Saturday, December 11, 2010

It’s a bit chilli here …

A polytunnel gives one a certain advantage in that you can get things going a little earlier within it than those planted outside but there are limits, unless you want to go to the bother of heating it.  There comes a time when it’s cold enough to have a frost inside the polytunnel.  Our last tomatoes have long since been brought inside and eaten or preserved but, alongside our winter salads (such as Green in Snow, Mizuna, Ragged Jack and some rocket and lettuce still hanging on gamely) we had one summer crop yet to harvest, our chilli plants.

The plants looked like Christmas trees, huge bushes of green hung with hot garlands of red, orange, green and yellow chillies.  We had talked about harvesting the chillies, I’d even volunteered to help out but somehow it kept getting bumped to the following day. 

Then we had a hard frost.  If you’ve ever left a pepper in the very bottom of the fridge or in contact with the cooling element at the back, you’ll know that mushy squeeze that tells you it’s for the compost bin.  The freezing, expanding ice crystals do for the structure and there’s no way back.  One forgotten pepper in the fridge is one thing, but half a dozen plants that should have been stripped the day before is more than disappointing.   

Was it a greenhouse full of ruined peppers that made Thomas Jefferson expound, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today” ?  All was not lost, however, and we raided books and Googled around the world of chilli preservation to find ways of rescuing our soggy hot harvest.  Here’s what we did :
  1. Chilli chutney
  2. Sweet red chilli jelly
  3. Sweet green chilli jelly
  4. Sweet yellow jilli chelly
  5. Green chilli oil
  6. Dried (in a warm oven) chillies. 

My only complaint is that Gabrielle tried to use up the spares in every meal that followed and it comes to something when even the morning’s porridge clears the sinuses and makes your eyes water!  

Gabrielle’s complaint is that all that un-gloved preparation left her hands red and burning and had her soaking them in lemon juice, then yoghurt in an effort to provide pain relief.  This is no joke, when handling large amounts of chillies, latex surgical gloves are essential.         


Steve said...

Very impressive harvest, I must leave more room in my polytunnel next year, after all there are only so many things you can do with tomatoes, and Mrs TK made some mean chilli sauce with the few that I grew this year.

Tim said...

Stuart, we dry and grind our cayenne... using an old Moulinex coffee grinder of the 70s.
Goggles and a facemask are essential here!!
The grinder is only ever brushed out as it is used mostly for curry mixes.. How did your Green in Snow stand up to the snow? Pauline and I went to the HDRA [Garden Organic] site and saw, in MID-SUMMER, Green in Snow in a poly-tunnel, wilting in the heat.
We asked why it was in a poly-tunnel and were told that "being a Japanese plant it needed to be kept hot"! Something amiss at the HDRA?
We've has it outside in all weathers, no problems at all and a very good winter salad plant.
I asked why it was called Green in Snow and was met with a blank look... Oh well?

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Gabrielle tells me her chillies are even easier to grow than tomatoes, Steve, so you should have no problems. You might only need a couple of plants too. Here's a recipe suggestion to combine tomatoes and chillies We've tried it and it was superb!

Tim, we have picked it from our potager, on Christmas Day and it isn't bothered by snow, either. Yes, someone at the HDRA is rather missing the obvious clue, n'est pas ?

Steve said...

Stuart, I have grown some, just not enough, by the time I get all my tomatoes in there just is not enough room.
This what Mrs TK did with then, the stuffed ones are brilliant.

dND said...

Time is worth so much more than money! Add to that the bonds of friendship that are formed and it's a win, win situation all round.

Re the sore hands, I had a similar thing preparing my garlic, apparently there is a compound that produces sulphuric acid if I remember correctly and it literally burns your skin away as I found out - ouch!

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Yummy-looking recipes, Steve, have bookmarked them for reference next year, when we once more have some fresh chillies to deal with.

dND, couldn't agree more about the relative values of time, money and goodwill (but the money is always useful!)