Gardening Magazine

Chilli Update

By Mwillis
As regular readers know, I have been complaining for ages now about how poor our weather has been this Summer.  My chillis have suffered accordingly. They like hot, sunny conditions, but they have not been getting them. [Ironically, today we are experiencing what is optimistically being referred to as a Mini Heat-wave!]

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"Purira"


All my chillis are grown outdoors from about late May onwards, after they get too big for the little plastic greenhouses. I have most of them in pots lined up next to one of the raised beds.
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As you can see in that photo, they are in a range of different sizes. Some of them have grown to about three feet tall, others are still at about 8 inches. Of course, much of the size variation is due to the variety of plant. The one on the right here (below), in a green pot, is "Brazilian Starfish", which is the biggest of the bunch. Actually, this particular plant is not big by the standards of the variety. It is the one I grew from a side-shoot cutting last year, and over-Wintered indoors.
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This is a flower of the "Brazilian Starfish":
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Flowers like that eventually give way to fruit like this:

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"Brazilian Starfish"


Some of the chilli plants remain stubbornly small and unenthusiastic, like this "Jay's Peach". I grew this variety last year too but it never even produced any flowers. This year it does at least have some buds, but I can't say it looks likely that they will ever set fruit.

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"Jay's Peach"


However, with a few exceptions, most of the plants are setting fruit now, and those that aren't do at least have some flowers. This one is "Puma", another which failed to produce any fruit last year, so this is a definite improvement.

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Lots of flowers on "Puma"


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A closer view of some of the little fruits on "Puma"


This next one is the "Challock Chilli" that I am trialling on behalf of Stephen Shirley at Victoriana Nursery Garden. My photo shows the first fruit to set, which is currently about the size of an almond. Other fruits are just beginning to set, but they are still very tiny.
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One of the most enthusiastic plants so far is "Purira". It is covered in flowers and has about a dozen fruits so far. Some of them are plain green, like this one:

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"Purira"


Others are partially purple / black, like this one:

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"Purira" - spot the ladybird larva at top right!


Probably the first to produce ripe fruit will be the two "Aji Limon" plants that I kept from last year. If so, this will be a major success for me because this variety is usually the last to produce mature fruit. They already have a few quite big fruits:

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Fruit of "Aji Limon"


...and plenty of flowers too. 

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Flower of "Aji Limon"


Forgive me if you know this already, but all chillis fit into one of five main species. If you want to know more about the five families, Wikipedia has a good brief summary. It says:
"The five domesticated species of chili peppers are as follows:

Identifying a chilli is often facilitated by looking at the flowers, which can usually help you to place it in one of those species, as a start. For example, try comparing the "Aji Limon" flower with the earlier one of "Brazilian Starfish" and I think you will see the family resemblance. They are both examples of the Capsicum Baccatum.
What do you make of this flower though? It's one from the "Puma" plant. From the front there is little to see, because the embryonic fruit appears very early and obscures the petals, but it has lovely markings on the backs of the petals:

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"Puma"


Prize for the ugliest fruit so far goes to "Gusto Purple":

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"Gusto Purple"


Does it look like a head with a turban, with one eye bandaged, and the tongue sticking out, or is that just my wild imagination??
The thickness of the stems on this plant is worth noting.  It is very sturdily built.

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"Gusto Purple"


In addition to my "main crop", I have a small number (7) of very much smaller chilli plants - late germinators and ones sown as "insurance" - and these ones are growing much more rapidly than the others, because I have been able to keep them in the mini greenhouses, though this won't be possible for much longer. This is one of them, a "Red Habanero", grown from seed sent to me by my friend Chris Holmes:
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It's a great specimen, but I only wish it had come on a bit sooner. It is one of those that just sat sulking for ages before finally springing into top gear about a month ago. I don't know what made the difference to be honest. It certainly wasn't the advent of Summer! Will it be able to produce ripe fruit before the Autumn frosts? I doubt it, but this plant is a likely candidate for over-Wintering if I choose to do that again.
In case you're wondering whether I feed my chilli plants, Yes, I do. I use "Tomorite" tomato food, which is good for any "fruiting" vegetable, such as aubergines, courgettes and chillis, as well as tomatoes. If there is enough to spare after feeding the tomatoes, the chillis also sometimes get some of the Comfrey Tea. I think I must give them a dose of that soon because after all my foraging I'm certainly not short of Comfrey this year.

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