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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> gardening

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.


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.


Color Change in Bhut Jolokia

Harald Zoschke, our key chilehead correspondent in Europe, reports:

  • Our Calabrian-grown 'Bhut Jolokia' tested at 818,386 SHU (twice the result of Assam-grown 'Bhut' analyzed at the same lab in Hamburg, btw.!)
  • The Indians' superhot 'Chocolate Bhut' that I had tested gave only 417,888 SHU at the Hamburg lab.
  • This year, red 'Bhut' powder from Assam (directly from the grower/producer) traded to Germany as having "850,000 SHU," was tested in Hamburg and it delivered only 373,821 SHU - even some Chocolate Habaneros are almost that hot.  
  • Harald also notes: "Returning to my 'Fatalii' theory... A customer who purchased original Assamese 'Bhut' seeds from our shop complained that the pods weren't red but yellow. Bhut MutantHe was kind enough to send me some of those pods, and here's a red pod from my test plant, and his yellow mutant (both grown from from the same seed batch). While red is a dominant gene, obviously this (recessive) yellow gene came through on that other plant. Looks quite 'Fatalii', doesn't it? So who knows.... A friend of mine from Italy also reported about a yellow Bhut  just a few weeks ago. I sent our customer  a replacement pack of seeds, but I'll sure test-grow seeds from that yellow pod next year.  When comparing Scoville results, it is important which HPLC standard is used. Our food lab in Hamburg, Germany uses the defacto standard ASTA 21.3."


Chile TreeChile peppers are hot, and we love them for it! From mild bell peppers to the insanely hot Bhut Jolokia, peppers can have an incredible heat range. But have you ever wondered why our favorite chile peppers are so hot? Join an American ecologist, his weary team of graduate assistants and scientists, and a curious journalist as they trek through the jungles and deserts of Bolivia in search of the answer.

Read the article from the Smithsonian Magazine by clicking here!


 

Hatch ChilesIt’s that time of year here in New Mexico—the air will soon be ripe with the fragrant scent of roasting Hatch green chiles; mouths will water, and tongues will burn. The 2010 Hatch chile season was off to a rough start this year as the New Mexico harvest was delayed due to weather, but this week, chileheads across the country can start salivating as stores put up “Coming Soon” signs for the popular crop.

A message blares on the homepage of Hatch-Chile Express, “Praise God, the 2010 chile season has begun!” The company, along with other producers in the Hatch valley area, is gearing up to begin shipping Hatch chiles this week. The harvest is a quick affair, lasting several weeks from late July to early September. Known for their distinctive taste and quality, the chiles are grown in the Hatch valley in southern New Mexico. Widely held to be the crème-de-la-crème of the chile harvest, Hatch chiles are perfect for roasting and freezing for later. New Mexicans are known for buying 25-100 lb. bags to satisfy their taste buds throughout the year.

Roasting Hatch ChilesIf you’re located outside of New Mexico, you might have to wait a week or two for shipments to start appearing in local markets, but as many foodies know, the wait is worth it. Keep your eyes—and noses—peeled for this spicy favorite; they’re guaranteed to go fast!

Can’t get enough Hatch? Check out the Hatch Chile Festival this September!


Strong Vinegar as a Natural Herbicide

Posted by:

Tagged in: science , gardening

 

Natural Enhanced VinegarI attempt to use organic techniques in the garden whenever possible, although I'm not a True Believer in the classic sense of the term.  One thing I do dislike are chemical herbicides like RoundUp, but I occasionally have used it when the weed situation has gotten out of control and I'm really busy with other things.  No more.  I read that enhanced vinegar--really just 10 percent acetic acid, made from grain alcohol, not glacial acetic acid, desiccates the weeds, drying them out until they die.  And guess what?  It works really, really well on every weed I sprayed it on.  It's made by Soil Mender Products in Tulia, Texas, and you can buy it here.

 


Defeat the Evil Cutworms!

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

CutwormCutworms should be called Paul Bunyan worms because when they arrive in your garden, the tender bedding plants resemble newly fallen trees. These are not worms, of course, but caterpillars of small gray moth. They're in the group called solitary surface cutworms because they cut off young plants at the soil line or slightly above or below it, sometimes dropping the severed plants into their burrows. Because most of the plant is not eaten, these cutworms do an amazing amount of damage, attacking and felling new plants nightly, like they did to two of my chile plants this week. Cutworm Collar

Master gardeners usually describe about a dozen ways to attack or prevent cutworms, but for a small garden the best method is called a cutworm collar. Buy plastic drink cups, or save yogurt containers, and simply cut out the bottom. Position the collars over the plants and push them about a inch below the surface of the soil. These physical barriers need to stay around the plants until (like peppers and tomatoes), the stems become somewhat thick and woody.

Update: Today, while replacing those chopped down plants, I found the cutworm, tossed it onto the gravel, and it was promptly eaten by a robin!

 


Bonnie PlantsBonnie Plants, with 62 greenhouse production facilities, 450 sales reps, and 13,000 retail accounts offering vegetable, herb, and flower plants, seems to be the largest bedding plant supplier in the country.  You see their plants in big box stores like Lowe's and Wal-Mart, but also in some local nurseries and supermarkets.  Today I spoke with Chuck at Agra Greenhouses in the South Valley of Albuquerque and asked him why his chile pepper bedding plants were one-fourth the cost of the Bonnie Plants at nearby Wal-Mart.  "It's their business model," he replied.  They grow bazillions of bedding plants and their commissioned sales rep/drivers deliver them on consignment to all the locations, and Bonnie only gets paid when the plants are scanned at the retailer.  The leftover, unsold plants are thrown in the trash.  Maybe they trash 80 percent of what they grow, Chuck explained, and this, of course is why their prices are so high.  But they are convenient and the plants have grown well in my garden and produced well. After many years of doing this, I've figured out the best ways to acquire bedding plants.  The following list describes the methods from cheapest to most expensive.
--buy seeds and grow your own.
--buy bedding plants from local nurseries supplied by local greenhouses.
--buy bedding plants from big box stores.
Of course, if you're looking exotic chile plants, price is no object and you should definitely consider Cross Country Nurseries and their wonderful 500-variety bedding plant mail-order program, here.

 

 


Focus on Pepper Pod Yield

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: gardening , chile peppers

Capsicum FlowersIf you have pepper plants growing in your garden, I assume that you're interested in maximizing the number of pods on each plant. Well, there are a number of factors involved in this process, including: fertilizing, weed control, flowering and pollination, fruiting, and avoiding reaching the fruit load.  Fortunately, we have a complete article on this subject, here.


Buying chile pepper bedding plants.On Sunday, May 9, Marco and I worked the chile plant sale and food fair at the Azienda Agraria Sperimentale Stuard (Stuard Agricultural Experiment Station) in Parma with his new products, Spirit of Habanero Grappa and the Habanero Nectar olive oil.  Mario Dadomo, the station director and the “Paul Bosland of Italy” had 442 different varieties of chiles to choose from, which was like having ChilePlants.com in one convenient greenhouse.  Mario asked me if he could be my "bishop"--har, har.  Marco and MauritzioThe public was there in good numbers to buy the plants and sample products both spicy and non-spicy.  A group of about 30 Italian chileheads showed up and I had my picture taken with them.  On one side of us was a honey producer and on the other side our friend Mauritzio was selling his jolokia products including the “Big Bang Powder,” so Marco joked that the public could choose from Paradiso (Heaven), Purgatorio (Purgatory), or Inferno (Hell).  This was an allusion to Dante’s Divine Comedy but I’m not sure that the Italians got the literary joke.  As a show producer, it was interesting for me to watch the flow of the crowd: in the morning there was a strong crowd then in dropped off to nothing during lunch and “siesta time,” and then was strong again after about 3pm.  Marco’s sales were good, which bodes well for the new products.  We closed down about 6pm, then drove to a winery with nearly vertical vineyards atop Monte Roma (Mount Rome), 350 meters above sea level.  Then, in typical Italian fashion, another 30-mile drive to dinner at an AgriTurismo (agricultural tourism) restaurant atop another “mountain.”  I loved the grilled sirloin steak served on top of a solid block of salt.  We got back to Marco’s house at midnight—16 hours of  hustle--but fun!

Mauritzio's Italian Jolokia Products


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