Growing your own peppers at home is an easy task, provided your garden gets enough sunshine. An interesting type of pepper to grow is the shishito pepper plant. It’s small, milder in flavor than other types of peppers, and easy to grow, provided you give it a bit of TLC.
This article explores everything you need to know about shishito pepper plants and how to grow them successfully.
What Is Shishito Pepper?
Shishito peppers are green, small, and wrinkly peppers that come from Japan. They got their name because of their appearance: the creases on the top of the peppers resemble a lion’s head, which is why it’s called “shishi,” meaning “lion” in Japanese.
These peppers grow to between two and four inches (5.08-10.16cm) in length. The plants can reach a height of approximately two feet (0.6m). You can expect a pepper yield of around 10 to 20 peppers per plant.
Although shishito peppers are mild, some of them can be really hot. The discrepancy between peppers comes down to different amounts of capsaicin, which gives them a spicy flavor. This, in turn, is affected by factors such as weather conditions where the peppers are grown.
Generally, though, these peppers are milder than jalapeño peppers. They have a similar level of heat to padrón peppers in Spain.
If you want to grow your own shishito pepper plants, you’ll be pleased to know that they thrive in both outdoor and indoor environments.
When harvesting them, you can use shishito peppers in a variety of ways. Since they’re small in size, you can use them in appetizers or garnishes. They even work well when served with drinks.
While you can eat them raw, you can use them in a variety of recipes because their low level of heat makes them versatile cooking ingredients.
How to Grow Shishito Peppers
You can grow shishito peppers from seeds or seedlings.
Make sure the seeds are started for about two weeks in the home before planting them in the garden. They will germinate within about a week or two. Make sure that the peppers are kept warm and moist, as this will increase their rate of germination. Aim to keep temperatures to around 70-90°F (°C).
If you’re growing shishito peppers from plants you’ve purchased, you should plant them in the garden after the last frost. Ideally, peppers are great for planting in the spring because soil warmth is essential, so make sure that the temperature is between 70 and 80°F (21.1-26.6°C).
The type of pot for your shishito plants needs to be at least one gallon (3.7l) deep. It should also be around 12 inches (30.48cm) in width so that it’s large enough for the pepper plant’s roots.
You want your pepper plants to get enough moisture, so choose a pot that’s made out of metal or plastic. Avoid terra-cotta pots that can dry out quickly. However, you want your plants to have adequate drainage. If the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, drill them in yourself.
Make sure you plant your shishito peppers in an area that gets a lot of sun as they want a minimum of six hours of light every day. If you can see the peppers becoming leggy, you’ll have to move them into a brighter spot. Indoors, position your plant in a south-facing window of the home so it gets enough light.
Shishito peppers need soil that’s well-draining. You can also add about an inch (2.54cm) of compost to the plants to give them more nutrients. When your pepper plants have a few sets of true leaves, feed them fertilizer once a month. This burst of nitrogen will encourage leaf growth.
Your shishito pepper plants need watering every few days but more frequently when the weather is hot and dry. Their soil should dry out between waterings, so you don’t give them too much water.
When spacing your plants in the garden, don’t overcrowd them. This can happen easily because the plants are pretty compact. Strive to space them about 20 inches (50.8cm) apart from each other.
How to Grow Shishito Peppers Indoors
When growing shishito peppers indoors, you should put them in an area of the home that gets a lot of sunlight. This can be their permanent home, or you can choose to transplant them into the garden at a later stage.
Either way, fill the bottom of the container with compost to provide the plant with enough nutrients to encourage its growth.
Here are other tips:
- Use a quality potting mix with drainage-enhancing ingredients such as vermiculite and perlite. This will ensure the pepper plants’ roots don’t sit in water.
- Water your indoor shishito pepper plants deeply once a week or when the surface inch (2.54cm) of soil is dry.
- If you want your pepper plants to become bushier, it’s good to pinch back the tips when they are about six inches (15.24cm) in height. This will help them to branch out more. You can also cut their stems to the second or third set of leaves.
- Just like with outdoor pepper plants, you should fertilize your indoor plants every month. You can use a liquid fertilizer to keep them healthy.
- When it comes to humidity, your shishito peppers need humidity between 60 and 80%. You don’t want to give them more moisture than this, as it can lead to fungal diseases. It’s also vital to encourage good air ventilation between your pepper plants so that they don’t become overcrowded, which can also foster fungal growth.
- Your pepper plants don’t require much pruning. If winters are cold in your region, prune your pepper plants late in the season so that any fruits on the plant will ripen when the weather gets colder. You want to harvest the peppers before frost, which can damage them.
A concern you might have for your indoor shishito plants is that they won’t grow as much as they would when planted outdoors, but this isn’t the case. However, you have to ensure you provide them with enough care in terms of their pot and fertilization requirements.
If your pepper plants start to become too large for their pot, such as if their soil dries out at a fast rate, you should repot them in a larger container.
Fertilize your plants every two weeks when the plants are still growing. A high-nitrogen fertilizer is good to help boost their foliage growth. Then, reduce the fertilizer once the plant has received its full size. Less nitrogen is beneficial to boost the plant’s production of fruit once it’s been established.
Common Problems With Shishito Peppers
Removing leaves on the shishito pepper plant can help to encourage greater air circulation to prevent fungal diseases. So, remember to remove leaves from the lower six inches (15.24cm) of stems.
But other types of diseases and pests can affect your shishito pepper plants. Common pests include aphids and spider mites.
These injure the pepper plants by feeding on the sap from their stems. To eliminate them, you should apply neem oil to the plants. For best results, mix together one teaspoon of neem oil and liquid soap in a gallon (3.7l) of water. Put it in a spray bottle and use it on your plants.
You should only apply neem oil to your plant during the morning or evening. You shouldn’t apply it in the afternoon as the temperature is too hot, and direct sunlight mixed with neem oil can scorch your plants.
Common diseases that affect shishito pepper plants include the following:
- Bacterial spot. This disease is caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria. Too much humidity and warmth can contribute to the disease, which causes yellow-green spots that become brown and form holes in the leaves. Fungus can enter fruit spots, which are scabbed-over areas, and cause fruit rot.
- Powdery mildew. This fungus attacks the plant’s leaves, forming white powdery patches on them. Risk factors for powdery mildew include high humidity conditions and temperatures of around 64-81°F (17.7-27.2°C).
- Verticillium wilt. This is another type of fungus that affects pepper plants. Affected plants will display symptoms such as yellow, drooping leaves. In severe infections, the plants will become brown and dry up.
How to Harvest Shishito Peppers
Shishito pepper plants grow quickly. After transplanting them into the garden, you can expect to harvest them within two months. You can pick the peppers off the plant when they’re still green in color before they turn red.
This is advisable to ensure that the peppers won’t be too hot and spicy. But make sure they’ve reached a size of about two to four inches (5.08-10.16cm) before picking them off the plant.
Besides preserving their mild flavor, another reason why you shouldn’t leave the peppers on the plant for too long is that this causes the plant to produce less fruit. It forces the plant to inject too many resources into the fruit that’s already on the plant.
When cared for properly, you can expect your shishito pepper plants to grow between 10 and 20 peppers. The plants will yield fruit from the middle of summer all the way until the first frost in your region.
When you’re ready to harvest your shishito peppers, use sharp scissors so you don’t damage the stems. Make sure you leave about one inch (2.54cm) of the stem behind.
Bear in mind that pepper plants typically go dormant during cold weather. But if you live in a region that experiences mild or moderate temperatures during the winter, the plants could be great winter plants to keep indoors.
You can also overwinter your shishito peppers by transferring in-ground pepper plants to containers that are placed in a sunny spot indoors.
Tasty Dishes with Shishito Peppers
There are many delicious meals you can make with shishito peppers. Here are some ideas.
1. Shishito Pepper Dips with Pistachios
Dips that make use of shishito peppers are great for the family and parties because they’re not too hot and spicy. This recipe makes use of ingredients such as chopped scallions, toasted nori sheets, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and soft tofu. Once the ingredients are blended together to make this creamy, full-flavored dip, you can serve it with veggies.
2. Cold Shishito Pepper Soup
This tangy soup makes use of roasted shishito peppers, cucumber, garlic, onion, and apple cider vinegar. It’s low in calories and healthy while being delicious for the whole family. Enjoy it with home-baked bread, or add croutons to it for some crunchiness.
3. Stuffed Shishito Peppers
Since these peppers aren’t too spicy, you can enjoy them stuffed with gooey cream cheese and a meat of your choice, such as diced salami.
In this easy recipe, once you’ve sliced the peppers open and filled them with tasty ingredients, all you have to do is broil the stuffed peppers for a few minutes.
4. Creamed Shishito Peppers
This recipe produces peppers that are delicious and versatile for use with other veggies or in other dishes. It makes use of ingredients such as shallots, heavy cream, and grated cheese. The peppers give the cream a burst of mild heat that elevates the entire recipe that works excellently as a side with steak or even as a pizza topping!
If you’re growing pepper plants, add shishito peppers to your bounty! These small, mild peppers are a delicious addition to a variety of dishes while being easy to grow.