chilliThe Grow Diary of a Chilliholic – January 2015

My name’s Kris and I’m a Chilliholic. It’s been nearly a year since I last opened a seed packet, and I’m about to fall off the wagon!

I go through it every January. With the dust settled after an active Christmas, and the spring growing season still so far away, I turn into ‘The Impatient Gardener’. That’s when I know it’s time to take the edge off by planning my chilli crop for the year ahead, getting seeds ordered and prepping for an end of month sowing.

I’ve grown chillies for years and have enjoyed eating them much longer than that. Each year I grow more varieties, but my addiction really took hold three years ago. After a really good season in the greenhouse I entered a local chilli growing competition for a bit of fun. The judges disqualified my entry for having more than one plant in a pot. To rub salt in the wound I was told I’d have taken 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place if my three plants had been in their own pots. The next year I returned with three plants, entered two categories and took 1st place and two 2nd place positions. What a buzz!

I could talk chillies all day, but that doesn’t make for a user-friendly blog! Instead I’ll spread my passion across the year as I offer my monthly tips for your plants and show you how I grow mine. For now here are the reasons why, if I could only ever grow one type of plant for the rest of my life, it would be chillies:

KC-Chillies1Why I love cooking with chillies

In the early days it was all about riding the adrenaline rush of a hot curry, getting a buzz from the burn in my mouth and going on to push my limits with hotter varieties. I once made a Thai stir fry so hot that it gave me a nose bleed! (Believe me, it can happen – Google ‘chilli nose bleed’). I still enjoy the heat but when you get hooked on chillies you eventually realise, for the sake of your taste buds alone, that things need to change.

I still fall off the wagon every now and then – perhaps dropping some Norfolk Naga into a curry, but I’ve mainly got things under control. These days it’s about exploring the different tastes and flavours to be found hiding behind the heat and matching them to the right cuisine – Thai, Indian, Jamaican, Mexican etc – in order to create dishes that won’t have the people I cook for running for the milk bottle, eyes streaming!

This year I’ll be using the bulk of my crop to make a variety of long-store sauces that lend themselves to the different cuisines I enjoy cooking.

chilliWhy I love growing chillies

The variation – There are so many types to try both in terms of flavour, fruit size and growth habit. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of hunting down and researching “next year’s crop”.

Ease of care – I’ve never had any problems with my plants other than the odd aphid attack.

Beauty – many varieties make excellent dual-purpose houseplants. I’d happily grow Scotch Bonnets for their crinkled heart-shaped foliage alone, and the symmetrical habit of Chilli ‘Loco’  astounded me last season.

Length of season – Its best to start as early as possible to get the biggest plants, but even a March or April sowing will give you a good return, with plants cropping well into late autumn. I still have a plant, sown last January, holding on to a few fruits in my unheated greenhouse a year later!

This year I’m growing 15 varieties, more than ever before:

Tabasco, Praire Fire, Padron, Naga Jolokia, Numex Twilight, Demon Red, Tropical Heat mix, Fuego F1, Krakatoa F1, Paper Lantern, Jalapeno Summer Heat F1, Pot Black, Hot Cheyenne F1, Poblana Ancho.

Some I’ll look at individually in more detail in later blogs, some I’ll group together, and others may not get much of a mention until the end of the season when I look back at my results. For an overview of the plants on my list, plus some other that I just don’t have the room for this year, Click Here.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll set out my secrets for sowing success.

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