Guest Blogger: The Versatility of Chillies by Sophie Cussen

This is my first guest blog and for that I must say a huge thanks to Katy for asking me to write something about which it’s true to say I’m fairly obsessed with, chillies. My love of growing and eating chillies is something which has grown over the past four years (amongst growing other fruit and veg).  Before that I couldn’t eat a curry hotter than a Korma and picked the kidney beans out of a pot of hot chilli!  Not anymore though, I tend to have chillies in most things I eat these days which is why I have spent a few years learning to grow them too.

Chillies are a type of capsicum and related to your everyday red and green peppers. What makes chillies hot and the intensity of their heat is produced from the inner membrane of the chilli pod called the capsaicin which, when eaten or touched, caused a chemical reaction with your mouth to produce the heat sensation.  The different intensities of heat for all the varieties of chillies are measured by something called the Scoville scale. In the past I’ve grown a few different varieties ranging from the mild Jalapeno (2,500 scoville), to the hotter Naga Jolokia (333,000 scoville) and while the season is very long (from sowing to picking the pods can take up to 8 months), I wanted to be able to eat chillies all year round so looked into the various ways you can preserve those chillies all year round:

  1. Drying, Usually applicable to the larger chilli pods that have turned red such as Tabasco or Cayenne.  Drying tends to be a slow process to ensure the flavour stays.  It can be done on a radiator, airing cupboard or even slightly heated in the oven.
  1. Freezing, Chop the chillies up, add to a ice cube block with added water and put in freezer.  Each cube of chopped chillies can then be used when required for cooking.
  1. Pickling.  Nice and quick. solution  Green and red chillies can be preserved in pickling vinegar and stored for later use.  Use sterilized jars and the freshest chillies you have.

I had a struggle to get my chillies to turn red last year due to the appalling summer we had.  My chilli plants had produced lots of chilli pods but they were all still green or yellow by the end of September so instead of wasting any of them I decided to pickle them, the first time I have ever pickled anything!  I cut up all sorts of varieties that I had growing, into slices, and added them to small jars and big jars so I could give them as presents for christmas and have enough for cooking when required.Then I covered them over with the everyday pickling vinegar you buy for onions.  Just the other day I opened one of the little jars to test out on a quick snack of nachos and cheese and I was very pleased with the results.

The chillies were still crunchy and the heat was just as intense as if I had just picked them off the plant.

Don’t forget if you’re cutting up chillies, or handling them in any way be sure you wear gloves and wash your hands when finished.  Don’t do what I’ve done in the past, which is to rub my eyes!  Ouch!

There is quite a chilli community on the web.  Growers from all over the world tend to help each other out and I know I’ve been given advice on more than one occasion on the ways of growing the array of varieties.  For anyone wanting more information I’d heartily recommend visiting the Chilie Foundry. I have been writing a chilli blog for just over two years. Last month I published a re-vamped version which also discusses the virtues of growing your own fruit and veg, in any space available.  At the same time I have just converted my back garden into four raised vegetable beds to make 2013 as self-sufficient as possible. The new blog is my constant tale of how I get on.  If you’d like to know more please visit me over at – the Forget-me-not Cultivation blog.

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