TURN­ING UP THE HEAT

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Garden -

Last week we fea­tured chokos, one of the three veg that we ate with a meat of some sort. Need­ing a slab of but­ter to melt over the squash-like tex­ture, fol­lowed by a hefty hit of salt and pep­per, it be­came some­what edi­ble.

If that was in­dica­tive of our cui­sine not so long ago, our taste­buds have shot through like the prover­bial Bondi tram of the time.

Can you re­mem­ber your first en­counter with chilli? Maybe the clos­est you came to “hot and spicy” was a Keen’s sweet curry with sul­tanas, ap­ple and banana to ac­com­pany some ex­tra sausages or left­over lamb.

Chilli has slowly and maybe not so sub­tly per­me­ated our din­ing habits and taste­buds with slow but cer­tain ad­dic­tion. In fact, it is now what the old tomato sauce used to be, swamped over just about ev­ery­thing on its way to our mouths. It’s the cap­sai­ci­noids within that cre­ate the kick.

Chilli is easy to grow. Tes­ta­ment to this are the lit­tle red peren­nial bird’s eyes that seem to come from nowhere like weeds and have a hit like an atomic blast that is the equiv­a­lent to a cat­e­gory five cy­clone or an earth­quake of 10 on the Richter scale.

Bird’s eye chill­ies are rated about the 100,000 to 350,000 Scov­ille Heat Units (SHU) on the chilli scale. This is tame when it comes to po­lice pep­per spray, which is rated at 2,500,000 to 5,000,000 SHU.

Seems the more we in­dulge in chilli, the more we are hooked – the hot­ter the bet­ter. At what stage does the taste of the food dis­ap­pear and we then con­sider suck­ing on the bot­tle in­stead?

We can grow chill­ies quite eas­ily. Seeds from chilli bought in a shop or mar­ket can be dried and planted now into a seed-rais­ing mix or di­rectly into the ground, where they are in­tended to spend their life.

Lazy gar­den­ers use ready-grown seedlings. The long red, scotch bon­net (squat yel­low) if you dare, jalapeno and ha­banero are all pos­si­bil­i­ties. Green chill­ies are sim­ply the ear­lier ver­sion of the more ripe red.

Good-qual­ity com­posted and well-drained soils that get di­rect sun for most of the day will pro­duce a fruit­ful plant, or grow them in a large pot in a sunny cor­ner.

If you grow a “cool” cu­cum­ber vine (“crys­tal ap­ple”, the old round white skin va­ri­ety if pos­si­ble), mix­ing with plain yo­ghurt will help douse the fire in your mouth from a chilli hit that went too far. Just imag­ine what it does to un­wanted in­sects de­vour­ing your crop.

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