Wednesday 9 February 2011

The 2011 Chilli selection

Most of you will realise by now that I have adopted the Chilli as the symbol of my blog; my "signature plant", you might say. This is because I love growing chillis and, to a limited extent, eating them. Unlike some chilli fans I'm not a fanatic. Maybe I have a delicate constitution, but I find that eating too much chilli has serious adverse effects on my digestive system. However, I do enjoy the taste of chillis, and I do like a bit of spicy heat in my food when it is appropriate. And that doesn't mean just in curries. Many of the world's cuisines use the chilli. We all know that chillis are used a lot in Asia and in Mexico, but how many people associate the chilli with Italian cuisine? You'd probably be surprised to know how often it is added to Italian food! Many of you will be familiar with Arrabbiata sauce though. All'arrabbiata means "angry style", named after the heat of the chillis.  So next time you make Clams with Linguine, or even a simple ragu sauce, why not try adding a few chilli flakes and see if you think it improves the dish?

Just recently I have been considering which chillis to grow for the 2011 season. I have learnt that growing chilli plants from seed that you have saved yourself is probably not the best plan, because the chilli is very promiscuous and will cross-pollinate with any other varieties within range. This means that the second-generation plants may well be completely different. For this reason, I will not be pinning too many hopes on the seeds from this little batch of beauties....

You have to admit though that they have wonderful visual appeal. Some people grow and dry chillis just for ornament. A string of dried chillis like these hanging in your kitchen would look really stunning.


This year I will be growing the following types of chilli from purchased seeds:


As you can see, I have got:
  • Pinocchio's Nose, from Thompson & Morgan. These ones allegedly grow as long as 25cm / 10ins.
  • Hot Portugal, from Plants of Distinction. Described in their catalogue like this: "Sturdy upright plants with heavy yields of smooth glossy scarlet fruit of 6inches or longer. Hot as Hades! 65-75 days from transplanting. Heat rating: 5." (Out of 5 that is...) 
  • Fuego F1 from Nicky's Nursery. These ones are supposedly very compact, and thus suitable for container growing on your patio. They earned an RHS Award of Garden Merit, so they should be good.
  • And the ones from Wahaca (the restaurant). They are for the Serrano variety. Nice idea, this; the seeds are presented in a little pack like a book of matches. Each book has 5 "matches" each with a chilli seed embedded in its tip. To sow the seed you tear off a match and simply push it into your compost to the depth of the match (seed end downwards of course!). What could be simpler? In 2010 I grew a couple of these, and they did really well, producing zillions of fruits.
There is just one variety of chilli that I do want to grow from seeds I saved myself. I don't know its official name, so I nicknamed it "Long Medium", after its physical characteristics. It produced a mass of quite long (about 7 - 10cm) fruits with a medium level of heat - say 3 out of 5, perhaps. It proved to be a very versatile kitchen ingredient. We had so many fruits that we gave lots away (Emma, this is the one you raved about...), and we froze a lot more.

I think you will agree that my 2010 crop is ample evidence that you don't need hothouse conditions to grow chillis successfully. All my chillis are grown outdoors (a little protection is afforded early in the year by my portable plastic greenhouses), and the Summer of 2010 in England was hardly a scorcher.


  1. Now I know what All'arrabbiata means. I usually add in some chili paste to the pasta sauce if my son in not sharing with me. We were surprise last year when we made chili growing as perenniel nestled in between broccoli plants it fruit for us through winter. I guess the broccolis has made a warm micro-climate for the chili.

  2. I also have a plan to grow some kinds of chilis like red chili and black chili introduced in my blog last year.
    I will learn how to make "Peperoncino" by harvesting time.

  3. I love the idea of a chilli called Pinocchio's nose!

  4. You have convinced me to grow chillies next year...just coz they look so wonderful.

  5. Beautiful chillies!

  6. I am always growing one kind of chilies and I'm always saving seeds from it. Last year I sowed also some kind of purple chilies, I hope they did not cross with my old variety.

  7. Ooo Mark, I admire a man who can grow a good chilli, and you most certainly can do that! That last chilli plant is one to be proud of, look at how much fruit it has!

  8. @Vrtlarica ana; do you have any photos of your purple chillis? I would love to see them if you have. Do you use them in cooking, or do you grow them just for ornament?

    @Ali, you should be able to grow good chillis in your garden. They like lots of moisture and lots of sunshine. The one in that picture you mentioned is nearer to the sweet pepper style capsicum than the others I grew. It is fleshier and not so hot.

  9. I can't wait to grow hot chilis this year. I'm going with Mr Fothergills Pepper (Hot) Cayenee seeds (only because I got them free with a mag subscription gift pack. The Pinocchio's Nose look interesing and look forward to seeing how you get on. If they trial good for u I might try it.

  10. I love hot chillies and always grow them, but I'm the only one in my family that enjoys eating them.. I usually sneak them into recipes! Even if I didn't like them, I would plant them for the wonderful color they add to the garden :)

  11. AAARRGH, i have been sent in a constant loop by google logging in to try and comment and now managed to comment on the wrong post - its Janes and wanted to say Looks like your chilli plans are comming along nicely this year i am a bit behind this season as you can see.

    This year I am growing, Yellow Scotch bonnet, chocolate habarno, padrons, jalapenos, cherry bombs, ring of fire, krakatoa, black naga and Chilli Willys.


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