My Giant Piri Piri Plant

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).

Piri Piri Plant

My 5ft Piri Piri Plant

 

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.

Piri Piri Flower

Piri Piri Flower

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.

Piri Piri Green

Piri Piri Green

 

Piri Piri

Piri Piri

 

 

24 thoughts on “My Giant Piri Piri Plant

  1. Pingback: A Hot Piri Piri Sauce | Chilli Books Blog

  2. Hi. I would love seed of this Piri-Piri, I know I could just buy some but yours obviously has a proven track record. Sounds similar to chillies I am growing from seed I gathered in Swaziland. Plants are about 1 metre from a Spring 2015 sowing. They are very healthy sturdy plants, just starting to make tiny pods. I hope for a bumper crop next year.

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    • I have gathered loads of seed this year from a plant kept apart from the others. I’d be interested in a swap if you have any of your Swaziland ones spare. You can send me your address through the contact page and I’ll post you some. They do sound similar but I bet yours are tiny ones, which I’d be very interested in growing.

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  3. I am just starting off growing some chillies last few years I have tried a few plants but they were never really that hot and the ones I tried to overwinter didn’t make it.

    This year I’m growing some chayamto chillis to see how they turn out.

    If it is at all possible I would love a few of the Piri Piri seeds if you have any spare.

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  4. Hi! I need some advice. I’m growing piri piri chillis. I have 9 plants, all of which germinated after a couple of weeks. I was growing them in a tray together (about 3 inches deep) with a propagator lid. They are about 3 inches tall now and have about 5 leaves each. Developed quite nicely. Whilst they were growing I noticed that If I removed the lid for 10 minutes or so the leaves would start to curl into themselves and the plants looked as though they were wilting and dying. Quickly put the lid back on and after 10-15 minutes the leaves would return to normal again. Yesterday I planted the chillis on to individual pots with decent mix of compost and vermiculite and perlite. Again, after 15 minutes the plants completely freaked out and my fiancee made makeshift tents for them out of clear sandwich bags (to act as mini propegators). They kind of returned to normal – few leaves still a bit curly here and there. I don’t have a greenhouse so they have been on my windowsill in the kitchen. They get plenty of light and sunshine in the day, it’s sheltered (no drafts) and warm. What’s going on? Why are they so sensitive? Have tried looking for answers on the web but haven’t come across anything yet. Any advice? Thanks 🙂

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    • This isn’t particular to piri piri plants, it could be any chilli. They are just sensitive to direct sunlight if they have always been kept in a propagator or away from direct sun. You should introduce them gently, so shading them as you have done is the best thing. After a couple of days of this the leaves should get thicker and waxy, then the y will be fine in strong sunshine. The other reason would be if they have just been repotted and the roots were damaged, so the plant can’t take up enough water to handle the heat, a bit like humans. This will correct itself too as soon as the plant grows more roots.

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      • Thanks Jason. I wasnt putting them in direct sun when uncovered. One of the times it happened was at night. I think they were reacting to the air – sounds strange but i cant think what else it could be. Theyre still alive thankfully but since being moved, a few of the leaves have developed spots on the edges. Ive not over watered or underwatered. Im so confused. Should i get the covers off soon and just see how they react or keep the covers on until theyre more strong?

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  5. My wife and I met during a two-year period we spent as teachers in Lesotho (Southern Africa). During that time I lived with a family who had, on their property, numerous “chili plants” that I have come to know were piri piri. We fell in love with these chilis and, now back home in the US, are really longing to grow our own. We would love to acquire seeds from you if possible!

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  6. You have an example of a Capsicum frutescens not chinense.

    Unfortunately what you are growing is not a “real” Piri Piri chilli which is the latter.

    Frutescens are distinguished by upward growing fruit. Chinense which Piri Piri is grow downwards see Wikipedia.

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  7. HI, Jason, not sure if you’re still monitoring this blog. Anyway, I had the chance to travel to Portugal for an extended stay a while back, and loved the piri piri chicken at a few Lisbon (Caiscais) restaurants. I’ve been trying to replicate it at home (in the US). I bought some dried chilies (bottled) and sauces but it’s not quite the same. I am interested in buying seeds to grow my own plants and have seen a few websites. However, some of the comments from buyers indicate the seeds they purchase turn out not be piri piri plants. I would be very interested in purchasing some seeds from you, if at all possible. Pls advise. Thanks in advance, and thanks for your posting. Very informative .

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    • Hi Rick. I don’t have any at the moment. But they all come from my mother’s ‘mother plant’ so I’ll have more at the end of the year. Mine tend to essily cross with others nearby and end up longer, droopy and not as hot. She only has the one plant.

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      • Jason, thanks for your response, and glad to see you’re still monitoring this site. Completely understand about the seeds. Take care.

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  8. Hi I have a piri piri plant I grew from seed almost 2 years ago April 2018. Never left the house because the other sprouts I had got fried in the sun. Will it ever bloom? I don’t have a greenhouse should I just leave it inside?

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    • Hi John, I yes it should definitely bloom and fruit. The greenhouse is the best place for it but introduce it slowly so it doesn’t get full sun for the whole of its first day. Just a short while to start with or the leaves will burn.

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  9. Dear Mr Nickels,
    Do you have any spare seed from your Piri Piri Chilli this year? If so, I would love to obtain some.
    Also, do you sell seed for any other cultivars?

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    • Hi Joshua, I have a few from last year but they have lower germination, this year’s aren’t picked yet. Where in the world are you? I shouldn’t post to some countries but they are tiny so they probably won’t be found out. I did send some that didn’t arrive a few months ago.

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      • I’m in the UK. If you have enough seeds from this year, then I’m quite happy to wait if they’re likely to germinate better.

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