The Serrano chili pepper originated in the mountains of the Mexican states of Hidalgo and Puebla. The name is a reference to the mountains, the sierras and Serrano, means 'from the mountains'.
Serrano peppers are fleshy and meaty with the unique Serrano flavour so popular in Mexican cuisine. They look like slender Jalapeños, but are a little hotter at 10,000 to 23,000 SHU. This traditional Mexican salsa chilli is called for in many recipes; it is eaten fresh and used in many sauce recipes.
The abundant candle-flame shaped fruit up to 9cm (3½in) long and 2cm (¾in) wide. The fruits are green, then red at full maturity and are borne on attractive 75 to 90cm (30 to 36in) erect, branching plants. The mature red chilies are usually a little sweeter and are often threaded on string and dried as a colourful ornament.
The Serrano pepper plant is particularly easy to cultivate, usually achieving a height of around five feet tall. The fruit grows abundantly in warm climates, each plant can bear up to 50 peppers at once.
The plant adapts easily to different climates and altitudes, which allows it to be cultivated in many regions. Upright, hairy and woody-stemmed, it is also hardier than most chilli varieties, making it a good choice for overwintering. A vigorous bearer, the fruits reach full size in 75 days from potting on.
The size and ripeness of the fruit may also alter the taste of this pepper type. For instance, a smaller serrano tends to be hotter than larger ones. And, ripe ones that are red or orange in colour tend to be hotter and sweeter.
You can also roast them to achieve a smoky pepper taste before adding them to a dish.
Storage of Seeds:
Store seeds away from children, sealed in their packaging in a cool, dry, dark place, or in a fridge. Never store them in a freezer as the sudden temperature drop is likely to kill them. Don't leave the seeds in direct sunlight as the heat generated may kill them.
Sowing: Sow from mid February to mid June
The temperature, moisture, and air circulation all play a role in growing plants from seeds. Too little heat, too much moisture, and lack of air circulation will cause poor results. Do not use jiffy peat pots, plugs, or potting soil as the soil becomes too dry or too wet, which can lead to low germination, disease and fungus.
Fill small cells or trays with a good sterile seed compost and sow the seeds on the surface. “Just cover” with a fine sprinkling (3mm) of soil or vermiculite.
Keep the compost moist - don't let the top of the compost dry out (a common cause of germination failure) If you wish, spray the surface with a dilute copper-based fungicide.
Cover the pot or tray with plastic film or place in a heated propagator, south facing window or a warm greenhouse.
The ideal temperature is around 18 to 20°C (65 to 72°F)
When the seedlings have produced their first pair of true leaves they can be potted on into individual 7 to 10cm (3 to 4in) pots. Use good quality potting compost and mix in some organic slow release fertiliser. Pot the chilli on again before it becomes root-bound.
Water the seedlings regularly, but don't let them become waterlogged as this encourages rot. Don't let them dry out as they rarely recover at this stage. Water the soil, not the foliage. Once the plants have established, it is better to water heavy and infrequently, allow the top inch or so to dry out in between watering.
Seedlings should be grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight from late spring to early autumn. Weaker sunlight from autumn to spring is unlikely to do them harm. Once seedlings have put on some growth they need lots of light. Growing them under a grow-light produces excellent stocky plants, as will a warm sunny windowsill. Adult chilli plants need lots of light. However, more than 4 hours or so in hot direct sunlight will dry them out quickly.
Acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 2 to 3 weeks before they are moved permanently outside. Plant them into rich moist soil. Flower do not form and fruit will not set if the temperature is much below 17°C (62°F) for most of the day, so wait until June/July for best results with outdoor planting.
After the first flowers appear, feed every one or two weeks with a half-strength liquid tomato feed. You could also add Seaweed extract to the water once a week.
Pollinating Flowers: (optional)
Chilli plants are self fertile and will generally pollinate themselves. However, if you want to give them a helping hand to ensure that lots of fruit are set indoors, use a cotton wool bud to gently sweep the inside of the flowers, spreading the pollen as you go. The flower's petals will drop off as the green middle part of the flower starts to swell slightly. This is the chilli pepper beginning to grow.
Harvesting: Harvest in 90 to 110 days
Chillies will take a few weeks to develop and a further couple weeks to turn from green to red. Harvest any time after they are fully developed. Use scissors to snip the fruits so you don't damage the plant.
Be careful handling chilli seeds as they can cause a painful burning sensation: Avoid contact with the eyes or any sensitive skin before washing your hands thoroughly.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 200mg Average Seed Count 40 Seeds Common Name Hot: 10,000 to 23,000 SHU. Other Common Names Capsicum. Chili, Chile or Chilli. Hot Pepper Family Solanaceae Genus Capsicum Species annum Cultivar Serrano Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Height 75 to 90cm (30 to 36in) Position Grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight Soil Rich moist soil. Time to Sow Sow from mid February to mid June Time to Harvest 75 days from potting on.