While gardeners takes months to produce results, their cooks – especially when preparing ‘slow food’ with all the taste and nutrition locked in – also need plenty of time. So it’s a double pleasure for the gardener to be able to step in and provide a gift for friends - whipped together at the last minute - while the cook has her feet up and enjoying some well-earned rest.
So it is in our household at the moment, where about forty chilli bushes are bearing prolifically, and require little effort by the gardener to pick and arrange a small gift-basketful of enough chilli to provide any normal Australian household with heat for a year!
This small basketful of chillies (mixed with basil) contains habanera, scotch bell, bird’s eye, Hungarian, oriental, menzano, serrano and metano chillies.
A crop like this only happens every four or five years, and is necessary – apart from the need for gifts and chilli paste and powder – to propagate and refresh our chilli seed bank. Our original seeds came from nine plants purchased many years ago from an old Italian gentleman taking advantage of his roadside location on Kensington Road, on the north side of the road just opposite the Burnside Memorial Hospital. Each year, during the warmer months, he has a sign outside on the pavement: “Hot chilli bushes”, “New varieties – hotter than ever…” etc etc. At over $10 per plant, I haven’t been back. I haven’t needed to – each plant came with free seed – a gift to the very few gardeners willing to keep growing them onwards.
How to store such a huge chilli crop for the intervening years? See chilli recipes and tips below (‘Harissa’ and ‘Hot Stuff’), and at The Mad Gnomes Strike Again