19 Oct 2013

Sea Spring seeds

Before I move on from the London Harvest Festival show, I just wanted to thank Joy at Sea Spring seeds for the time that she took to chat to me about selecting and growing chillies. One advantage of going to shows like this is that the trade stands, often small businesses, are usually very generous with advice and Joy was no exception.

chilli display
Sea Spring Seeds marvellous display of chilli plants.

Joy (and her husband) are very experienced chilli growers and I, sadly, am not. I have managed to coax a chilli or two out of a plant in the past but the results have certainly been nothing to boast about. This year I didn't grow chillis at all as my windowsills were full of tomato seedlings and I don't use chillies that often in cooking. However, I do like the look of a flourishing plant - and Joy's were certainly that!

Joy, Sea Spring Seeds
In between serving other customers, Joy took the time to talk to me about the chillies (and tomatoes) that would work for me, i.e. grow well outdoors, without a greenhouse. Her advice emphasised the importance of choosing wisely to suit the growing conditions - Sea Spring have 50 varieties of chilli to choose from!

I was very taken with one of the display plants, an Apricot chilli with a mild heat, but was navigated away by Joy from certain grower's frustration as I was warned these definitely need the warmth of a polytunnel or greenhouse to thrive.

Leaflets about the differing heat values of the chilli seeds available were a useful reminder as I like a fairly mild heat. All I knew before was that Scotch Bonnet chillis are very hot as, I think, are the little Birds Eye chillis. Look at the heat factor of 'Apricot' compared with the Dorset Naga chilli!!

Joy explained that chilli seeds should be sown in February, need a minimum and steady temperature (27°C) to germinate (a heated propagator is best for this) and, once they have two true leaves, they can be pricked out, grown on in a mini-greenhouse (in my case) and then transferred outside. They can be quite hardy plants and, as ever, choosing the right plant for the growing conditions that you have is of paramount importance.

After lots of good advice, I chose a packet of Thai Green Curry seeds, a spice chilli (Capsicum annuum) where the long green pods can be harvested green or allowed to turn a beautiful deep red, still without excess heat. Mmm, I'm seeing strings of dried chillis hanging round my kitchen already!

Thai Green Curry
'Thai Green Curry' plant on Sea Spring display.
And this is the one that got away - 'Apricot' chilli - mild of heat and beautiful to behold. One to bookmark if I ever get a greenhouse!

Apricot chilli

In addition to chilli seeds, I also took advantage of Joy's good advice about tomatoes and other seeds on sale and bought 'Sungold' and 'Maskotka' tomatoes, 'Toma Verde' physalis (a sort of Mexican green tomato) and Scarlet Kale to sow as a cut and come again crop; with 200 seeds in the packet, I might try sowing a few under cover now, just to see what happens.

31 comments:

  1. I love chilli, cause I love hot and spicy meal. The varieties of chilli that you show make me so jealous. They have so many interesting shape and color. I really love the 'apricot'.

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    1. Endah, you would have LOVED the Sea Spring trade stand! So many beautiful plants and lots of seeds to choose from! The Apricot chilli is very mild, like a sweet pepper, but would be delicious in a salad and looks so pretty on the plant - definitely one I'd like to grow when conditions permit!

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  2. I always grow Sungold, they are so reliable outside. And I've seen Maskotka recommended for outdoors as well. I grew chillies this year, but they took such a lot of looking after, from February onwards, that I'm not sure I'll bother again, as I don't use many at all. In fact I've got about thirty yellow ones in the fridge at the moment, and no idea what to do with them! But they are so tempting to grow, for some reason, so I come February I wouldn't be surprised if they somehow sneak their way onto the windowsill.

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    1. Always good to have a second opinion, CJ - I'm pleased to know that you've had success with Sungold and we'll have to see what Maskotka does next year! Thirty chillies in your fridge - good grief!! I think I'd be stringing them up for christmas decorations!! Perhaps they could be preserved in olive oil - just in case you don't grown any more next year! ;) x

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  3. I don't eat chillis so don't grow them but found this post interesting and informative. It's always a pleasure to chat with people like Joy at Spring Seeds. Flighty xx

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    1. Thank you Flighty! You're very sensible with growing just what you'll eat - I'm afraid I get tempted off the main path too easily! Easily lured by exotic veg! For me, talking to the traders is one of the perks of attending shows, there's so much good advice to be had!

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  4. I don't use chillis in cooking, but I've grown them in the past just for their ornamental value, they're so lovely to look at with fruit dripping from them. I've grown sweet peppers this year and had a really good harvest, in fact, I've still got some ripening on the plants now, but I've decided not to grow them next year as they take up so much space, the plants have grown huge. Shows are great for advice, aren't they? Being able to speak to the growers and get lots of information really makes a difference.

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    1. I agree, Jo, I think chillis are one of the prettiest plants to grow and needn't get too huge (compared to some of the beans, for example!). I grew sweet peppers last year and wasn't at all impressed with my efforts so didn't bother with them this year. Sometimes, it really is easier to just pick one up in the supermarket! I really enjoyed my time at the show and the advice I was given will be put to good use!

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  5. My chillies are just now starting to turn red, aided by a growing pile of banana skins, having been sown in a heated propagator in February. They do need a long season. I shall try Thai Green Curry, they look like elegant plants and at least I can harvest them green if all else fails!

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    1. The last of my tomatoes are in the banana basket, rusty - if I grow chillies next year, I might need a bigger banana basket! I wonder if the long winter this year made a difference to your chillies? It seems an awfully long time to wait for a harvest - hope the pods eventually ripen for you!

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  6. Chillis. Now you're talking! The apricot one is very attractive, but I prefer the deep red Thai Green Chilli one. You have chosen two of my favourite tomato varieties too - especially Maskotka, which I grow every year now. Sungold grows very tall, so you will have to consider how to support it, whereas Maskotka is a sprawler. I wonder if the Mexican physalis is a tomatillo? At least it must be closely related.

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    1. Haha! I thought of you as I chatted to Joy, Mark! Your posts have got me thinking again about chillies - such an attractive plant! I always tie up my tomato plants to a stake (or more, if needed) and, yes, I think the Toma Verde physalis is a tomatillo. Will make for interesting eating, I think!

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  7. Caro, why do you use Captcha codes as well as Comment Moderation? It seems like double-tasking!

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    1. Ah thanks, Mark! I hadn't realised that both were on and, hopefully, have now rectified this! I can appreciate it would have seemed like overkill before! Still, it worked at keeping the spammers out! ;)

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  8. Love the look of 'Apricot', might have to give that one a go. I can recommend Maskotka, I grew it for the first time this year, outside in pots, and it was prolific and delicious.

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    1. Ah, good to know, Janet. Maskotka is getting excellent reviews here so I'll be very glad to give it a go next year and am really pleased at finding the seeds! I'll be very envious if you grow 'Apricot' but I'm sure you'll enjoy it and it will thrive for you!

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  9. I can see why the apricot chilli tempted you

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    1. She's a beauty, isn't she, Sue! Sadly not for me though but I hope the other chilli seeds will be just as delicious. Do you grow chillis?

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    2. No I don't - I avoid a;; contact after a particularly unpleasant experience with hands burning for several days.

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    3. Oh that's sounds nasty! Are you allergic or was the chilli particularly hot? I avoid accidentally burning my tongue when cooking with chilli by 'washing' my hands with cooking oil - bizarre but it works!

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    4. It wasn't a hot chilli which was why I decided preparing it without gloves would be OK but it wasn't. None of the recommended remedies worked and I ended up popping my hands in cold water regularly.

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    5. Wow, sounds lethal! Perhaps you'd better tell me which chilli it was so that I can avoid it!! I'm now wondering if you went ahead and ate it after having such a bad reaction!

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    6. No we didn't eat it as we wondered what it would do inside if it did that on the outside. I can't remember which chili it was - the seeds came free with a magazine (I think it just said chillies on the packet) which was why we planted them as we don't usually grow chillies.

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  10. Sounds as if you had great advice Caro from somebody who is passionate about what they grow.' Apricot' looks most attractive. I must admit that I'm not keen on hot and spicy but would be quite happy to grow chillies for looks alone. We have a speaker on growing them at our garden club next week so I will be taking notes. Congratulations by the way on the mention of your blog in 'Grow Your Own' magazine - well done you! :)

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    1. Thanks, Anna - gosh I haven't seen a copy of that magazine, I'll have to go to the newsagent tomorrow! How exciting! How lovely to have regular meetings with other gardeners at a garden club although I bet a good speaker will have you reaching for your seed catalogues! I'd love to have something like that here, I must look into it!

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  11. I will like to grow chillies for the first time this come spring so I appreciated your information, the photos are very encouraging.

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    1. Thank you, Charlie, and welcome to my blog! I wish you every success with your chilli growing - you might even be writing to advise the rest of us in years to come! I'm guessing that Seattle can get pretty cold being in the Pacific NorthWest so the greenhouse rule will definitely apply. Thanks for popping by and commenting - nice to meet someone new to me!

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  12. I love Apricot - it has a great fruity flavour which makes up for the lack of heat.

    I've successfully grown chillis for the first time this year - by moving into windowsill growing, outdoors hasn't worked for me. Now to keep it going over winter as a perennial houseplant!

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    1. Oh I just knew that I'd love it and you make it sound SOOO good, VP! I might try windowsill growing but, frankly, it's a relief when warmer weather arrives and I can clear the windowsills of seedlings by getting them outside! I don't have deep windowsills so every window is utilised!

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  13. I bought a Jamie Oliver selection of 6 small chilli plants this summer and they all fruited. Getting chilli seeds to germinate is another story.

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    1. I think this is where Joy's advice will prove useful as I've been told to keep them at 27 degrees for good germination. I 'rescued' some very bedraggled Jamie Oliver tomato plants from a well known superstore garden centre this summer and they did extremely well too! Bit of a bargain, in fact!

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Caro x

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