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Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> chile varieties

Scorpion Fields Doing Great

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Marlin Bensinger in Scorpion FieldMarlin Bensinger reports on his field of 'New Mexico Scorpion' chiles in a field near Las Cruces: "The peppers are starting to get their growth spurt.  Most peppers are 9 to 10 inches tall. No blossoms yet but probably will see some in a week or so. No signs of disease or pests so far. The biggest problem is always weeds. This field had alfalfa on it before this. So, the weed population was quite substantial. The tractor/cultivator gets most of the weeds between the rows but there is still need for hoeing and hand pulling of weeds between the plants.  Weeding will become less of a problem as the peppers get taller and bushier. We expect the majority of the peppers will grow to be about 30 to 36 inches tall (hopefully by the end of July).  This field is looking very promising for a couple of non-farmers participating in the details of growing."  My plants in Albuquerque are just a couple of inches behind Marlin's and I have some blooming '7-Pot' chiles!

									
			
		

Popular Plates Fiery Foods CoverOn June 28th, my latest publication, entitled “Popular Plates: Fiery Foods” will hit all the major newsstands in the U.S., including Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, Borders, Costco–all the big box stores.  The publisher, Source Interlink Media is printing 200,000 copies, which is by far the largest print run of any of my publications.  Essentially, this is a book in magazine format that traces the history of spicy foods from the first chile peppers in the Americas to how we cook with them today.  This bookazine makes a great gift for the chilehead in the family, or a friend who wants to get started eating the hot stuff.  There are 80 recipes from all over the world from basic to advanced, plus many photos and illustrations.  I certainly hope everyone enjoys it!


Home Gardening Infographic

Courtesy of MNN


Bedding Plants from Cross Country NurseriesHere's what my superhot chiles ('Trinidad Scorpion' and '7Pot') look like after they arrived from Cross Country (chileplants.com).  They are healthy and vigorous, and are now hardening off under the semi-shade of my potted Meyer lemon plant (which already has small lemons on it).  I've been doing business with Cross Country for a decade, and they never disappoint me with their 500 chile varieties and 275 tomato varieties.  There's only a couple of weeks left to order yours!


Charleston Pepper SunIn an article posted on The Atlantic’s website last week, Gary Paul Nabhan, co-author of Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, addressed the relationship between farming in the Southwest and climate change—both food production and food security have been cast into question with the growing scarcity of water and unpredictable growing seasons and weather patterns, such as drought.

Nabhan points out that with water capacity near its limit for cities and rural agricultural areas, “food security in the Southwest depends upon the security of water supplies being delivered to irrigable land. That capacity, we can now see, has been severely impaired by urban growth in the Sunbelt since World War II, and is likely to be further impacted by the vagaries of weather shifts.”

The burden of addressing such trends, says Nabhan, falls on both the consumer and farmer, and while individual responses may not be enough to reverse the trends. Sustainable agriculture and good farming practices may be the best way to counter the growing threat of food security in the region.

In Chasing Chiles, Nabhan, along with co-authors Kurt Michael Friese and Kraig Kraft, set out to discover the history and potential of America’s heirloom chile varieties. Their journey reveals the chile pepper’s dynamic role in understanding climate change and the future of food production.

So how can food producers and eaters in the Southwest improve their “foodprints?”

“Eat and farm as if the earth matters, as we should have been doing all along,” says Nabhan in Chasing Chiles. “Regardless of how quickly we can implement the specific fixes proposed to mitigate climate change, we all need to reduce our carbon [footprint] and adapt to change in ways that keep the earth’s bounty as diverse, as delicious, and as resilient as possible.”

As an orchard keeper and chile grower, Nabhan has committed to do his share to curve the growing trend of climate change by conserving water between rainfalls, growing regional-appropriate crops, such as drought and heat-tolerant heirlooms, and soil-building.

For the rest of us, Nabhan, Friese, and Kraft have these suggestions in Chasing Chiles:

  1. Explore, celebrate, and consume what diversity can be found locally.
  2. Farmers’ knowledge and problem-solving skills are assets for coping with and adapting to climate change.
  3. Eaters (chefs and consumers) need to vote with their forks, wallets, and ballots in support of more diverse and regionally self-sufficient food systems.
  4. Climate change is best dealt with as one of many compounding factors, not as an environmental impact apart from all others.
  5. Empower local food communities to be “co-designers” of local solutions to global change, and then to creatively transmit their solutions to other communities.

If nothing else, says Nabhan, “I get down on my knees and put my hands into the earth.”

Read more about the history of chiles in America, and their tenuous relationship with biodiversity and climate change in Chasing Chiles, available at Amazon. Click here to read the full article from The Atlantic.


Sources:

“Farming in the Time of Climate Catastrophe,” by Gary Paul Nabhan, www.TheAtlantic.com

Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail, by Kurt Michael Friese, Kraig Kraft & Gary Paul Nabhan, © 2011 Chelsea Green Publishing


The top seller of live chile bedding plants in the country, Cross Country Nurseries, dba ChilePlants.com, has listed their top five best selling varieties, and it's no surprise that superhots dominate the list.

 

Bhut JolokiaThis position figures because of all the superhots, Bhuts have garnered the most publicity over the past few years, and it doesn't seem to matter that it's been dethroned as the hottest pepper in the world.

 

Trinidad ScorpionComing on strong is this variety, now generally thought to be the hottest, at the upper levels measuring 1.2 to 1.4 million Scoville Heat Units.  It has a better name and a more interesting pod shape.

 

7-PotThe third Trinidad variety in a row places in the top 3, showing the remarkable trend of superhots originating in the country of Trinidad & Tobago.

 

Habanero Red SavinaThis plant-patented variety is generally thought to be a variation on the 'Red Caribbean' varieties that are spread around the islands.  It never tested as hot as 577,000 SHU in any other laboratory tests except the one that got it the Guinness record.

 

Bhut Jolokia YellowA bit of a surprise in the number 5 position is this yellow variation of the 'Bhut Jolokia', which is becoming a favorite of chile gardeners.

 

Hats and caps off to Janie and Fernando of Chileplants.com for helping us all out by providing 500 chile varieties.  And what am I growing out of all these superhots?  Scorpion, of course!


Garrity Scorpion Press Release

Above is the press release about our ongoing attempt at the Guinness World Record for what they call "Hottest Chili."  We missed it by that much, but never fear, we'll be back!  Read the entire story here.

 


Scorpions with a ScorpionBy now you've undoubtedly heard about the ongoing competition for the hottest chile in the world award.  Whether it's 'Bhut Jolokia', 'Trinidad Scorpion', 'Fatalii', or others, there are two trustworthy locations for bedding plants and seeds.  Cross Country Nurseries has more than 500 varieties of chile bedding plants, including many of the superhot varieties.  Jim Duffy of Refining Fire Chiles has a store with the largest collection anywhere of superhot chile seeds.

 

Specifically, Scorpion bedding plants are available from ChilePlants.com, here.  Seeds are available in the Store at Refining Fire Chiles, here.


Cabe Rawit Peppers at Market

It should come as no surprise that while the global economy heats up again, the prices of chile peppers across Southeast Asia are increasing, too. Rising food costs, a good indicator of economic inflation, have thus far contributed to concern in the Western world and turmoil in the Middle East. It would seem that Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, is no longer immune to the trouble.

Take a moment to chat with one of Indonesia’s many food vendors, and they’ll tell you the hard truth of their trade – food costs are on the rise, and nowhere is this more evident than with chile peppers, a staple of the local cuisine. Recently, chile pepper prices—particularly the price of Thai chiles, called “cabai rawit,” have jumped between three-fold to nearly ten-fold over the last year, making chiles more expensive than beef in some regions.

What’s causing chile pepper price inflation? In a recent article from Bloomberg Businessweek, contributor William Pesek identifies the culprits: Surprisingly, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has as much a role to play in the increase as recent devastation from La Nina weather patterns.

“Asia, with the exception of Japan, is booming,” says Pesek. “Any cursory look at data on gross domestic product and stock performance shows that. The trouble is, the region has too much of a good thing on its hands. Too many investors are seeking higher returns at the same time Europe is quaking and America’s outlook is shaky.”

So while investors are sending a deluge of cash into Asian markets, the cost of living is surging for local inhabitants. This is particularly worrisome for Southeast Asia, where many of its citizens survive on less than $200 a month. A rise in staple food products such as chile peppers, cooking oil, and rice could mean a difficult time ahead.

It’s not just food vendors and economists who are keeping a close watch on chile pepper inflation; even Indonesian leaders, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, are weighing in on the crisis, advising Indonesians to grow their own peppers or look to hot sauces and other fiery substitutes until prices cool off.

But in a region where no dish goes without a spicy condiment, Indonesians are reluctant to turn their backs on such an ingrained culinary staple, making the cost of chile peppers a possible tipping point in the future of Southeast Asia's economic and social stability.


The Soil TriangleWe chile gardeners are getting twitchy. We look at our garden plots, many of which are buried in snow, and we yearn for the growing season. Okay, guys and gals, buck up! You can, indeed, take some action in the "off" season. Here's a quick checklist:


1. Plan your 2011 garden. Select varieties and buy seeds or place your bedding plant order with ChilePlants.com. Decide what companion plants you want to grow. I grow tomatoes, eggplants, colored bell peppers, and lots and lots of herbs. I do not recommend growing potatoes, onions, or corn and I don't even grow New Mexican varieties—saving room for more exotic ones because I know Sichler Farms will supply me with my fresh green and red fixes.

2. Clean up your garden plot(s), removing all dead material to the compost pile. It's okay to add organic material at this time if your ground is not frozen. I recommend aged and sterilized steer manure combined with organic material from your compost pile before you add more non-composted material to it.

3. Plan your garden out for maximum access for harvesting, weeding (for shame—use plastic mulch to eliminate them), and for the viewing pleasure of your envious friends. Tall plants like tomatoes in the background, smaller plants in the foreground.

4. For varieties with long growing seasons, like the Chinense species, you can start seeds now if you have a greenhouse or a sunroom free from cats, who like to graze on the seedlings. Remember to pinch back the seedlings if they get leggy.

5.  Read Paul Bosland's and my three articles, "Preparing the Pepper Garden," here.


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