Gardening


I have a long series of articles about the Guam boonie pepper, a small hot pequin style pepper native to the island of Guam. This pepper is not (despite unverified claims in the Wikipedia) the same as the Thai ornamental pepper, but is instead a separate species, closely related to the tepin of Mexico. The pepper is used in Chamorro dishes, most notably the ubiquitous finadene sauce.

To update the status of my plants: I recently posted that one of my four peppers was flowering. This year, all four flowered and it looked like I was going to have a record crop. Then pests started taking bites of my peppers, and I’d lose all but a few seeds.

In mid September we took a trip, and I had to bring my boonie peppers inside. Outside, they could easily have dried out in two days, and the trip was longer than that. The results?

Being inside allows for a more relaxed watering schedule.

Not only has the crop grown larger, they’re not subject to predation and can stay on the bush longer, turning a full red instead of orange. It’s been successful so far. The question now is, will all 4 plants winter well?

Footnote: a video of people eating Guam Boonies is here. The man shown stopped at 11 peppers.

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As my boonie peppers are turning red, if I don’t harvest them quickly, they’re turning out like this:

Something is eating the tips off my peppers.

I still harvest the half eaten peppers, because they have valuable seeds. 2 or 3 of those tiny seeds can grow into a 6 foot plant. So I dry what remains, and collect as many seeds from the pod as I can.

I don’t think hornworms are doing this (though I found at least one hornworm on my plants), and all the boonies are flowering these days. It’s been an unusually wet summer, almost semitropical in character. The peppers love it.

I speak often about the Guam Boonie, a pequin style pepper related to the tepin so lovingly described by Mark Miller. They’re native to the Marianas Islands, and are used for things like finadene:

Home made Finadene sauce.

Thing is, in Georgia, my plants have never flowered in the spring or summer, but only in the fall, until now. One of my four plants is not only flowering, it’s also growing peppers.

You can see a flower about to bloom, a flower after it has bloomed, and a green pepper in this photo.

They’re aren’t many on this plant, but some are better than none. I’m working hard to keep this plant watered and producing. In pots like the ones I use, in Georgia heat you have to water these every other day.

If you’re wanting to start seeds, for planting at the beginning of April, this weekend is the perfect opportunity to do so. I’m not likely to do so this year, as I’d like to concentrate on my boonie peppers.

I haven’t spoken much about my boonie peppers this year, perhaps because they sprouted and grew, but not spectacularly. I didn’t fertilize them much after the spring, because I wanted flowers, of which I saw not a one all this year.

But I just took them inside, after the recent freeze, and within one day after taking them inside, every last boonie pepper now has flower buds. If I had to guess, it was a temperature thing. The summer was too hot, and the fall too cool to trigger any flowering.

It suggests next time taking the plants inside earlier, to trigger the growth of peppers.

Update: the lighting tools we’re using to grow peppers inside are described here and here. 4 desk lamps with grow bulbs as described in the links are being kept on a 16 hour cycle.

It’s not actually Japanese, it’s a Russian cultivar, a member of the purple tomato family . It has a pinched top, and  thus looks like a kind of pear. Don’t let the looks fool you, this thing has incredible flavor.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a coworker that grows these things. He  tells me they don’t refrigerate well, you need to store them at room  temp and eat them quickly. They don’t need much more than a little cracked pepper to deliver delicious flavors.

Notes: Interesting links to the  trifele can be found on the Tomato Gardener, This Garden is Illegal, and Moonglow Gardens. Things from Scratch has a beautiful picture of growing plants. The blog Tomato Lover has more than one article on the trifele, of which this the article, “The Move Into Red”, has the best photograph. Austin Urban Gardens has a short blurb on how the trifeles taste.

Modest I know, but this haul includes the first large tomato of the season – the yellow one.

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