Chilli Mania

I was chatting online this morning with some like minded souls, who are also in the midst of summer gardening. The subject of growing chilies in Tasmania came up and it made me realise what an addict I am. Where most of the people on the forum had a few chilies for various purposes, there was one fellow who had multiple plants – and me. I counted this morning when I watered the greenhouse. I have 15 different varieties this year, and most them multiple plants.

One part of the Chilli Collection

One part of the Chilli Collection

Chilies are so much more than just mouth burning, demonic plants for the insanely masochistic. There are many different notes that accompany the heat and will compliment different dishes in multiple ways. And there are many, many different varieties and levels of heat. I think it’s more a question of finding the flavours that suit you.

For my spice-loving household, I have everything from a ridiculously hot Rocoto or Tree Chili (C. pubesens aka. Manzano for the apple-shaped fruit) to a very mild, sweet form that is incredibly prolific and provides a lovely tangy note in salads.

Manzano or Rocoto Chilli

Manzano or Rocoto Chilli

At the moment, I’ve got Rocoto’s starting to size up while the plant is still producing beautiful purple flowers. This chilli really packed a punch in it’s first year. All the reading I’d done suggested it was a mid-heat fruit and being so thick and fleshy, I thought it’d be a good candidate for stuffing with cottage cheese and baking.

Well, I made it through half of mine before I couldn’t feel my tongue or lips anymore. It was more like a very nasty Habenero in terms of heat and had similar fruity overtones. Rocotos are still treasured but respectfully dried for winter curries now!

I’ve found over the years, the heat scale can be quite variable. It seems to depend so much on the growing season, which is relatively short here in Tasmania, how much water and sunlight the developing fruit gets and what the plant is fed. I grow all my chillies in the greenhouse at present and combined with the mega crop of basil I’ve got this summer, it’s getting pretty crowded in there! But the key feature seems to be speed. I’ve noticed over the years that really hot chillies are the ones that take longer to ripen, such as the Rocotos and Habeneros.

Whether I’m growing from seed or potting up purchased plants, I usually put some used coffee grounds and a little dolomite in my potting mix for chillies and enrich it with mushroom compost or worm castings. Like any greenhouse plant, the potting mix needs to be just right not too heavy – but not too sandy or pots will dry out quickly on even a relatively mild day. If planting out in garden beds, mulch is essential to keep the roots moist and keep them well watered.

I’m loathe to admit it, but I’ve been a bit slack this year – I still have four punnets to be pricked out into grow

The Punnets of Shame

The Punnets of Shame

tubes and two trays of grow tubes that have to put in pots!

Included in these are Poblano Ancho and Serrano chillies to go into pots and Red Habeneros, a stunning Royal Black and the last of my first (and favourite) Habenero that are finally big enough to go into grow tubes. (If you’re interested in making/recycling your own grow tubes, there’s a post about it here).

Some years ago on a whim, I bought a Habenero, who we named “Fabio” because he was the most beautiful chilli in the world. He survived as a house plant for several years and a couple of moves under quite atrocious conditions and gave us many beautiful, ridiculously hot chillies. In his last year, I managed to save quite a lot of seed – and this is the final batch.

I’m trying to be patient, waiting for Inferno, Ring of Fire and Hot Portugal seedlings to start flowering but it’s difficult! In the meantime, I’ve already been eating Jalapenos in salad, Cayenne and Thai chillies in curries and stir fries and I’ve started drying some in the dehydrator. The big winner so far is a heirloom Bulgarian form I picked up cheaply in spring. After being potted up, it hasn’t grow much but just keeps producing flowers and fruit non-stop! The fruit are quite long and go from dark green to a rich, carrot orange. The flavour is also rich and spicy, without being overbearingly hot.

And in the process of writing this blog, I’ve just bought some more unusual chilli seed for growing at the end of next winter. All in all, it’s chilli heaven here 😀

What’s your favourite chilli? Please leave a comment below.

Inferno budding up

Inferno budding up

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tanya
    Jan 07, 2016 @ 22:25:04

    Craig really loved his Manzano last year but our most used and productive is Jalapeno. He was a maniac last year but we have moved so it’s a bit low key this year till we build stocks again. He was lamenting just this morning about whether 24 bushes (diff varieties) would be enough! He loves to make his own tobasco style sauce but we really value the pickled jalapeno for pizza Fridays. Nice to meet another maniac 😉

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  2. narf77
    Jan 08, 2016 @ 11:43:36

    You blog! How hard is it to find other Tasmanian bloggers ;). When I read that you were a chilli grower I held in my excitement. I have been hunting for poblano and ancho chillies for a long time as I have always wanted to try them in Mexican recipes and this post has me twitching with joy because if all goes well, I might be able to buy some local seed! Please let me know if I can buy seed from you as I would love to grow some of the more unusual chilli’s. As I mentioned on Facebook, I am currently amassing as many edible perennials as I can and haven’t be focussing much on annuals this year. If it’s OK to buy some seed from you let me know and I will PM you on Facebook about how we are going to do this. How exciting! A fellow chilli lover, gardener AND blogger in one 🙂

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  3. Roslyn
    Apr 10, 2017 @ 22:43:38

    Please let me know where I can buy chilli plants and/or seeds in Tasmania. I have a large veggie garden (1700m2) and am keen to grow them. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Debra Manskey
      Apr 10, 2017 @ 23:44:33

      Hi Roslyn, I’ve found Rangeview Seeds to be very reliable and they post throughout Tasmania. Occasionally you find punnets of Jalapeño and Cayenne at nurseries in spring but coming into autumn now it’s the wrong time to be planting them. I mostly grow mine as short-lived perennials in my greenhouse. I hope that helps? Happy gardening 🙂

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