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 flavour 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.