2013 Chillies


2013 Chilli Success!

I don’t normally take the liberty of documenting my gardening delights on my recipe blog, but I felt the need to capture this for posterity. Over the past few years I’ve been searching for ‘the perfect chilli’ to grow for my recipes, and this year was no exception.

What made this year different was the wonderful growing conditions we’ve had, which has provided a great opportunity for comparison. Unlike last year, this season I took the positive decision to focus predominantly on the ‘Capsicum Annum’ varieties – these tend to be the ‘cayenne-type’ chillies you find in the supermarkets and form the basis of much of the chilli-based cookery I do.

The seeds were germinated on damp kitchen paper in a warm airing cupboard, and grown in sterile rock wool blocks, before being potted up into either a loam-based compost or 100% perlite. Plants were grown either indoors, in a greenhouse or in a cold frame, drip-watered daily and fed periodically with a 2 part hydroponic feed. All seeds were sourced from Nicky’s Nursery, my regular source for top quality chilli seeds, with the exception of 3 plug plants**, which were bought directly from World of Chillies.

Growing your own chillies is really easy.  There are varieties which thrive indoors in a pot on a sunny windowsill, and some which even cope outside with our dodgy British weather, if you’re careful.  How about trying to grow your own next season? For a first attempt, try the Chenzo

So what have I done with my bumper chilli harvest?  Well, many have already been consumed.  Pickles, sauces & jellies are a good way to get through ‘volume’, and every other meal I cook tends to have some kind of chilli in.  The surplus have either been frozen or dried off in my dehydrator (you can use a cool oven).  They store really well for ages in an airtight container.  I’ll even be grinding some of mine down to make my own chilli powder.

2013 Varieities

 IMG_1586

 Chenzo

Capsicum Frutescens
Yield: Excellent
Heat: ♥♥♥
Medium Skinned
Size – small (3-4cm)
Flavour: Good heat, some fruitiness
Use – General Purpose, Dries & Freezes really well
Characteristics: Black fruit turning green to red. Compact plan grows well in a pot indoors. Ideal for windowsills. Highest yield of al plants, throughout the season
Grow Again: Yes!

 IMG_1587

 Joe’s Long

Capsicum Annum
Yield: Good
Heat: ♥♥♥
Medium Skinned
Size – Massive (25-30cm!), long thin tapering
Flavour: Good heat, some fruitiness
Use – General Purpose
Characteristics: Green fruit turning red. Large plant suited to greenhouse growing. Took a significant time for fruit to ripen, although these are good rated green.  Disappointing number of green fruit started to rot from the tip for no reason, limiting overall yield.  Dries really well, but size does make storage a problem
Grow Again: Probably not

 IMG_1588

 Las Cruces

Capsicum Annum
Yield: Average
Heat: ♥♥♥
Medium Skinned
Size – small (10-15cm), broad tapering
Flavour: Good heat, some fruitiness
Use – General Purpose, good for roasting & sauces
Characteristics: dark green fruit turning to red. Hotter than anticipated. Relatively early to mature, harvests over a long season. Easily confused with Espanhola once picked – until you taste them – these are much hotter without the full fruity flavour
Grow Again: Possible. Is the yield enough to justify above other cayenne types?

 IMG_1589

 Espanhola

Capsicum Annum
Yield: Poor
Heat: ♥
Thin Skinned
Size – small (15cm+), broad tapering
Flavour: Good heat, some fruitiness
Use – Drying
Characteristics: Large fruit turning dark red. Relatively quick to mature, but low volumes. Fruit is really mild with a terrific flavour, which the snails thought was very tasty.  Dries really well (this is a traditional ‘ristra’ chilli). Would make great mild chilli powder
Grow Again: Possible – amazing flavour,  mildest chilli on test but yield was just too low

 IMG_1604

 Long Slim

Capsicum Annum
Yield: Good
Heat: ♥♥♥
Medium Skinned
Size – medium (5-8cm) thick, tapering
Flavour: Good heat, some fruitiness
Use – General Purpose
Characteristics: Green fruit turning red. ‘Traditional’ cayenne-type chilli, early maturing (NB: there were virtually none of these left to harvest at the end of the season). Freeze well, good for everyday use. Relatively Compact plant. Flavour is perfectly satisfactory
Grow Again: Probably

 IMG_1591

 Delhi Hot

Capsicum Annum
Yield: Excellent
Heat: ♥♥♥
Medium Skinned
Size – long (10-15cm), tapering
Flavour: Good heat, some fruitiness
Use – Ideal for Asian cooking
Characteristics: Dark green fruit turning bright red. Tall plant with amazing yield.  Fruit has heat, but limited flavour – classic ‘Indian’-type cayenne.  Great for curries & Asian cooking.  One of the earliest to ripen with a long season
Grow Again: Yes

 IMG_1592

 Malaysian Goronong

Capsicum Chinense
Yield: Good
Heat: ♥♥♥♥
Medium Skinned
Size – Medium (3-7cm), random, twisted
Flavour: Good heat, good fruitiness
Use – Would need some careful recipe selection – focused on Malaysian & Caribbean dishes
Characteristics: Pale green to bright Yellow. Bushy plant, needs greenhouse warmth. Compared with last season, yield was much smaller, with much larger fruit. Interesting habanero type with a good flavour
Grow Again: Probably not – not as versatile as the Orange Habanero

 IMG_1593

 Super Chilli

Capsicum Annum
Yield: Excellent
Heat: ♥♥♥
Thin Skinned
Size – small (3-5cm), upward pointing
Flavour: Good heat, some fruitiness
Use – General Purpose, Dries really well
Characteristics: Pale green to orangey red. Compact plan grows well in a pot indoors. Similar in characteristics to Chenzo, but fruit is less fleshy, with less ‘fruitiness’ and a more dominant heat. Reminiscent of Tabasco. Ideal for windowsills. Highest yield of al plants, throughout the season
Grow Again: Yes!

 IMG_1594

 Peperone Fuego

Capsicum Annum
Yield: Poor
Heat: ♥♥♥
Medium Skinned
Size – Large (12-15cm), long, thin finger shaped
Flavour: Good heat, great fruitiness
Use – Ideal for Italian cooking
Characteristics: Dark green fruit turning dark red. Tall plant, Italian variety which just didn’t live up to expectations.  The flavour was amazing, with a great balance of heat, ideal for Italian cooking, but the yield was very poor despite being a variety apparently optimised of UK growth
Grow Again: Yes – I will persist. If I can sort out the yield, this would become my Chilli of Choice. Potential candidate for ‘My Perfect Chilli’

 IMG_1597

 Paper Lantern

Capsicum Chinense
Yield: Excellent
Heat: ♥♥♥♥
Thin Skinned
Size – small (5cm), pointy lantern shaped
Flavour: Tolerable heat, some good fruitiness
Use – Wherever you need that Habanero heat
Characteristics: Green through orange to light red. Highest yielding of my Greenhouse Habanero plants, this gave consistent fruit throughout the season.  Much thinner walled than any other Chinense I’ve tried (Habanero, scotch Bonnet, etc), and remains in the ‘tolerable’ heat bracket making this a versatile hot chilli
Grow Again: Yes

 IMG_1596

 Trinidad Congo Red (Habanero)

Capsicum Chinense
Yield: Good
Heat: ♥♥♥♥
Medium Skinned
Size – small (3-5cm), roundish
Flavour: Good heat, some fruitiness
Use – Good for caribbean recipes
Characteristics: Green turning deep red. A good yield of reasonably sized habaneros compared woth last year. Not up to the same volume as the Orange Habanero or Paper Lantern, but it packs a greater punch
Grow Again: Maybe

 IMG_1598

 Orange Habanero**

Capsicum Chinense
Yield: Excellent
Heat: ♥♥♥♥
Medium Skinned
Size – small (3-5cm), bell shaped
Flavour: Good heat, some fruitiness
Use – Caribbean Recipes
Characteristics: Green fruit turning bright, shiny orange. Compact plan grows well in a pot indoors. This plant was covered in fruit for much of the season. It was ‘spoilt’ – growing indoors it probably got a bit more TLC, but this is the best Habanero I’ve ever grown.  Killed off at the start of November to prepar for overwintering, this would have continued to flower & fruit for weeks to come!
Grow Again: Yes!

 IMG_1599

 Morouga Brain Strain**

Capsicum Chinense
Yield: Good
Heat: ♥♥♥♥♥
Medium Skinned, roundish & lumpy
Size – small (3-4cm)
Flavour: Unknown – I’m too scared to try
Use – Self defence?
Characteristics: Bright green fruit turning bright red. Large plant with ‘brain-like’ fruit.  Yielded surprisingly well for a super-hot variety.  But with an estimated scoville rating close to that of US-grade pepper spray, I’ve no idea what to do with this!
Grow Again: No – it’s a novelty, but I have no application for it!

 IMG_1601

 Morouga Scorpion**

Capsicum Chinense
Yield: Good
Heat: ♥♥♥♥♥
Medium Skinned, roundish & lumpy
Size – small (3-4cm)
Flavour: Unknown – I’m too scared to try
Use – Self defence?
Characteristics: As per the Brain Strain, although slightly slower to develop
Grow Again: No

 IMG_1602

 Jalapeño

Capsicum Annum
Yield: Good
Heat: ♥♥
Thick Skinned, round tipped
Size – small (5-6cm)
Flavour: Good heat, some fruitiness
Use – Eat Fresh, Salsas, pickles, jellies
Characteristics: Dark green fruit turning red. Relatively compact plant which tolerates cooler conditions. The thick flesh makes it less of a ‘cooking’ chilli & more of a ‘salad’ chilli
Grow Again: Yes

 IMG_1515

 Bishop’s Crown

Capsicum Baccatum
Yield: Medium
Heat: ♥♥
Thin Skinned
Size – small (3-4cm), bell/hat-shaped
Flavour: Mild, with good fruitiness
Use – Novelty – good for salads, pickles & jellies
Characteristics: Green fruit turning red. Really sprawling (up to 1.5m!) plant that will take over.  Yields low compared with the amount of space it takes up. Novel shaped fruits provide interest throughout the season. Would be good for stuffing if you got enough fruit ripe at once…
Grow Again: No – Stick with jalapeños

 

2013 Chilli Failure!

On the whole, everything went well for my chillies this year.  The one exception was with Capsicum Annum ‘Kung Pao’  – an asian variety targeted especially at stir-fry type dishes.  The writeup for ‘Kung Pao’ was so very tempting, that I was disappointed to 100% gerniantion failure after 2 controlled sowing attempts.  Every now and again you’re going to get a bad batch of seed, and given teh success I had with germinating everything else, that’s what I’ve put this down to.  Would I try these again?  Maybe next year…

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