Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Chilli List

There are literally thousands of different forms of chilli pepper. I'm rather a fan of both their taste and their diversity hence I grow a fair few varieties and find myself unable to resist growing ever more. I like lots of other plants and vegetables but chillis do well for me and hence are likely to get featured ever more.

This is the Growlist so far showing what I've grown and when.......

Variety Species 2010 2011
Fish  annum X X
Jalapeno  annum X X
Dedo de Mocha  baccatum X X
Lemon Drop  baccatum X X
Red scotch bonnet chinense X X
Guatemalan Chiltepe  annum
Joe's Long Cayenne  annum
McMahons Texas Bird Pepper annum
Minorcan Pequin annum
Numex Bailey Piquin  annum
Sweet Banana annum
Criolla Sella  baccatum
Big Sun scotch bonnet chinense
Chocolate Habanero chinense
Fatalii chinense
Mustard Habanero chinense
NuMex Suave Orange  chinense
Orange Habanero chinense
Paper Lantern chinense
PI 281429  chinense
Pimente De Neyde chinense
Trinidad Perfume  chinense
Duke Pequin  fructescens
Turbo Pube (PI 585267)  pubescens
Fresno Supreme  annum X
Hungarian Hotwax  annum X

and this is what's in reserve in my seed cabinet....

Variety Species
var. aviculare annum
Cap-253C annum
Cayenne annum
Chinese 5 colour annum
Friar's Hat annum
Goatweed annum
Gold Cayenne annum
Hungarian Black annum
Thai Yellow  annum
Cap-1530 C. cardenasii cardenasii
CAP 1445  chacoense
Aji Dulce Long chinense
Aji Panca chinense
CGN 22835 Long  chinense
Cumari chinense
Datil chinense
Ecuadorian Brown chinense
Goronong chinense
Habanero Cristina chinense
Lima Blanco PI 152222 chinense
Pointed Yellow Hab chinense
Wild Brazil chinense
Apricot chinense 
Bradleys Bahamian fructescens
Capsicum lanceolatum lanceolatum
Capsicum praetermissum praetermissum
Cumari Pollux praetermissum
Goat Pepper  praetermissum
Albertos pubescens
CAP 363  pubescens
Orange Rocoto pubescens
Capsicum rhomboideum rhomboideum

I'm not sure I'll grow all these next year but I'm certainly planning to grow a lot. In fact I may well plant some in a few weeks to overwinter....

Stash of 2010 (Repost)

So, if we ignore all those that were eaten raw, thrown into cooking at the time or which remin in the freezer, here's the final stash of chilli produce:

This year's pepper produce

Not huge amounts of stuff but plenty to keep me going for now (and I've got more peppers in the freezer for when this lot runs out. So what is all the above? Well.....

Pumpkin, cranberry and red chilli chutney

There's 5 jars of this. This is pumpkin, cranberry and red chilli chutney. I started this from this recipe. My version has a lot more chilli in the form of 10 pods of the variety "Fish" and 8 pods of the giant sweet Aji I grew this year "Dedo de Mocha". It also took a lot more vinegar than that recipe to get the consistency I wanted (I may have started a bit too hot).

The yellow jars are the Salsa made from Lemon Drop pods I posted previously. I used this recipe from William Woys Weaver. This one is absolutely sensational, especially with grilled fish. I'm hoping my lemon drops overwinter well so I can get a big harvest of these next year and make a lot more of this.

Lastly 2 different hot sauces:

Homemade Chilli Sauces

I made these using the recipe by Chilliman64 in the second post here. To mix things up I made a double batch of the base, split it in 2 and then added Orange Habs to one and Trinidad Perfume to the other. The Orange Hab one is just a nice hot sauce but the Trinidad Perfume one is really nice. Totally mild but with a really really strong flavour. I'm definitely going to be experimenting some more next year to make an even better "heatless hot sauce".

Anyway that's the lot. Small scale by some standards but I'm in sauce for now and I've got much bigger plans for 2011 now I've got the chilli bug.

New Life, Long History - repost from Feb 2011 (RP)

This is the current head of class in the chilli propagator.

Menorcan Pequin

I was gonna put this up as a wordless wednesday but I think there's enough interesting about this seedling to make a post.

Firstly it's a seedling of a wild Capsicum annum form, a pequin from the island of Minorca in the mediterranean. It should produce little red bullet like hot fruit which dry easily and will hopefully fit into one of these well. Why does this interest me (aside from their utility in cool glasswalled peppermills)? Well another natureblogger we know and love is very keen on a different Minorcan pepper and it got me thinking a lot about the movement of food plants....

FC's beloved Datil Peppers are a different species to my pequin seedling (C. chinense as opposed to annum) and the story goes that they made it to his particular chunk of [Pure] Florida by travelling from the Caribbean (home of the C. chinense species) to Africa, from Africa to Menorca and then back across the Atlantic to Florida. Some have suggested that it probably went direct from the Caribbean to Florida (on the basis of proximity) but its worth bearing in mind that many C. chinense made it to Africa and my Pequin made it from somewhere in the Americas to wind-up growing wild in Menorca.

The point of this post isn't to dissect the past history of the Datil landrace though. The point is that all this got me thinking about how my Menorcan pepper seeds made their way to me. They came to me because a nice lady who read the same chilli forum as me heard I was after some wild-type peppers and offered to put them in an envelope to me. Someone she knew had seen it growing wild and got her some seeds. Thanks to her kindness I'll try this new variety and hopefully it'll do what I want it to do. If so I'll save the seed and share it with others. This is the glorious gift of open-pollinated fruit and vegetable varieties. Their seeds can be swapped, shared or traded with ease.  Its far easier now to stick some seeds in an envelope than it would be to keep them safe for a long transatlantic boat journey 300 years ago. Because people did manage to do that though we now have thousands of unique local varieties to keep moving around the world. I'd encourage people to think about trying some of them; its worth it.

Overwintering Chillis (Repost)

 I took these photo on saturday, February 19th 2011.....

perfume flower

The flower above belongs to Capsicum chinense "Trinidad Perfume". Trinidad Perfume is a very mild caribbean seasoning pepper; low on heat and massive on flavour but it belongs to the same species as some truly hot peppers (the scotch bonnets and habanero) and some superhot peppers (Trinidad Scorpion, 7-Pot and Bhut Jolokia). In other words even if you live in a temperate climate like me, it is possible to have chillis in flower in February (and hence in fruit in March). How you ask? Well surprisingly easily.....


Many people believe chillis to be an annual crop (like wheat or rice) but they're really perennial shrubs in nature, its just that it's not really worthwhile overwintering them if you're growing commercially. If however you have many plants of many different varieties it is well worth overwintering them. I kept the plant above in my frost-free conservatory over winter, feeding and watering it sparingly and the result is a large plant now bursting into growth and flower (whilst this year's seedlings are only a few inches high). It will obviously now have a massive headstart and should produce far more pods this year than last year (when it did ok anyway). The trick seems to be avoiding rot (by keeping plants dry - I water only when wilting commences) and giving them as much light as possible. I'm lucky in having the conservatory but you could do as well on a well positioned windowsill. Some people trim their chillis down to stumps to overwinter and trim the roots - I only did this with a few plants and it seemed to knock them back a bit - obviously if you only have limited space it is a worthy option however. So there you have it - roll the dice and try to overwinter your chillis - you've nothing to lose if you'd throw them away otherwise in any event.

Lost crops of the Incas found.......(Repost) my conservatory. There's been a fair bit of interest of late in some of the "lost crops of the incas", plants grown in that great south american empire (and in many cases still enjoyed today in South America)  but which have yet to spread through the rest of the world. Notable successes recently have include Quinoa and Oca both of which are starting to get popular. You can read about a number of these "Lost Crops" in this excellent online book btw). I'm growing a couple....


This is a rocoto (aka locoto or manzano) chilli. It's a completely different species to all the other chillis I grow and to any chilli you'll likely see in a supermarket or market anywhere in the world other than a few south american countries. Rocoto was prized by the incas for its taste and structure which are rather different from other capsicum varieties and it is also handy in that it grows in cooler climes than most due to a preference for high elevations. The species is named C. pubescens due to its hairy stems and leaves.

Also unlike other chillis (but like many other nightshades) it flowers purple.


The plant above is "Fat Baby" Achocha, Cyclanthera brachyastacha, a curcubit. It should form a climbing plant covered with fruit which can be eaten raw when small (said to taste like "minty cucumber") or cooked when big (said to taste like green pepper or artichoke). I've heard a lot about what these taste like but no-one seems able to nail down a flavour. We will see how I describe the taste soon enough hopefully.

Chilli taxonomy told with pictures (sort of) (Repost)

This is my first flower of Capsicum frutescens.


C. frutescens is a relatively uncultivated species. There is, of course, one tremendously famous variety, beloved of steak tatare and bloody mary fans; the tabasco. Tabascos, as used in the eponymous sauce, used to be grown entirely on Avery Island, Louisiana and even now that is the origin of all the seed stock used to produce peppers for the McIllhenny Company. The other reasonably well known frutescens variety is Piri Piri but the above flower is neither, it's on a bird type pepper known as Duke Pequin. For years people have pondered whether C. frutescens is an actual species or just a form of C. chinense.


Above is a C. chinense flower (variety is PI248129 (it doesn't have a name - just an accession number). You can see they are very similar. The chinense varieties are more well known and there are many more of them; scotch bonnets, habaneros and so on as well as the superhot forms like the trinidad scorpion (of which the Butch T strain is now the hottest chilli in the world) and seven pot. Where things get really interesting is with the famous superhot Bhut Jolokhia which is, it turns out, an interspecific hybrid somewhere between frutescens and chinense. Recent studies show that in fact, no matter which species concept you adhere to, frutescens is its own species and sits somewhere between C. chinense and C. annum (though far closer to C. chinense).


Here's an annum variety. As you can see it looks different to the other two. If you try to imagine something sitting between it and chinense though? I think you get something looking rather like that top photo.

Chilli Review - Real Seeds' C. Baccatum "Dedo de Mocha" (Repost)

I've decided to give each of my chilli varieties its own review post since I've been writing reviews for somewhere else.

The first thing to note about this one is that there are a number of apparently completely different varieties with this name. The ones I am growing and shown in those post are those available from Real Seeds  - I don't know anywhere else that absolutely definitely stocks this form. The name apparently means amputated or dead fingers or something of the sort so you can see how it could be applied to a few different types of chilli.


This is a very strong growing, tall, upright, leggy plant that produces huge (see dollar bill comparison below) long wrinkled red pods. The pods are completely without heat. There is a hint of the rich aji flavour I've sometimes heard called smokey.

I basically use them as a subsitute for bell peppers - the taste is I think a bit better but the walls are obviously thinner so not withstanding the size you need a few to equal a normal bell pepper (1 pod is ideal for chucking in a one-person omlette or salad though). Probably my favourite use is cutting them in half lengthways and throwing them in a roasting tin with other veggies but I think it will grill or barbecue spectacularly too with a bit of olive oil.

Germination was very strong and the plants grew well. I would say that it has ripened very late; it was only in mid-october ripening in numbers but the plants still seemed very healthy. As a result it is probably worth starting this one nice and early. One other issue I have had is with some sort of insect eating its way into the pod. This may be more of an issue on this one as the pods are so big.

I've successfully overwintered these (the Real Seeds catalogue recommend giving this a go) and am hoping the result will be massive numbers of pods, early, on a big plant. My first pods this year are now ripening (May 2011)

Chilli Review - C. baccatum " Lemon Drop" (Repost)

A hot, citrussy pepper as its name suggests; fruit are genuinely hot (too hot for me to eat raw) but with good initial flavour (there is a burst of bright, citrus flavour at first taste).

Lemon drop
The bright yellow fruit are very attractive but I found these to be a really messy droopy medusa's head of a plant. It germinated easily and grew strongly - I got a lot of fruit from a single plant in the end although the plant itself never got very big due to its droopy habit.

Lemon Drop

Anyone growing hanging baskets may want to consider sticking one of these in one to droop over the side and thereby show off those yellow pods. I got my seeds from Real Seeds.

salsa di aji limo  

I used all my lemon drops to make this salsa recipe by famous heirloom seed guru William Woys Weaver. According to him it's a recipe from Peru; used specifically with this variety hence my posting it here. All I know is it's amazing.

Chilli review - C. chinense "Numex Suave Orange" (Repost)

Numex Suave is dubbed as a "heatless habanero" type. This year it grew taller and more strongly than any of my other chinenses. This is one of my culls which never got potted on again......

It's fruited pretty well too. Impressive looking squat rectangular fruit, deeply lobed and a rich colour when ripe.


Tastewise these are pretty interesting. They are certainly not heatless but they're pretty mild. They certainly have far more heat than Trinidad Perfume for example and the heat builds just enough to make you think "oh *^*^!" after biting into one before fading away completely. They do have a rich flavour and a brief warming heat though. I think they'd be ideal for someone wanting to add additional flavour to stews/currys/the like without adding much more heat. Several of these in addition to some actual habaneros for example. I'd probably not be as keen to use these in a salad as I am Trini Perfume though; I think that's a superior pod for eating raw.