Chillies & Hot Sauce
This is the first year that we've had our polytunnel and only one thing has been on our minds since the poles were sunk into the ground last spring... chillies! It's sometimes hard to comprehend the shear power held within these small fascinating fruit. In addition to the heat they also carry with them an abundance of medicinal qualities, loaded with vitamin C and beta-carotene, they help contribute towards maintaining healthy eyes, skin and immune systems.
At the point of selecting chilli seeds, your mind immediately runs wild, heading straight for the hottest seeds you can get your hands on. Luckily for us, South Devon Chilli Farm (https://www.southdevonchillifarm.co.uk/) had all the answers and were on hand to help us choose from a wide variety of chillies. We constructed a well balanced portfolio of some super hot, some mild and some perfumed. There is a chilli for everyone, even for the spice-averse!
It was our first year trying to grow chillies and the information that South Devon Chilli Farm provided was fantastic for getting us started. We got our seeds germinating a little late in the season at the end of March. The seeds took a while to get going compared to some of the other fruit seeds we were germinating, but that's normal. We started them inside, in the dark, in small seedling pots; after they had about 5 or 6 main leaves we transplanted them into their bigger pots.
We found the chillies to be a real slow burner in terms of development in the polytunnel which was between 25 and 35 degrees for most of the summer months. We didn't face too many problems in the growing phase but flowering started late, around the end of August. Luckily having the polytunnel meant we didn't have to rush the fruiting phase and we're still picking the last of the chillies at the time of writing, in late November.
We thought our yields were strong this year, all things considered (starting late and it being our first year). We managed to harvest roughly 2 lbs. of chillies across 6 plants. As chillies are perennial, a trick we are going to implement this winter to increase our production next year is to 'over winter' our plants. This means cutting back a lot of the vegetation and trimming the roots of the plant. This will give us a head start next year and hopefully ensure that the flowering will take place earlier in the season, utilising the heat of the summer sun a little more.
Another tip for harvesting chillies is being hot on the harvest of chillies as they approach ripening. There is a ripening chemical that is released from the plant into the fruiting bodies. Through the timely picking of ripe chillies the ripening agent is more freely available to promote ripening in other fruits, thus increasing the speed and efficiency of this process. We learnt to pick the chillies when they were roughly 75% ripe and then place them in a paper bag with a ripe apple. The ripening agent released from the apple will continue to ripen the chillies in the paper bag - genius.
We made some amazing hot sauce from the chillies we grew this year. It included some of our Carolina Reaper chillies (the hottest chilli in the world) and we balanced out the intense heat with some more perfumed chillies such as the Trinidad Perfume and Aji Lemon. The unit for measuring the heat of chillies is called the scoville and the Carolina Reaper comes in at an average of 1,600,000 scovilles! For a comparison, a jalapeño is 3,500 - 8,000 scovilles. Our hot sauce will be available to buy on our website soon (www.threepools.co.uk/shop).