Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The market is closed today, something I should have thought about when I saw the date: today is Bastille Day, of course! So we'll have to wait until Saturday for pix of those tiny strawberries.

And, of course, there are things the market still can't give me, which is why, when I was back in Texas in March, I bought some seeds. Jalapeño and serrano chiles, and tomatillo seeds. I can get green chiles from Thailand at Wei Son, the "exotic products" store down the street (other exotic products include lemon grass and tofu, as well as sesame oil, Vietnamese rice, and Indian spices), but they're not quite the same as jalapeños: there's that green taste on top of the hot that's missing because the Thai chiles aren't as fleshy.

I have a small balcony just off my bedroom, and was monitoring it pretty much all winter long to see if it got any sunshine. It doesn't get a lot, because the surrounding buildings are so tall, but it started to get more as spring approached, so I took the plunge and bought the seeds. A friend with a much larger balcony gave me a few pots and a couple of window boxes, I bought a bag of soil, started the seeds in a few of those throw-away pots, and when the sprouts got big enough, I transplanted them.

As of Saturday, here is the result:

Just looking at the picture four days later makes me realize how well I'm doing. That's the jalapeños on the left, the serranos on the right, and the tomatillos on top. The basil that went into the windowboxes is steaming right along and I'm really going to have to go in there and thin it. Sadly, it's the big-leaf variety, not the super-spicy local variety. Next year, I'll know better.

All of the plants in the picture are bigger right at the moment, and they also have more leaves. This came after a period of inactivity during which I assume they were sending down big roots. Now, I suspect, the leaves will keep on coming, and we should have fruit on the chiles, at least, sometime in September, when the weather will still be fine. I expect to be harvesting basil all along and freezing pesto for wintertime consumption. Tomatillos are still a mystery area for me. I know they're physalias, and I've seen physalia plants, but don't know how long they take to fruit or exactly when the tomatillos are ripe and not over-ripe: they tend to go yellow, at which point their flavor is, allegedly, not very pleasant.

Expect more pix from this ongoing agricultural enterprise as the summer continues.


  1. I miss all the plants I had on my own balcony (which is rather big). Next week I'll be in Greg's house and I'll take care of his garden, and especially the vegetables. My other son too is a good gardener, although his garden is not bigger than yours :-))

  2. Good luck, Ed. Don't forget that peppers (all of them, including bell peppers) cross-pollinate very easily, so if you don't want jalapeno/serrano hybrids, keep them apart (well apart!) if they are blooming at the same time.

  3. Those look great!

    I hope the jalepinos become really spicy!

  4. Hey, Brent, just how far apart should they be? This is a pretty small balcony, and if i try real hard, I might be able to separate the pots by, oh, 10 feet. No more.

    I'm also wondering about pollinating them myself.

    And, at worst, a Jalapeño/serrano cross wouldn't be *that* bad, would it?

  5. Actually, it's really only a problem for 2nd generation seeds, and since you don't have much space - and Jalapeno/Serrano crosses are not bad - forget I said anything.

  6. Although, if you do want to prevent the cross pollination, and save seeds for next year's crop, put some cheese cloth over either the Jalapenos or the Serranos so the insects don't pollinate them.

  7. I went to the Diago yesterday. I walked through your street again but I didn't see the jalapenos :-))

  8. Marie, you have to ring the doorbell and the nice man on the other end will show them to you. They're facing the courtyard, not the street.


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