Drying Chiles and Making Ristras
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Sebastian Chaile
Posted on: November 9, 1998

I been buying seeds for about two years and I very satisfied and always received the things I ordered from you; you are the greatest. Please tell me the best way to dry chiles, to make ristras of chiles, the best fertilizer I can use (I’m using some compost of chicken), and the water requirements.

Traditionally, chiles are dried outdoors in the sun on a clean surface such as sand, concrete, wooden floors, etc. The fruits are turned daily for even drying. They are slanted so that rain water will run off. It takes 20-30 days until the drying is complete, depending, of course, on humidity, temperature, sun exposure, etc.

Chiles can also be dried in the oven at the lowest temperature setting.

Where the flesh is too thick to dry as in the case of the jalapeno pepper, the pods are traditionally dried by smoking. The smoke from a fire pit below ground would be drawn through a tunnel into an inverted bell-shaped compartment where the fruits are placed. They may be dried with or without the seeds.

Ristras are strings or garlands of dried red fruits. The long chile varieties are best. About a bushel of fresh-picked chiles will make a metre long ristra. Three pods are tied together with string. Holding the pods by the stems, the string is wrapped around the stems twice, and then the string is brought upward between two of the pods and pulled tight. Then a half hitch is made with the string, placed over the stems and pulled tight. Additional sets of chiles are tied the same way with the remainder of the same string until the string is too heavy to handle or all the pods are tied.

Then the string clusters are braided on a stronger length of twine or wire. The twine or wire is suspended from a door and a loop at the bottom end is made to prevent slippage. The string clusters are braided on the twine or wire as if braiding hair.

Peppers like to get a top dressing of well-rotted manure mid-way through the summer. Chicken manure is acceptable as long as it is well-rotted, otherwise it will burn the plants. Be careful not to apply too much nitrogen – too much nitrogen causes plants to grow big but with few flowers and few fruit.

Young pepper plants require irrigation until they are established. After that they need irrigation during prolonged droughts when the soil is dry well below the soil surface.

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