Dry and store chillies as soon as they’ve coloured up fully. By now they’ll have developed their full heat and flavour and as soon as the temperature starts to drop they’ll need harvesting before the cold weather sets in.
Thin-skinned chillies like cayennes and jalapenos can be dried and strung into pretty necklaces, to hang up in your kitchen and use as you need them through the winter (any thicker-skinned types, like habaneros, are best frozen whole – you can chop them straight from the freezer to use in your cooking).
Start by snipping off all the chillies from your plant, using sharp scissors or secateurs and cutting a little way up the stem to leave the green cap and a short length of stalk intact. Only ever store perfect fruit, as any blemishes will quickly worsen in storage and may turn rotten, infecting healthy fruits too.
Thread a large needle with strong cotton or fishing line, then poke the needle through the fattest part of the stem of each chilli, stringing them together side by side. If you angle the needle at 45 degrees to horizontal, the chillies will sit in a spiral, like a bunch of grapes – the traditional Mexican way of hanging them up, known as a ‘ristra’.
Once you have a string of chillies about 60cm long, you can hang them up. Don’t be tempted to make your necklace longer as the weight may force the chillies together, making it difficult for them to dry. Instead, just make a second one with any you have left!
Hang your necklace somewhere warm and dry – a spare room or corridor is perfect, as long as it’s dry and frost-free. After a couple of weeks they will have dried completely: cut them away from the string one at a time as you need them to pep up your cooking.