Growing shishito peppers, Capsicum annuum, can be a fun and simple process, especially if you have the right gardening space. Growing these not-so-spicy little green peppers are an easy way to add flavor to your meals without having to buy them at the store!
Learning how to grow shishito peppers at home also gives you quick access to a tasty appetizer in a flash! These plants grow best in full sunlight and loose soil that drains well. Here are some tips on how to get started:
What are Shishito Peppers?
Shishito peppers are a Japanese heirloom pepper that is small and thin with multiple lobes. Their name comes from the Japanese words “shishi” which means lion and “togarashi” which means chili pepper.
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True Leaf Market has good quality Shishito Pepper Seeds if you need them!
They look like wider and wrinkled jalapenos, but they can also be confused for Padrón or Anaheim chilies . What makes shishito peppers stand out from the rest of these types of chili is how mild their heat level is. They are much milder than any chilies mentioned with only 1 in 10 having any heat.
When and Where to Grow Shishito Peppers
Shishito pepper are best grown in the spring through the fall. They need a warm place to grow and prefer some humidity as well as soil that has good drainage (like raised beds). Find out how to build your own raised beds here.
They can be grown in containers, but shishito peppers like deep potting soil with plenty of nutrients for their roots. So be sure to use a good sized pot for one shishito plant. If you want start plants from shishito pepper seeds, then start them indoors 8 weeks before your area’s last expected frost. (Check your frost date here).
These peppers grow best in full sunlight (6 hours a day or more) and loose soil that drains well.
Like many other pepper varieties, it may be possible to overwinter shishito plants. Here are some instructions on how to overwinter pepper plants.
How to Grow Shishito Peppers at Home
Planting from seed– Begin by starting at the correct time of year. If starting from seed, sow them indoors 8 weeks before the last expected frost. Use good quality seed starting mix and place seedlings in a warm, sunny place.
Transplanting– If using transplants or plants, be sure they are hardened off before planting them outdoors in the garden after the last frost. (Not sure how to harden off plants? Check out my guide!)
Watering– Water shishito pepper plants at least once a week during dry periods. They are pretty hardy little plants, only growing up to 2 feet, so they can go a little longer in particularly dry weather.
Fertilizing– Use a good quality fertilizer for shishito pepper plants that is high in nitrogen and low in phosphorus (the first number of the NPK ratio on the package). Check out these recommended fertilizers that are higher in nitrogen:
Pruning Shishitos– As with many pepper plants, shishito plants can be pruned for better fruit production. This involves removing leaves from the lower part of the plant, as well as pinching off the first few blooms. I know it’s painful sometimes to pinch off those blooms, but it will definitely be worth it!
Mulching– The shishito pepper plant loves to live in soil that contains lots of organic matter. For this reason, mulching the shishitos with compost is a great idea and will help them thrive during their growing season (spring through fall). Mulch can also be any type of material such as straw or even grass clippings. (Not sure how to compost? Learn how to start composting here.)
How to Harvest Shishito Peppers
When shishito peppers are mature, they will turn from green to red. This can take between 60 and 80 days after transplanting shishito pepper plants (which should be done in spring or early summer).
Many shishito pepper gardeners will harvest shishitos when they are small, green and tender. You can then saute them in a pan with oil or roast them on the grill to eat as snacks. They’re delicious!
Preserving Shishito Peppers
After the harvest is done, what can you do with shishito peppers?
One option is to preserve shishito peppers by pickling them much like my Quick Dill Pickle recipe, simply swap in the seasonings of your choice. Shishitos are great in salsas or sauces. They are delicious when pickled too!
Like many other chiles, shishitos can be dried for use later. You can do this by using a dehydrator or a low temperature oven. This will take longer than canning, but it uses up much less storage space in the pantry. (Our Instant Pot Air Fryer actually has a dehydrator option as well!)
So consider adding this east Asian chili pepper to your garden plan this year! It’s delicious and incredibly easy to grow no matter the size of your garden.