Chillies are the number one drug and herb in the world today. Millions of tonnes of chillies are consumed in the USA alone each year. It is estimated that 75% of the world’s population use chillies as a regular part of their diet. In Australia, where we are influenced by so many different international cuisines, chillies are being used more and more in home cooking.
Chillies are addictive. Eating chilli increases the production of endorphin (the body’s natural opium or pain-reliever) which produces a feeling of well being. Consumption of large amounts of chilli can produce a ‘chilli high’.
Chillies (Capsicum annuum) belong to the Solanaceae family as do potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants. There are also lots of poisonous plants in this family.
In the past ornamental chilli bushes have been rather rangy in growth and produced fruit which wasn’t very flavoursome. Now the new Burke’s Backyard Thai Chilli combines a compact and ornamental plant with an edible hot chilli. This chilli was developed in Australia by the University of Sydney Plant Breeding Institute, Cobbity.
Chillies are known to have been cultivated in Peru and Bolivia over 7000 years ago and were widely grown in Central and South America in pre-Columbian times. Columbus took chillies back to Spain from the New World in 1493 mistaking them for black pepper (hence the name ‘chilli pepper’). Their use in cooking rapidly spread through Europe, Africa and Asia.
The hotness or pungency in the flavour of chillies come from the compound capsaisin located in the white tissue or placenta which holds the seeds. When you stir fry chillies this compound is released and can take your breath away. Scraping away the placenta and removing the seeds will reduce the hot flavour of chillies. The Burke’s Backyard chilli is classified as hot and rates 7 out of 10 on the international chilli scale (‘Habanero’, the world’s hottest chilli rates 10/10 and Sweet capsicums rate 0/10).
Note: Care must be taken when handling chillies as they can burn the skin and eyes. Always wear disposable gloves or wash your hands well after handling chillies.
Common name: Burke’s Backyard Thai Chilli
Botanic name: Capsicum annuum
Description: The chilli plant will grow into a squat, compact bush about 30x30cm (1×1′). The small fruit 3-4cm (1-1.5″) long, provides a range of colour in the garden from cream, purple, green and finally to red. There is slightly less “fire” in the cream and purple chillies than the green and red although all stages should be regarded as hot. The chilli can be used in any cooking requiring hot chillies.
potted ornamental shrub
great for a sunny porch or balcony in a 300mm (12″) pot
colourful border plant anywhere in the garden
full sun (chillies come from warmer parts of the world)
slow-release fertiliser at planting and fortnightly liquid feeding once fruiting begins (normally about December)
remove the mature red fruit to encourage constant flowering
pinch out the growing tips to encourage bushy growth
The Burke’s Backyard Thai Chilli can be grown anywhere in Australia once the risk of frost is over. In warmer parts it should last for two years.
Nurseries throughout Australia are now selling BBY Thai Chilli in 70mm (3″) mini- pots for between $1.50 and $2.