13 May 2007

Spring: when a woman's thoughts turn to chillis

I know when most food-minded people think of spring, asparagus and perhaps strawberries lamb come to mind.

Not me...

I think of chilli peppers.

More specifically, I think of how people should never leave me in charge of their plants. Owners return to desiccated and withered leaves or rotted, waterlogged stalks. I forewarn everyone that I'm not the person they want to care for their greenery: I know how to cook and eat them...not grow them.

So, what does this have to do with spring and chilli peppers, you may ask.

Well...as my parents have taken to leaving the country for half the year, someone has to take care of the plants. It's taken them a while to realize that I won't tend to things they way they do. The front garden has turned from a patch of green with bunches of green and flowery things that needed an undue amount of attention (read: watering and pruning and other things you do to plants) to a totally self-sufficient entity (at least from January-June). It's quite lovely--one day there's nothing, the next day the tulips have come up...same with the little white bell thingies and the pointy purple things. Apparently there are some red and purple fluffy things that should appear soon. They look nice and I get a tonne of credit for doing absolutely nothing.

Unfortunately, the indoor plants aren't quite as Jasmine-friendly. The collection has downsized from pots of irises, African violets, green frawny things to one cactus, two large jades and one chilli pepper plant.

The cactus and jades are easy--I can forget to water them, then remember they exist, dump some water on them, and then everything's okay.

That chilli plant needs...well...attention.

It fruits (if that's the right word) in February or March and I should collect the fiery little jewels. But I don't. They stay on the vines and slowly dry. I'm not sure that's good for the plant. In April about a third of the vines turn from a gorgeous, supple green to a worrisome brown...and then they get crunchy...very crunchy. Sometime around May it gets too much for me to bear...and I start hacking away at it...just to make me believe that the plant is more alive than dead.

I have no idea if I'm doing this correctly. I look at where the brown and the green meet and then cut. If there's a little tuft of leaves, I leave it on...if there isn't, I don't care. Afterwards I gather the dry spidery bits and pluck off the equally dry peppers. I do this every year and the plant recovers to fruit again in the late summer-early autumn.

It's a miracle this plant is still alive.


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Anonymous said...

This was hilarious!

I love dried chili peppers so as far as I'm concerned, keep up the "great" work/gardening!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Intelligent neglect, we all need more of that! And I'm all for chili peppers spring or fall...

Anonymous said...

Hi Jasmine - cute post - and I can totally relate... it's only by the purest good fortune that some of my mother's plants are still here today after being in my hands...

Shaun said...

Dearest Jasmine - Well, if they're not yet dead, you have done a fine job. I have never been trusted with the task of looking after anyone's plants. I don't think it is because I wouldn't go a good job...I just have neither garden nor indoor plants, so I assume people think I don't even like greenery and flowers in bloom. As always, a confessional and charming post. How is the research for your food articles coming along?

K and S said...

wonderful post!

Elizabeth said...

Clearly, you're doing everything correctly, Jasmine.

I hope it's a consolation that the spring chillies that appear on an indoor plant don't have the same flavour as fall chillies produced from a plant that is outdoors.

Generally, the indoor chillies are simply hot rather than hot with that wonderful citrus flavour of sun ripened chillies.


jasmine said...

Hello all

Ivonne & Tanna -- I really don't know howthe darned plant keeps living...

Gilly -- Glad to know I'm not alone...

Shaun -- Unfortunately, people keep giving me their plants to take care of. Even if I say "no" I find them in my cubicle or on the doorstep.

Kat -- Thanks!

Elizabeth -- Well...these chillis are hot. I made the error of drying them in the oven once and then powdering them...*that* was a chest-and-sinus-clearing experience.


Elizabeth said...

I wish I could say that I'm completely unable to identify with that sort of chest-and-sinus-clearing hacking cough that won't stop. We only just yesterday had it happen again (insert several eye-rolls) after adding some ground chillies to recently toasted spices intended for harissa.

My husband got nailed twice. Once after emptying the ground chillies out of the spice grinder (used to be a coffee grinder) and then again after adding the chili powder to the other toasted spices.

Still, for a good cause like making harissa, this sort of hacking sacrifice has to be made....


P.S. I just had to put my last year's cayenne plant (that I was nursing under grow lights all winter) into the composter. Yup. I forgot to water it last month. DRAT. I wish I had your chilli plant care abilities.

Anonymous said...

I live in Orlando Fl and have a large Cardamom plant
that is over 10 years old. It is planted in full sun
and this spring it grew 4 large stalks that bloomed
beautiful orange and yellow floweres much like a
orchid. After the blooms faded and died I was left with
large ball like pods, not at all like the pods I see is most
articles and pictures. I have left them on the stalks to
dry but I am not quite sure if this is what I should do.
Could you perhaps advise me on what i might do with
these strange blooms?
Thank you for your time