Friday, 25 October 2013

First Harvest

The time had arrived for the first harvest.  Picking the ripe pods will encourage the others to ripen faster and will avoid the risks of the fruit dropping off or rotting on the plant.

Scotch Bonnets
Trinidad Scorpions
Capa Conic
I took the opportunity to prune the plants whilst I harvested.  The canopy of some of the plants had got so dense that, with the damp weather, some of the plants had developed spots of mould on the flower heads.  I cut back these areas to allow more air to move around the plants an let some sunlight reach the  unripe fruit.

Some of the pods from this year's initial harvest, neatly sorted by type.
Golden Cayenne - This plant has been fantastic this year with plenty of large, healthy fruit.

Scotch Bonnets - the yellow ones are destined for Sunburn sauce.
L to R; Orange Magnum Habs, Fruit Burst Hab & Peach Hab
Paper Lantern Habanero - all off one plant and there are plenty more still to ripen.
The thinner, longer varieties were strung onto thread and hung to dry over a radiator. These will be grown to powder for storing and eventually adding to sauces and meals. The varieties with thicker flesh, such as Scotch Bonnets, Habs and the Scorpions were cut in half, packed in bags and frozen for blitzing and using in sauces later in the year.

L to R; Ring of Fire, Paper Lantern, Superchilli & Lemon Drop,  Golden Cayenne and a selection of green chillies.
There's more to pick this weekend, the only concern is when I'll find time to make the sauces I've got planned.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Not long left...

...before harvest time.

Some welcome Autumn sun is helping the chillies ripen and I suspect that we only have a few weeks left before the November frosts put an end to the growing season.

Looking like a good harvest this year
There's plenty of unripe fruit on the plants and a good number now turing red (or in some cases yellow). The Chilligrows are once again proving their worth with the plants growing at tremendous rates (despite or because of the brutal pruning they received recently).

The Chilligrow chillies looking promising

Trinidad Scorpion
I've not yet tasted a Trinidad Scorpion and am somewhat wary about doing so.  I've got two of these plants in the Chiligrow and although both have produced some fruit, I'll probably only retain one for next year (assuming it survives the winter).

Friar's Hat
The Friar's Hat has yet to ripen any fruit but there are plenty of the odd-shaped fruit on the three plants.  When they ripen, these fruit are reserved for the Frisky-Friar Jam that I made a couple of years back.  A tangy sweet jam, not too hot but perfect with cheese and crackers.

Peach Habanero in the 'Gurgler'  Flood and Drain hydroponic uni
I already have plans to redesign the 'Gurgler' Flood and Drain system that I built this year.  I'd like to use it with the plants in Root-Pouches so you get the benefit of the airflow from the flood and drain and also the air - pruning from the root pouches.

An amazing crop of Paper Lantern Habaneros
The Paper Lantern habanero is just incredible with the branches sagging under the weight of all the fruit.  With these chillies rated 350,000 to 450,000 Scovilles, I'll have plenty available for hot sauce production.

Scotch Bonnet grown in a Root Pouch
I love Scotch Bonnet Chillies, not only do they have an amazing fruity taste but the heat level is such that you can use them in everyday cooking or blow your head off if you prefer.  I love Caribbean food and these are the staple chilli for Jerk Seasoning. For one of the tastiest curries you'll find, try this Levi Roots recipe (but don't be a wimp, put the whole chilli in, seeds and all).

I've got a number of Scotch Bonnets on the go this year, including a yellow version for making my 'Sunburn' sauce, a fruity, medium hot sauce using Mango and Papaya.  Hopefully I'll have enough fruit to keep up with demand for this popular sauce.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Chilli Contest

In September 2012, at our wedding, my wife Marina and I distributed secret chilli seeds for our inaugural Chilli Challenge.

The competition was to grow the most impressive chilli plant by the time of our first anniversary. The entrants would be judged of the size, health and fruitfulness of their chilli plant.

Unbeknown to our entrants, the seeds we had chosen where Peter Pepper seeds, often known as Chilli-Willys, famed for their unusual and often pornographic fruit.

So with seeds distributed, rules laid down and entrants raring to go, we sat back to await the calls of "Are my chillies supposed to look like this?"

The Cornish Contingent - Emma and James' plants basking in the southern sunshine

Still with flowers on so more fruit to come.

The Yorkshire Chilli Growers - Pam and Jack 

Plenty of fruit on these healthy plants

Neil's unconventional method of planting two-up in a seed tray seems to be paying off.

And the all-important fruit

The Gloucester Growers - Claudio and Diana's plants

And plenty of suitably odd-shaped fruit

 James and Nancy  - Plenty of plants but need a little longer to get to full height.

A hamper of goodies was assembled for the winers, including South Devon Chilli Chocolate, Tracklements Chilli Jam, Sweet Chilli Sauce and plenty of delicious nibbles.

Judging took place on the 28th of September and the results are as follows...

Grand Champion Chilli Challenge 2013:  Neil Saunders

Tallest Plant: Claudio & Diana Martinez

Most suggestive chilli: Lisa Lavery

Congratulations to all who took part, a fantastic effort, particularly considering the number of non-gardeners who participated.

Next year's seeds are now ready for distribution.  The contest is to grow Joe's Long Cayenne plants and the rules are simple - longest single chilli wins!  The Joe's Long produces pods that are capable of reaching lengths in excess of a foot so impressive entries are expected.