Most chilli plants will naturally divide (I mean fork into two main branches) when they get to a couple of feet in height - like this:
This forking means that the plants will stay bushy and won't grow too tall, which is convenient since they therefore won't require so much support. Of course, you can nip out the growing point at any stage if you want to limit the height of the plant. Its natural reaction to such "surgery" will be to divert its energy into more and stronger side-shoots. One of the things that most seed suppliers DON'T tell you is how high the chilli plant is expected to grow, and they do differ a lot. Last year one of the varieties I grew was "Pinocchio's Nose" which was huge - much bigger than most chillis - and it would certainly be unsuitable for growing indoors on a windowsill!
My next photo is of the first fruit forming on one of the "Hot Portugal" plants. When I grew this variety last year it did not live up to its name. The fruits were very good-looking, but too mild in my opinion, despite the supplier's description of it as having a rating of 4 out of 5 for heat. There are lots of factors that determine the heat of an individual chilli plant, like the amount of water it gets, the amount of nutrients it gets, and the amount of sunshine it gets. I wish I could give you a scientific formula for achieving the perfect chilli, but the truth is I can't. Success with chillis seems to me to be very much a matter of luck! This year I am going to water my chillis less, give them less plant food and hope for hot weather. In theory this should put them under more stress, which often causes a plant to "counter-attack" by producing hotter fruits.
Chilli plants generally produce lots of flowers, but if they all developed into fruits the plant would be overloaded, so it is quite normal for many of the flowers to drop off before fruits are formed, particularly when the plant is still small. I often find that there is a stage early in the season when most of the flowers drop off, which can be a bit alarming, but I also know that I have never had a chilli which hasn't gone on to produce a viable crop, so this flower-drop stage doesn't worry me any more.
Until a few days ago, my chillis were inside my plastic Seedling Greenhouse, protected from the weather, but now that things have warmed up I have moved them out into the open air.
Here they are, alongside the Runner Beans. It's a veritable forest of canes now because I have given each chilli plant a short cane of its own. You'll note that I use plastic cane-toppers on all these short canes, in order to avoid possible eye/face damage while bending down to tend them.
This next photo is just for art's sake. I like it.
That's a photo of Jane's interpretation of the Indonesian salad Gado Gado with peanut sauce (which might go well with a curry, which might contain chillis...) If you want to see more, visit her blog Onions and Paper.