東南アジア料理に欠かせない１つの材料、唐辛子。タイ料理、又マレーシア、インドネシア料理にもよく使っている色々な種類：ごく小さくてとても辛いprik khee nooやcabai burungから人差し指より長くてほどほどの辛さと甘味を持っているものまで、生も乾燥したものも。
2004 Chilli Harvest
Maybe because we put up a fence to keep the deer out, maybe because it's been a long hot Summer, anyway this year's chilli harvest looks like being a fairly good one. The earliest are usually a big variety we grow from seeds bought in Malaysia. Medium hot and fleshy, these can be used in all kinds of dishes. We've also got a few of the currently fasionable Habaneros, said to be the hottest chillies in the world. Before long I'll cook up a batch of Habanero Chicken for heat fans to look forward to!
The little green chillies we use in Tom Yam Kung ("phrik kariang" in Thai) are doing well too.
I don't claim to be a horticultural expert, but I've been growing chillies here in Japan for the last fifteen years or so, and usually manage to get a good crop, so maybe my suggestions might be some use to you. The location is a little up in the hills, altitude about 400meters, so although Summer daytime is quite hot, evenings are on the cool side, and the frost comes earlier than lower down - usually in early November.
- What you need: a warm place-about 20~25 deg C - preferably an indoor greenhouse with heater & thermostat.
Some small plastic pots-5/6 cm dia. (the kind you buy seedlings in).
Some potting compost (i.e. "bai yo dou"). (garden soil has weed seeds & parasites)
Later on, a sunny location you can plant in, some black plastic sheeting ("poly mulch"), maybe some lime, compost, a little chemical and/or organic fertiliser (and a spade, of course).
- Sowing: Sow, pref. mid-March, but by early April, 4 or 5 seeds per pot if the seeds are fresh, more if you think germination won't be good, about 1 seed diameter deep (a good general guide apparently, for other plants, too), in the little plastic pots, firm down soil, water and cover with cling film (this keeps the moisture and saves you from re-watering while waiting for germination). Germination usually takes
about a week (sometimes a little longer, but warmth, moisture and fresh seeds usually means they come up quickly and healthily).
- After Germination: Thin them out gradually to avoid overcrowding, eventually to one per pot. Use a small pair of scissors, don't pull out the unwanted ones as this will damage the others' roots. Choose short, stocky plants over tall, straggly ones. Plant out when all danger of frost is past, (outside min. temp. should be above 14degC according to some sources), and seedlings have 6-8 true leaves and are ~20cm high.
- Preparing Beds: Dig in rows to avoid having to dig over the whole field, but anyway, turn the whole lot over once (preferably the previous Autumn so the frost can get at it) sprinkle on some lime and remove the weeds, roots and all (hard work, this!). Dig trenches along the line of your rows, put in some compost and fertiliser and cover it with clean soil so the young roots don't hit the fertiliser too soon,and make ridges ~30/40cm high. Cover them with black plastic mulch- this keeps your weeding to a minimum and also warms up the soil. You can mulch the area between rows with compost, dead leaves or even old newspaper- something to let the rain through, save the soil from getting too compacted when you walk on it and keep the weeds down to some extent.
- Planting: Cut small holes in the mulch about 50~60cm apart, plant your seedlings carefully (a cloudy day is best), water them in and maybe put out a few slug pellets (they love young tender seedlings).
- Care: Keep an eye on them-I haven't had much trouble with pests, but if you get aphids you might want to try a mild pyrethrum-type spray on them (even soapy water works, I've heard). If they grow tall, they'll need some support. How tall they grow before fruiting depends on how much fertiliser you give them. If the soil is too barren, they'll flower and fruit when they're still tiny, and your crop will also be tiny. If they get too much nitrogen, they'll grow huge, but won't start fruiting untill Autumn, and the frost will get them before they're even red.
- Picking: When are they ready to pick? These are some signs I look for:
They will turn red eventually, so you could just wait for that, but green chillis are nice too (red ones are a bit sweeter, but green ones have more aroma) so:
As the seeds develop, the chillies get a slightly bulgy, knobbly look. Earlier they're sleek & smooth.
They get firmer- unripe ones are quite soft, but ripe ones are almost crisp,especially when still on the plant- if you try to bend them they break.
If you want to check the heat of a chilli you've picked without suffering 3rd degree mouth burns try this: cut the chilli open, rub the end of your finger on the hot part (the webbing that holds the seeds) and lick your finger. That'll give you a pretty good idea.
I think they peak in hotness just before they turn red.You get some dark patches,almost black, or red areas. I find they start turning hot in July, and go on producing until the temperature hits zero in November,but of course this depends on your location.
- Storage Varieties with thick flesh don't dry well, but freeze nicely. If you're going to use them in a sauce you can chop or blend them before freezing- they take up much less space in the freezer then. Pickling's good,too.
- Seeds Hope you remembered to save some seeds for next year! You probably found some variation in taste, size, colour etc. so choose a couple of the specimens you like best for seeds to grow next year. You might develop your own variety in time! Rather than drying the whole chilli ( they go mouldy easily), it's probably better to
cut it open, take out the seeds and dry them for a couple of days before storing them away in airtight containers- they should not get damp before planting next year.