Here we are at last. Not only are my serrano chilli plants happy, healthy and producing ripened red chillis, they’ve been producing an absolute abundance of the things over the last month. I captured the first lot of little red monsters as they turned:
The first bunch of these little guys were a bit on the stubby side but as you can see in the picture they were soon followed by some much larger chillis. Very excited as I was I immediately plucked all of the dwarven red ones and had my first meal using homegrown chillis. As it happens I made some quick and impromptu spicy scrambled egg quesadillas.
But that is by far the least of my chilli adventures since I began harvesting them. As I mentioned I have a veritable cornucopia of red and green chillis and have been trying my hand at all kinds of recipes from those made up on the spot, as I’m wont to do, to good old favourites and trying out exciting treats from cookery books. Including some recipes by Thomasina Miers, who’s restaurant the chillis originally came from.
Since that first spicy scrambled egg I’ve made fajitas, enchiladas, an incredibly fiery salsa, guacamole, pumpkin ravioli, stir-fried chilli minced beef, radicchio risotto, chilli jam and the incredibly strange tasting tequila and white chocolate chillis (Which I had seen on BBC’s Sweets Made Simple.). I haven’t stopped there though and I still have no shortage of chillis. In the meantime I’ve strung up a few of the peppers to ripen up and dry out for later usage. I’ll be honest, they are almost guaranteed to end up in some chilli chocolate truffles!
Having grown slowly and steadily over several months my chilli plants have undergone a large growth spurt. The tallest of the plants, Geoffrey, is now as tall as me, having spent the longest time trying to reach even just a metre in height. Most pleasingly, all six plants flowered, sprouting little, delicate white flowers and not long after began to grow chilli peppers. It is quite fascinating to see the peppers growing from within the flowers, eventually knocking off the petals as they grow and sometimes being left with a ‘crown’ created by the decaying remains of the flower on the chilli. The first flower and chilli of my plants I mentioned before. Now that solitary chilli child has dozens of siblings to join it, see below:
In the process of uprighting the chilli plants, they had begun leaning to the side with the weight of the serrano peppers, two peppers had fallen off and I took the opportunity to nibble on the end of one. I was surprised to find it not at all spicy and attributed it to the pepper still being young, and to only nibbling on the fleshy tip of the pepper and not the spicy source of the seeds and other inner workings. According to the great knowledge of the internet the peppers should turn red as they ripen, though it is perfectly acceptable to use them whilst they are green.
I was undergoing my daily chilli plant check, and paying particular attention to the sole flower in bloom on Cellia, when I noticed she’d clearly been visited by a bee and pollinated. Here’s a picture, look closely at the center of the flower:
That right there is the very early beginnings of a chilli pepper. I believe as it grows the flower, having completed its purpose, will die back to reveal the growing chilli. It’s a very exciting moment and I’m looking forward to having this first chilli when it is fully grown.
Look at those chilli plants! To think they were tiny, crumb sized, seeds a few months ago that I had brought home from Wahaca. As you can see in the above picture they have flourished and are beginning to ‘bush out’, growing side shoots and increasing the volume of leaves on them. They have been moved yet again into even bigger pots, these are the pots they will stay in from now on.
You might notice that one of them, Derreck, has grown much taller than the rest. This is, presumably, due to my scientific streak. Shortly after repotting the chillis I went away for a week and was concerned that inside the greenhouse they would not have enough water and would wilt and die. The Summer is upon us and it gets very hot in there. Consequently I moved three of the chillis outside to feed on the rain water but left Derreck inside to see how he would cope. When I returned I discovered he grown into a giant! His leaves are darker and larger than the others but are also sparser. I also planted Geoffrey in some home-mulched compost, the rest are in store bought stuff, which may go someway towards explaining why he is a little behind the rest in his growth.
Now I had six chillis, so where are the other two? Look on:
Thomasina has been brought outside to play, she’s growing slower than the rest, which may be due to her smaller pot, but is otherwise happy sunbathing. Little Pedro, very truly the runt of the litter, has been popped into a hanging basket where he is currently undergoing a growth spurt.
One last note, shortly before I came to write this post I had a pleasant surprise. The very first flower has bloomed on my chillis and the honour goes to Cellia. No longer the biggest chilli she is still nonetheless the matriarch and leader of the pack. The rest of the big pot chillis have unleashed a horde of buds, a few of which you can see below, and will soon also bloom. Enjoy the flower:
My chillis have been growing strong and shortly after my first post about them I repotted them into individual pots. A good haul of six. My dad, who is helping me grow them, made the mistake of getting me to label the plants and I chose to label them with individual names. From left to right: Larry, Pedro, Derreck, Cellia, Geoffrey and Thomasina. They’re named mostly on a whim, but following my Mum’s suggestion one was named in honour of Thomasina Meirs, the Wahaca owner.
Tiny Pedro, as you can see, is the smallest of the plants and I thought for a while he might struggle and die off, but he has been invigourated by the space and is growing strong. Though he is still the smallest of the chillis. The above picture is actually fairly old now and I have a more recent one which shows them all sprouting large, Cellia is the biggest and Pedro the smallest.
I enjoy cooking and for a while now have been working through a Mexican phase inspired entirely by Thomisina Miers and her book ‘Mexican Food Made Simple’. I was thrilled to go to her restaurant Wahaca and taste some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had and I can’t wait to get the chance to go again.
When we left the restaurant we took with us what we assumed to be matchstick books, as souvenirs left on display outside the entrance. It wasn’t until a few days later that I discovered they actually contained Serrano chilli seeds, on sticks for easy planting. There’s also a guacamole recipe included so that you have something to use the chillies in. I thought it was an incredibly novel idea and have put my less than green fingers to the task with pleasing results. I have four of the five sticks sprouting and they are growing strong as you can see:
I can’t wait to cook with the fruits of my labour, there will be much Mexican food once they have fully grown.