Darsham Nurseries Cafe, potager, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed, harvesting vegetables,
The Daily Dibber

Kitchen gardener for the Darsham Nurseries Cafe. Seedaholic. Grower and lover of food and flowers.

Iced Gems

I have thoroughly enjoyed growing 19 different varieties of chillies and peppers this year.

The seeds were sown on the 1st of March in a heated propagator. All plants were pinched back hard to promote a bushier habit. Six months later we are harvesting daily and the bounty is busy being transformed into different dishes and pickles.
Here’s some the of varieties harvested to date:

image

 

imageThe curly long sweet Turkish pepper ‘Corbaci’ is my personal pepper choice this year so far. It’s easy to grow, a prolific cropper and visually very attractive as it changes colours from lime green to shades of yellow and finally orange.

image

Today if I was to recommend just one chilli to grow then it would be ‘Buena Mulata’. This variety is the heaviest cropper by far and really fun to grow. The purple chillies that first appeared were shockingly beautiful but had little flavour.

‘Buena Mulata’ is the first to develop.

As the plants matured the fruits then took on shades of chocolate, pink, rust brown, and finally turn dark red. The plants at the moment have a kaleidoscope of colours. Each chilli matures individually so you can just harvest a few mature fruits at a time. The eventual dark red chillies have a great flavour and a good but not unbearable kick.

image

I am a sucker for a good story and this particular chillies history doesn’t disappoint.

In the 1930s there was another seedaholic, a man called Ralph Weaver.

image

During the great depression he turned his one-acre plot in Pennsylvania into a vegetable garden to feed his family. He started a long friendship with an African American Painter called Horace Pippin.

image

Pippins grandparents were slaves and in 1917 he went to fight France in the war. He returned with a Purple Heart. The gunshot injury to his right shoulder caused chronic pain. He visited Weaver regularly to get his arm stung by honey bees, this was considered a remedy at the time for rheumatic pain.

Weaver wasn’t a fan of using his bees this way. Pippin knew his weakness, so effectively bribed him with rare seeds collected from African American gardens. He was drawn towards this particular chilli because of the startlingly array of colours it provided in the garden. When he died in 1946 the New York Times called him the “most important Negro painter” to have appeared in America.

Man on a bench by Horace Pippin.

image

Harmonising by Horace Pippin.

Harmonising by Horace Pippin.

Interior by Horace Pippin.

In 1956 Weaver died. Twelve years later his grandson William Weaver helped his grandmother clean out the deep freezer in the basement. Right at the bottom was lots of baby food jars full of frozen seeds, one was labelled ‘Buena Mulata Pepper’. Freezing is now a widely accepted method of keeping seeds viable.

William also became a seedaholic, and started a frenzied attempt to save his grandfather’s collection. He managed to germinate lots of varieties and went on to start the ‘Roughwood Seed Collection’ which now has more than 4000 different seeds of rare and heritage food.

His book ‘Heirloom Vegetable Gardening’ is a wonderful read.

His company also supplies one of my favourite seed suppliers the ‘Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company’.

Roughly 48 years after that frozen discovery my boss and I drooled over these chillies in the Bakers Creek online catalogue and the Darsham credit card was put to good use.

I think it is pretty damn cool that today here in Suffolk, England ‘Buena Mulata’ is being successfully harvested.

I like to think that Ralph would have really appreciated the heritage varieties grown here in the Darsham polytunnel. He would be walking around the potager, arms behind his back and I would be trailing behind him just itching to start a conversation.

Horace, well it’s nice to imagine that he would be busy finishing his plate of cafe food, savouring the last bite of the pickled chilli. He would set his napkin down, push his chair back and immerse himself in the art exhibition on the café walls.

limegarden@sky.com • 30th September 2016


Previous Post

Next Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

%d bloggers like this: