Ok, so today’s a scorcher, but thank goodness for the slightly cooler spell earlier this week. After blistering heat on Sunday, there was a drop in temperature and some rain – just the right conditions to nurture my newly transplanted chilli seedlings. This is important, because my first attempt to grow chillies this season failed the week before when I forgot to organise AM to water them while I was away for three days – during which time there was a heatwave. If this lot don’t survive, it will be too late to find any more seedlings.
I don’t grow chillies for myself. I rarely cook with them. I grow them for DadaK and Obaapa, who, being Ghanaian, cannot live without them. DadaK always looks quite betrayed if I give any to other people, or the crop is poor or worse – the plants have died due to extreme heat.
This will be about the 8th year I’ve grown them – squashy orange habaneros, the third hottest chillies in the world according to the Scoville Scale of hotness. I guess that’s why DadaK likes them – in his household they are the only acceptable chillies. They stockpile them in the freezer. But Habaneros are hard to get – which is why I’ve been growing them. Sydney greengrocers mostly stock the pointy red and green chillies, which seem hot enough to me, but perhaps I’m missing some subtlety of flavour. It’s also hard to find the seedlings and they’re only available for a few weeks each year – so you see why it’s important that we had some milder weather to keep them alive. I read on Wikipedia that habanero plants love hot weather and grow all year round in tropical climates, but that doesn’t seem to to happen here.
My first crop of habaneros was stupendous. Hundreds of chillies from just one bush, which kept producing for so long I could afford to be generous. Not only DadaK but AM’s cousin Gyamfi, my brother, work colleagues, friends, all got samples. Some appreciated them, others did not. The pungency of frying Habaneros set off a chain of vomiting in one family. Oops. Then there was the friend of AM who thought they were capsicums and started a food fight with them. Ouch. Or should that be AAAAAArrrrrrggghhhhh!? As it is on YouTube, where you can find hundreds of videos just on the painful subject of eating raw habaneros.
I’ve never had quite as much success as I did that first year. I’ve realised now that they need a lot of manure, and these days I have to grow them on a balcony instead of a back yard, so getting the conditions right is more of a challenge. Last year DadaK tried growing them in pots himself – with great results. Not a large crop but larger chillies than any I’ve ever grown.
I’ve seriously let him down this year. I didn’t have time to go hunting for seedlings at the right time and then managed to kill off the only one that I found. I went looking again last week and could only find a single punnet of three seedlings – but I’m not sure if they’ll be acceptable. They are – according to the label – RED habaneros, not orange. So it’s possible I may end up with a bumper crop of the wrong kind of chilli. But this may turn out to be a good thing. It’s possible that they are really Red Savina, a cultivar of the habanero and the second hottest chilli on the Scoville Scale. I guess DadaK would like that.