Bird's Eye Chili

Birds Eye is a chili variety from Africa. In Ethiopia, among other places, it still grows wild in the wild. They are small but productive chili plants. So it is not surprising that it is also cultivated agriculturally. Birdeye chilis are popular worldwide as a spice. Especially in India and Asia, chili peppers are often used for cooking or cut into salads.

You can also find the narrow, red peppers in Asia Shops. There they are often sold as Thai Chili, Thai Dragon or Piri Piri.

Chili type

It is somewhat confusing that plants and seeds are sometimes classified as Capsicum annuum or Capsicum frutescens. However, you can quickly see which species it is.

At first glance, Birds Eye chili plants resemble one eye to the other. They are small bushy plants with narrow fruits. The pods are about 5 cm long and have a diameter of about one centimeter.

Capsicum frutescens

In Birds eye chillies of the Capsicum frutescens species their chilli peppers are partly directed towards the sky. Similar to Tabasco the chillies grow in every direction. Some of them are straight as a die and point upwards. It is then a variety that can live for more than 5 years. In some cases it grows to a height of more than two meters. Larger cultivation areas are located in the Indian states of Meghalaya and Assam.

Birds Eye Plant
Birds Eye Plant

Ripe pods are about 100,000 Scoville hot. In the land of pungency a welcome ingredient in the kitchen.

Capsicum annuum

In the Capsicum annuum species, the chilli peppers hang towards the ground. Otherwise, they do not differ in length or diameter from those of the Frutescens species. They also have a sharpness of about 100.000 SHU. But also up to 225.000 SHU are possible. Larger cultivation areas are located in Thailand (Thai Hot), Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam.

In the following text we will refer to the Capsicum frutescens species, unless we specifically mention this. On the picture above you can see a species belonging to the Capsicum frutescens. You can recognize this by the upward directed flowers and pods.

Scoville and degree of sharpness

On the Scoville scale, Birds Eye Chilis are at 100,000 Scoville Heat Units. This is to be classified with a degree of sharpness of 9. For comparison: Tabasco Chili pods are only half hot with 50,000 Scoville. Thai Birdeye chili peppers can shoot the bird with up to 225,000 SHU. This corresponds to a low degree of sharpness of 10.

Use

Birds Eyes are often dried in shops. The red-orange chillies have a transparent sheen and are filled in spice mills. For inexperienced pungent eaters, the freshly ground spice powder seems to be primarily sauced pungent. Connoisseurs like the deep dimension of the African spice. Especially for barbecues an enrichment.

We like to use bird’s-eye chillies for spicy dishes. The sharpness of this type of chilli is slightly below Habanero. For some dishes the otherwise delicious fruity note of Caribbean Habaneros is disturbing. Here we like to use dried Birdeyes. A spicy Piri Piri roast chicken is a fantastic Saturday evening meal. The combination of the crispy chicken skin and the fire of the chili is simply breathtaking.

In the Thai kitchen freshly chopped “Thai Dragons” are added to curry, vegetables and salad. Many typical dishes get their fire from these biting chili peppers. In Vietnam spicy soups are still popular. These are often spiced with bird’s-eye chillies.

Birds Eye Chili Plant

The plants grow into a magnificent bush. You can expect a lush harvest in late summer when the bush is full of pods. Capsicum annuum plants tend to stay smaller. About 60 - 80 cm. Some Bird Eyes Chili plants of the Capsicum frutescens species grow up to two meters high. The resemblance to lipstick chili plants is quite large.

In Africa this chili variety is generally called Piri Piri. In Southeast Asia the name Kochchi is used. In 17th century Portuguese and Spanish seafarers provided for the spreading in these areas. Like all chillies, the Birds Eye plant comes from Central America.

Cultivation

Their cultivation from seeds should begin in January or February. Until mid-May, the chillies can develop well on a windowsill of a south window. Additional plant light will help the plants grow faster and healthier. Bring some exercise into your cultivation from time to time. In the home, plants tend to grow unstable. Prevent this with a ventilator that you turn on once or twice a week.

For cultivation, you can take fresh Thai Dragons seeds from the Asia Shop. You can get pure seeds from different chili seed dealers. There you get dried seeds, which are usually durable for several years. These are soaked at best. Many chili growers use chamomile tea. We swear by lemon water. Read more about soaking seeds here.

In a greenhouse, the seeds germinate after about 14 days. A germination temperature of 25 °C is sufficient. Perhaps an inexpensive windowsill greenhouse is enough for a few euros. Pay attention then on a warm place. The best way to detect cold or warm zones at the window is by hand. If necessary, insulate the underside of the greenhouse with sponge rubber, foam or paper.

A heated greenhouse is more reliable. If you are gripped by chili fever, you will definitely get one. This makes it easier for you to grow varieties that are difficult to attract. Birdeyes are neither particularly easy nor particularly complicated to germinate. If you have the choice with the degree number: 25–28 degrees Celsius is quite optimal.

In the meantime, we exclusively use coconut swell tablets as growing substrate. They make little dirt and are ready for use after a few minutes. After these have been soaked in water, the seeds are planted to a depth of just under one centimeter.

Care

Four things are particularly important in the care of chillies. That would be warmth and light, loose soil, water and fertilizer.

Waterlogging is the death of Chilis. You avoid this with a well-structured soil. This must not be allowed to cardboard together and must allow air to reach the roots. Tomato soil mixed with coconut fibres, for example, guarantees good root growth. Never overdo the watering. Please read here how you can feel whether it is time for fresh water. There you will also find out what you need to know about water.

The origin of chillies is in the Caribbean. Bird Eye Chilis grow in warm regions in Africa and Asia. Do the plant’s justice with a location with pleasant humidity, warmth and light. In the dark winter months you can help yourself with plant lights.

Fertilizing

Since the name Birds Eye, i.e. bird’s eye chili, indicates to us the proximity to birds, we take fertilizer on the balcony and in the garden Guano for the supply with nutrients. In the house we are experimenting with tomato fertilizer sticks, which looks promising.

Harvest

About 90 days after your chili has flowered and been fertilized, the chillies change from green to red. Many chili growers in their first year become impatient as they think the chillies never change color. Patience is really needed. It takes time for the flesh, placenta and especially the seeds to develop.

Pay attention to the first discolorations on the crown or tip. If it is used here, it is relatively lightning fast. We leave the red pods to hang for at least five days so that fructose, spiciness and aroma can fully develop.

Hibernate

Both Capsicum annuum and frutescens are perennial chili plants. Annuum means yearly, but you can forget that. More than 200 years ago a few inconsistencies had crept in when the botanical terms of the Capsicum genus were assigned. You can let both species hibernate 2–3 or 5–8 times. Of course no frost is important. Already from night temperatures of under 10 °C the plants do not feel at all well anymore.

Therefore, you start with the preparations for wintering over already in October. You can find detailed instructions for wintering chillies here.

Variety name Bird’s Eye Chili
Species Capsicum frutescens
Origin Africa, Southeast Asia
plant size 50–80 cm
Maturing time 95 days
Scoville 100,000 SHU
Germination period 8–14 days
Germination temperature 25–28 °C
Planting distance min. 50 cm

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