Sunday, July 24, 2011

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.

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