Thursday, 26 February 2009

Thinning out the 'idiot' gene...

I was going to create a bit of an artsy post about a lady being attacked by a whirling page 3 model from the Daily Star. The newspaper was swept by the wind as I walked up to work this morning, and curiously enough it flew accross the street. Shedding its pages. The last page to shed happened to be the page 3 girl 'photospread' (insert your own joke here), which swiftly attacked a passerby, who had to use her skillful avoidance techniques (she must be acosted often by 'radical extremist fundraisers' in the city centre) to sidestep the buxom beauty as it sought to wrap herself around the poor passerby.

But today I've yet witnessed another reason why humanity is movin ever so closer to its own 'but you CAN plug that radio and put it in the bathtub' demise.

Some people are just purposely (must be a subconscious realisation that their genetic material is at a n evolutionary dead end...or they are just dumb...though you're not supposed to call them that anymore...not politically correct, you see) thoughtless.

My office just had a fire alarm go off. It took over 15 minutes to evacuate the building, because some people would not leave their seats because they thought it was just a drill.

A fire drill that lasts 15 minutes, even though the rest of the people around them are collecting their belongings and high-tailing it like a looter in a riot when the police arrives.

Apparently they only got up after two things happened: a voice over the LOUD and IMMENSELY ANNOYING fire alarm said 'This is not a drill. Please exit the bulding', and one of the buildin'g 'fire safety officers' walked up the them and asked 'Why haven't you left the building? The alarm's been going off for 15 minutes. Most of the other people have already evacuated the building.'

One person apparently said 'But the alarm is so soft.'


That blinking thing can wake the dead!

It probably warned off several cargo ships 20 miles out to sea to avoid the area!

Perhaps my building's next alarm system will involve cattle prod weilding 'helpful assistants' to get people to move (again, temper, Aji Chombo. You must be 'politically correct').

Seriously, though. If you notice that even the 'faint and distant' building fire alarm has gone off for 15 minutes. Don't you get the least bit curious?

Do people not watch disaster or horror films anymore?

It definitely must be a trigger in a person's genes then.

'Bub, yer just not cut out to continue yer genetic line. We'll turn the fire alarm sound into 'easy listening Kenny G music' until the smoke or flames take care of you'...

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Life, Death, and the Bin...

I was sad I've had to bin some of the chilli seedlings because they've rotted.

I feel like a vegetable general vowing that 'no capsicum gets left behind, Joe' only to watch them get mowed down by my innexperience.

I guess it's playing the averages, really.

I decided that I would only plant two seeds per variety (Almapaprika would have been very crossed had I decided to go for all the seeds...we just don't have the space in the flat!), so I bought two little mini greenhouses, the ones that can hold up to 22 Jiffy pellets.

Jiffy pellets are cool! They look like little chocolate coins or oreos (just don't eat them, please) made of peat or coir, that when you dunk in warm water POOF! they swell to five times their size, and allow you to use to sow seeds.

They're like those instant grow dinosaurs you see at the continental market stands, or that 'grow your own girlfriend' a friend of mine once gave me as a prank (my brother, Peperoncino thought it was for real. Just add water...).

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. 22 per mini greenhouse. Two gr
eenhouses. Two seeds per variety (sort of). In the first greenhouse I planted (January 14, 2009):

2 Ring of Fire
2 Cherry Chilli
2 Esplendor
2 Belpicen
2 Chocolate Sweet Pepper
2 Chi-Chien
2 Numex Suave Orange
2 Caribbean Red Habanero
6 of the Supermarket bought chillies f
rom 2006

On the second one a week later:

2 Naga Morich
2 Red Savina
2 Chocolate Habanero
2 Fatalii
2 Orange Habanero
2 Birds Eye (piri-piri)
2 Rocoto Red (Rojo)
2 Scotch Bonet
2 Chiltepin (Tepin)

2 Jamaican Hot (Habanero)
2 more Esplendor

All done, right?

Not really. As some of the chillies began to germinate (or not), I moved them out of the greenhouse and into larger covered pots or into my ultimate grenhouse:

Glass Jars

With the space made, I added:

2 Stromboli
2 Etna
4 Black Cuban
4 White Habaneros

Sadly, the space made was done by the loss of the follwing:

2 Numex Suave Orange (just wilted. I g
uess it was too humid inside the greenhouse)
6 Supermarket Chillies from 2006 (guess it was old seeds)
1 Chi-Chien
1 Esplendor

And today it looks like I'm probably losing:

1 Jamaican Hot
1 Chocolate Habanero

That's the two greenhouses. I'm placing them next to and on top of the radiator to get some good heating to germinate the seeds (Almapaprika would prefer that heat go to more important things, like heating the room). The photo was from the third week in January. That same corner now has 10 little extra pots!

Will tell y'all later about how many have germinated and are so far going strong.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Heed the call of the capsicum!

Question time, then:

Why did I decide to heed the call of the capsicum once more?

It's not exactly like Almapaprika and I have the space for it. we've gone from a house with a small garden to a flat with a long but narrow balcony, already occupied by three blueberry bushes, a hybiscus, and two other ones I always forget (Almapaprika will probably tell me what they are at some point when she reads this later).

Well, I guess I have to thank my friends for this (Let's call them Ancho, Poblano, Pasilla, and Jalapeño).

I got a birthday gift from them in winter, which consisted of packs of seeds and a terra-cotta plant pot for strawberries (you know, the ones that are tall and a bit broad, but have openings on the sides, so you can have multiple plants hanging from the pot). The seeds were from the Chile Pepper Company (I still have some issues with them, which is why I don't link them on this blog). The packs contained:

-Belpicen Chillies (an ornamental chilli)
-Esplendor Chillies (another ornamental chilli)
-Numex Suave Orange Chillies (a 'no heat' variety of Habanero)
-Chocolate Sweet Pepper (a sweet pepper...chocolate in colour)
-Ring of Fire (a slightly hotter variety of Cayenne)

So, those five little seed packs set the wheels in motion, so to speak.

Almapaprika and I travelled to 'Aji Chombo Land' for Christmas to see the family and to attend a wedding (not mixing those peppers in this salad.) of two dear pepper friends of mine. I can now kick myself for not having brought back seeds when I returned, because the 'call' grew louder and stronger in my head.

I ended up placing a second order for seeds from a place called World of Chillies (I ordered their collection of the 10 hottest chillies in the World packet):

  1. -Naga Morich (Scorching at 1,500,000 SHU from the Asam region in north-eastern India/Bangladesh. That would be Scoville Heat Units. Long story short: how they measure heat via the chemical compound that causes the heat, capsaicin, in a chilli. Pure capsaicin is 16,000,000 units. Police grade pepper spray is around 6,000,000. A Jalapeño pepper has around 30,000. now you can imagine how utterly hot this pepper is)
  2. -Red Savina (a type of Habanero from California. Hottest one there is)
  3. -Chocolate Habanero (A chocolate...habanero. Smoky in flavour. Imagine that).
  4. -Fatalii (yellow chinense variety from Africa. Also really hot. The rest of the chillies in the collection range between 250,000 and 400,000 SHUs, so clearly not for the faint hearted).
  5. -Orange Habanero (continuity but variation in colour. I like that)
  6. -Scotch Bonnet (a chinense variety that looks like them little scottish hats).
  7. -Tepin (Grandaddy of the domesticated capsicums).
  8. -African Devil (aka, the Piri-Piri chilli from Nando's famous hot sauces)
  9. -Jamaican Hot Pepper (yet another habanero. You begin to get the idea that the chinenses are the ones to fear).
  10. -Rocoto Rojo (Capsicum pubescens. The plants are fuzzy and the chillies have black seeds. Oh, and they are really spicy).

There was supposed to be a free pack of Chocolate habaneros for anyone ordering seeds (more chocolate habs? really?), but I cheekily asked the people at World of Chillies if they could instead send me some seeds from another type. Guess they didn't like my cheeky request, because I have yet to see that free pack of seeds.

But does it end there? (Do I really need to ask?)


Yours truly goes and makes another purchase from the Chile Pepper Company (this time they come through, but I'm still not convinced by them), this time ordering:

  1. -Etna Chillies (ornamentals again. i need something to fill that blasted terra-cotta pot)
  2. -Stromboli Chillies (again, ornamental)
  3. -Black Cubans (ornamental Tepins, but really cool looking)
  4. -White Habaneros (Hey, if I can crossbreed all the colours I've got, I'll try to make a 'rainbow habanero')

Yep, I just can't get enough (Oh, did I forget to mention I still had chillies from Tradewinds Tropical Fruits bought in 2007, as well as Chilipiquin's Chi-Chien chillies?)

:-) More to Follow!

What the Heck is an 'Aji Chombo'?


Once more I digress from the original point of 'Aji Chombo's 2009 Chilli growing journal.'

Really, there should be no surprise there. I had warned all of you I'd find ways of going off tangent (I'm kind of like Pinky, from Pinky and the Brain in that bizarre yet methodical way. And I do apologise to all of you who seek true knowledge for making the majority of my links from 'shudder' wikipedia).

This deviation, though, has purpose!

You see, to those of you who are not native to 'Aji Chombo Land', or are not consumate 'sages' of capsicum wisdom, 'Aji Chombo' sounds like something quirky, foreign, and exotic. It might even sound like a half-drunken battle-cry for Xena: Warrior Princess (no wikipedia reference there. I expect you all to know who she is!).

Aji Chombos are a variety of Capsicum chinense (a type of very hot chilli. Chinense varieties are said to originate from Central America and the Caribbean. In other blogs I'll tell you folks about some really good books to read about capsicums). The name is derived from two words: 'Aji', which is generic Latin American Spanish for 'Chilli', and 'Chombo', which is a slang for 'Afro-Caribbean'. It is quite literally translated to 'Black people chillies.' The historical origins of the name are a bit of a mystery to me (if you are from 'Aji Chombo Land' as well, and wish to contribute to this blog by providing us with the correct information, please feel free to share it with us).

My take on it is that it must have either a) been a variety of capsicum already existing in 'Aji Chombo Land' which was utilised by West indian labourers who migrated there during the building of the 'Great Irrigation Ditch', or b) it was imported into 'Aji Chombo Land' by said West indian labourers (hence the name).

If you want to see some photos, there are a few other websites with photos of them, though The Chileman keeps a database of pretty much anything capsicum, so it's always a good place to go for reference.

So there you have it. Now you know a little bit about me.


Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Kitchen Windowsill Dream

It is said that everytime you have to make a decision, whichever choice you do not make creates a parallel reality where you do chose that option (should I pass gas in front of my boss or not? the choice could make me CEO in one reality, uncomfortably bloated and full of gas in another). Well, I'm sure in a parallel reality Almapaprika and I have a farm and do nothing more than 'farm stuff'.

Well, these are the photos of the Kitchen windowsill at the old house we used to share with Chiltepin and Chilipiquin:

Yep, a beautiful windowsill with lovely chillies. And this was when they were still immature! When summer kicked in, it was impossible to see out of the window! There were four chilli plants (on the left box. They were probably Cayenne, but I couldn't tell), and four Sweet Pepper plants (on the right). It was my first foray into planting here, and I got the season completely wrong. I sowed the seeds sometime in November 2006 (If you are an experienced gardener and have just read this, please, take a deep breath). I was looking at a set of loaded chilli plants by the second week of april 2007. APRIL!

Well, the results were quite impressive for a first timer, though I have to admit, not having the experience of 'seasoned' chilliheads (was that a pun? Almapaprika will probably tell me 'no, silly sausage!') meant the chillies did lack spicyness when I tried them. I think I probably did not feed them the right nutrients (I was using baby-bio), and it was a very, VERY wet summer (and the silly man that I am, I took my prize plants out of the kitchen and into the garden. The chillies had an infestation of red spider mites and aphids on them, so I decided mother nature would be good at dealing with them. The red spider mites vanished, and the aphids were controlled, but the slugs were EVERYWHERE!!!).

Capsicums, according to some, like moist but not soggy conditions. And anyone in the UK in summer 2007 will attest to it being even more miserable than the average English summer.

It was a decent 50-50 first attempt at growing capsicums.

But it did give me the 'itch' to plant in the future (which sets up the next blog quite nicely)...

Out the Blogs (I mean blocks!)

Hmmm. Strange things, these blogs.

A good way to communicate with the known and the unknown.

A good way to weave a tale of the ordinary...

...or jazz it up to the extraordinary (or silly in my case).

Greetings, oh ye who read these exerpts of a muddled mind!

I humbly welcome you to the World of AJI CHOMBO.

Bit of a dreamer, bit of a vegetating, vegetative vegetable...

... one heck of a spicy fruit!

So what is this blog going to be about? Well, for starters, it's about that strange little fruit, the Capsicum. It's a journal that wilL attempt to chronicle my success (or more likely resounding failure), as I strive to grow chillies from seed to pod. Along the way, I may digress from all matters capsicum into the shennanigans that envelop my rather ordinary life, and that of my partner-in-shennanigans, Almapaprika. She's a sweet pepper, Almapaprika (I love her lots. She puts up with me.). Got more common sense than me, and can be a little odd sometimes (though definitely not the strangest pepper I know).

But I digress... (yeah, it starts like this most of the time. One random thought turns into a ten volume diatribe).

Before I start, though, I do have a confesion to make.

I am not a chilehead (or chillihead, if you prefer the brit spelling of the term). Yes, it does make it all the more 'curious', that I'm not ga-ga about the little things, and yet I strive to grow them.

I decided a few years back to give it a try with some chillies (and a couple o'sweet peppers bought from the supermarket, and lo and behold! I actually got plants that grew big and strong and rewarded me and Almapaprika with chillies and peppers (she ate the peppers, I just grew them).

Much like my goings off-tangent in this blog, in real life I couldn't leave well enough alone, and attempted to grow myriads of little capsicums in a rather limited back garden, encroaching on the gardening space of one of our flatmates, Chiltepin, who was growing runner beans and beetroots. Her other peppery half at the time, Chilipiquin (look, if you know what these chillies look like, it will make perfect sense to you), brought me some chillies from China. I then bought chillies from three separate seed suppliers. But I overdid it, and was only able to harvest the two I mentioned previously, and some Cherry Chillies from another plant that grew beautifully in the kitchen windowsill. That house had an absolutely fantastic kitchen windowsill for growing plants! I will have to find the CD with the photos I took of those chillies to show y'all how utterly fantastic it was.

But that pretty much set up this current fascination for capsicums, and Scoville Heat Units, and the wonderful menagerie of terminolgies so preciously utilised by Chilliheads.

Almapaprika and I even began buying chilli sauces and jams to try.

I have to admit, to date, the absolutely BEST (and I say this after tasting at least four or five different ones) Chipotle Chilli Jam we've tasted has been courtesy of chillis galore. It was slighlty smoky, with just the right amount of sweetness and just the right amount of heat. We would use it for yummy cheese on toast, every time. Worth every penny, in this pepper's honest opinion (plus they were extremely nice when my order got lost in the post).

But again, I digress! (this gets to be a pattern, folks.)

Two years later, the chilli bug pinched me again, and I've now decided to do a little bit more (and true to form, I've once again overdone it!).

But I will let you digest this first entry before getting to the nitty-gritty of it all:

Aji Chombo's Chillies for 2009!