Capsicums are from the same family as chillies but they are not hot or spicy at all. In fact, capsicums are quite sweet and some people will eat them just like apples. Americans call capsicums ‘sweet peppers’ or ‘bell peppers’ but they are all the same plant.
Capsicums can be green, red, yellow and even purple. There are very small differences in the flavour so it’s worth trying all of them but the most popular are the green and red. Luckily, capsicums start off as green and then ripen to red and it is possible to eat them at any stage.
Choose a spot in the garden where there is lots of space and that gets at least 6 hours of sun every day. Prepare the garden bed by removing any weeds and digging in lots of compost and organic matter. Use a dibbler or big stick to make small holes about 50cm apart and gently place one seedling into each one, pushing the soil around the roots. Water the seedlings lightly.
Capsicums are really easy to grow in a container so long as it is at least 30cm deep. One seedling can be planted in a container 30cm across or they can be planted with other herbs and vegies in a big tub or barrel. Fill the containers with premium potting mix, plant the seedlings in small holes and water them lightly.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Capsicum bushes mostly grow through the warmer months so they need to be watered every day but don’t fertilise them until the flowers start to form. As the bushes start to grow tall and produce fruit, they can fall over causing the stem to break so stake them up using strips of stockings to tie them on.
The fruit of capsicums can grow quite quickly if they are watered and fed regularly. But, if the soil is allowed to dry out too often or they don’t get enough food, the fruit can get crack lines on the skin. This is because it grew quickly, then stopped, grew quickly and then stopped again! These are still edible, they just don’t look as nice.
Capsicums can be harvested when they are still green or if you prefer they can be left on the bush to fully ripen to red which is when they are at their most sweet. When it is time to pick them, use pruners to cut the stem about 2cm up from the fruit as this will help them to last longer in the fridge.
HOW TO EAT
Capsicums are delicious raw and can be bitten straight into, after they are washed of course. They can also be sliced into strips to be through salads or used for digging into dips.
Chopped or sliced capsicum is a favourite ingredient in almost all cuisines but especially Asian stir fries and Mediterranean dishes so we have included some recipes in the Smarty Plants Kitchen for you to try.
HOW THEY GROW
Capsicum seedlings grow into a bush with one or two central stems and branches that come off the side. Flowers form which, when pollinated, begin to grow baby capsicum. As the capsicums grow, they change from green through to red but can be harvested at almost every stage.
Botanical Name: Capsicum annuum
Life Cycle: Annual
When to Grow: Spring and summer (as well as autumn in warmer areas)
Height/Width: 70cm x 50cm.
Requirements: Plant in full sun and water them every day. Apply a liquid fertiliser every fortnight.
Nutritional Benefits: Red capsicum is very high in vitamin C and E and is also rich in beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin E. Green capsicum also has these nutrients but in smaller quantities.