Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Throw away your television. Chili stuff

Yes it's time for more Red Hot Chilli Pepper malarkey as I attempt to save my chilli plants so they don't have to be grown from seed again next spring. I took a shot at this last year but due to my poor communication we threw away our spent chilli plants last year.

Moving on.

So. Here are what I am tentatively calling my test plants.

Jalapeño mild to medium heat. The reliable work horse of the chilli world. Will produce a pleasant flop sweat on your brow and a warm sensation on your cheeks. More heat than this you are in dare territory!

Anaheim or Stak variety very mild. Just about a pointy sweet pepper really but a prolific cropper.

These are common or garden variety chillis that are uncomplicated to cultivate in a greenhouse. I have found these two plants in particular to have high quality fruits with the jalapeño giving a nice medium heat in cooking.

Sliding scales

For the heat lovers among you there is a chilli heat scale called the Scoville scale.
Here is how it shapes up. The Bell Pepper registers a Zero on the Scoville Scale. No heat.

Conversely the Habenero is a chilli for the serious heat lover. It registers around 300,000 "watts" towards the top end of the Scoville Scale. It has closely related family in the infamous Scotch Bonet and Naga chilli variety used in Jamaican and Bangladeshi cuisine receptively. If there is food in front of you which has been prepared using these, and you are not Bangladeshi or Jamaican or Mexican, then run. You are out of your depth.


There are hotter chillis than the mighty Habenero and it's kissing cousins. A rather unnerving example is that Police grade pepper spray comes in at 5.5 million "watts" on the Scoville Scale.

There are chillies available in this country that are twice as hot at that.

Recent "progress" in crop breeding has produced turbo nutter chillis with names like Mad dog, Mega Death, "Devil's any number of things" and the beautifully poetic "Possible Side Effects".

If this is an avenue you wish to explore than you can do a lot worse than visiting the magnificent Michael Michaud. He's certified organic and probaly has a similar accreditation for his sanity. He is not some loon cross breeding this things in his back garden. He's got a poly tunnel.

Here's the crazy.


Son. You're on your own.

I've grown the Habenaros before and I don't recommend it. They numb your tongue and throat and give you horrendous heartburn. You then get a hot sensation on top of the head and a tingling sensation at the back of the neck. Finally you are drenched in sweat for two hours. Heaven knows what a second bite would do! ( Thank you Peter Mahler)

Example. A teaspoonful of oil from a four year old jar of roasted habeneros will be sufficient to "heat" about 2lbs of chile con carne or a fiery curry to a level where you cannot feel your tongue. Handle only with rubber gloves. Burn the gloves after you have use them. Burn everything else the gloves touched. Lunacy!

Here's your 4 year old jar of roasted Habenaros. Oh yeah. I did! SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO!

Back to the sanity

The Jalapeño registers around 5,000. You know these little guys. These are the chillies that Old El Passo Corp put in the pickle jars and sell to you at £1.75 for 100gs

The Anaheim registers around 250 and is suitable for salsas and adding a zing to a salads or as Homer Simpson would say "suitable for some one recovering from surgery!"

It's basically a pointy sweet pepper.

Once Autumn has passed and the crops have stopped growing we'll look at how to preserve the plants from the tricksy English Winter.

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