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thoroughburro 2022

Many thanks to those who indulged in my long winnowing process. I had assumed space would be my limiting factor, but it was calculating how much soil would cost that convinced me to narrow my focus yet again. After some heartbreaking cuts, the plan is now locked in! I just put the first seeds in for an H2O2 soak in advance of sowing tomorrow. Let’s go!


Jigsaw, seen here edited in from June 2022, became iconic of the grow

  • Numbers refer to desired number of containers per variety
  • Two individuals per container, to increase diversity
  • 5 gallon containers, unless noted
Sowing Schedule

Sat Jan 8

2 Capsicum flexuosum, wild

Sat Feb 5

4 NuMex Trick-or-Treat
4 Ají Dulce Rojo
4 Ají Dulce Margariteño Yellow
4 Hot Paper Lantern
4 Scotch Bonnet TFM
4 Bonda Ma Jacques
4 Bahamian Goat
4 Jamaican Hot Chocolate

2 Rocoto Mini Olive

2 Ají Amarillo, 10 gallon

Sat Feb 19

4 Ají Fantasy Orange, unstable
2 Ají Norteno
2 Ají Amarillo Baby
4 Ají Pineapple

Sat Mar 5

2 Romanian Rainbow
2 NuMex Heritage Big Jim
4 Jalapeño Zapotec

2 Chiltepin Hermosillo Dwarf, 2 gallon, wild
2 Jigsaw, 2 gallon, ornamental
2 Bolivian Rainbow, 2 gallon, ornamental
2 NuMex Centennial, 2 gallon, ornamental
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I’m still dealing with nutrient issues of various sorts. About a third of the grow is showing signs of what I think is nutrient burn:


Fair enough… not everyone needed their nutrients doubled. That will just have to water itself out. More confusing is why several varieties are showing magnesium deficiency symptoms; how does that square with the demonstrably strong dose of tomato fertilizer?

I don’t think there’s a proactive way out of the situation. I expect I’ll still get a decent crop overall, but it’s clear that my initial lack of concern for soil mixture is costing me a lot of potential production. I wouldn’t be surprised if I double my production next year, having learned all these lessons!
I’m collecting a double handful of various Romanian Rainbow, Jalapeño Zapotec, Scotch Bonnet TFM, and Bahamian Goat every day, at this point, which is greatly benefiting our meals. My real goal is sauces, which will take larger hauls, but it feels and tastes great to be enjoying the harvest!

It’s oranger than peach but peacher than orange, it throws perfect pods all day long, it’s… Bahamian Goat:


Aside from the now-daily producers, it seems like something new starts showing color every day. Remarkably, this includes Habanero Oxkutzcabense (or “Oxkutzcabian” as labeled, but the wrong demonym):


To remind, my first seeds of this failed, but it was integral to my grow so I ordered and started more. As a result, these are more than three weeks younger than any other chinense… yet are nonetheless in the first third to ripen overall! I’m feeling pretty good about choosing it as my star habanero.

Also, this has been going on but I only recently got decent photos, Jigsaw does have variegation-striped pods, but they’re only visible in transition:



Tasting notes on Ají Jobito in a bit… burritos with fried Jalapeño Zapotec and Ají Jobito now. 🤤
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I have a few taste matchups this year which will inform variety choice going forward. I won’t reach conclusions until the end of the season, but will post updates throughout.

One matchup is NuMex Trick-or-Treat vs Ají Jobito. We tried Trick-or-Treat here; today, we tried an Ají Jobito.


First to note, I thought the recently bred, very vigorous Trick-or-Treat would be a clear productivity winner with Ají Jobito competing on flavor. I still think Trick-or-Treat will wind up most productive, but Ají Jobito is clearly no slouch. It’ll be close.

Trick-or-Treat had the first ripe pod by a wide margin, but it was an outlier. I only today saw its second, whereas Ají Jobito has several acceptably ripe… the one we sampled today was a touch riper than shown above and seemed finished.

First, a few notes about Trick-or-Treat’s flavor I forgot to mention in its post. It had zero sweetness and its chinense aroma thus came across as more savory flavors. We both agreed it was “buttery”, her in a way she found slightly gross for a fresh pepper and me mostly thinking how good it would taste roasted in a habanero sauce mild enough for friends and family, which is my goal… but basically also agreeing I would at best cook with it, not eat it raw.

Ají Jobito is a different story. The one we ate wasn’t super sweet, but did have sweetness, which I think makes a big difference for fresh eating. It also had a lot of complexity beyond just the straightforward chinense musk of orange habanero. I love it, and it took my partner from a “nope” to a “not bad”.

Of course, things may change as we taste beyond these early pods, use them in sauce, etc.
I really love the bleeding calyx trait, just aesthetically and as a curiosity, and really wanted to grow one this year. I got some good leads in this thread, but couldn’t find anything non-superhot in time for this season. And maybe it’s all for the best!

This is the first ripe “Habanero Oxkutzcabense”:



Am I mistaken, or is that a bleeding calyx??

The seeds are from Refining Fire Chiles (Jim Duffy). He claims to isolate his seed stock, and I have no reason to doubt that… but most isolation methods aren’t 100% effective, and this trait shouldn’t otherwise be available to a landrace originally collected in 1979, so I assume it’s a cross with one of the many new bleeding varieties.

I would be a little sad if none of my Oxkutzcabense are true, but among 8 individuals that seems unlikely. In the mean time, I’m thrilled to possibly have an early-generation cross which could well wind up meeting my desires: a really tasty, sub-superhot, orange bleeding calyx. Why bother making my own crosses with luck like this? 😆
Tasted a couple new pods, today. Honestly, I don’t feel that raw is the ideal way to taste test peppers, unless that’s how you intend to use them. I intend to taste at least the most promising varieties again in a very simple, standardized sauce later in the season when harvests are big enough.

This is ‘CGN 22184’ x Unknown, mentioned here:



I was surprised by how good this is! The pod was crunchy, not juicy, with only a slight chinense aroma; no chinense in the flavor, which was fresh and tasted distinctly like green apples. I’m not experienced enough with frutescens to know if its flavor is present. A little sweetness. Fairly mild to an experienced palate, but in the traditional “hot” range… probably no more than 10 kSHU.

I don’t intend to grow this out farther or try to stabilize it, so I won’t be saving its seeds unless someone else wants to give it a go.

Next, I tried Naga Smooky Rainbow:




I thought these had rot inside at first, but nope… that’s a solid, dark outer layer of anthocyanin throughout the placenta. Neat!

Tasting notes on these from other people really run the gamut, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They don’t have a ton of flavor, but what is there is good. Again, not much chinense, but it’s more present than the above; decent amount on the aroma, just a little in the mouth. Crunchy, slightly sweet. Flavor is on the more savory side, with tomatoey notes. Maybe 100 kSHU at most. Probably a great pepper for those who dislike the musk, but it doesn’t fit any of my needs so, despite its top-of-the-grow hardiness and productivity, I probably won’t grow it again.
Ají Dulce Iquiteño Rojo came from SLP, labeled Ají Dulce Rojo… but that is such a generic name, I reached out to Peter Merle for more information. Turns out he collected this seed himself “from a camp near Iquitos, Peru”.





I loved this, and I think it’ll be a yearly grow. It can swap in easily for red bell pepper as a kitchen workhorse. It has a similar, very sweet, red pepper taste, but with a different spin. No chinense musk, but at the same time you wouldn’t mistake it for an annuum… really yummy, but difficult to describe. Not crispy crunchy, but crunchier than a grocery bell. Truly mild, on the same level as NuMex Trick-or-Treat. Big, stuffable pods.

Ají Dulce Margariteño is a famous landrace from the island of Margarita, Venezuela. They are fiercely proud of this pepper and grow it in several colors. It’s supposed to be completely mild, but the seedline available in the Anglophone community has gained some heat. I got my seeds from @Harry_Dangler via the seed train. Healthy, productive plants; thank you!





I chose these hoping they would be like mild scotch bonnets, since the pods are nearly identical. To my palate, they are! I haven’t tasted many bonnets, but I tried one of these side by side with a TFM, and the similarity was really remarkable. The TFM has more aroma and flavor, but the Margariteño is impressive. Lots of good chinense musk of the citrusy and tropical variety. I think the heat would register as “medium” to a typical palate… maybe about 1000 SHU. I’m tempted to do a massive growout some year and try to recover its heatlessness… or make friends with a Margariteño, I guess!
About halfway through this grow.

I would say my main cultivation lessons have been that good soil and consistent soil moisture are paramount. I believe most of the issues I’m seeing would be eliminated by or greatly reduced by sorting those out next year. In this heat, growing in 3-6 gallon containers, watering deeply every morning seems to not be enough.

The other lesson is partially out of my hands: it turns out, wooly aphids are endemic to the neighborhood. They radiate out from the big shade trees, and any pepper under or near a tree has had an ongoing infestation. The peppers farther from the trees are nearly pest free. The solution here is to avoid the trees next year, which will be impossible… but some varieties have shown themselves to be resistant to the aphids, so I’ll try to arrange for those to be located near the trees… also, healthier plants resulting from better soil and irrigation should be better able to shrug off the effects of pests.

I tried to plant two individuals per container of everything to increase genetic diversity. My hypothesis was that identical varieties should be happy to share root space, each winding up being roughly half productive, and thus getting twice the diversity with little reduction in productivity. That is going well, with an exception I overlooked: crosses.

In the case where an accidental cross winds up paired in a container with the true variety, the resulting plants are not “equally yoked”, as it were, and don’t share the root space. One quickly outcompetes the other, leaving it scrawny and struggling to set fruit. This is the case in just two of my containers, so overall I would say that doubling my genetic diversity worked with little impact on productivity.

A somewhat surprising result, to me, is that generally my chinense have ripened first, followed by annuum, then frutescens, and I’m still waiting on any baccatum. Ají Amarillo Baby is earliest, with some pods juuust starting to turn, but everything else is taking its time, even the Ají Pineapple I was expecting to be fairly early.

Rocoto Mini Olive still hasn’t set a pod. I may try something like Rocoto Ají Largo in the future, but next year I’ll probably just skip pubescens.
Ah, another lesson: turns out I highly value ease of processing when it comes to pod shape. A hardy, yummy, beautiful pepper like Naga Smooky Rainbow is little more than an ornamental if I dread processing its skinny, tapered pods. Meanwhile, the broad, pumpkin shape of Ají Dulce Iquiteño is as pleasurable to process as its flavor is to eat.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I could process a pound of ADI three times faster than NSR. That’s really significant since I want to be making gallons of sauce.
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A somewhat surprising result, to me, is that generally my chinense have ripened first, followed by annuum, then frutescens, and I’m still waiting on any baccatum. Ají Amarillo Baby is earliest, with some pods juuust starting to turn, but everything else is taking its time, even the Ají Pineapple I was expecting to be fairly early.

My experience also, chinenses seem to ripen much easier than annuums.
First intentional reduction of the grow: I eliminated both containers of Biquinho Red. I’ve learned that, although I can’t live without it roasted, stewed, or sauced, I don’t really like the chinense musk raw.

Biquinho Red are, for me, pleasantly sour first, then a little sweet with fruity flavors, and a lingering chinense musk. They are also a thin, flavorful skin stretched over a tight packet of seeds. To me, this ruins the texture. I tried them pickled, as well, which tempers the musk and is tastier, but they’re still just too seedy for me to enjoy.

I can see why they’re so popular, though! It’s a really attractive plant, has grown trouble free, is very productive, and the pod shape is super cute. Plus it is yummy, if you don’t mind seeds.
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I pruned the ornamentals a bit today, so it was a good opportunity to harvest ripe pods for seeds and, might as well, a tasting.

Jigsaw is up first, and I kept some pods from each phase of ripeness. The foliage is definitely the star, as the dark- and dull-colored pods are easily overlooked until nearly ripe, and then soften and wrinkle quickly. They have subtle variegation and are rather lovely if you hunt for them.



I hadn’t heard anything to suggest this would be an eater, and it isn’t! Even these fully ripe pods, starting to soften, taste only of greenery, like a random leaf. Not even green bell pepper flavor or anything. Heat is medium, 5 kSHU at most. It’s still a keeper for its foliage!

Now, for Chinese 5 Color. I’ll clarify that this is the Refining Fire Chiles seedline, since I also see this name attached to a purple-flowered variety. I’m not sure which, if either, is more true.




A couple things to point out. This is a heavily dwarfed variety: the shortest pepper of the grow by far, at only 11.75 in (29.85 cm). I have mixed feelings about the variety so far, because I wanted a rainbow type with more presence and stature, but it’s suggested itself in many other ways.

Whenever I look closely at it, I marvel at how tight the internode spacing gets. It’s easier to see in person examining it in 3D, but it’s absolutely packed with buds… nonetheless with (sometimes tiny) leaves between each. And most of those buds do wind up setting into tight clusters of relatively large, inch-long (2.54 cm) peppers.



The two individuals in my one container can’t honestly be said to ripen to red, at least not this year… I suppose it could be a heat reaction, but it (along with most of my other annuum) has seemed unphased. A couple pods have maaaybe been closer to red than orange, but they were overripe to the point of rot. The color progression has been: pale yellow-green -> amethyst purple (if getting direct sun) -> ivory -> yellow -> orange.

The last two phases are ripe to the palate. The orange phase is downright tasty. I wouldn’t rank it above a culinary variety, but it’s in the same ballpark. Quite sweet first, then sour comes in to balance, followed by a slower/glowier heat than average for an annuum. It lingers pleasantly on the tongue and lips. Hot, about 10 kSHU, maybe up to 20.

I’m chasing a particular phenotype of Bolivian Rainbow for next year, and hoping for a taller plant… but if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll be coming back to Chinese 5 Color.
Another reduction: Ají Jobito has left the grow.

I love how its pods look on the plant, so like a little coconut tree (or more properly a jobo tree), and they really are the most complex, fully-flavored mild of the grow. So, what gives?

I barely pulled a usable pod from it, for all the stinkbug damage! They really favor the Ají Jobito, for some reason. More damning, though: the amazing flavor comes at the expense of texture. Even the few undamaged pods were a lot softer than I prefer; just a bit firmer than a green olive, or in any case a long way from crunchy. I found it off putting.
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Now, for Chinese 5 Color. I’ll clarify that this is the Refining Fire Chiles seedline, since I also see this name attached to a purple-flowered variety. I’m not sure which, if either, is more true....A couple things to point out. This is a heavily dwarfed variety...

Interesting how peppers change over time. This is what the Chinese 5-color I grew in 2008 looked like. Definitely not a dwarf - closer to 3 4 or 5 feet. Sorry, don't remember flower color.

Chinese 5 Color.JPG
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