Chillies are easy to grow in Singapore, mainly because they thrive in hot and humid climes. Given the vast quantities of fresh chilli used in Singaporean cooking, there are plenty of spare seeds being thrown away every day. A criminal waste, given how easily they can be recycled into new plants. I firmly believe that growing chillies from real chilli seeds yields healthier and more vigorous plants than those grown from packet seeds, or pre-grown chilli plants. It’s cheaper, too!
Red chillies (the riper the better)
An empty egg carton
Empty plastic containers
1. Use a knife to extract the seeds from your red chillies. Give them a quick wash with water and then pat them dry using a kitchen towel or tissue. Put them in a small container (a lid works well) and leave on a sunny windowsill to dry for a day or two. Ideally you should dry them for longer (i.e. 2-3 weeks), but impatience often prevents this from happening. Drying is important as too much excess moisture will cause the seeds to slowly lose nutrients and rot.
2. Fill your empty egg shells with potting soil and put them in your egg carton. Egg shells are not only well-shaped for seed germination, but they are also full of nutrients that will leach into the soil. If using potting soil, it’s easiest if you use the shells themselves as a scoop to get the soil inside. Give them a little water, just enough so that the soil is damp, but not waterlogged.
3. Sprinkle your dried chilli seeds over the top of the soil. Not all will germinate, so don’t worry about overloading each egg shell. Dust the top with some more potting soil, just so the seeds are covered.
4. Find a sunny windowsill for your egg carton. Inspect daily, but water infrequently. Just a few drops every 2-3 days is about right. The soil should be damp, but not waterlogged.
5. One week in – flourishing!
6. After about two weeks your shoots should be outgrowing their egg shells. Now is the time for them to upgrade from an HDB to a condominium. Or from an egg shell to a container.
7. Take out one egg shell at a time and crack the base using a spoon. Slowly remove the shell from the plant, trying to disrupt the soil and root network as little as possible. It’s easier said than done, I know…
8. Take an empty plastic container (a peanut butter jar, beancurd tub, whatever else you can think of), clean it and stab a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Fill it with potting soil, leaving enough space for your chilli plants. Bed the chilli plant into the soil and give it some water to help bind everything together. Use one container per plant, or else the containers will become overcrowded.
9. Get them back out on the windowsill, and watch them explode upwards and outwards!