Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A 'Planned' Break

A quick break from Chillies (gasp!) to talk about another of my interests in life: architecture and urbanism (where, much like chillies, you don't really know how hot and spicy a topic is going to be until you bite down on it.).

I've been asking myself of late as to the motivation behind my love for 'the built environment' (more now thanks to the stress of my dissertation and the lack of time I have at the moment to properly give it my all).

I guess thinking of home (Aji Chombo Land) was one of my main reasons for becoming enamored with the topic.

Bit of a strange thing, since, and I write this in earnest, it can at times be an amazingly ugly city.

Traffic Jams left and right. People building what they want, where they want. One hundred buildings over 40 stories high...

...and not a single fire engine that can reach even the middle floors in the event of a fire.


But this is, in my optimistic eyes, the diamond in the rough.

All of the grime that covers urban planning in AC Land needs to be lifted so that the true beauty of the city (and indeed the country) may be fully appreciated.

And there is a lot to appreciate.

I love the challenges inherently present in cities.

Cities have order and chaos, euphony and cacophony. There is motion, change and evolution within them, and at the same time, there are elements that remain as constant and ever present as the sun.

Looking at a city and seeing ways to clear the clutter.

That is what I love.

It's not so much about establishing order as it is about solving problems.

Or better still:

identifying the potential for problems so that they do not happen in the first place (after all, problems only occur when we don't foresee them and stop them from materializing).

Bizarre and beautiful dance this is, urbanism.

Because it never depends on one person, either (can you imagine if dancing was limited to one person in a vast space?)

Much like in dancing, you will most likely have a partner. Much like in dancing, there will be other couples of varying degrees of experience on the dance floor with you, and rest assured, heels will be clipped and toes will be stepped on.

But it cam be immeasurably rewarding if 'the rhythm gets you'.

It is a convoluted thing, planning.

But one which I enjoy thoroughly.

In a convoluted way...


Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Aji Lemon Drop

Took this photo a second ago with the camera at work. The pod was on top of an architecture book I was reading and just looked awesome. This is the second Aji Lemon Drop that has matured so far.



Friday, 8 July 2011

Mutant Chronicles/Genocide

I am in the middle of waging unrelenting war with Aphids.

They invaded my plants a few weeks back when we had a rather 'unseasonable' June heat wave in the UK (yes, unseasonable. You look out the window today and you'd know why. It's in the teens, gloomy and rainy...and this is July), and now there are hundreds on my plants.

Things got so bad, I had no choice but to break out the SB Plant Invigorator to control the little cretins. Right up to that I had tried controlling them with some sticky tape (running it along the pods picking up the aphids), but this was now getting out of hand.

After one thorough spraying at the beginning of the week, they are now doing much better. They still have aphids, mind you, but they are much better.

I'm starting to get antsy, because there are at least three plants that should have ripe pods by now: The Lemon Drop, the Cayenne Golden, and the Ring of Fire. Come to think of it, the Stromboli and the Goats Weed aren't that far off.

Good News Everyone!

The Trinidad Scorpion x Giant White Habanero cross has two little pods!

Oooooooooh the excitement is palpable now! Really looking forward to that one.

Off to return to work I go!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Lies, damn lies (and statistics)

Hoy en la noche, AjiChombo land faces off against Mexico in the U-17 Football World Cup...(bizarre, I only just noticed after writing this that it was done so in brain is definitely not working).

Cruzo mis dedos como todo fanatico y espero que le podamos ganar a Mexico y que continuemos nuestra experiencia en este Mundial de Futbol.

But I digress...

Aphids are having a field day with the plants and I am slightly annoyed. Thankfully they have not become an uncontrollable pest as of yet. Sticky tape and water sprays and SB plant invigorator have been called upon to do battle with the sugary green menace!

The Cashew Apples are living up to their reputation as problematic anywhere that is not 100% tropical. We had a relatively cool night a couple of days past where the temperature dropped to 8-10Celsius. One of the plants had severe burns on the leaves...grumble.

By the by, si usted es fanatico de la arquitectura, le recomiendo el siguiente libro:

Richard Holzer Arquitecto

The book is the work of one of the greatest Panamanian Architects of the 20th century, and a fantastic journey through over 50 years of architecture in Panama.


Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Stench of Man (and Woman)

As Charlie Brown once said:


I spend (or rather, wasted) the better part of yesterday morning stuck in the various many forms of public transport in Merseyside and Sefton attempting to travel to and from home, surrounded by stinky people of advanced age.

Not all of them, mind you. Some of the ladies as usual smell of gardenias, lavender, and rose.

But it only takes one ripe one, really.

And boy was this one a ripe one...


I texted Almapaprika out of desperation of the hideous and befouling stench of 'sebum' which adorned one such couple in front of me in the bus, in what could only be the longest, most torturous 30 minute bus ride of my life. I was actually thankful when an equally foul smelling gentleman sat beside me because in contrast (and much to my relief) he only smelled chokingly of tobacco and cigarette smoke and ash, which at the very least gave my nostrils a momentary respite from the olfactory onslaught unleashed upon me.

Hot water and soap, it would seem, is a luxury some people in England have yet to discover.

As well as the good sense not to sit there hacking like a cat with a fur ball caught in the throat and producing gray balls of phlegm which are then poked and prodded between thumb and forefinger to attempt to diagnose why they are of that particular gelatinous consistency.

I felt like gagging.

It was so bad by the time I got home, four hours later (on what should have been a two hour return journey, faffing about time included), I stank of said mixture of human sweat, sebum, smoke, and who knows what else.

I am thinking of burning my clothes from the day, which still smelled of ghastliness late into the evening.

I could never be a coroner...

Public Transport.

It atrophies the senses...

On the chilli front, I managed to get some better photographs taken at week's end:

Here is one of the Cashew Apple trees. One has reddish/brownish leaves, the other green. A colleague asked why, but I could not give the answer. :-(

This is a very good photo of the Aji Lemon Drop flowers.

and one of the pods from the Lemon Drop. I am quite liking this plant. Not too tall, but with lots of pods.

And finally, the first of the goats weed pods. Looks like some eternal flame of spiciness. I think it is a fitting image for a chilli plant, don't you? ;-)

I am playing around putting the ownership of the photos now, just because I've seen at least one elsewhere on the Internet. Flattered though I am that another photo of mine might travel through the ethers, I kind of am proud that it is one of mine, and would prefer it said somewhere on it that it is so.

OK, off to do some laundry and some more coursework.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Sketchup Fever!

Talk about having a hard week. My weekend was ruined by the bane of group work, meaning what was supposed to be a happy Sunday of leisure was turned into an 11-hour marathon trying to fix other people's glitches (OPG). It wouldn't be so bad, were it not for the fact that I have done this because half of the team was really upset at the report handed in, while the other half seemed oblivious at the very basic, very childish, and very numerous mistakes present in the document (and no, I am not making it up, there were mistakes in every page of the 30-plus page document).

It is kind of an awkward situation, working in groups. I am never particularly good at telling people off, unless I have complete control of a group, and then I am slightly (lie!) megalomaniacal (hence the reason why I shun leadership nowadays, even though some people do need to have someone giving them a good ol' kick in the head!), therefore when people are not working to my standards it does tend to frustrate, vex, irritate, and disappoint me (much like I am sure it does the same to others when I am not up to scratch).

But such is life.

Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and get the ulcer for the sake of the greater good (the greater good!). And sometimes you really should just tell people:

'Your work was below par, and I am dissappointed in this.'

But that is usually done by a supervisor...

Aaanywho, enough whingeing. On to the more amiable side of things:

The chillies are doing swimmingly. The Stromboli has pods, one of the Lemon Drops has pods, one of the Ring of Fires has pods, the Golden Cayenne has pods, and they are all flowering! I moved the fatalii again, this time to share a bit of space with the rest of the plants, so maybe the sight of all them flowers and pods will make it go 'hmmm, I bet I could produce hotter pods than all of them put together!'. See, a little bit of 'capsicum psychology' ;-P

Here's a few pics (apologies. Took them with my phone, and sent them strait to photo bucket, so not re sized):

These are the Golden Cayenne. I'm quite looking forward to these, as I only had a couple of seeds and only one germinated. Well doe little guy! :-)

The stromboli. The pods are less pointed than the one I grew two years ago, but it still grew really tall and slender before giving a cluster of flowers.

One of the windowsils. That one had (until this morning, I have since moved things around) the Goatsweed, two Ring of Fire, and Lemon Drop. The pods from the LD are really nice and big. Looking forward to those as well.

The Strawberry Guava! It is really not climbing much at all in terms of height, and after six months it still looks pretty much the runt of the litter, compared to the chillies, but it looks fantastically healthy. It may take years to reach 'shrub' status, but heck, I can wait...

SURPRISE! This is Anacardium occidentale, the cashew apple. You can probably see the remnants of the cashew nut at the base of the seedling. This is an ultra topical plant that runs away screaming at the first sign of frost, so trying to grow it in THE NORTH! might be a bit of a problem.

But hey, life is all about the challenges.

I will try to get some more detailed photos up as soon as I can (coursework permitting)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

So I went to the Land Down Under...

This will probably be the last post for a couple of weeks, as university work once again begins to pile up.

I never thought it would end up being as much work as this, but heck, I guess sometimes it is possible to have too much school work while at the same time having to work in full time employment...


I can confirm the first pods of the season!


They are from the Lemon Drop. I am well and truly chuffed. This means the season is ON!

Booyah!, as the people say.

It's Pimms' O'clock and all that jazz!

I moved the Fatalii's somewhere sunny, but I will have to move one of them again, as that room is being turned into a student study room, and the last thing I want is to be blamed for a person of university-level education's lack of common sense in trying to taste a chilli pepper...

...but if there's something I have learned in all my years in the magical realm of 'academia', it's that a university education and common sense can sometimes be akin to oil and water.

I planted the two Cashew Apple seeds (that would be two unopened cashew nuts to everyone else) yesterday. Each seed is larger and heavier than probably all the packs of orange habanero seeds I have combined...

Now it's just a waiting game.

As I had said in the previous post, Almapaprika and I recently traveled to the land Down Under.

I have to admit, it was a wonderful and spectacular place.

But then again, we did travel during the Oz autumn, and were not subjected to the 40C temperatures of summer.

And, of course, while I was there, I could not help myself when I went to one of our gracious hosts' homes and discovered they too loved chillies:


Ah, there is something about growing your chillies outdoors that is so rewarding!

They also had a lemon tree and some passion fruit vines!

It was heavenly, even though the Oz Magpies are large (twice as large as the British ones) and rather fearsome looking with their red eyes.

Oh, and here's a treat:


Couldn't really go to Oz without taking a photo of a 'Roo.

Well, with any luck the next post will include photos of the pods back in the UK.


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

And just like that!


Mr. Arboc must be psychic.


I heard chillies can give a man all sorts of super human abilities.

And many thanks, mazcalzone. The studies go well, though I am by no means out of the woods quite yet!


I've been extremely busy on the studies front, so much so that there are only a couple of plants growing.

But they are doing quite well. Many are now flowering, and while part of me is tempted to pinch the buds and let them grow some more, another part of me greedily mutters

'Chillies! yeah!'

Such is life.

I am crossing my fingers with excitement because one of the Aji Lemon Drops seems to be teeming with flowers and quite possibly pods!

Hazzah! A new one to savour! People say very good things about this pod, so I am looking forward to it.

The Gold Cayenne, and Ring of Fire are also in bloom, though no pods yet; a curious thing, since the annums have always fared better in colder weather (and this April/may has been a bit cooler than normal).

The Goats Weed looks absolutely fab. It's like The Capsicum Deities decided they wanted a plant to be coated with velour, and made it so! Cotton Candy wrapped chilli plants!

It is starting to show little buds, so no doubt I will soon be seeing new chillies (fingers crossed).

The Stromboli is also showing the start of its typical cluster of about 10-14 flowers, so that is also good news.

The Scorpion/GWH cross is doing well, but still no flowers...typical chinense...(grumble).

The two Fataliis are healthy and green, but haven't flowered or shown the slightest desire to do anything other than look 'ornamental'. I might move them to a sunnier/hotter spot to see if I can change that.

They vex me, those two.

As much as plants can vex a man.

Two years and zilch...

The Strawberry Guava is doing well, though a midget compared to the rest of the chillies. This is a plant that is supposed to grow to 6meters high, and right now it is well south of 6 inches. But it is growing very green and healthy with many leaves. I might take the Baby-bio with me to work Friday and see if we can give it a bit of nitrogen to help.

This one will be a slow grower, but I'll wait.

On a non-capsicum related note, I got a seed order I was waiting for quite excitingly today, and have sown quite a few new and quite diverse things.

How diverse?


5X Suriname Cherries (Eugenia uniflora)
5X Baby Kiwis (Actinidia arguta)
2X Bush Rose (Eucalyptis macrocarpa)
2X Black Mulberry (Morus nigra)
2X Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)
2X Myrtle (Myrtus comunis)
2X Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendrum sempervirens)

Now, before you start asking 'What?!', there are simple and perfectly good explanations to all of these as well as the pack of Tea Tree and Cashew Apple I am desperately trying to sow in the next few days.

The Suriname Cherries remind me of the fence near one of my former workplaces, a day school which used to have them as part of the hedge rows. Why said day school chose to have a sour cherry bush as its hedgerow, I will never understand, but it always reminded me of that little area of a neighbourhood of my youth (my first job was age 16..a bit old, I know).

The Baby Kiwis and the Bush Rose Almapaprika and I saw whilst travelling recently 'down under', and in a way will hopefully serve as a reminder of that brief but fantastic time in a truly wonderful place (by the geographic distribution of the bush rose you can guess where we've been to :-P)

The Mulberry is because there is a great big mulberry tree near my place of work now, and though I've tried getting cuttings from it, nothing has worked.

That, and something about a monkey chasing a weasel (no doubt the weasel is a cheese thief...they all are).

The Gardenia because it is a smell of my youth, and I seem to recall it being prominent back home, and in some of the places I've lived in as well.

The Myrtle because it reminds me and almapaprika of a little holiday we had once...and because I want to eventually do the same liqueur they do in Corsica and Sardinia, Mirto!

The Giant Sequoia because, well, lets face it, who wouldn't. I mean it is just such a ginormous tree! It is the skyscraper of the vegetative world! If it does grow, then hundreds of years after I am gone, all things being positive, someone might walk up to it and say

'Blasted thing is ruining my perfectly good view of the natural (not man influenced over the course of several millennium oh no!, heaven forbid!) English Countryside! Who was the genius who planted this here?!'

And my work will be done.


The Tea tree because Almapaprika and I, along with another two close friends walked through the closest thing to a tea tree forest in Oz, and the smell was so fragrant and fresh.

...and we can lure quokkas!

The Cashew Apple, well, you're not really from Aji Chombo Land if you've not had a Cashew Apple tree growing in your back garden, and have had the cashew apple juice permanently stain your shirt, had cashew apple jam, and roasted cashew nuts in a fire to get the slightly burn, warm and oh-so-tasty roasted cashew nuts and pigged out!

And yes, this last plant is strictly tropical, cannot grow above a very specific altitude, and the slightest frost kills it.

Which makes it a challenge to grow.


One final thing and I shall leave you to digest this all:

I was really 'chuffed', as the Brits say, to see that five friends have asked me for chilli seeds this year, and two are already growing plants from those seeds!

I would like to think that in a little way, I am helping to spread the word about how totally awesome (TMNT moment, there) chillies are!


I will try to post photos of this years plants as soon as I can, provided I finish my assignments in time.


Saturday, 12 February 2011

What a Planning Pickle


Exams are over and a new semester of studies has begun.

I am going to be up to my armpits in work!


Politics of 'Big Society' and 'New Localism' asides (when I first heard of them I though they were games for my PS3, to be honest, and I thought 'gee! Is Big Society a cool cartoony game like Sim City?' but like Consuela from Family Guy, the answer as 'Eh nooooo...' It is all some cheeky and dangerously problematic new wave of 'let's re-define the role of planners' from the Planning Pickle, who is sadly also not a character of a PS3 game), this means I will be dedicating even less time to the chillies...


The seedlings are doing quite well, and what's even better, another of the Trinidad Scorpion x Giant White Habanero seedlings has also sprouted, along with the last of the Ring of Fire Cayennes!


Even one of the Strawberry Guavas looks to be germinating (and this time it's the real deal, not my foolishness).

I had to throw away two bags of dried chillies on Thursday because mould got into them!


Meaty chillies are difficult to dry. And even the slightest bit of moisture means mould. Away went about two dozen pods.

Even more disheartening, I used one of the Thai Dragons I grew last summer in a pot of Caribbean curry Almapaprika and I made on Thursday to spice it heat! I ate a bit of the dried pod to make sure it wasn't a fluke.

No heat... good flavour, mind you. But there just wasn't any bite to it. It was a bit of a let down.

On a separate bit of news, those of you in the UK take note: selected Home Bargains are selling the 100ml Tabasco Chipotle sauce bottles for just 39p!


If you're wondering why I'm happy, it's because the 250ml bottles sell in world food stores and expensive delis for £5.00!


So if your nearby Home Bargains has them, I recommend you get the case they put out on the floor.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

I can see clearly now, the label's on...

At last, some form of clarity!

I have to admit to my own personal stupidity in not properly labelling the coir pellets when I put the seeds in.

It has made for an interesting two weeks of guessing what has 'hatched'.

But finally, I can see it clearly, since what could have been either a Kumquat or a Stromboli Chilli has germinated:

Both did and I can confidently say they are chillies and not citrus.

I'm a bit sad, mind you. I was quite excited at the prospect of having little Kumquat plants.

But I guess them's the yams, as they say.

So, what I should have germinated at the moment is now definitely:

1 Trinidad Scorpion x Giant White Habanero (F1 hybrid. Like a Liger or a Tiglon! So exciting!)
2 Stromboli

10 out of 22 isn't that bad. I might be temped to do one or two more seeds of different varieties if there is space available, but one of the offices I use at work for growing chillies is being converted into a seminar room, so that will unfortunately limit space.


Two exams down, one exam and one report to go.

Las cosas en las que me meto yo... :-/

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

So Much Confusion...

In between attempting to get my head around the various many ways in which Urban Villages are useful (and the many more in which they are rubbish), I have come to the conclusion I got the order of seedlings wrong.

This now means that the seedlings I've seen 'hatch' (yes, bird term. But I like to think of my chillies as somehow 'bird like' Maybe, just maybe, they imprint on the first human they see, and adjust their spiciness levels to them) are in actuality the Goats Weed and a Lemon Drop. I don't mind this at all, since that would mean two new types to grow that I have yet to see go from seed to plant to pod!


A few more have also 'hatched', which, if my revised order is correct (again, fingers crossed) would be one of the Trinidad Scorpion x Giant White Habanero F1 (that's First Generation Hybrid) and a Gold Cayenne. There is another little seedling rearing it's little vegetable self out as we speak, and this one will definitely set the record straight. It will either be a Stromboli or it will be a Kumquat.

And there is a big difference between them, as one is a chilli and the other a member of the citrus family (oranges and tangerines and them giant lemons used in Judaic ceremonies!).

Anywho, will let y'all know what eventually happens.

Almapaprika is watching 'metabolically challenged' (fat) people being bullied by slim, muscular people, being made to run in treadmills, push tractor tyres around, run some more, and then forced to share the reason why they are fat on global television as each and everyone of them embarks on a 'journey' more difficult and perilous than Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring embarked on when they tried to take the One Ring to Mordor: To Lose Weight.

To you lesser mortals, she is watching America's Biggest Loser.

I will probably join her, while holding a copy of a book by a chap named Allmendinger.

Riveting stuff on planning theory...

Sunday, 16 January 2011

And we're off!

The first seed of the 2011 season has germinated!

And no surprise here, it's a Cayenne Ring of Fire. I have to admit that for the past three seasons these have been the most consistent performers for me. And they are good producers, so more to boot. They don't suffer as much with the mild temperatures of the UK, and thus tend to start setting fruit much earlier than the capsicum chinenses, which means that, though the plants grow a little smaller than the chinenses (though this is in part because I put them in smaller containers), I do manage to get a second harvest from them. The heat from them is also much more manageable for people than that of any of the Habaneros or 'super hots', which means I can more readily incorporate it into regular dishes.

I guess if you're short on space and want to grow a chilli which gives you 'edible heat', this would be my number one choice.

The first chilli seed germinated yesterday, but there was also another little one which germinated this morning: The Strawberry Guava.

Last year this particular plant was also quick off the blocks, but succumbed to damp because I kept it in the little greenhouse in the cupboard for too long.

I am hoping there will not be a repeat this year.

Once fully grown, this shrub/small tree can be frost hardy to an extent, which means it can be kept outdoors in the UK (except in severe weather), so it will hopefully make a very good large container plant.

Two out of 22 so far in less than a week. A promising start. Let's hope by next week I hit double digits.

Now, back to my meagre attempts at studying (revising to the Brits)

Monday, 10 January 2011

The 2011 Season Begins today!

At least for me, anyways.

Some folks have started already.

This will not be a heavy season for me (not like last year. I still have bags of chillies drying all around the flat, and jars of chilli related jams in the fridge.), because Almapaprika and I will more than likely be on the move once again, which means I can't have twenty-odd plant pots following me.

With that in mind, I've decided to make the 2011 season a bit more manageable.

I have just finished sowing:

-2x Goats Weed Chillies (c. annuum)
-2x Trinidad Scorpion x Giant White Habanero (c. chinense)
-2x Gold Cayenne (c. annuum)
-2x Lemon Drop (c. baccatum)
-2x Stromboli (c. annuum)
-2x 'Peppermo' peppers (c. chinense? they were an unidentified pepper from a forum pal I even forgot what they look like)
-2x Kumkuats (citrus japonica)
-4x Ring of Fire Cayenne (c. annuum)
-2x Cayenne (c. annuum)
-2x Red Strawberry Guava (psidium littorale)

I'm only growing two types of chinense this year! what gives?!

Oh, I do have two overwintered Fataliis at work, hoping THIS year I might get a pod off them...

As usual I am including the odd 'non-chilli' so that I can have a bit of variety. I guess I'll find out if citrus seeds keep viable for more than a year, since the kumkuat seeds are from 2007 (I really should check my box o'seeds more often.

I also apologise if this year the entries are fewer and further in between, but I'm in the middle of university stuff, which means spare time is a luxury rather than a commodity (though organisational skills are still a necessity of mine). It's also been the reason why I've been away from almost every single forum I belong to. The responsibilities of further education!

Hope you've all had a good holiday season, and let the growing commence!