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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!

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

Notes
  • 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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thoroughburro

Extreme Member
The baccatum are beginning to ripen! To be fair, Ají Amarillo Baby has been irrepressible for weeks, but I didn’t want to write it up before tasting others to compare.

Ají Fantasy Orange, Blended Lemon, and Ají Amarillo Baby:

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The colors lost something to the forum compression… the Fantasy is a pale but proper orange, in person. And I forgot to take a post-slice shot; sorry!

I tried the Blended Lemon first. This is a Lemon Drop variant bred for medium heat and larger pods. The other Lemon Drop variant in the grow is Ají Pineapple, and I’ll compare them when they get around to ripening.

Anyway, it certainly has a pleasant, sparkly sourness to it… sweet-tart, but more towards tart. I was primed for lemon, but I really didn’t get any at all. To me, it came across more like a Granny Smith apple. It was also very crisp. Yum! I would call it a “medium” to the average palate, maybe 5 kSHU.

Next was Ají Fantasy Orange, which quickly stole the spotlight: nice tropical aroma upon slicing, leaning towards mango. I’ve noticed a similar aroma in Ají Amarillo Baby before, but it’s stronger here. Really pleasant. This is an extremely crisp pod, like wow! I did not know that’s a possible texture for a pepper! In a good way, very enjoyable, but I wouldn’t want it any more crisp. It also bursts with a very similar sweet-tart, extra tart balance as Blended Lemon, but its flavor is informed by the tropical aroma and comes across a bit rounder and fuller. I wouldn’t put one ahead of the other on flavor, just different; the super-brightness of Blended Lemon is itself really appealing. Probably also “medium”, but a bit lower, maybe 3 kSHU.

Finally, Ají Amarillo Baby disappointed in this tasting… but I’ve been really impressed previously and suspect its less acidic profile just didn’t fare well after the fireworks. It was good, but unremarkable. I’ll give it its own write-up, sometime.
 

thoroughburro

Extreme Member
Here are three I’ve been waiting to try together.

Datil:

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Habanero Marobie:

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Habanero Oxkutzcabense (or Oxkutzcabian):

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And here they are sliced (Hab Ox, Hab Mar, Datil):

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I started with what I expected to be the mildest, the little Datil. I knew these would be small and seedy, and they are indeed small and seedy… their flavor will have to do heavy lifting! They get bonus points for being the only (or oldest, if you prefer) landrace chinense of the mainland US.

This didn’t really stand out to me, but it’s very good. I pretty much stuck to varieties with really solid reputations this year, so bear in mind that varieties which come across as “just all right” in these tastings are actually really good, just not substantially better than the other really good peppers. The Datil flavor is as advertised, but the heat on my peppers is higher than expected… at least as hot as Scotch Bonnet TFM, call it 250 kSHU or so.

Habanero Marobie isn’t widespread in the US scene, and only its originator and Fatalii Seeds seem to sell it, at least to a casual search. It’s a bigger, yellower habanero said to be particularly fruity. It is particularly flavorful for a habanero, but the comparison doesn’t hold… it’s yellow like a scotch bonnet, and it tastes to me more like a less flavorful bonnet than a more flavorful habanero. A habanero for the orange habanero haters, perhaps! Also it’s “hot” at most. Described as low habanero heat, but if it’s hotter than Jalapeño Zapotec I’d be surprised. 10-20 kSHU?

Now. The star. The next hype pepper, you heard it here (or maybe here) first. Habanero Oxkutzcabense. Also known as PI 438629, collected in 1979 from the famous citrus market in Oxkutzcab, Yucatán. The pods are typical of a Yucatán orange habanero in shape and shininess, with a conveniently small amount of top-clustered seeds. But you slice it open, and the smell is amazing. Every pod has a really fruity, often mangoey tropical aroma going on which is strangely similar to that in the baccatums tasted in the last post. The typical orange habanero aroma is still there, to my nose, but in the background. The flavor is equal to the aroma. Tropical fruit and pleasant florals with reminders that it’s a hab in the background. Just a little sweeter than a standard hab, with a little more sour to balance, but nothing remarkable outside the family. The heat is remarkably intense, but it sneaks up. “At least as hot as Bahamian Goat,” I thought, before taking a little break to hiccup and sweat more than BG has ever made me. It’s the hottest pepper I’ve tried, actually, so I can’t place it accurately… has to be north of 400 kSHU, I would guess.

I absolutely love it. Plus, every individual I have of it is more healthy and productive relative to other varieties save Bahamian Goat, with several being very productive. They have smaller, less wrinkled leaves than my other chinense, and they are taller, though still far from lanky.

I got my seeds from RFC, but I’ll be loading up the seed train with a big packet of these, among other favorites, later in the year if you’re patient. I’ll be cheerleading this variety for years to come!
 
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PaulG

Extreme Member
Nice review, TB. I grew the Datil for a few
seasons back in the early 20-teens. The
seed for those came from Jamie (@romy6)
in Florida. The second season produced
some really gnarly firecracker pods. I though
t they were quite hot.
 

thoroughburro

Extreme Member
Fortunately, a few varieties have stepped up as Unburnable, so I’ve been able to shuffle things around to accommodate exposure tolerance. For example, here’s how NuMex Trick-or-Treat has responded to the harshest light in the yard:

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With productivity under the sun like this, you’d think it was bred by a New Mexican university! 😉

NuMex Trick-or-Treat continues to be the most branching, most vigorous chinense of the grow, with almost irritatingly abundant foliage. It has also shown no disease, which, based on on the rest of the grow, indicates remarkable resistance to: soil quality and/or water irregularity, wooly aphids, and direct all-day sun at 100F (38C). In fact, they’ve thrived, were among the first chinense to ripen, and continue to produce full-sized, on-pheno pods.

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I am out there near every day tying up various branches, but that’s the thing: it’s all branches at every phase of growth, with no clear central stem to prioritize support. It would be a clear negative, but look at the representative example above. The branches don’t break, rather are happy to trail, heavily laden, in the grass.

On any other variety, there are moments when you know to prune this weaker branch, or tie up this stronger one. The plant gets overgrown like this because there are never those moments. And no punishment! I go out after a flash flood-level downpour expecting carnage, but they weather it better than the rest, all the while laden with huge pods. 🤷‍♂️

To me it’s mostly useful as a heat-balancing sauce habanero. But if that’s what you want, it’s a winner.
 
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thoroughburro

Extreme Member
Next, I tried Naga Smooky Rainbow:

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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.

An update on this tasting. I made a very simple sauce recipe with the NSR which I usually use with ripe jalapeños (inspired by a three-ingredient Trader Joe’s sauce I was addicted to). I’m also using it as my minimal sauce for taste testing, so I’ll share the outline here:

By weight, equal parts halved and seeded peppers and rice wine vinegar, then 3% of that total in salt. Blend to your preferred consistency, transfer to a sauce pan, bring to a bare simmer, and maintain, covered, for 10 minutes. Bottle.

The Naga Smooky Rainbows tasted great in this sauce: rich, smoky, with that tomatoey, unsweet red pepper background. In fact, they taste very similar to the same sauce made with Jalapeño Zapotec! Tasting this blind, I would never guess it was a chinense sauce except for its heat, which I now think is (the pepper, not the sauce) at least 200 kSHU.

So, a lot more positive than my tasting notes of it raw! Still not likely to grow it again, as turns out I prefer a jalapeño for the same job.
 
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thoroughburro

Extreme Member
All right, it’s the big one. The taste test which determines my primary sauce pepper going forward. This has the potential to shake up my presumed preferences and future grows.

I made three batches of my most used sauce (a now-finalized version of this) with each of Habanero Oxkutzcabense, Bahamian Goat, and Scotch Bonnet TFM:

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I aim for browning on between a fourth to a third of the pepper surface, but as you can see I over-roasted the Habanero Oxkutzcabense (left) at about half the surface browned. Makes a big difference in color and flavor. However, I’m used to tasting various roast levels of this sauce and don’t think it impacted my judgment much.

Habanero Oxkutzcabense: it was disappointment at first taste, unfortunately. Where did the mangoes go? Or any fruitiness at all, really? This had a more vegetal, asparagus flavor. Not very pleasant, and I won’t keep this batch. I’m almost certain that wouldn’t be a result of the roast, but I’ll definitely try it again when more ripen. As anticipated, this was the hottest of the three, but not an unpleasant heat profile.

I was openly rooting for it, but whammo… hero to zero as easy as that! Maybe it will redeem itself. I could write this grow up as a wrestling storyline!

Bahamian Goat: ah, that’s more like it. This achieved the deep, savory flavor with fruity overtones that I expect from this sauce, but there is an unpleasant edge on the aftertaste. Well, not wholly unpleasant; it’s remarkably like orange rind, with its orange aroma on one hand but bitter pith on the other. It doesn’t have that “one more spoonful” quality which gets you into trouble with a good sauce. Too easy to stop eating. Also, its heat profile was the most aggressive of the three.

Scotch Bonnet TFM: y’all, it ain’t even close! Wow. This pepper absolutely transformed somewhere in the sauce process. I’ve been enjoying my first scotch bonnet well enough, but was honestly wondering what people meant by “tropical” rather than just, as it seemed to me, an especially flavorful yellow chinense. Did someone sneak pineapple into my sauce?? And tomatillo? And the savory-fruity-chinense notes are there for days as well. It’s quite simply the best sauce I’ve had, which is funny because it’s my recipe! What a pepper! Lowest heat of the three, but in the same range; nice, glowy heat profile.

And sure enough, this changes everything for future grows. Much to think about! I wanted to be an underdog habanero hippie, but it looks like I may be a basic bonnet bitch like anyone else. 😆
 
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thoroughburro

Extreme Member
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”:

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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? 😆

I should give an update on this. I’m now fairly confident that the above is distinct from a bleeding calyx, and is probably just an early sign of decay or some other reason the plant wants to drop the pod.

First, it has never shown up again as convincingly as that initial pod. When hints of it have shown up, the plant it shows on is not consistent. Finally, a presumably advanced form of the same thing sometimes shows up on pods that are just about drop off themselves for whatever reason, like this:

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These pods usually prove to have mold inside or some other defect, and I suspect the plant seals off the pedicle to cut its losses, causing yellowing in formerly green parts similar to when an oak leaf does the same thing in autumn.

I’m not entirely displeased, really; it’s nice to feel more certain my Habanero Oxkutzcabense are true to type.
 
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