Sometimes it is nice to venture into less treacherous paths and enjoy flavour over heat. Chili pepper ‘Big Jim’ has a sublime flavour with just a hint of spice, just a tad more spicy than sweet peppers which is great if you have sensitive dinner company.
Re-selected and developed by the Chilli Pepper Institute of New Mexico State University (CPI), ‘NuMex Big Jim’ is a cross between a Peruvian chile and various types from New Mexico. Introduced in 1975, it is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as having grown the largest chilli pods ever grown.
The easy and vigorous plant remains relatively small compared to the large pods. The plants grow 60 to 90 cm (2 to 3ft) tall with a spread of around 45cm (18in). The plants are heavy croppers with 30 fruits per plant not being unusual.
The pods can grow up to 35cm (14in) in length, but on average they are about 17.5cm (7in) long and 5cm (2in) wide. The fruits start of green and mature to a rich red after about 80 days after repotting.
With excellent flavour and a mild heat level of between 500 to 2,500 SHU, Big Jim peppers have been used by chefs for decades, they are mainly consumed at their green stage as they are hotter once they reach their red fully mature state. Its very large size means that you can stuff it as you would a normal bell pepper. They are fantastic for roasting or smoking and preserving in oil and the ultimate variety for making chilli rellenos (stuffed and fried peppers).
Storage of Seeds:
Store seeds away from children, sealed in their packaging in a cool, dry, dark place, or in a fridge. Never store them in a freezer as the sudden temperature drop is likely to kill them. Don't leave the seeds in direct sunlight as the heat generated may kill them.
Sowing: Sow from mid February to mid June
The temperature, moisture, and air circulation all play a role in growing plants from seeds. Too little heat, too much moisture, and lack of air circulation will cause poor results. Do not use jiffy peat pots, plugs, or potting soil as the soil becomes too dry or too wet, which can lead to low germination, disease and fungus.
Fill small cells or trays with a good sterile seed compost and sow the seeds on the surface. “Just cover” with a fine sprinkling (3mm) of soil or vermiculite.
Keep the compost moist - don't let the top of the compost dry out (a common cause of germination failure) If you wish, spray the surface with a dilute copper-based fungicide.
Cover the pot or tray with plastic film or place in a heated propagator, south facing window or a warm greenhouse.
The ideal temperature is around 18 to 20°C (65 to 72°F)
When the seedlings have produced their first pair of true leaves they can be potted on into individual 7 to 10cm (3 to 4in) pots. Use good quality potting compost and mix in some organic slow release fertiliser. Pot the chilli on again before it becomes root-bound.
Water the seedlings regularly, but don't let them become waterlogged as this encourages rot. Don't let them dry out as they rarely recover at this stage. Water the soil, not the foliage. Once the plants have established, it is better to water heavy and infrequently, allow the top inch or so to dry out in between watering.
Seedlings should be grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight from late spring to early autumn. Weaker sunlight from autumn to spring is unlikely to do them harm. Once seedlings have put on some growth they need lots of light. Growing them under a grow-light produces excellent stocky plants, as will a warm sunny windowsill. Adult chilli plants need lots of light. However, more than 4 hours or so in hot direct sunlight will dry them out quickly.
Acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 2 to 3 weeks before they are moved permanently outside. Plant them into rich moist soil. Flower do not form and fruit will not set if the temperature is much below 17°C (62°F) for most of the day, so wait until June/July for best results with outdoor planting.
After the first flowers appear, feed every 1 or 2 weeks with a half-strength liquid tomato feed. You could also add Seaweed extract to the water once a week.
Pollinating Flowers: (optional)
Chilli plants are self fertile and will generally pollinate themselves. However, if you want to give them a helping hand to ensure that lots of fruit are set indoors, use a cotton wool bud to gently sweep the inside of the flowers, spreading the pollen as you go. The flower's petals will drop off as the green middle part of the flower starts to swell slightly. This is the chilli pepper beginning to grow.
Harvesting: Harvest in approx 90 days
Chillies will take a few weeks to develop and a further couple weeks to turn from green to red. Harvest any time after they are fully developed but the longer you leave them on the hotter they will become. Harvest peppers as they mature to encourage new buds to form. Use scissors so you don't damage the plant.
After picking eat fresh or dry the peppers by putting them into a mesh bag, hang the bag up in a dry, airy, but not sunny spot. When they are completely dry, you can make paprika by grinding the peppers. Don't grind the stalks. You can regulate the spiciness of the result by including more or less of the seeds and veins.
The fruits can be used green or ripe, and it can be seeded and frozen for use over the winter, a technique that also preserves its rich flavour much better than drying.
Be careful handling chilli seeds as they can cause a painful burning sensation: Avoid contact with the eyes or any sensitive skin before washing your hands thoroughly.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 Seeds Common Name Mild: 500 to 2,500 SHU. Other Common Names Capsicum. Chili, Chile or Chilli. Hot Pepper Family Solanaceae Genus Capsicum Species chinense Cultivar NuMex Big Jim Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Height 60 to 90 cm (2 to 3ft) Spread 45cm (18in) Position Grown in good light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight Soil Rich moist soil. Time to Sow Sow from mid February to mid June Harvest The longer you leave them on the hotter they will become Time to Harvest 70 to 80 days