• Gabrielle Stannus

It's getting a little "chilli" down here

While the weather is starting to cool down here in Tasmania, things are actually heating up in the kitchen. Our Capsicum annuum 'Ring of Fire' may have been a late bloomer, but as the adage goes: better late than never!

The 'Ring of Fire' - Johnny Cash wrote a song about it. Don't believe me? Google it ;)

The 'Ring of Fire' measures 70,000 ~ 85,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). The Scoville Scale measures the sensory heat or pungency of chillis. Whilst not quite up there with the Carolina Reaper (>1.5 million SHUs), this little beauty packs a punch nonetheless.


Our baby arrives home

When putting our summer garden plan together, we were a little unsure whether we would be successful in growing chillis here in Liffey. Despite our garden being at an altitude of 400m and in a cool climate growing zone, we decided to test our luck. Initially we planted the seedling into a pot and placed it on our balcony which faces almost due-north. I thought it would receive more sunlight at this elevated position. I was right. However, the poor little 'Ring of Fire' was at times hammered by the local winds. The consequence was that although flowers were developing, they were not being pollinated as pollen was being dispersed elsewhere.




Flowering but not setting fruit

So we moved the pot to a position in our vegetable plot sheltered from these winds by a mature Acacia melanoxyon (Blackwood). Pretty soon our little baby was producing fruit. However, the onset of fruit occurred as the heat of the short Tasmanian summer was fading. The sun was starting to dip in the sky, and that Blackwood was now shading out our precious chilli.


And so the 'Ring of Fire' was returned to the balcony where its fruit have been able to ripen. And they continue to ripen even though it is almost May! So far we have picked 18 chillis. There are perhaps 30-40 fruit still ripening. Not bad for one plant!


The Ring of Fire in its current position on the balcony. Note the vegetable plots in full shade to the rear

This little beauty measures eight centimetres. Pas mal!

Our chilli yield is yet to measure up to that of Regan Parkinson, another local chilli enthusiast. Parkinson grows 53 chilli plants inside a home made polytunnel in his home in Launceston, including the deadly Carolina Reaper."They [chillies] absolutely love heat so it's pretty important in Tassie if you want to grow chilli successfully you have a glasshouse or a polytunnel,"said Parkinson in an interview with ABC Northern Tasmania.


I am not quite sure what Parkinson would make of our attempts to grow chilli outdoors here in Liffey. If like us, you want to grow chillis and other edible plants in Tasmania, talk to a grower who specialises in cool climate varieties. We did our research and purchased this plant as a seedling from Inspirations Garden Centre in Exeter, northern Tasmania. Sadly this lovely little nursery closed its doors not long after. However, Inspirations Vegetable Seeds is now trading online. Its claim to fame is that it sources top quality, high germination vegetable seeds for cool climate regions. Perfect for Tassie!


Our chilli sunbathing

Recently I purchased some Raphanus sativus var. sativus (Black Spanish Radish) seeds through Inspirations' online store. Now we are just awaiting a delivery of local mushroom compost to add to the plot before sowing these seeds, along with our precious garlic sourced from Jenny at Liffey Market.


And in the meantime, we are enjoying these delicious, pungent chillis in pizza, pasta, Asian-inspired dishes and with our breakfast beans. We have saved some seed too. So cross fingers, next summer we will propagate even more seedlings and increase our yield.


Souhaitez-nous bonne chance!

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