Shishito - Japanese Lion Head Chili

Small lion heads can be seen at the tips of the chilli peppers. For this reason it was given the fitting name Shishito in its original cultivation area in Japan. Shishi means head of the lion. This mild chilli variety is used gladly green for garnishing and roasting.

In appearance this chili resembles the Spanish Padron or Kkwari-Gochu from Korea. All three chili varieties have a very typical taste. It is slightly lemony with delicate grassy notes. If you like jalapeños, you will certainly like this almost spicy free variety as well. A real delicacy are shishito pods fried in oil, just seasoned with a pinch of sea salt.

Nine out of ten chili peppers have a heat level of 1, but every tenth is really hot. If you’re unlucky, bite on single pods with a spiciness level of 10. In the popular Japanese roulette, such runaways regularly cause giggling at the table.

Shishito (Capsicum annuum)🌶

Shishito Chili belongs to the Capsicum annuum species. Although annuum actually means yearly, you can easily grow these plants for two or three years. Provided the plant does not go through cold or improper care. In Japan, the night temperatures in the winter can scratch the frost line. Even the slightest frost inevitably causes chillies to die. In Germany you have to let chili plants spend the winter in warm rooms. At least if you plan to harvest several years of your chili plants.

Shishito
Shishito

Scoville and degree of sharpness🌶

Sharpness is hardly noticeable with the green Chilis. Therefore we assign Shishitos to the sharpness level 1. But watch out! Every tenth chili pepper is suddenly damn sharp. These can then be sharp up to a degree of sharpness of 10. So always nibble carefully on the pods first. A sharpness of three is particularly mean, if one does not count on it. The degree of sharpness 1 corresponds to up to 500 Scoville. Red fruits of this variety have a little more fire. This is then with the degree of sharpness 2.

Just remember that every tenth chilli pepper can be much sharper. These are then easily just as hot as Jalapeños (5000 Scoville Heat Units) or even Habaneros! (100.000 SHU).

Use🌶

Shishito chillies are ideal for frying, cooking and grilling. They are placed in a hot pan like Padrón roasted peppers with stalk. Wash the peppers with water and prick holes in them. To make the holes, use a tip so large that the hole is not closed again by the flesh. Especially when frying in oil, hot splashes can occur when chilli peppers burst open.

We prefer their chillies fried in oil or grilled. The skin can turn a little dark brown and blow. Then roast aromas develop, which make these peppers additionally delicious. Cooked in water for a few minutes, it also tastes good. Then season with Fleur de Sel or a few drops of soy sauce. Fantastic.

But fresh chilli peppers are also delicious. Cut into slices for garnishing or in salads they are popular.

Shishito chili plants🌶

Until the year 2000 this chili plant was mainly cultivated and eaten in Japan. Today you can get their seeds from many chili traders without any problems.

If you want to grow a mild variety, the Japanese Shishito would be a great choice.

The chili plants have a bushy growth. They grow about 80 - 90 cm high. She feels just as comfortable in the balcony box or on the windowsill as she does in the garden from May to September. If you have preferred the seeds until February in the house, it will already be flowering in June. Two to three months later their green pods are ready for harvest. If you leave the pods hanging, their chillies will start to turn red after about 80 days.

Shishito plants are no harder to maintain and grow than other chili varieties. It even requires less space than, for example, Habaneros or sweet peppers.

Cultivation🌶

At a temperature of 25 °C, the seeds germinate after 10 - 14 days. This is best done in January or February at the latest. A heated greenhouse provides the right climate. For windowsill greenhouses without heating, the temperature is only 20°C. Usually only half of the seeds germinate after three weeks.

We use coconut source tabs as growing substrates for individual seeds. These are easy to use, clean and have the right pH value for the chili seeds.

The germination rate and germination time can be positively influenced by soaking. One night in lukewarm, diluted chamomile tea shortens the time to germination by about 4 days. More information about different soaking agents can be found here.

Care🌶

Heat, light and water in the right quantity and quality is the secret of the good care of chili plants. In Japan, the country of origin, the plants get 10 hours of sun. The daytime temperature is 25 - 35 °C. We have similar conditions in summer. In spring and autumn you can support the growth of your chillies with artificial light. Many chili growers used fluorescent tubes. Meanwhile, however, many use LED plant lights, which are much more efficient.

The biggest problem with all chillies is a poor substrate in combination with too frequent watering. Chili soil must be loose and have a stable structure. A slightly acid pH value of 6.5 +- 0.5 is ideal. The water should contain little lime as this makes the soil alkaline. Basically, tomato soil is good for the growing season and rainwater for watering. Read more about this basic chili growing topic here on the subject of substrate and here on proper watering.

Fertilizing🌶

For Shishito chili plants we use our mild herbal and tomato fertilizer.

In the garden we also like guano fertilizer. While the guano made of bird manure smells unpleasant indoors, it contributes to a good harvest outdoors. Chili plants, which we cultivate on the windowsill in the house, are supplied with slow release fertilizer. If you want to learn more about different fertilizers, we recommend this contribution to fertilizing.

Harvest🌶

Bratchilis are usually harvested green. Both the Shishito and the Padron from Spain are harvested. Their green peppers ripen red after 90 days unless they are harvested beforehand. We would leave the style a little longer when separating. It looks decorative when served. If you only use the pods after a few days, shorten the dried stem before use.

Chili Shishito has its own taste. Similar to jalapeños, slightly grasier or earthier. Almost without any pungency. With light, sour lemon notes. Very tasty, but also a bit needy to get used to. We would go so far that this chilli variety polarizes similarly fresh coriander. Either you love it or you don’t like it at all.

Hibernate🌶

Even if it’s officially a one-year-old Capsicum annuum variety. You can leave the plants indoors for the winter. As soon as the night temperatures fall below 12 °C, the plants are treated with neem oil. Transplanted into 16 cm pots and cut back to a minimum. To a minimum means about 15 cm. A few branches and leaves remain.

Neem oil should decimate pests before we bring the plant into our home. With the warm air and the exclusion of natural enemies, the populations usually explode. We prevent this with the natural pesticide in advance.

A frequent source of error, which leads to the plants shrinking, is to place clay pots without insulation on a cold windowsill. Place a stack of paper between the coasters and the place at the window. Sponge rubber, upholstery foils and felt work as well. Cold in combination with little light and humidity have a devastating effect on weakened plants.

Variety name Shishito
Species Capsicum annuum
Origin Japan
plant size 80 - 90cm
Maturing time 80 days
Sharpness level 1 (500 Scoville)
Germination period 8 - 14 days
Germination temperature 22 - 28 °C
Planting distance min. 50 cm