Ma-La in the Garden, 2021

Sichuan pepper and sansho are starting into the new year; I am starting with the chilli again.

Of course, given my increasing specialization on Chinese cooking, fitting types of chilli for that are my focus.

Erjingtiao Chilli (?)

This year, I want to make a more determined attempt at growing erjingtiao chilli (and at continuing to cultivate it, isolated, in the shape it should have. This would be the perhaps best known chile variety from China, but also one that is as good as impossible to get outside of China.

Erjingtiao peppers being traded seem to have been dried at temperatures that kill off the seeds. This year, I tried all the seeds I still had from China, but absolutely none of them seem to germinate anymore.

Last year, I got some plants; this year I took seeds from the best-looking pods for this year’s trial growing.

2021 Chilli Growing

Otherwise, I’m back to the standard ‘varieties’ of Chinese chilli, and some not-so-standard ones. Either way, one’s that impressed me and are good to use:

  • Mantianxing
  • Zidantou
  • Denglongjiao
  • Xiaomijiao
  • Huaxi Lajiao (This supposed variant of Erjingtiao did, strangely enough, germinate well, yet again…)
  • Hunan Jianjiao
  • Laoshanjiao Nr. 1
  • Laoshanjiao Nr. 8
  • Dafang Zhoujiao (Jizhuajiao; the “Chicken Claw Chilli” from Dafang)

Jinshujiao “Golden Tree Chilli” had to be there, of course.

I thought that I’d do without Hengdong Chilli; it is nice to use green, but more of a stunt than a chilli that’s good to use when ripened to yellow… but in the time it took me to write this and think to put it online, I planted Hengdong chilli… and zhoupi lajiao as well ;)

I also couldn’t resist planting some Maikopskii 470 and Fizani Sladki again–but those are a different story (of the Siberian House Pepper and other “Soviet” chilli).

Japanese ‘Chilli’

Two Japanese varieties were also essential, shishitou and Manganji tougarashi. Both are used like the Spanish pimientos de Padrón, i.e. fried as green peppers, salted, and done. And they are perfect as such fried green peppers. Thus, essential!

Overwintered Plants

From their winter rest (or something; I kept them warm) awaken… shuanshuanla (Ghost Pepper) from Yunnan, a plant of Nepalese Bell Pepper (of which I also started seeds) which I found in the same place as the Tibetan Golden Tree Chilli… which reminds me that I also started some “Lhasa-Type” Chilli from there!

At least one plant of xiaomijiao, the “little rice chilli”, that I overwintered has been growing the whole time and is starting to become larger than it had ever grown.

I also overwintered charapita, bird ají, and especially quite many plants of chiltepin, which I had started only last summer. The last still remain my utter favorites, in spite of my focus on all the Chinese peppers.

Sichuan Pepper and Sansho

Sichuan pepper is only just starting to bud again; the Japanese sansho is returning to growth and, in greenhouses, rather too far along already.

That said, sansho always moves too fast.

It goes to the point where I took my largest sansho plant out of the raised bed in which it had been growing and potted it. Otherwise, it might once again lose the buds it now has to frost, same as happened last year. And the buds include flower buds!

Of course, now it could be that the plant reacts badly to the disturbance and loses these buds because of that. Or suffers worse.

It’s the same as always: gardening is therapy. Or it might require therapy.

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