Chilies: May 2017 update

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Tepin x Lemon Drop hybrid is the tallest plant at the moment. It has also started to bear fruit, already!

I have been growing a variety of chili peppers for a few years now, and the most of summers 2015 and 2016 were spent building and then testing the Juliana greenhouse that we use for extending the warm season here in Finland. This year however, April was the coldest in record, and there was no point in taking plants outdoors, when it would had just meant having the electric heater working around the clock (which means: expensive chilies!) Now, at the end of May, it finally looks like the unseasonal snow storms could be behind us (knocking on wood…) and this weekend has been the one when the greenhouse has been set up for business, most of the chilies have moved into bigger pots, while there has been also plenty of other work going on in our garden.

As I wrote earlier, I tried out the simple Ikea hydroponic system in germination and sapling phases. The early steps worked very well, and it seems that for indoor chili growing the setup is good for these first steps. However (partially due to the deferred Spring), I kept the saplings too long in the hydroponic setup – if large plants like chilies are grown in hydroponic manner, it needs to have a water pump installed, that keeps the nutritious water flowing over the roots, rather than just soaking them. I did not have the pump, and ended up in troubles, with growth of some plants suffering, and even losing a couple of important chili varieties. I moved the remaining plants into soil and pots in early April, if I remember correctly, but I should had done that much earlier. The growth was strong after the move, even while growing plants had to get along on the windowsill, without any extra plant lights from that onwards.

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Scorpion, one from Messukylä school sale.

Luckily, there was the school yard sale in the local Messukylä school, where again hundreds of plants, dozens of chilies included, were available, so I could supplement my selection. I lost all my Aji varieties, and both of my extra hot varieties, “7 pot Brain Strain Yellow” and the Bhut Jolokia. But from the school sale I managed to get both a new Bhut Jolokia, as well as a Moruga Scorpion – both traditionally top of the line, as long as heat is measured. And there were also a couple of interesting habanero varieties that I picked up, as well as something that was called “Jalapeno Hot”. I have only tried rather mild japapenos so far, so it is interesting to see how that will turn out.

Here are some photos from the chilies at this point, 21st May: the school yard saplings are much smaller than the ones that I had grown in hydroponics and then in pots starting in January. The “Naga” (Bhut Jolokia) is particularly small, hopefully it will survive the move into a larger pot, it does not have particularly strong roots yet.

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My “Madame Jeannette” habanero is growing strong, though still indoors.
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Pequin Firecracker is also making nice growth right now, it should move to the greenhouse in near future, I think.

Talking about roots, I try this time using a specific commercial nutritient, Biobizz “Root Juice”: it is an organic “root stimulator” designed to boost root growth. As I had a gift voucher to a local chili gardeners’ store (thanks, Gamelab colleagues!), I have now also other nutritients to try – sticking to Biobizz products, per shopkeeper’s advice in soil based chili cultivation.

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“Root Juice”.
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My other tools in testing: “Top-Max”, “Bio-Bloom”, “Bio-Grow” by Biobizz (company is originally from the Netherlands), and also the Finnish classic, “Jaakon taika” (a photosynthesis booster).
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Gardening can provide many rewards.


Chili harvesting, greenhouse project 

It is late August and the first batch of chillies is getting ready for harvesting. The first ones to produce good yield were Fire Flame and Thai Rawit. Others that also had produced some ripe chillies at this point were: Habanero Hot Lemon, Madame Jeannette, Lemon Drop, Fatalii, Trepadeira da Werner and Moruga Scorpion. There are also Aji Cristal and Aji Fantasy crops coming along, bit later. The giant of them all was Moruga Scorpion, which really flourished in the heat of this summer. Most habaneros and thai chillies remained small in contrast, but still producing nice pods. The only real failure this summer was my excess watering almost killing the sole Trepadeira da Werner. Next summer, the automatic irrigation with the Blumat system is probably in order. This summer it was all manual, since we were close at home  whole summer. 

Chillies, 2015

Chilikirja / Chilli book & seeds, from
Chilikirja / Chilli book & seeds, from

It is germination time again: this post lists (most of) the chilli pepper varieties I have selected for this season, with links to the Finnish Chili wiki and other sites:

Happy chilli season!

Chili peppers and avanto

Avanto (cc by Tero Maaniemi)
Avanto (cc by Tero Maaniemi)

My new pet theory is that avantouinti (literally “hole-in-the-ice-swimming”) and love of chili peppers are somehow related. At least here in Tampere I can find people who do both: go out in extreme cold, and jump to the lake, and eat extremely hot chilies. It might be that there is need for extra endorphin, if you live up in North, perhaps? Both the pain/taste of chilies and the effects of visiting hot sauna, and submerging in icy water appear to create some kind of mild shock effect to your system, which in turn releases endorphins. Endorphins in turn are natural pharmaceuticals for pain and stress, and seem to interact with the opiate receptors in somewhat similar manner like morphine does.

On the other hand, it might just be a cultural thing: heavy metal music is also popular in the North, and I have also witnessed crowds of black-clothed folks gathering in the annual chili festival in Tampere. For some, it is just that the strong things attract?

As to the health benefits, there are studies that prove both being likely good for us, see e.g. Huttunen, Pirkko; Kokko, Leena; Ylijukuri, Virpi (2004). “Winter swimming improves general well-being”. International Journal of Circumpolar Health 63 (2): 140–144. And: Knotkova, H., Pappagallo, M., & Szallasi, A. (2008). Capsaicin (TRPV1 Agonist) Therapy for Pain Relief: Farewell or Revival? The Clinical Journal of Pain, 24(2), 142–154.

Chilies (cc by Tommi Arina)
Chilies (cc by Tommi Arina)