Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Hot Padron

So I’ve been growing the Pimientos de Padron for some time now and with the novelty of sunshine (plus a little judicious pollinating via a paintbrush) I’ve got a number of chillies slowly growing.

Now the thing is with Pimientos is that approximately one in ten is hot whilst the rest maintain a refreshing sweetness.  When I’ve eaten them before I’ve been somewhat disappointed to only once or twice catch a hot one.  So how did the home-grown ones fare? The small batch that I gave to Claudio back at Christmas all turned out to be hot (really quite fiercely hot at that!) so I had high hopes for this second wave.

We cooked them up last night in plenty of scalding olive oil and with a generous seasoning of crunchy sea salt, patted them dry on kitchen roll and tucked in. They were all hot!  Every last one of them was hotter than any Padrons I’ve had before.  They were of course delicious as well with a lovely fresh sweetness alongside the heat.

So why, of the dozen I’ve grown so far, have they all been hot?  They’ve certainly been grown in a hot environment and with a lack of sunlight they’ve taken a long time to mature so maybe slow growing helps as well?  We’ll have to see how hot subsequent batches are to determine what the key factors are.

In the meantime, I can’t wait for the next bundle to mature…

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Summer already?

Hungarian Hot Wax on the office windowsill

Well, not really but it certainly felt like it earlier with the sun streaming through the windows at work.  The reception area (a.k.a. the Greenhouse) was sweltering and the poor chilli plants certainly felt it. Interestingly enough, with the Padron and Orozco wilting under the relentless heat, the Friar's Hat seemed more than happy.  Well they better get used to the heat, after all, it's only February and come the summer we'll be growing some of the most stressed (and subsequently hottest) chillies in the neighbourhood.
Orozco feeling the effects of the heat.

A somewhat wilted Pimientos de Padron.
Meanwhile, back at home the chillies are progressing nicely.  The larger of the plants sown in December are now large enough to need support (wooden kebab skewers do the job perfectly) and even the slower-growing hot varieties are doing well.
Black Naga seedlings

Gino chillies
The mysterious seeds given to me at work (dubbed Gino Chilli) are also growing well.  Can't wait until they fruit so I can have a stab at identifying the variety.  Sadly the second batch of Cherry Chillies haven't sprouted yet either, which is a shame as I had some stuffed with goat's cheese on the weekend and they were delicious.  Also a bit slow on the uptake is the Pasillia Bajio chillies, a variety used in Mexican mole sauces, which I'm also very keen to grow.  I have faith that they will come eventually, I'm just not very good at being patient.

The younger seedlings thrive under the grow light. Once they get older they're moved to a windowsill.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Chilli Chutney

Following the success of the Friar's Hat chilli jam (unofficially dubbed 'Frisky Friar') I decided to have another go at making a chilli preserve, this time aiming for something a bit more like a chutney but with a fruity flavour.

I rooted around for ingredients and put together what I though would be a winning concoction (actually it was just what I had left in the cupboard).

1 large sweet pepper.
1 ripe mango.
4 small onions.
8 cloves of garlic.
Juice of 1 lime
500g jam sugar
500ml cider vinegar
2 tomatoes (de-seeded)
8 Thai chillies
A handful of coriander
A tablespoon of grated ginger

The expertly chopped mango (not by me I must add)
The ingredients ready for the blitzer
The fruit and veg were thrown into the food processor and given a quick blitzing. Meanwhile the sugar was dissolved in the vinegar over a low heat.
The blitzed ingredients
The mixture was thrown into the vinegar and bought to a rolling boil.  The heat was then turned down and the mixture left to simmer until the quantity had reduced by half.
After an hour of boiling vinegar the house was quite fragrant...
Finally, after being allowed to cool the mixture was ladled into sterilised jam jars.

As for flavour, it's got a mild spicy heat from the chillies and a tang of coriander.  Meanwhile the ginger adds a lovely tickle of heat at the back of the throat.  It'll be unveiled to the (selected) public this weekend at a cheese and wine party so we'll get their verdict then. With the Frisky Friar I was so keen to share the jam I ended up giving most of it away to friends and family. With only four jars of this new concoction, then it's quite a limited edition. I may have to limit my generosity to just those with the highest bribes...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A chilli by any other name...

Well as the forest continues its relentless growth and windowsill space becomes more valuable than Manhattan real estate there have been some encouraging successes along the way.  The eight Black Naga seeds planted have all sprouted and are looking healthy. They did take a long time to appear but I understand that this is not unusual with the hotter varieties.

The Black Naga chilli seedlings
Likewise, nearly all the yellow scotch bonnet chillies have sprouted.  These were seeds collected from a chilli that I bought from Sainsbury's and rescued before the rest of it was consigned to a particularly tasty Levi Roots' curry. The fact that so many have grown is encouraging, particularly considering that the cost of two scotch bonnet chillies wasn't a great deal more than the cost of a packet of seeds.

I have had one failure, of the five Red Cherry seeds I planted, not one has reared its head. It may have been a duff packet of seeds or poor planting conditions, too hot, too cold, to damp or dry etc..  Thankfully I do have some spare seeds so I'll give them another try. If that fails then I may sulk a little and pretend I never wanted them in the first place.

The hall of shame, labels from some of the seeds that failed to sprout
With so many varieties on the go it's been something of a challenge keeping tabs on them all. It's cost a fortune in plant labels but, fingers crossed, all the chillies are correctly named and will remain so.  The traditional plant labels and waterproof marker are an easy and cost-effective way of marking up plants but it's hard to find them attractive and for the full grown plants I want something more aesthetically pleasing that won't wash off in the rain or fade in the sun.

The finished stamped copper plant labels.
Once again I've managed to find the most complicated method of doing it but I'm happy with the results.  I've obtained some thin copper plant labels from the local garden centre and a letter-punch set from Screwfix.  It's tedious and fiddly work and my first few attempts were very amateurish, but the labels will last and once the copper obtains a nice verdigris they should mellow into the garden nicely.