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thoroughburro 2023, kith and kitchen

I’m just a week or so away from my first round of seed starting, and The List has stabilized.

As the title suggests, I’m focusing on a more shareable garden, this year. My high heat tolerance is well satisfied by sauces and flakes, so it’ll be a mercy to others and not much sacrifice to me if I cook more with mild or heatless peppers and lean into condiments for my own spice satisfaction.

Capsicum annuum​

4 Gogoşar (pronounced “gogoshar”; also transliterated as gogosar, gogosari, etc), a heatless Romanian variety whose name is confusingly also used generically for red pepper. My partner has very fond memories of this large, pumpkin-shaped pepper being roasted and then stuffed or preserved. They’re also used fresh, like red bell pepper. I had to import these seeds from a Romanian seller on Ebay who at first resisted since US customers had been leaving bad reviews for unreliable shipping. I assured her I would leave a good review regardless of ever getting them. It all worked out, and now of course I’m that much more invested in growing the variety…

4 Quadrato d’Asti Giallo, a superlative, heatless yellow bell pepper from Asti, in northern Italy. I grew this last year and, although the pods were stunted in only 5 gallons of soil, I was extremely impressed with the thick flesh and excellent flavor. Together with Gogosar, these should account for most of our “vegetable pepper” usage.

4 NuMex Heritage 6-4, well known as a choice, but mild, New Mexican cultivar. I grew Big Jim last year, but it was too hot for my partner to enjoy when used as the base of, for example, chile verde.

4 Jalapeño Zapotec, nearly rejected for again being too hot for my jalapeño-popper-loving partner, it found a place as my primary fresh spice pepper for pico de gallo and other fresh salsas. I’d find a place for it regardless, really; I find it a very compelling pepper.

4 Jalapeño TAM, this is the jalapeño to hate if you despise the near-heatless jalapeño products which took over the mass market: it was developed by Texas A&M University to be a commercial (but open pollinated) crowd pleaser. It should be exactly right for my partner’s poppers, and thus allows me to grow my Zapotecs!

4 Chiltepin O’odham (pronounced something like “OH ohdahm”, the apostrophe representing a glottal stop; they’re fascinating), a really tempting chiltepin collected from a sacred mountain. I struggled to choose a chiltepin for the year, especially because my dried Chiltepin Hermosillo Dwarf from last year have been amazing… but I do want to see if the berries of a non-dwarf might be a bit bigger, and I’m a sucker for a good origin story.

4 Stavros, an apparently choice Greek pickling pepper of the general type known in the US as “golden Greek pepperoncini”. “Pepperoncini” terminology is an absolute minefield, which is a shame since so many of us developed an addiction to them in childhood (thank you for that if nothing else, Papa John’s). This seems to be the only specifically named cultivar widely available, so it was an easy choice.

Capsicum chinense​

4 Orange Habanero (SLP) and
4 Orange Habanero (CPI), let one of these be the harpoon which slays at last this white whale, please god! This will be the third year I attempt to accomplish the original goal of this now-major hobby, which was to replace my no-longer-locally-available favorite sauce (El Yucateco XXXtra Hot Kutbil-ik) with homemade. The first year, I began too late and only whetted my appetite; last year, I put all eggs in the Habanero Oxkutzcab basket, which was too fruity for purpose. I’ve realized I need a bog standard habanero for the sauce I crave. Hopefully one of these will do.

4 Habanada (also using seeds collected from @HellfireFarm), which will allow me to make a medium-heat, taste-alike version of my signature sauce for more sensitive friends and family. This technique, of substituting some of the spicy variety with a heatless version to make a mild sauce, works so well that the smell, texture, and damn near the flavor are almost identical to the real deal. I hope to slowly create more heatless varieties of sauce peppers to allow this for each sauce I make. Someday.

4 Bahamian Goat, which saved my bacon when Habanero Oxkutzcab proved unsuited. It’s bulletproof and super productive with no downsides. It would almost be hubris not to grow: oh, you think you’re so good you don’t need the Goat at your back? It’s a good luck pepper.

4 Hot Paper Lantern, which I failed to see through last year. These have an almost universally excellent reputation, and in general sound like another pepper with all pros and no cons. I tend to like those! In addition, Johnny’s offers a yet more lauded version which was apparently the pride and joy of one of their breeders, Janika Eckert. I expect great things!

2 7 Pot Jonah, which I fully expect to regret growing. The capsaicinoids all over everything around processing time was a bit annoying last year. This year, I know to dedicate a separate cutting board and generally be more aware of the invisible menace which accumulated capsaicinoids become. Even so, I expect processing a superhot into sauce to be an ordeal. But I do want that sauce. I want a sauce in my repertoire which can make me think twice. Plus, I already thought of a good name.

2 Ají Charapita, which I grew from RFC seeds last year. I wasn’t sure if I would grow it again, but it’s lovely and compact, and looks amazing filled with glowing berries. We made a present of the single harvest of the single plant we grew, packed in vinegar, and it was both surprisingly beautiful and tasty. This seedline from Peter Merle was collected by him from a wild (or, I would suspect, naturalized) context along the Amazon, near Iquitos where the variety is common. I don’t expect it to be appreciably different to RFC’s, but the extra provenance is cool!

2 Redfire, also known as CAP 691. An enigmatic wild (or naturalized) red chinense which @Pr0digal_son described temptingly here. I’m hoping this has deciduous pods…

Capsicum baccatum​

4 CAP 455, which was the most productive pepper I grew last year, as well as the tastiest heatless red. The large jar of refrigerator pickles leftover has seen heavy use in chickpea salad sandwiches. I intend to devote a future season to more widely exploring baccatum, but this one is essential.

Capsicum frutescens​

4 Tabasco, which sure, yawn, but that unique flavor is still my absolute, must-have favorite on breakfast eggs. I’ll be surprised if I can make an acceptable substitute, but taking a shot at it will be my first fermented sauce project.

It’s a smaller grow than last year, in order to allow room for a burgeoning interest in herbs and a tentative branching out into other veg. As long as my choices work for purpose, it should all be more than enough!
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I appreciate the advice!

Hmm. They’re definitely not so wet that gentle squeezing produces anything… I can deform them slightly without any water appearing. I went ahead and gave them firm squeezes, and a couple did give up some water — maybe a quarter to half a teaspoon. The smell has been of moist, rich earth throughout, no off smells at any time.

I’m worried, because if these are too wet then so is the rest of my grow, peppers and non alike. Every year I ask myself: why do I use anything but coir?

Last year, I had trouble with Jiffy pellets due to (apparently) not soaking them long enough or massaging them during hydration. But soaking them thoroughly, massaging them, and drip draining them on a rack is no good either. They want a spa or something, I guess.
This is the current germination tray:


The first two and a half rows are the last round of replacement peppers — the Orange Habanero, Jamaican Hot Chocolate, and 7 Pot Jonah. The rockwool is Bolivian Rainbow. They were sown 7 days ago, so I expect to see hooks any day now. 😓

The rest are other vegetables, sown yesterday.
I appreciate the advice!

Hmm. They’re definitely not so wet that gentle squeezing produces anything… I can deform them slightly without any water appearing. I went ahead and gave them firm squeezes, and a couple did give up some water — maybe a quarter to half a teaspoon. The smell has been of moist, rich earth throughout, no off smells at any time.

I’m worried, because if these are too wet then so is the rest of my grow, peppers and non alike. Every year I ask myself: why do I use anything but coir?

Last year, I had trouble with Jiffy pellets due to (apparently) not soaking them long enough or massaging them during hydration. But soaking them thoroughly, massaging them, and drip draining them on a rack is no good either. They want a spa or something, I guess.
Good (read normal) quality pellet don't need a massage nor a spa to soften or break its content or maybe you are buying quality stuff I just can't afford for my peppers😅 Another thing I always do is I make sure that no pellet touch the edges of the tray because condensation which forms on the dome will eventually run down the edge which can severely soak nearby pellets. 2 or 3 years ago I bought what I would call a "bad batch", the pellets wouldn't rise more than half their normal height as the peat was compact AF and had to discart them all.

Other than that I've never had any other issues. If the temperature is in the appropriate range (take a reading inside a pellet, not on the heat pad itself) then your seeds should sprout very soon now. Keep the faith @thoroughburro and the pepper gods will answer your prayers!

Aside from the finger marks where I squeezed the empty pellets, nothing has changed from yesterday. I might go ahead and pot up the three cubes which completed germination.

I decided to sow one last little round of pepper seeds to make up for a couple germination laggards. In rockwool this time, based on the experimental results. 6 cubes each of Gogosar Anileve and CAP 455:


Tabasco (the 4 pellets in the bottom-right) is also struggling, with only one sprout, but I don’t have more seeds for it. Unless the rest pop up way late, it’ll have to wait until 2024.
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Results (in days to first visibility)

Soaked then Cubes: 8, 9, 10, 10, 10, 11, 12, 12
Soaked then Pellets: ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?
Unsoaked then Cubes: 8, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, ?
Unsoaked then Pellets: 7, 9, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?

A bit obscured, but the remaining cube added a hook. Maybe it will also reach 100%. I’m not sure how long to give pellets. Until I need the room, I guess — won’t be long!
Most interesting results In your experiment, @thoroughburro.

Over the years I have had better results with the pellets by
fluffing them up before seeding, making them taller and skinnier.
Overall. I would prefer rockwool or soil germination
I’ve been dragging my heels on an update, because the main action is just me sweating bullets while the Set 5 peppers (sown in peat pellets) replicate the 7 Pot Nebru experiment, as regretfully expected given they were prepared the same way.

Set 5 is the Orange Habanero (RFC), Jamaican Hot Chocolate, and 7 Pot Jonah meant to replace the main varieties which went wrong in the early trays.

What exactly I’m doing wrong with the pellets is still an open question. Them being too wet is the leading hypothesis, but I still have doubts. Set 5 was less than half peppers — the rest were a variety of other vegetables, including fellow Solanums, all of which germinated to near 100% and ahead of schedule. It seems that what I’m doing wrong is something which specifically Capsicum doesn’t tolerate. I guess that’s consistent with the too-wet hypothesis? I’ve never really thought of peppers as being hard to germinate, but I’ve apparently developed a solid technique of making them so!

Anyway, at 15 days, the results are very poor… but they’re still trickling in, so, as I said. Sweating bullets and waiting. 😅

In better news, everything which has been potted up (into pure coir pith) is growing as expected.



Now. I’ve noticed a very long tail of new sprouts in what I’ve potted up, especially among the annuums. I’ve culled them back as unneeded, but they gave me hope for a couple laggards from Set 4 which I’ve been hanging onto: Chiltepin Hermosillo Dwarf and Tabasco.

Tabasco has 2 sprouts (days 10 and 20) while CHD has only 1 (day 23). Today, I went ahead and potted them up as if they had all sprouted.



It’s wasted soil for now, but I think it’s worth a try. 🤞
I like that idea TB and hope they come through for you. Sometimes I'll crumble the top half of the pellet (or smaller germination container) into a slightly larger pot of media then sprinkle peat over it and get good results that way. Just did that with a difficult/uncooperative variety and 3 popped shortly after. My thinking is that for extended germination periods I like to have the vapor rising through the soil of a deeper pot rather than the seeds sitting in the wetter part of the mix as can happen with more regular watering of shallower containers.
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A couple of the Orange Habanero (RFC) have pulled off their own heads.


I wonder if this is a clue. Maybe pellet density or compaction should be in the running as a possible cause of my poor germination rate in pellets.

I had a thought yesterday. Why do I even have a step before the fine, airy coir pith in the 4” containers? The only real advantage is that I sow 1.5 times as many pellets, cubes, cells or whatever as final desired containers.

Yet, I’m struggling to germinate even enough sprouts to fill the eventual containers, so that’s not actually gaining me more selection or safety, at least not in practice this year. I could have just sown all the seeds into the 4” containers, and probably seen better results!

I think I’ll try that next year.
I think it’s time for a general overview. I emptied the germinator to create room, so the final grow is beginning to take shape.

I won’t show every variety separately, but here are the 4 Bahamian Goat as an example of progress:


Top Shelf, 2/3 lights active, mostly chinense and herbs:


Middle Shelf, 3/3 lights active, mostly annuum and other veg:


Bottom Shelf, 2/3 lights active, incomplete but hopeful peppers, culantro, and a few last chance germinations:



4 Bahamian Goat
4 Habanada
4 7 Pot Jonah
4 7 Pot Nebru
2 Habanero Gambia Orange
2 Bhüt Jolokia

4 Gogosar Anileve
4 Quadrato d’Asti Giallo
4 Haskorea
4 Jalapeño Zapotec
3 Ancho San Luis
2 Jalapeño TAM
2 Golden Cayenne

4 CAP 455

Hopefuls (Current/Desired)

2/4 Habanero Orange
1/4 Jamaican Hot Chocolate

1/4 Chiltepin Hermosillo Dwarf
0/4 additional Gogosar Anileve (these would be in smaller containers, for genetic diversity rather than production)
0/6 Bolivian Rainbow

2/4 Tabasco

I’m crossing my fingers for the hopefuls, but the established varieties are plenty enough to ensure a great year. Worst case scenario, instead of finally putting my signature habanero sauce to rest, I’ll focus on perfecting my Bahamian Goat sauce and playing with my first superhots.
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Great to see your grow getting back on track with some nice and promising plants, especially after all the hardship you went through with germination and all.
Love your set up! Nice and tidy, just the way i like it! 😀
Never say when!

This Haskorea popped up at 32 days since sowing:


That sort of outlier result is why I bothered to pot up the seemingly barren Tabasco and Chiltepin Hermosillo Dwarf pellets a few days ago, as mentioned. Well, sure enough, a new Tabasco sprout showed up yesterday (31 days):


I sure wish it was in one of the two empty pots in the background! 😅

I decided to risk extraction:



It looks successful at a glance, but I did rip its little taproot… nonetheless, I think it’s likely to recover.

In other good news, a Bolivian Rainbow (FS) sprout has finally appeared! This is at 22 days:


I would really like to see a few more of these pop. They represent the last of my seeds for this variety from Fatalii Seeds, so it wouldn’t necessarily be easy to find again… and, at least in photos, I prefer it to the other forms traded under this name.