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Chilli: Some Like It Hot, (dare I say) Extremely Hot

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Before I even think of taking the Christmas tree and decorations out of storage and put up, I am already planning what to do when the tree and decorations come down on the 6th January. Don’t get me wrong, I love the festive time, Just cannot help forward plan things. 
Since I spend less time of the plot in the month of December and more time clearing out, out of date seed packs and making a note which seeds need to be ordered. 

Garden
 

I couldn’t be more proud of my own grown chillies than this year. Starting seed sowing precisely on 6th January 2017, no sooner were the decorations tucked away, the heated propagators, seed pots and trays were taken out, washed, disinfected again and ready for seed sowing.
This early start (can be started in December) helped these ‘long season’ plants, produce more fruit, compared to when starting seed in Spring, of course unless you own a heated greenhouse, then you are most likely to enjoy these fruit for much longer.

Please note: the hotter the chilli on the Scoville Scale the longer germination time, so patience is key when sowing these varieties of seeds. Chilli seeds like Scotch Bonnets, Trinidad Scorpion and Carolina Reaper, can take as long as 1 month to germinate, even when conditions are under heated propagators. 
Planting them in coir growing pellets  greatly helps with very little root disturbance. Once seed are sown in the warmed coir pellets, labelled and kept the growing conditions constant (18-25˙C) in the heated propagator.


As the seeds germinated, moved them into unheated propagators, to allow growing, in just slightly cooler environment and under grow lights, so the plants do not get leggy (a term used on plants, when indoor growing conditions are warm with insufficient light provided. Plants start stretching towards light, making them unproportionally tall and slender) . Once true leaves appear on the seedlings, remember these are heat loving plants, so transplanting them into room temperature or warm soil, is key, so as not to shock the roots. I do this by bringing into the house and leaving a bag of compost by the radiator for a few days.


Once tranplanted, these pots are still kept in unheated propagators, as these plants put on more growth , I will slowly climatise them to the indoor conditions, by removing the propagator lid during the day and covering them back at night, remaining under grow lights at all times.
By the month of April (this gives the plants a 12 week head start compared to starting seed in April) as the weather starts to warm up and greenhouse has been cleaned and disinfected and in readiness for the move of plants. 

22.04.17

Having decided to move all the Chilli, Pepper, Aubergine and Tomato plants on 22nd April, the threat of frost was always there, so over night I would throw a Garden fleece on all these plants and keep them off the floor too. As the plants got stronger in the greenhouse, by the beginning of May these, Chilli, Pepper and Aubergine plants were planted into final position in 10 litre pots, with a sprinkling in the compost with organic seaweed.

All this forward planning back in December 2016 to start the chilli seeds as early as January with the intention of harvesting by June, worked. By Summer Solstice, (21st June), we had already harvested started to harvest Chillies, Peppers, Aubergine and outdoor Tomatoes.

 

21.06.17 Summer Solstice
21.06.17 Summer Solstice


The harvesting of chillies (plants in the greenhouse) did not end until October end. Giving me a harvest season of 5 months compared to just over 2 and half had I started in April.

Seed saving is a must as an organic gardener. And these chilli varieties are no exception. The thinner skin varieties like the thai chilli and De Cayenne dry easily and quickly, it is the varities with higher Scoville ratings like Habanero and Scotch Bonnet which take longer to dry out at normal room temperatures and even when place on a Boiler can sometimes start to rot.

De Cayenne

In October, as an experiment, I decided to harvest 3 varieties to dry out naturally indoors, keeping chilli fruit still attached to the stems. I kept these stems as long as possible when gathering, bunched each variety and hung them upside down, attaching them to the Kitchen cupboard. 

2.10.17: L to R: Habanero, No Name, Bird’s Eye

It is the Habanero fruit (with thick skin) that I kept a close eye on, to see if drying them out this way would work. To my surprise these Habanero Chillies are drying out better this way than when fruit is placed over the boiler. I think drying them out as naturally as possible, has not only helped retain its vibrant colour but the pungent flavour too. Next year, when drying out chillies I shall adopt this method for sure. It has worked on the Habanero and the other 2 varieties so it should work comfortably on Jalapeno and Padron peppers too. 

2.10.17: L to R: Habanero, No Name, Bird’s Eye


I shall be starting this growing process all over again come 6th January 2018. With even more varieties added to the collection. What I could really do with now, is a bigger greenhouse and a Polytunnel. Not too much to ask for, is it?

Kitchen

As it has been a good your, A year of the Chilli, in my gardening journal. There are so many Hot sauces, Chilli Oil as well as Sweet Chilli Sauce I made for the family. Not to mention the amount of chillies that have been dried and stored for later use.
Rekha’s Hot Sauce

 

Saved Dried Chillies

Here are few of my recipes made this year:

Habanero Sweet Chilli Sauce

 

Pickled Garlic and Jalapeno

 

Chilli and Garlic Oil

Rekha's Garden & Kitchen

 

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