Chilli festival

In this strange year for crops it appears that we are about to enjoy a bumper crop of chillies – a visit to the greenhouse reveals a veritable chilli forest, including healthy plants with flowers and fruit in abundance. None are ripe yet, but they are starting to change colour.

Mainly Lemon drop – you can see the green unripe fruit amongst the leaves

I have been trialling varieties for a number of years now, and have finally identified ones that do well in my greenhouse here in west Wales. I only grow two*, both from The Real Seed Catalogue. The first is Lemon Drop – a slender fruit that ripens to a beautiful lemon yellow colour and has a reasonable amount of heat and a slightly citrus flavour. This variety is good for drying for use over the winter.

A forest of chillies – purple flowers on Alberto’s Locoto

The second is not, in fact, a different variety but a different species, it’s called¬†Alberto’s Locoto (not sure of the scientific name). Alberto’s Locoto is a great plant – it’s a perennial and so you can keep it going for a number of years. When you do need more you can simply save seeds yourself –¬† because it is a separate species, it doesn’t cross with any of the other capsicums and so it breeds true. It is a lovely plant – hairy leaves, purple flowers and bright red fruit when ripe. And finally, the chillies are good to eat – they reliably have a decent amount of heat, unlike some chillies I have grown in the past.

Which reminds me… it’s worth noting that all capsicums/peppers/chillies are perennial and, with a little care, they will survive over the winter. Like many vegetables, we treat them as annuals and replant each year, but I have had some very successful crops of peppers in a second or even third year. You can either keep them in the greenhouse (as long as it doesn’t get too cold) or bring them into the house or conservatory (if you have one). Just keeping a couple going is worthwhile if you don’t have much indoor space, as they will crop earlier the following year than newly planted individuals.

-oOo-

*In fact it’s not entirely true that we only have the two varieties; we also have the Hungarian Wax peppers, which we are now referring to as Russian Roulette peppers. We were given the seed and will never grow them again, because their flavour is so unpredictable. I had been led to believe that they started sweet and got hot as they ripened up. This is a lie. Some are hot, some are sweet, the age, colour and plant of origin are not correlated with the flavour at all. As a result Mr Snail-of-happiness and I had the hottest risotto (possibly the hottest dish) I have ever made last week because I naively put two green Hungarian Wax peppers into it without tasting them first. It was impossible to taste any of the other ingredients and we needed some chilled Sauvignon to help us recover! (what an excuse)

Never satisfied

The British are well-known for their obsession with the weather… and we do deserve this reputation. We have been grumbling for weeks now about how cold and miserable it has been and that we haven’t had a proper spring and we can’t transfer our plants outdoors because the risk of frost is not over Then – WHAM – suddenly we are having a heat wave and we’re all complaining that our seedlings are dying of heat stroke. In addition to this, it’s windy today, so they are all dehydrating too. As a gardener it is easy to focus on the adverse effects that the weather is having, so I though that I would try to look at the positives of this massive swing in the weather…

First, we are suddenly making up for the poor electricity generation last month… the solar panels are working at peak efficiency, especially with the wind to cool them down a little.

PHOTOSYNTHESIS! All the well established plants are really building up their resources… potatoes and rhubarb, raspberries and blueberries, redcurrants and sage, chives and willow… and we’re chucking the washing up water on them in the evening to help them along.

Lorna and Gytha… not complaining about the weather

All the washing is drying in double-quick time… and it smells so fresh when it comes in off the line.

Gytha is recuperating in the sunshine… although she hasn’t started laying again, she’s bright and perky and enjoying sunbathing.

The wood for burning is seasoning well and drying nice and quickly with the wind… Mr Snail-of-happiness was hopeful that he would be able to light the Kelly Kettle by directing the sun through my hand lens onto the kindling, to minimise the resources used when boiling the water. Sadly this didn’t work, but it was worth a try and we’ll have another go on a less windy day.

And, of course, we feel bright and cheerful on these lovely sunny days and get to drink our tea in the garden… so, let’s count our blessings not complain about the weather!

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