Monday, 9 January 2012

Chillies: the plan

I've written at length on the many tomatoes I've grown and will be growing, but this year there are other plans (and plants). Chillies are something I've had mixed experiences with in the past; shop-bought plants often thrive, even outdoors - so long as they get lots of sunshine and adequate watering. In fact, you treat them rather like their close relatives tomatoes (and aubergines), in that they are hungry, thirsty, heat-loving plants, but they seem less prone to disease. From seed, however, I've never succeeded, in part because I haven't been careful enough. Last year I concentrated on tomatoes to the detriment of their kin, which I left lingering as seedlings until they gave up, so this time I'm sowing them earlier - also because chillies seem to be much slower to germinate and grow.

There are many advantages to growing chillies. The plants are small, tending to grow to a fixed size, small bushes at most. This means they need no pruning and little support. The fruits aren't juicy, so they need less water and cope better with drought. Many of their fruits are small, but intensely-flavoured, so you can easily grow enough for your needs - whereas self-sufficiency in most crops is beyond the home grower with an small garden, it's not at all unrealistic in this case. Finally, they can be overwintered - at the very least, the fruits will keep well on the plant, even if it dies, and you might get a second flush the following year (in fact, all these plants are perennials in their homeland).

So here are the varieties I'm going to try. Apologies for poor-quality photos; there aren't many available. The heat ratings (﹆﹆﹆, ﹅﹆﹆, ﹅﹅﹆, ﹅﹅﹅ for no heat, mild, medium, and hot respectively) and other info are from The Chileman, an excellent online resource on the subject:

Black Hungarian ﹅﹅﹆

photo: conalloughry

Attractive Hungarian heirloom variety, with red-to-deepest-purple fruits, and purple flowers. Good flavour.

Chocolate beauty ﹆﹆﹆

photo: Gelatobaby

A dark bell pepper, no heat. An F1 (breaking my normal rules, but I didn't know this when I bought the seeds) with deep-red-to-dark-brown, large fruits.

Corno di toro rosso ﹆﹆﹆

Long, often curved, horn-shaped sweet fruits from Italy. Like the long bell peppers sold in supermarkets, I'm hoping, perfect for stuffing with goat cheese.

Costeno amarillo ﹅﹅﹆

Medium-sized, narrow golden fruits, thin-fleshed with complex aroma, used in yellow mole (Mexican chilli) stews.

Habanero mustard ﹅﹅﹅+

Rare; peach-coloured, warped, blunt fruits, extremely hot.

Hungarian yellow wax ﹅﹅﹆

Long, pointed, Hungarian variety, ripening to orange or red, but harvested unripe when pale yellow-green. Good for pickling.

Onza ﹅﹅﹆?

Could be one of two varieties, either Mexican or Italian (I think it more likely I'm growing the Mexican one). Either way, little information is available.

Red cherry ﹅﹆﹆

photo: Scott Hamlin

A number of similar varieties exist; probably mild, small, round, red fruits. Varying heat. Good for pickling or stuffing with cheese.

I'll post an update once they've started growing.

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