Well, maybe I'm not entirely self-sufficient yet. But believe me, this is due to lack of windowsill space rather than a lack of want! Whilst I don't have yards of lettuces and potatoes happily growing away, I do have several chilli plants - that I have come to love (especially in lieu of a pet - landlord's rules).
I firmly believe that growing something from a tiny seed and helping it turn into something I can use for another love, food, is one of the best things. Even just knowing that I can keep something alive is pretty great! (Although I can't exactly say the same about all the herbs I've had...).
For Christmas 2011, I received a chilli growing set from James, and got busy planting each type into their small coir pots.
Needless to say, they didn't all take to growing. The survivors were 3 Anaheim seeds, who persevered and stuck by me throughout my lack of chilli growing knowledge, and so far I have been rewarded with one whole fruit. This whole fruit became known as Mr Chilli, and together we encountered a wonderful love affair. I looked after him and nurtured him, until one day Mr Chilli looked like this:
and I decided it was time for Mr Chilli to get a bit comfier in my kitchen. Since then, he has been used in goulash, chilli con carne, and various curries and pasta dishes - and he tastes fantastic. I did worry that I might get a bit emotional upon the first eating (a bit like Homer eating Pinchy the lobster), but he did me proud.
Anaheim chillis are great for freezing, and so I simply chop some more slices off as and when I'd like some heat in a dish. Mr Chilli now looks like this:
During this chopping and eating process, I read (and loved) an article in Issue 6 of The Simple Things on growing chillies which led me to the South Devon Chilli Farm, where I proceeded to buy Apache F1 and Adorno (the ex-popular culture student in me couldn't resist) seeds. Both types of plant are small, hot chillies - although I believe they're more for ornamental use.
I'm very pleased to report that spring seems to have been delivered to my windowsill, and I have some new guests to look after.
The circle of life also continues with my Anaheims, and as my plants go past their first birthday I look forward to picking Mr Chilli Jr when he's ready.
I've enjoyed learning through this growing process, and now know that the next time I have a wave of flowers on a plant I need to act as a bee, and spread pollen from plant to plant with a cotton bud - with the aim of more resulting fruits.
I will admit that I'm already looking forward to buying my next seeds - I have decided on Explosive Ember - as again, they're a small-ish, ornamental plant which grows in beautiful purple hues before maturing. I can't think of a better way to usher in the sunshine seasons than with a bit of fiery heat.
Do you grow chillies on your windowsill? What are your favourite types, and what would you recommend?