Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

A guide to germinating and growing chillies

September 14, 2017

Ever wanted to grow your own chillies but thought the task is too much for you? Don’t
worry! We’ve got you covered

If you have a bit of a green thumb and a pallet that favours hotter foods, growing chillies might be for you.

Despite popular belief you can easily germinate chilli seeds and grow a chilli plant at home, and it isn’t that difficult to do. Here we’re going to give you a brief guide to growing your very own chillies. You’ll be able to spice up your life in no time.

Ornamental Chilli Medusa

Ornamental Chilli Medusa

Germinating

Most people choose to immediately plant their chilli seeds into their compost. And whilst this is fine, there are a couple of things you can do before hand to help.

One such way is to soak your chilli seeds in warm water over night.

Alternatively you could place your seeds in-between two pieces of damp kitchen roll and then into a sealed container. Place this container somewhere warm and at a constant temperature. This should help speed up the germination process.

Chilli Ancho San Luis

Chilli Ancho San Luis sweet flavoured medium heat level

Planting the seeds

The compost you use doesn’t have to be anything special – multipurpose will do the trick just fine, seed compost is better especially if you sow a lot of seeds. Try and evenly space the seeds and check them once a day. Remember, you’re trying to keep the soil from getting dry.

The key to a solid growth is to keep the temperature constant. I recommend germinating the seeds in a heated propagator and for the hot chillies a thermostatically controlled propagator.

How long will they take to germinate? Well, that depends on the plant, milder chillies are easier to germinate, hot chillies require more heat and time to germinate, it also depends on the area they’re germinated in, temperature, moisture and light, get it wrong and germination can be slow and % germinate can be low.  Aim for around 2-4 weeks for germination.

After germination

Once your chillies have to started to sprout they’re going to need light. Hopefully, on your windowsill they’ll get all the light they need. If however you don’t live in a particularly sunny area, you can purchase grow lights.

These offer the plants artificial lighting but beware! If the light is too hot it could end up damaging or even killing the seeds.

Bhut Jolokia seeds

Bhut Jolokia the Ghost Chilli, one of the worlds hottest peppers

Re-potting

As your chilli plants start to grow you may have to consider re-potting them. When removing the plants be careful not to damage any roots or seeds. Take your time. One damaged root could see the end of your beloved chilli!

Re-potting can be quite a tricky thing to do. If you put the plant in something too big, it’ll focus on growing the roots, rather than the stem. Try and re-pot when you’re seeing roots appear at the drainage holes in the bottom.

When is it ready?

When you start to see flowers appear on your plant it’s almost time for the chillies. The flowers will need pollinating. If you haven’t move the plants outside at any point, then don’t worry. You can pollinate them yourself in the greenhouse or indoors. Take a cotton bud and rub around inside each flower head. This will loosen the pollen the way a bee would.

You will eventually see the flowers drop off. Don’t panic, this just means your chillies are on the way.

Trinidad Scorpion Butch T

Trinidad Scorpion Butch T hotter than the Bhut Jolokia!

Things to remember –

  • It’s best to plant your seeds early in the year around January or February
  • It is best to germinate chilli seeds in a heated propagator and grow them on in a greenhouse
  • Chillies are usually grown as annuals in the UK. However, they are classified as ‘tender perennials’ meaning that you may be able to get a few seasons out of one plant
  • As your chillies start to sprout you may want to move them outside if you  don’t have a greenhouse. If you do want to do this, ease them in. Take them out for a few hours a day so that they can ‘harden up’ to the  elements
  • Don’t put them outside when it’s still frosty! This will quickly put an end to your chillies.
  • As with any plant, the early stage of growth leaves them open to disease

Good luck and enjoy your chillies!

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

 

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Cucumbers – grow your own

September 9, 2017

Cucumbers

There is no doubt about it, a salad just isn’t a salad without cucumber, whether sliced, diced or even lightly pickled in advance by a few hours in a nice French vinaigrette dressing. Most people are used to shop-bought cucumber have almost forgotten how fabulous a cucumber can taste when it is brought still warm from the sun and eaten with a touch of salt, some nice crumbly cheese and a piece of crusty bread. Cucumbers don’t need complicated preparation – slice, season and eat. Delicious.

 

Another thing that many people don’t know is how many different varieties of Vegetable Cucumber seeds there are and how amazingly easy they are to grow. If you plant just a few seeds of any type of cucumber, either a greenhouse variety such as Femspot or an outdoor sort (sometimes called ‘ridge’) such as Marketmore, you will soon become the most popular person in town, because you will have plenty to share with your friends and neighbours. Cucumber seeds grow into plants that are usually very heavy croppers and most varieties now are resistant to the moulds and mildews which used to be such a problem when growing this kind of very succulent vegetable.

 

Cucumbers are not just for salads of course. Children often love to just eat them like fruit and there are a couple of varieties which have this in mind. Crystal Lemon cucumbers are great fun for a lunchbox. They don’t grow very big and are round with yellow skins (hence the name) and the flesh is very sweet and juicy so you can eat them just like an apple. A mini-cucumber which has a more standard look is little Pony Cucumber, which fits fine in any packed lunch. Both of these cucumbers will happily grow outside in warmer areas or with a little protection if the climate is a little colder, so they are a perfect choice for a child to grow themselves and as we all know, all children eat their five a day far more readily if they have grown them themselves.

 

If you are into doing your own pickling, why not start from scratch and grow your own gherkins. This way, you can pick them really tiny or let them get a bit bigger and pickle them in brine. Polish dill pickles, ogórki kiszone, take only around 20 minutes to make (although the five week fermentation is a long time to wait if you really love them) and cost a fraction of what you would pay in a shop. Just one packet of seeds will give you enough fruits to put in pickles for the whole year and cost less than one jar.

Cucamelon – Melothria scabra seeds – baby watermelons

March 4, 2017

Cucamelon

Cucamelon seeds Melothria scabra If you have never seen or eaten a cucamelon (and the chances are that
you haven’t) then you are in for a treat. Not only are they really interesting
plants which would look good scrambling up a fence or even over an ugly shed or
garage, but the fruits look like tiny little watermelons which turn out to
taste of cucumber with a hint of lime. You can get cucamelon seeds from Nicky’s
Nursery and you can sow them now to plant outside when it gets warmer – we are
all assuming it will get warmer, sometime soon!

Melothria scabra seeds (to give these delicious fruits their full
Latin name) are reliable to grow and you can put the plants really close
together because they like to twine and twist onto other stems so will help
support themselves this way. The fruits need to be harvested when they are
about the size of a biggish grape and if you plant the cucamelon seeds indoors
now you should be harvesting them by July and they will hopefully (weather
permitting) still be going strong in September.

Cucamelon is also known by lots of other names, many taken from the
appearance of the fruits – mouse melon is perhaps the cutest, the others being
Mexican sour gherkin, Mexican miniature watermelon and Mexican sour cucumber,
so perhaps it will come as no surprise to find that they grow very freely in
Mexico. The plants can be grown a second year from the roots, but they have to
be lifted and stored like dahlias and other tubers, so most people prefer to
grow cucamelon seeds fresh every year. They aren’t hard to get going and the
yield is very high, so it is simple to just buy a new packet of seeds every
year, especially if you don’t have too much gardening experience.

You can eat them just as they come off the vine and if you like to have
drinks and nibbles outside on nice summer evenings it is really fun to pour the
drinks and then point your guests at the vines to pick their own nibbles. You
can also pickle cucamelon fruits just like gherkins or cucumbers. You can
pickle them whole if you want and they look great that way mixed with olives
when they are done, or, for a crisper result, you can cut them in half. The
main thing to remember when you pickle Melothria scabra is that you must
salt them first or they can be soggy – still delicious, though!


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