Friday 5 September 2014

Hot stuff

Original Alberto's Locoto
Alberto's Locoto, flowers and fruit

How do you spell your chillies? I've seen chile, chili, chillie, chilly even. I thought I'd formed my own style guide and was going to settle on chilli (pl. chillies) but then I read some other person's justification for the way she did it (chile, if I recall correctly) and my confusion was reignited all over again.

Pictured above, Alberto's Locoto rocoto (Capsicum pubescens). This is the last remaining two year old plant grown from seed in 2013. Well, I say one plant, I've never been quite sure if a separate stem is from the bigger plant or is a co-habiting sibling. Anyway, it/they came through the winter and kept on growing as is their nature.  The fruits are beautifully red when ripe and about the length of my thumb, which is ... 5cm.

I'm very taken with the pubescens species. They are hardier than the average chilli plant, perennial if handled with care, nicely flavoured, prolific fruiting (again if you study their preferences) and not /too/ hot. Most of the frenzy surrounding breeding ever hotter and more bizarre types has left me cold but there's something here that seems just right.

It is possible to let them get too cold, three out of the four pots I overwintered failed the test but they're really not too fussy and also prefer cooler summers, so no need to keep them in the greenhouse during the summer, another big plus. If they have a drawback it's that they're rather brittle and stems snap at the slightest provocation. I've had some success in rooting broken shoots by just sticking them in a pot of dirt but I'd really rather they stayed on the plant.

I grew some more this year from seed saved from last year's crop.

Alberto's Locoto rocoto
Alberto's Locoto, from saved seed

This is one of the seedlings, only just starting to form buds. All the chillies are late this year, because I've been slow and slapdash with starting seeds but at least with the rocotos there's a good chance for an early start next year.

Captivated I searched for other seed varieties to try and found some seeds at Magic Gardens. Sadly these are unnamed but the picture shows a more rounded apple shaped fruit in a fetching orange-apricot colour.  The seedlings seem altogether larger than the Alberto's and again are only just showing flower buds. I'm looking forward to seeing the crop.

And then I found the Rocoto group on Facebook (see, it is good for something) and they have a magnificent selection between them, and were kind enough to point me to a German supplier that will meet all my immediate needs for novelty. I can't wait.

Magic Garden rocoto

Magic Garden unnamed rocoto variety seedling

I have two other chilli species this year. Lemon Drop aji (Capsicum baccatum) bought from Real Seeds. Again, so late I'm not sure they'll fruit but I'm hoping to overwinter them and see what happens.

Lemon drop chilli
Lemon Drop aji seedling

And finally the very ornamental Trifetti (Capsicum annuum) which has variegated leaves and fruit that start a very dark purple, almost black before ripening to red. These are just fruiting and I'm hoping to keep them going over the winter as houseplants.

trifetti pepper

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