Cosmetic chillies, wrong radishes and a new use for Kale …
One thing I learned last year was the advantage of sowing chilli seeds very early. Instructions on some packets would have you sow the fiery peppers in the early spring along with tomatoes, beans and many others. But getting chillis going as soon as January gives them much more time later in the season to ripen fully. Suddenly you have usually green jalapeños going red, and there’s time for a bigger harvest overall.
So today was chilli starting time. That bold red font is deliberate: an attempt to reflect the utter insanity of the varieties on this year’s growing plan:
- Peach Bhut Jolokia – about a million on the Scoville scale
- Yucatan White Habanero – 300,000
- Maya Pimento – 200,000 – 350,000
- Pink Tiger – not measured, but described by enthusiasts as ‘very hot’
- Early Jalapeño – typically 5,000
I’m growing the jalapeños just so that there’s one I can actually eat. Why on earth grow such ferociously hot varieties? I confess – it’s partly for their looks. How shallow is that… When I first saw the Pink Tiger I had to grow it and see those startling purple stripes on a pale background. Likewise the pale Peach Jolokia and the apple-white Habaneros.
The thing is, these very hot varieties don’t germinate as well as the more common (and sensible) chillis. Chances of success are much improved by germinating them before sowing them. Along with the seeds, I bought some of the supplier’s special chilli germination solution. I’ve no idea what’s in the white powder but it looks suspiciously like a small bag of drugs, to the extent that it may be unwise to take any through airport security.
Mixed with water it makes a solution in which you soak the seeds for an hour. Then you dry them, fold them up in wet kitchen towel, seal that in a freezer bag with plenty of air and put the bag in a warm place.
Check the seeds every couple of days and, all being well, there’ll be tiny sprouts in a week or two, which you can then put into small pots of compost. It’s quite a routine but once they’re up as seedlings, they grow just like any other plant. Fingers crossed.
Outside, I picked the last of the late season radishes. These are Nero Tondo (Round Black). Indeed those that I grew early in the season were round, but the late ones were carrot-shaped.
Cooler soil? Less sunlight and photosynthesis? Fewer nutrients left in the ground? I’m not sure why. But they’re still attractive when peeled and have that strong earthy taste.
Oh and when picking and washing the last of the kale, I noticed the absolute resistance of the leaves to cold water. It beads on the surface like it’s been polished and waxed.
Therefore, having been thoroughly soaked in a downpour last week wearing an inadequate coat, to fend off the current rainy weather I propose a range of outerwear made of Nero di Toscana kale. Anorakale perhaps? Maybe not.