Feel the burn

If you’re itching to alleviate the winter gloom by opening the odd seed packet this month, then we’ve got good news for you. While the likes of sweetcorn and pumpkins need to stay wrapped up in their foil envelopes till April or May, chilli pepper seeds can be unleashed in January and February. Many varieties, especially the hotter types like habaneros and nagas, revel in an early sowing due to their long maturity times. Just ensure that you can provide them with enough heat and light, and you’ll be rewarded with productive, good sized plants long before later sowings are even thinking about flowering.

Spoilt for choice
The array of chilli varieties available is flabbergasting – especially if you source a specialist chilli seed supplier (there are plenty online). If you’re a novice, the best advice is to familiarise yourself with Scoville units – it’s the heat scale that different chillies are measured against. A sweet bell pepper has a rating of 0 as it has no heat. Step up a gear with Pimento (100-500), Anaheim (500-2,500) and Ancho (1,000-2,000) peppers, or go straight to the heavyweights with Bird’s Eye, Scotch Bonnet and Habanero varieties, all of which range between 100,000-300,000 Scoville units. When you reach the Naga-Bih Joloka chilli, with a rating over over 1 million units, you may need to reach for a (very large) glass of milk…