Ah. Yes. The tree chilli.
Also known as a rocoto, it’s one of the few varieties which you can overwinter fairly reliably in a frost-free greenhouse in the UK. This monster has just finished its third year: it is my pride and joy (I think I have mentioned it here and in magazines and basically anywhere I can get away with several times as I am so inordinately pleased with it).
Apart from a close encounter with a bevy of marauding aphids earlier this year it’s been quite easy to look after (once I got the message that it needs serious support: that lot is braced with two-by-one posts at each corner). It is absolutely enormous. And it’s laden down to the ground with dozens of lovely fat red chillies.
Trouble is, we still have bags of chillies in the freezer from last year’s bumper harvest. I have palmed off as many as I can on friends, family and passing dog-walkers: but I now need to pick the rest. The overwintering routine for my pet chilli monster is to cut back the top growth by about a third, then bubblewrap the greenhouse (somehow working it behind that forest of branches) and switch on the heater to just above freezing.
Cutting off the top third of this lot is going to involve removing most of the chillies. So – anyone want some?
I have come up with a scheme so we’ll see if it works. What I suggest is that if you send me a fiver by Paypal (including postage & packaging), I’ll send anything up to 10 fresh chillies to you by post (if you don’t want all 10, please specify how many you would like).
You can use them in your cooking, of course: they’re pretty hot at between 50,000 and 250,000 scoville heat units (around the habanero scale of pokiness), so you only need about a quarter of a chilli to turn the heat up quite considerably. You can’t dry them, as they’re too fleshy, but you can freeze them: I do mine individually in muffin trays, then decant them into a plastic bag till I need them.
Or of course you can extract the (jet-black) seeds and dry them for sowing next year, so you too can have one of these fabulous plants staging an invasion of the end of your greenhouse.
So – what do you think? First come, first served: post here with your name to bag your chillies (UK residents only I’m afraid), then once I’ve confirmed that you have the chillies send your payment via Paypal to sallywhite (at) hotmail (dot) com. Once I’ve run out of chillies, I’ll let you know in the comments below!