Serrano chilli variety
TexMex cuisine would be unthinkable without the Serrano chilli pepper. With a medium heat, it has a pleasant taste with a hint of sweetness. Its aroma makes it perfect for salsas and fresh salads. In general, it is perfect for adding the right spiciness to tortilla fillings.
Serrano (Capsicum annuum)
Serrano chilli plants belong to the "annual" annuum species. Although annuum means annual, the plant easily becomes two to three years old. In our latitudes, this chilli must be protected from frost and permanent temperatures below 15 °C. If you care for the plant properly and overwinter it, you will have something from this insensitive chilli for several years.
On a scale of 1 to 10, the Serrano chilli achieves an even 6. Heat level 6 corresponds to 5,000 to 15,000 SHU. SHU is the abbreviation for Scoville Heat Unit, which was developed over 100 years ago by Willbur Scoville.
Serrano chillies are versatile. They are eaten green as well as red. Mexicans love dishes with appetising salsa. The same crisp, sweet taste enhances any salad. An insider tip is to roast these chillies. In Mexico, huge drums full of serrano are turned over flames and then sold on the street.
Salsa is a hot sauce made cold. In no time at all, you can create one based on the "Salsa mexicana" in the Mexican national colours. Dice four tomatoes, one onion and three Serrano chillies. In a bowl, mix fresh coriander, a pinch of sea salt and lemon or lime juice. Delicious, this with tortilla chips and the evening will be terrific.
Roasting chillies is easiest on a gas barbecue. The heat is easy to adjust and it only takes a few minutes. Chillies are well roasted when the skin blisters. In places, the border to blackness may be scratched.
With a charcoal grill, there is also a smoky aroma from the burning wood. Charcoal made of beech and mesquite wood support such an aroma formation perfectly.
If you don't have a barbecue, you don't need to hang your head. A blowtorch will do. A kitchen torch, such as is used for flambéing crème brûlée, is more handy.
In Puebla, serrano chillies are often made into desserts. This has a long tradition and has its roots with the indigenous people. When Spaniards built the first monasteries, nuns took up these dishes and refined the recipes. This is how Mole Poblano, a spicy sauce made from chile, nuts and chocolate, came into being. Many nuts and pumpkin seeds grow in the region around Puebla and are often used in dishes. The nut sauce "Chiles en nogada" is also legendary.
Serrano Chili plant
This chilli from the highlands remains relatively small at 70 cm. Its broad and spreading crown is striking. This is about half as large as the chilli plant has grown up to. Small leaves adorn the plant. In autumn it hangs full of fruits that are half the size of jalapeños. About 1.5 cm in diameter and 4 - 6 cm long.
Two special features distinguish this high-yielding variety: Firstly, it can handle drought better than other chilli varieties. It also grows into a magnificent plant when the pot is smaller than necessary. Both characteristics have helped it to spread in the mountains in the heart of Mexico.
Serrano chilli seeds germinate reliably with little effort. We have already had seeds germinate after four years of storage without any notable difficulties. It is best to start sowing and cultivating Serrano chillies in January or February. It takes just over half a year from germination to harvesting the pods.
A patent remedy for getting chillies to germinate quickly is the following: Set a heatable greenhouse at 26 °C. Place a tray of chilli peppers in the greenhouse. In this we put a bowl of water and a squeeze of lemon juice. The seeds are poured into the liquid. They stay there overnight to soak. The very next day, the chilli seeds are transferred to coconut soil.
After 7 - 20 days, all Serrano seedlings should have seen the light of day. The tender little plants immediately put their foot down and grow quickly. Later you can transplant and repot them.
Capsicum annuum chilli plants need at least 8 hours of light, even in winter. Only in selected locations will you be able to meet the light requirements indoors. Successful chilli growers therefore rely on plant light to support the sun.
Serrano chillies are pleasantly easy to care for. They do not tolerate much water. The roots do not like permanently wet soil and start to rot.
Serrano is probably one of the easiest chilli plants to care for. Pay attention to adapted watering, pest infestation and a light and loose substrate. This is all that can be said about the beautiful Serranos.
For fertiliser, we use a mild herb and tomato fertiliser. As I said, the variety is undemanding and does not need a high-tech fertiliser to grow well. It is even enough to mix coffee grounds into the soil.
About three months after flowers have formed, the first chillies ripen. In Mexico, the chillies are usually harvested green Red they are slightly hotter and take on a slightly sweet paprika flavour.
This plant is made to be overwintered. It tolerates being repotted into a small pot from the garden. A severe pruning can also follow. Water little in winter and remember that the windowsill can cool down considerably. Place a support, for example a plant catalogue, under the flower pot with saucer. In a separate article you will find more information about overwintering chillies.
|Plant size||60 – 80 cm|
|Maturing time||80 – 90 Days|
|Scoville||5,000 - 15,000 SHU|
|Germination period||7 – 20 days|
|Germination temperature||25 – 28 °C|
|Planting distance||min. 50 cm|