It was somewhere in the middle of June when I began to wonder about my peppers. After the massive success of my tea-fertilised plants last year, there was no way I wasn't going to grow them like that again, so I eagerly snapped up two plants from the annual sale by the local horticultural society. I was rather proud of myself. You can't hang around at the sale - the tables are pretty much cleared in half an hour - so I'd got there at a goodly sprint and felled only two old ladies in my path.
But this year the peppers were different, not so tall, rather branched and extraordinarily fruitful. In fact so fruitful, that if every pepper grew to full size I would surely have a phenomenon on my hands. Unless, of course...?
The labels clearly say Bell Boy, but of course they're not. Quite what possessed me to cut one in half and pop it straight into my mouth, I'm not sure, but when the squeals had subsided from the kitchen (stoically ignored by Husband who was watching the news), I announced that our need for dried chillies was now amply met for several years to come. But what exactly had we got?
A visit to the Horticultural society hut last weekend brought a rather sheepish look all round. The plants are obtained from a grower and the mix-up had occurred before the secretary had even seen them. No pepper plants had ever left the grower.
I have Apache, a compact patio chilli that matures early and is rather attractive. It's certainly easy to grow, having thrived outside in a sheltered, south-facing position, with nothing but the dregs of the teapot for sustenance. Its heat rating isn't consistently reported but seems to come in around 70-80,000 on the Scoville scale, somewhere short of a habanero (quite hot enough for me. Even Husband has agreed they're hot).
In investigating Apache, I've also discovered what you possibly already know - that a chilli tastes hottest when it's full-sized and still green. Chilli expert Joanna Plumb in an article in The Guardian, said, "When it goes red, it is as hot, but it goes sweeter, like the difference between a green and a red sweet pepper."
Meanwhile, the society secretary had taken five plants for herself. "Can I persuade you to take some?" she asked, passing me a boxful.