Here's the overall picture. As you can see, the jalapeno on the left is doing okay, as is the serrano in the lower right, but what's up with the tomatillo? Granted, this is a very badly-lit photo, but here's the tomatillo closer up:
The leaves look like they've had all the chlorophyl sucked out of them, and are greasy and droopy. Further investigation showed tiny webs between the leaves, with tinier dots in them. Some kind of spiders or mites? Whatever, they're killing the plants, and I suspect it's too late to save them.
This morning, I noted the same webs on the jalapeno, but the leaves there seem healthier. The problem with both of the chile plants, though, is that leaves -- bright, shiny, deep green leaves -- is all they have. Are we ever going to see flowers there? I hope so. There should be nice enough weather through October, though, so there's still hope there. But too bad about the tomatillos: they sprung up so nicely and quickly that I was really hoping I'd be able to cook with some of their fruits.
If anyone out there has any suggestions, of course, I'm all ears.
UPDATE: As you can see by the comments, and if you're on Facebook you can see even more, dish soap in a weak solution sprayed on these beasts (spider mites) is supposed to control them. I've also been advised to replant the plants, which I'll do when/if they're a bit stronger, but it happened I was out of dish soap anyway and just picked up a sprayer for three bucks along with it. Then I went out onto the balcony and, I hope, committed some genocide. Or mitocide, anyway.
* * *
Meanwhile, after returning from the market on Saturday, I hit a wall. I cooked a pasta sauce with some fresh tomatoes I got there, but my creativity was waning. (So was my sense of taste: since I've gotten off the regime of many pills I started with and now just do a spray twice a day and one pill, I've been having episodes of loss of taste, and that happened Saturday and, as we'll see, Sunday nights).
Since my financial situation has improved somewhat I took a close look at the numbers and decided on a luxury: instead of cooking something Sunday night, I'd go eat out at an inexpensive restaurant. At the top of my list was Moroccan food. I've never had any, and there are a number of places around here which look promising. One I've had my eye on was Les Jardins de Marrakech, on the other side of the hill from me. I went to check that it's open on Sundays and, seeing that it was, and that it was cheap enough, I went back about 9pm.
Interestingly, it occupies a building where there's a shrine to St. Roch, and those plaques mentioning that the bench where he rested after returning to town was there. It's a heaving neighborhood, filled with students and gay guys out on the town, and most of what was around me was bars and restaurants and kebab stands. Like everyone else at all the other restaurants, I sat outside. It was a warm evening, and the street scene was going full tilt, so it seemed to be a good idea. I say "seemed to be": despite the narrow streets, there are people who drive them, so that if you're sitting curbside, you'll get the occasional car. The first one got as far as where I was sitting and had a change of heart and backed up. The second one cruised by very slowly and got through. The third one's driver stopped a Vietnamese woman and asked her to ask me to get out of the way. Since there was almost a foot between me and the car, I declined and waved the woman through. In fact, the only one that didn't seem to have much of an idea was a garbage truck, which managed to nudge my chair as it came through.
Service at Les Jardines was incredibly slow. They may have only one burner in the kitchen, given how slowly things came out to my fellow diners. I had a plate with some tiny potato cubes with parsley, a few chick peas, and three black olives on it deposited in front of me, and the somnolent waitress took my order. When the little pichet of rosé wine appeared, it was clear that my smell/taste was way diminished. (Although at least I didn't order the Moroccan rosé, which another diner did; I was astonished at its grey-pink color and hoped it didn't taste like it looked).
Eventually, my appetizer showed up. Briwate poulet was described as being filled with chicken, parsley, coriander and spices, but what I got was two deep-fried triangles a little over an inch on each side with some chicken inside. There may hae been parsley, coriander and spices, but I couldn't see anything other than chicken, and it also occurred to me that the triangles could have been taken out of the oil a few seconds earlier; they were pretty brown. There was a sort of desultory salad with it, and this meant that I got bread. And the bread, dense, white, and with a salty, crunchy crust slightly burned on the bottom, was darn good.
That course was cleared, and 40 minutes later out came my tagine. I'd ordered lamb tagine with olives and lemons, since I've been wanting to try Moroccan preserved lemons for some time. Now, if you're not familiar with the tagine, it's not just the dish, it's the thing it's cooked in, as the picture here shows. You assemble the ingredients in the bottom half, put the funnel-shaped top on and throw it in the oven, so it's kind of a baked stew. The dish put in front of me was bubbling so violently I had to wait several minutes before I dared taste it. Of course, I couldn't taste it, so it was all sort of a waste. On the other hand, there were notes I could detect -- my taste wasn't 100% gone -- and among them were sour (which I was getting from the wine) and salt (which I was getting from the bread), and I was getting nothing but grease from the tagine, which was a huge number of turnips, potatoes, and some carrots covering up two pieces of lamb, bone in. There were two tiny slivers of lemon, and not an olive to be seen.
The whole thing came to €25.50, which was what I wanted to spend, and yet I felt I'd just been served some watered-down version of Moroccan food for French people. There are certainly enough Moroccans around here that there must be a good Moroccan restaurant or two, and maybe my having selected one in the student ghetto meant I didn't get anything near what I would have gotten if I'd wanted to walk over to the Figuerolles district, where the Moroccans actually live.
On the other hand, if I wasn't going to be able to taste it anyway, at least the liberation of being able to go out for a meal for the first time in over three months felt good. The street scene was better than television, and getting out of the house, sitting there in the night air, and letting someone else do the cooking meant that I don't regret a minute of it. With any luck at all, I'll be able to do this more frequently in the near future, and with more luck, I should be able to taste what I'm eating.