|All home-grown - except the contents of the large jar of chilli powder!|
Cayenne grows happily in a greenhouse in the UK, and equally happily outdoors in our potager. It turns into a rather leggy bush, which needs staking to stop it falling over. One good plant will provide enough to keep a curry-loving family in chillies for a year. My favourite variety - reliable and prolific - is Long Red Slim, though I keep experimenting with other varieties.
|A decorative Cayenne cultivar called "Fireflame" - growing in a flower bed with Black Millet, Black-eyed Susan and Tagetes|
Drying ripe chillis is easy. I thread them on kitchen string using a darning needle and just hang them up somewhere cool and dry. If you want the flavour with greatly reduced heat, cut them in strips lengthways, remove the seeds and dry in a cool oven or with a dehydrator.
|Poblano (left) and "Pinocchio's Nose" extra-long Cayenne type chillies, drying in the cellier|
Turning the dry chillis into powder calls for - a gadget!
|Genuine 1970s moulinette - the blender goblet is long gone|
My little old spice grinder copes very well with dried cayenne peppers, turning them into flakes. It needs careful cleaning though! Three strings of peppers yesterday became three quarters of a jar of flakes. You also need a well-ventilated work area, to avoid explosions. Not from the chillis, that is! A faceful of fresh chilli powder is quite an experience. The antidote to an overdose is full cream milk - capsacin, the key ingredient, is soluble in butterfat.
There are hundreds of varieties of chilli (chili, chile...) derived from several species of capsicum crossed and re-crossed into a complete tangle. Capsicum pubescens types, which have purple fruit and are small and bushy, make good pot plants and can be overwintered indoors. Many varieties are highly ornamental with multicoloured fruit and/or leaves. My favourite use of chillies as an ornament was in the Marriott Hotel in Mumbai, where each table in the restaurant bore a small pot containing a little chilli plant covered in small plump fruit. Needless to say I took a couple of the fruit home with me.
Last October I bought a little chilli plant in a pot from Jardiland, particularly for its spectacular black fruit and partly because it was all on its own and I felt sorry for it. The fruit did not turn red, but dried ton the plant to a warm brown.
|Nameless variety of "Piment"|
Today, by complete coincidence with yesterday's spice grinding, when I came to water it I realised that it had responded to a little TLC by producing delicately coloured flowers.
And plenty more to come
|Delicate - but the peppers have some punch!|
The flowers are rather like the F1 hybrid "Trifetti" (see spice jar in top picture) now superceded by Purple Tiger which has variegated foliage (green white and purple) and purple fruit ripening to red. And they're hot!