Well, would you look at that?
This is a picture of one of the two chilli plants that I have managed to overwinter in the lounge. I try and grow chillis every year because they can do well in our climate and I have always been pretty successful with them, but keeping them from one year to the next is a first for me.
I bought the two plants at the garden centre last year as I had managed to get myself horribly behind with seed planting and missed the chilli planting window. I have to say that I was a little shocked and horrified at how much money they wanted for two tiny, little chilli plants. But, I reasoned, they would supply me with loads of chillis through the season and repay themselves many times over given the truly shocking price that is charged for just a few, not always that fresh, chillis in a plastic wrapper from the supermarket. We use a fair amount of fresh chilli in cooking, especially in stir fries, and I really hate having to buy them if I can grow them.
This variety, called Basket of Fire, is not so hot that you need to have a first responder standing by, but they are hot enough to send your mouth a little message. “Hello!?! We’re here!” Love it. I do try and remember to rub my fingers with a bit of oil, any kind, before chopping them up. The oil acts like a barrier to stop most of the volatile oils in the chilli from going into your skin and most of that washes off after you have finished chopping, taking the chilli oil with it. I still try not to rub my eyes afterwards though!
When the weather started to turn early last autumn and I was readying the greenhouse for winter, these two chillis were still in full flow, absolutely covered in small, red chillis. In the past I have cut all of the chillies off, threaded them onto a length of thread with a needle, tied the two ends of thread together and then hung them from the kitchen beams to keep for the winter. I just cut off a chilli as needed and are still fine for cooking even when they have dried. The plants themselves usually don’t keep well and are consigned to the compost.
This time I decided to try and keep them as house plants. It has never worked before. I just put them in with the rest of the houseplant crowd, watered them only when the soil was dry, cut off the chillies as I needed some and…last week I noticed a small white flower. I have now cut off all the remaining mature chillies and the plants have come into full flower and are setting new chillis. I may give them just a little food in coming days and will repot them into slightly larger pots as well.
So, what was different this time?
For years I never bothered much with houseplants. Apart from my 35 year old Jade plant,
they all repaid my steadfast neglect with predictable results. Then came the lockdown. And time.
I started with spider plants and Devil’s Ivy ( Scindapsus aureus). I even revived 45 year old Macramé skills to make a hanging basket thingy for the Spider plant. A lot of them got grouped together on tables next to the patio doors- together being the important word here. It finally dawned on me that plants are rather like us- they like company.
And so, the two chilli plants have been members of this merry little neighbourhood all winter and are now busy getting ready to go around again. That’s what I call value for money.
Also seen in the picture below: the first hilariously productive spider plant, a Devil’s Ivy in need of new pot with a MUCH taller pole, and just over in the bottom right foreground in the small blue pot, an over wintered Tarragon plant just coming out into leaf again. The plants with the long, ribbed looking leaves in the foreground are Vietnamese Coriander (Persicaria odorata). These plants have grown from a few cuttings given me last summer by my friend Annie. They root very easily in just water and grow well outside in the summer when potted up. They are quite tender though and they need to be brought indoors when it gets cold. I do use them in cooking, the flavour is very hard to describe being almost more smell than flavour, but I do like it added as a garnish for a finished dish or I will just add a few shredded leaves to a salad. Even if I didn’t eat it, I would grow it just to be able to gently run my fingers over the leaves to release it’s most magical, heady aroma. Friends who live near me take note: cuttings can be made available upon request. :0)
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