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Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> gardening


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I spoke over the weekend with Janie Lamson, owner of Cross Country Nurseries and chileplants.com, the largest seller of chile bedding plants with 500 varieties.  She told me about her best-selling varieties from last year, and of them are in the species Capsicum chinense, which has the hottest varieties in the world.  She also told me that her tomato bedding plant sales grew 37%, which doesn't surprise me since chilehead gardeners also also love tomatoes, since they are so compatible in cooking.  Here are Janie's top 5 best sellers.  Order these varieties for April delivery at the link above.

'Bhut Jolokia'
1. 'Bhut Jolokia'
'Red Savina'
2. 'Red Savina'
'Trinidad Scorpion'
3. 'Trinidad Scorpion'
4. 'Fatalii'
'Chocolate Habanero'
5. 'Chocolate Habanero'


Rare 'Trinidad Scorpions'

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: gardening , chile varieties


Trinidad Scorpions on a pepper plate.Hydroponic Grower Jim Duffy reports from San Diego: "Well I have to say, Dave, that my 'Trinidad Scorpion' crop was not the amount I wanted to produce. But sometimes you have to look at the silver lining. The 'Trinidad Scorpion' is a rare chile all by itself. Very few supply seeds and only this year did more than just a few people grow it here in the good old U.S.A. So when one of my potted plants produced a yellow pod, I was excited. This plant is an isolated plant and yellow Scorpions would be nice to have in my seed bank. But it was the only yellow pod the plant produced. Then I started seeing more pods turning yellowish. And then it happened. Every pod on that plant except the first yellow one were turning bright orange! Now I have heard that there is an orange Scorpion but never found a pic on the Web. Now my entire plant was going from green to orange. Not one red pod to be found. Sad to say the plant is dying but most pods will turn before I pull it up. So here is a treat for your readers. A pic of red, yellow and orange 'Trinindad Scorpions' all together! No Scorpion bumper crop this year, but I will take one rare plant over 50 common ones any day!"

I never saw this variety during my two trips to Trinidad, where the 'Congo Pepper' is so dominant, for good reason: its extreme heat and extreme size.  Look at this one in Mary Jane's hand.  When I cut it open to get the seeds, the fumes drove us out of our room at the Kapok Hotel in Port of  Spain!
Congo Pepper in Trinidad


shocking peppersLately the Internet has come alive with images of pepper pods that transcend the bounds of common decency.  Some unscrupulous people are actually posting them in their blogs to drive more traffic!  Imagine!  John Perea of Hot Rod Pickles (yes, a real company name) sent me the image to the left of a tumescent pod that I call "Horny Jalapeño."  Then there are the images of the pods that women love the most, the infamous 'Peter Peppers', and they are flushed red with excitement.  Notice that they are in the hands of a person of the male persuasion.  I'm not sure if that's gay or not.  And finally, my very own co-author and close friend, Dr. Paul Boland, a highly decorated Regent's Professor at New Mexico State University, insisted, over my vehement protests, that we publish a photo of an immature--but precocious--'Peter Pepper' in our new tome, The Complete Chile Pepper Book. The world is going to hell in a garden basket!


Here's an excerpt from my new book with Dr. Paul Bosland, The Complete Chile Pepper Book. The book is hardcover, 336 pages, 250 full-color photos, 85 recipes (with food shots).  Is is organized like this:
--About Chiles
--Top 100 (or so) Chiles for the Garden
--Capsicum Cultivation
--Processing and Preservation
--Cooking with Chiles

If you want a signed copy, buy the book here then send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope along with your name and dedication, and I will sign a faceplate for you that you can stick into the front of the book.
Dave DeWitt
P.O. Box 4980
Albuquerque, NM 87196


NM Chile Crop to Be Excellent

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: gardening , chile peppers

Harvesting has begun in the lower Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico and the prospects for a bumper chile crop are looking good.  "This year is going to be our best in many years," said chile specialist Stephanie Walker of NMSU.  Dry weather has helped to keep down diseases such as phytophthora (a fungus) and leaf spot.  Last year the state produced 60,140 tons of chile, a 23 percent increase over 2007.  The crop was valued at $42.3 million without counting value-added chile products.  New Mexico grows more hot peppers than all the other states combined.

Dateline Las Cruces, New Mexico.  For years, research done by New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute has helped promote New Mexico's State Vegetable (really a fruit).  Now, the Institute itself (and its chile peppers) is on the map, literally, as a "must-see" destination in Rand McNally's 2010 Road Atlas "Best of the Road" program.

"We are thrilled that Rand McNally recommends the Chile Pepper Institute in their atlas," said Paul Bosland, Institute director. "It's an honor to know that people traveling in New Mexico can see us on the map and enjoy our Institute along their way."

According to Rand McNally, the publication is America's No. 1 road atlas. It provides five Best of the Road trips along with trip-planning tools, from detailed maps to mileage charts. The 2010 atlas is now available in stores and from online retailers like Amazon, here.

"Every year, our editors seek out and drive some of the best, most scenic road trip routes in the nation to find our Best of the Road winners," said Rand McNally editorial director Laurie Borman. 

Part of the attraction of the Chile Pepper Institute is its Demonstration Garden, where some 150 varieties of chiles from around the world are grown each year to educate the public.  See our article, here.

The Chile Pepper Institute is one of a handful of stops identified in Rand McNally's trip through New Mexico. The 2010 Road Atlas provides five road trips in regions throughout states such as New York, Oregon and South Carolina. Each trip features photos, an inset map and other similar destinations that readers might enjoy.

The Institute gained fame for developing and promoting the 'Bhut Jolokia' chile variety, named by Guinness World Records as the Hottest Spice in the World.  Located in NMSU's Gerald Thomas Hall, the institute is part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.  See their website, here.

Full disclosure: Along with Dr. Paul Bosland, I was a founder of the Chile Pepper Institute.  My company is a sponsor of the New Mexico Chile Conference, hosted annually by the Institute.

On Saturday, June 27, 2009, the story made the front page of the Albuquerque Journal, and was featured in the Business section.

A Hybrid Bonsai Chile Plant

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

From Jukka Kilpinnen in Finland comes an unsual hybrid of a Dutch chile (Capsicum annuum) and an orange habanero (Capsicum chinense).  Jukka is a bonsai expert and has made a beautiful plant.  It's not easy and I failed at my first attempt.  For instructions, go here.

Jolokias in Florida

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tony Kamenoff in Orange City, Florida, writes:  "These are pics from December.  I had about60 peppers on my two plants from 3 to 3.5 inches long. I keep them in pots to move in and out according to the weather.  The plants came up in March and and first one did not have pods until August and finally ripened in October.  They are hot and have fruity taste, which makes them great for salsa and sauce boiled down in vinegar. "

German researchers have discovered that the flapping of bees' wings scares off caterpillars, reducing leaf damage on bell peppers and soybeans.

Many wasp species lay their eggs in caterpillars, and so caterpillars have evolved to avoid them. The sounds of bees' and wasps' wings are similar.

Researchers suggest this is an added bonus of having bees around, as well as the pollination they provide.

The scientists wrote in the journal Current Biology: "Our findings indicate for the first time that visiting honeybees provide plants with a totally unexpected advantage. They not only transport pollen from flower to flower, but in addition also reduce plant destruction by herbivores."

For the experiment, researchers used bell pepper and soybean plants, beet armyworm caterpillars, and honeybees. They set up experimental plots of the plants, added the caterpillars, and allowed the bees to enter some of the plots but not others.

When the caterpillars had turned into pupae and buried away in the soil, the scientists went back into the cages and measured the extent of leaf damage - the amount of munching that the caterpillars had indulged in.

The presence of bees reduced caterpillar damage by about 60% in plants that had not fruited.

Prolific 'Bhut' Keeps Producing

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: gardening , chile varieties


Neil O'Connor, who lives in Cape Coral, Florida, had a nice Christmas present in the fiery form of a prolific 'Bhut Jolokia' ("Ghost Pepper") plant. Neil writes: "While I was writing my email to you, my wife, Diane, looked over my shoulder and said 'You don't have 50 peppers on that plant.' She went out to count them and told me that she stopped at 65." Amazing. Good job, Neil! 

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