Back in March, I challenged the members of my local gardening club to a chilli challenge.
All were given a packet of Chilli ‘Numex Twilight’, my favourite chilli for windowsill growing – it’s a manageable size for indoor growing, and at its peak you end up with a rainbow of decorative chillies that will get the admiration of anyone visiting the house.
I set two classes for the challenge – most number of chillies on one plant, and the healthiest looking chilli plant. To level the playing field I provided everyone with a stash of 2 litre pots and the plants had to be grown in these. Other than this they had free reign on compost choice, fertiliser and training (staking, pinching out, etc).
Last Saturday I joined everyone at the local village hall for the end of season flower and produce show. I had been looking forward to seeing how everyone got on, but on Friday evening it suddenly hit me that I’d potentially given myself a really big task. “Why on earth did I choose most number of chillies as a category!?” I had visions of me being there all day, constantly losing count and starting again.
So as I sheepishly entered the hall I was relieved to see ten plants for judging with varied crops of chillies on them.
All the plants had chillies that I would easily recognise as Numex Twilight, but it was interesting to see the variation in habit and size. One reached well over 3½ foot while another wasn’t much more than 18inches high. Most had the small leaves expected of the variety while one or two had large leaves rivalling sweet pepper plants.
Lowest chilli count was 1 (an easy job for me!). Yet I awarded this plant third place in the healthiest plant category – lush foliage with plenty of life left in it for cropping through winter.
The heaviest cropping plant had 203 fruits on it, although none of them had yet ripened. The plant looked so healthy too, that I also gave it 1st place in the second category.
Judging was carried out in the morning, I then returned for the open show in the afternoon, bringing with me my best Numex Twilight plant to show the rainbow of colours that everyone could expect from their plants. Winners announced, I was called on to read out the raffle winners, many of whom went home with Thompson & Morgan seeds for sowing next season. Winners of the chilli categories received seeds of my 10 favourite Thompson & Morgan chillies plus a book on chillies kindly donated by another member.
I received many a compliment for my chilli plant (admittedly grown in larger pot, but fed just once back in June).Returning home I decided to make a feature of it in the kitchen. Setting it alongside my chilli chain – a mix of chillies picked from my plants, all strung together with a needle and thread (the needle goes through the stalks so the fruit is undamaged). These are then hung to dry out ready for a long life of varied uses in the kitchen.
I hope you are all doing as well with your plants. I’d love to see how you are getting on, post your photos on the Thompson & Morgan Facebook page.
Find more chilli articles, growers guides and a few tasty recipes at our chillies & sweet peppers hub page.
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s quality control manager, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.