Thinking about chillies

Why think about chillies anyway? – after all it’s November.  But then we like to cheer ourselves up at the Potwell Inn by reading seed catalogues and planning next year, so chillies are among the earliest seeds to be sown, and it’s always best to order seeds early because the seed companies often run out of popular varieties quite quickly when the season gets going.  According to my notes we sowed our chilli seeds in the last week of January this year. We sowed a little round and mild chilli called ‘Pearls’, some Jalapenos, a mid-heat F1 Hybrid called Apache and finlly habaneros.  This is the first year we’ve ever tried to grow them, so I wasn’t expecting miracles, but we’ve now got a couple of heated propagators with LED lights, so it seemed the obvious time to give it a go. I think we underestimated the appetite of the young plants for heat and light, so initially we ran the propagator at about 22C which turned out to be at the very bottom end of the required temperature.  The milder chillies germinated anyway, but the habaneros didn’t show and by the time I realized my error and turned up the heat I think I’d lost them so we got 0% germination for those. Next year we’ll at least get the temperature right from the outset. The other mistake, I fancy, was using pure Sylva Grow instead of a soil based compost.  Like most allotmenteers these day we’re trying to avoid peat, but that leaves us in a bit of a quandary with finding the appropriate equivlent sowing compost – any ideas would be most gratefully accepted!  I think next season we’ll make up our own mixture of peat free compost and soil if no better advice comes along.

As ever we had masses more plants than we could use, so we gave loads away to family and fellow allotmenteers, and in the exceptionally hot weather they all grew very well. The Jalapenos did as well outside as they did in the greenhouse. The pearls had a wonderful flaIMG_4753vour but almost no heat at all, and the jalapenos too even milder than we expected.  The only one that gave us any heat was the Apache, but we missed the habaneros when it came to making chilli sauce this autumn. I was never that keen on chillies but as time’s gone on my taste for using them in the kitchen has increased, and we both seem to be adapting to the hotter flavours.

The sauce recipe was from James Wong’s “How to eat better” and it’s turned out beautifully fragrant as well as quite hot – we seem to be romping through it, and I’ve added it to all sorts of dishes to give a touch of background heat. Next season I think we’ll leave out the Pearls and possibly the Jalapenos as well, and go for the hotter ones again.  Our problem is that the greenhouse is terribly small at 6X4 and one of the standout successes this season were the greenhouse cherry tomatoes.  Apart from being delicious fresh, they’ve been brilliant dried and preserved in oil, and so we definitely need to make space for them. Then of course there were red peppers and aubergines as well.  Perhaps we need a bigger greenhouse …….

We certainly need more space.  We’ve been getting rude letters from the managing agents at the flat because we’ve occupied a little bit of the landing outside the flat for storing the odd barrel of wine and stored veg – life essentials as you might say. They claim it’s a fire hazard but really they’re just cross, because notwithstanding the fact that they make a good living from us tenants, they feel obliged to treat us as dangerous low lifes because we don’t own our own property. I’ve buried a few people in my time and I never saw anyone yet stuff a house into a coffin so they could take it with them.  “There are no pockets in a shroud” I say.  Anyway, below is a picture of our living room window in the spring.  We’ve got four south facing windows at he front of the flat and they all look pretty much like this by March.

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Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

3 thoughts on “Thinking about chillies”

  1. Hey, don’t forget fruits you seem to be biased towards the veg, our Passion fruit did really well this year see pics I can let you have a young plant next spring, even if the fruits aren’t up to much the flowers our spectacular and very helpful for a sermon if you needed one ha ha!! its also a great coverage plant.

    Keep posting Jude

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    1. We did plant five cordon apple trees last autumn but only one fruited and gave us a single gigantic James Grieve fruit. Next season I hope they’ll have their roots down and we’ll get more. We’ve just added a second variety of rhubarb, and there are three of each blackcurrant redcurrant and gooseberry as well as a strawberry bed. Trouble is they all seem to land up as jams and preserves. I suppose we could do afternoon teas at the Potwell Inn – I can think of a couple of likely customers!

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