing plant anyway, you have to have faith and wait a bit longer, but it will catch up and still fruit earlier than first-year plants.
the chillies you pick will be pretty hot, I recon about 80-100,000 SHU, and off a big plant like this one I am expecting hundreds of them. They will be used for everything, dried, powdered, sauced and pickled.