Peppers – by Jean Andrews – A fascinating read

For a long time I have wanted to share a gem of knowledge with those that haven’t yet enjoyed it, ‘Peppers – The Domesticated Capsicums’ by Jean Andrews.

Peppers Book Cover

This is a must for all chilli lovers, and I guarantee that at least 90% of the information in this book will not be found in any other chilli guide you may come across. This isn’t really a guide to growing, though if you are a grower you will find the section on plant biology and agronomy very helpful, nor would you describe it as a recipe book, though there are recipes in the final chapter ‘Preparing and Serving’. It mostly deals with the history and geography of peppers, which for me is the most interesting part. There is also 32 full sized colour plates of different varieties, all taken from water-colour paintings.

The main thing that sets this apart from any other chilli book that I have come across, including my own, is that it is written as a scientific paper, with every fact verified by a reference to another text, either another scientific paper, or an historic document. The book is out of print now, but a second hand copy is fairly easy to come by through Amazon sellers, just make sure you wait for more than one copy to come available otherwise you might be paying over the odds. A book like this should be popular, but maybe as it isn’t presented in a modern trendy style, with zappy minimalist illustrations and a bang-on-trend colour scheme, publishers aren’t interested in keeping it going. In fact it gives the impression that it is much older than it is, it was actually published in the mid 1980s but the layout says otherwise.

The chapters of the book are:

Historical Background. Pre-Columbian Domestication, Early European Observers, Review of the Literature, Diagnostic Descriptions, Biology, Agronomy, Economic and other Uses, Thirty-Two Cultivars, Preparing and Serving.

The gems for me are the detailed referrals to the notes and diaries of botanists who traveled with the Colombian conquistadors in South America from about 1500, and other travelers right up to 1737 when Linnaeus finally decided on his binomial Latin nomenclature and named the genus Capsicum. He listed two species at that time, ‘annuum for a herbaceous annual, and frutescens for a shrubby perennial’. There are numerous references to first hand evidence as to how the Incas and other tribes revered and used peppers before they were ever taken to other parts of the world. The name Capsicum, was first used by a chappy called Josef Pitton de Tournefort, in 1719.

Prior to that, a Jesuit Priest Father Jose de Acosta (1539-1600) wrote ‘….in the language of Cusco, it is called Vchu, and in that of Mexico it is Chilli….’ (sorry to disappoint you American ‘Chile’ fans), which leaves me wondering when the word ‘chile’ came about.

Peppers Book - Jalapeno

The theme of scientific reference and accuracy is carried over into the section which describes the 32 illustrated varieties. Some of these are relatively recent, such as the Fresno, released by the Clarence Brown Seed Company in 1952. This list of varieties is obviously only the tip of the iceberg, and probably not the best list of 32 for the modern enthusiast, but it is nice that these are at least documented thoroughly.

In summary, though this might be too much for some people, I’d say this is a fantastic second chilli book. And if you are really interested in learning the detailed history and botany of chillies, then this should definitely be on you Christmas present list.

Gojenje Cilijev - Slovenian Translation

Gojenje Cilijev – Growing Chillies in Slovenia

Dobrodošli!

I know that since the Slovenian translation of Growing Chillies – Gojenje Cilijev came out in April I have an increasing number of blog readers from Slovena. Although you have a translation of my book I am afraid that wasn’t down to me, the kind people at Ebesede did this, so I can’t help by translating all the content here into Slovenian, but I hope you can understand most of it if you need to!

I will be visiting Ljublijana from 18-21st September 2015 to coincide with the release of Kuhajmo S Cilijem – Which will be released around this time.

 

You can come along and get signed books at the Cili Festival, https://www.facebook.com/CiliFestival this will be held at Lepi Žogi, Ljublijana on Saturday 19th September 2015. There is going to be a chilli cooking competition and a hot sauce competition too.

 

 

#chillibrani

Chillibrani Chilli Festival – Brno, Czech Republic

I thought it might be interesting to tell people about a recent visit I made to the Czech Republic and to their ‘Chillibrani’ Chilli Festival (Chillibrani means ‘chilli harvest’). I was invited by my publisher there as my Growing Chillies book has recently been translated into Czech, and we went along to the festival to have a look, deliver a talk and sign some books. If ever you find yourself in that part of the world, or fancy an easy and interesting weekend away this is well worth considering.

Jak Pestovat Chilli Booth

Jak Pestovat Chilli Booth

For those that have visited chillifestivals in the UK, nothing at Chillibrani will come as much of a surprise, but it is still a very worthwhile and rewarding festival. Many of the same traditions are seen there, lots of sauce makers offering tastings, various growing companies offering seeds, growing equipment, some fresh chillies for sale, music, beer, food and or course a chilli eating contest.

Chillibrani, Brno 2015

Chillibrani, Brno 2015

The festival was in the city of Brno, a couple of hours south of Prague; a very pleasant, cultured and laid back place. The Czechs are a little newer to the idea of chilli festivals than us. The popularity of growing chillies hasn’t quite reached the level that we have in the UK, but they are following the same timeline in the way it is developing, just a year or two behind us. I think because of that, this and one or two other chilli festivals (this one is in its second year) are enjoying patronage from all the various chilli businesses in Czech, as well as lots of visitors, while in the UK festivals have become so frequent that they are often somewhat under-attended with an incomplete set of exhibitors, and with some festivals looking a little empty because of it or not surviving at all. Not so in Czech, this festival had 4000 visitors, around 50 exhibitors, two stages, lots of interesting talks and demos along with a huge and vociferously supported chilli eating contest. The visitors were a real mix of people, not just hardened chilli heads, but also a lot of people who saw it as a good way of spending an afternoon in the sunshine eating and drinking.

Apart from chillies, there was plenty of good food, Indian, Czech, excellent burgers, cooked meats and plenty of beer. The beer there, needless to say, is fantastic; a few different brewery outlets offered a range of pilsner, lager, weissbier, and a couple of ales and stouts. All of these for sale for less than £1 for a half litre (don’t all rush at once, Brits have a reputation to shed in Czech Republic as far as anti-social beer drinking goes!).

The main difference I observed was in the chilli eating contest. There is a fundamental difference here which I think the Czech people need to learn, or maybe not, as it was quite entertaining. In the UK, and I think the USA too, the rules pretty much forbid the eating or drinking of anything other than the chillies put in front of you so that if you reach for yogurt/bread/water/beer or whatever, you are disqualified. In Czech, the competitors are given an equal amount of bread each, and I think 3 bottles of water. They can use this as they please until they run out, and only if they reach for yogurt are they disqualified. This makes for a very protracted event, with most of the competitors still completely happy up to round 6 or 8, which is well into the hotter habs and the super hot ones. With a lot of ceremony, winding up of the audience, interviews with competitors etc. between each round this shenanigans carried on for two hours and still there were a handful left of the 50 that started, all awaiting round 11, the 6.5 mil SHU extract sauce. At two hours I think competitors faces and digestive tracts were so numb that nothing could sort the men from the boys, or even the young girl, that remained in the line-up. So there was a round 12 and 13, each with increasing amounts of extract sauce, 30ml, 45ml, and each spoon with some roughly chopped Carolina Reaper or similar thrown in to give them something to chew on. At two hours and 10 minutes I think it was more about competitive bladder control than chilli eating and a few dropped out. Finally what separated the two remaining competitors was that one ran out of bread and water so with nothing to cleanse his palate he was off, leaving last year’s runner up the victor.

If you fancy a trip to Brno, it has a lovely city center with trams, cobbled streets, lovely architecture and a friendly selection of cafes and bars. If you go there don’t miss ‘the bones’ an ossuary under the main drag which holds the bones of 50,000 bodies exhumed from graves in the middle ages to save space in what was a walled city and stowed away in crypts, only to be sealed, lost, then rediscovered about 20 years ago.

Brno Czech Republic

Brno, Czech Republic

The chilli festival has a website http://www.chillibrani.cz/ This year (2015) it took place on Saturday 5th September and I think next year will be around that time too.

Jak Pestovat Chilli

Growing Chillies Book is now published in Czech language

 

Dobrá zpráva pro milovníky chilli. ‘Jak Pestovat Chilli’ Nyní v českých knižních obchodech.

I’m not sure if there are ever any readers of these pages who are speakers, or indeed readers, of Czech, but if you are then Growing Chillies Book, or should I say ‘Jak Pestovat Chilli’ is in a bookshop near you! Of course this is a bit of a catch 22, if you can read this, you may not need a Czech translation, but if you do, you can link to the details here –  www.pestujchilli.cz You can order it online or buy it through bookshops.

I will be visiting Czech Republic for the weekend of 5th & 6th September to do some book signing and talk at a chilli festival there; more details to follow soon.

Jak Pestovat Chilli

Growing Chillies Book, now translated into Czech