Grow-Log & Guide: Where I get my seeds/plants from and what my current grow-list looks like.
If you want to grow your own chilli plants, there are basically two different ways to start off: from seeds or from seedlings. Which one of the two you choose or whether you combine them, pretty much depends on the degree of care, interest and dedication you want to put into growing chillis as well as on the opportunities you’ve got. Whatever you decide on doing, there are plenty of sources for both seeds and seedlings – both commercial and social.
There are tons of online shops for hot pepper seeds and even seedlings. Some specialise in the super- and ultrahot department, some in variety. You might turn to mainstream portals like Amazon or ebay, but for many people including myself this has proven to be a bit of a gamble. I’ve been getting seeds from sellers on both platforms that were okay (if usually quite expensive). But for instance, I’ve also bought seeds from a shop on Amazon as Aji Lemon (a baccatum variety) that in the end turned out as some annuum sort, likely Golden Cayenne or Yellow Starflame.
So I prefer the specialised shops that have a good standing within the pepper-growing community. In the sidebar, I’ve listed some I personally like for the quality and genetic purity of the seeds they supply. The most impressive one among them is rightfully Semillas. German biochemist Dr. Peter Merle grows chillis, tomatoes and tobacco on the Canary island of La Palma (in the Atlantic ocean off the African coast), and always has seeds for 600 to 700 chilli varieties on offer in his online shop. His prices are the most moderate I’ve seen on the market and he ships worldwide. Easily, he’s my main seed supplier.
If you want to spare yourself going through the slightly intricate process of germination and prefer to start from seedlings, you might pick some up at your local gardening or building center. Here in Berlin, both the number of stores that have them and the selection they offer is growing, but of course it’s still way behind the choice you have in online shops, let alone if you’re growing from seeds. Personally, I don’t recommend buying seedlings through the mail. The risk of damage during the transport isn’t really worth it compared to just popping down to a local shop and knowing first-hand what you’re getting, in my estimation.
As I’ve mentioned here and there on this blog, there’s a world-wide community of chilli enthusiasts who meet up and stay in touch online and in real life. The overall atmosphere in the chilehead-scene is very supportive and cooperative, so once you dive into it yourself, you’ll be quick to know a lot of cool people who might help you out with a couple of seeds or seedlings.
I’ve found some experienced and well-informed growers through online-platforms like Youtube, Facebook and blogs. All of them have been awesome sources of inspiration and help for me, and some of them have become great online friends of mine, too. Guys like Paul Tonkin, famous for his educative and audacious video-reviews of fresh pods and hotsauces on Youtube, Bart Meijer who runs a highly recommendable blog dedicated to the complex tastes within the capsicum-family and rare varieties, or Raphael Alber of Swiss-based chili-pepper.ch who I’ve met through one of the many chilli-groups on Facebook. Find links to my favourite video reviewers, blogs and Facebook groups in the sidebar.
I’ve been exchanging seeds and/or fresh pods through the mail with these blokes and quite some others for a while now, and a good number of seeds for my 2012 and 2013 seasons have come from them. Mind you that you can remove seeds from a fresh pod, spread them out between two paper towels for a couple of days (so they dry up), and then store them in a dark, dry and cool place so you might grow plants from them later. I did this with the 7Pot Brainstrain and the TS Moruga Blend I got from Paul, for example, and also with some fresh pods of Hegyes Erös and Tölteni Valo that I picked up at Budapest’s Great Market-Hall during my 2012 vacation. One advantage of taking seeds from fresh pods of course is that you know quite exactly what you’ll be getting in terms of look, taste and heat if you decide to grow it.
For me the best way to get my hands on some fresh new seeds and seedlings, though, is to meet up in person with friends and like-minded folks who share my love for growing and consuming chillis. Yesterday for example, I met with two fellow growers for a plant-swap here in Berlin – Frank from Leipzig who I know through Facebook and Ronny from Berlin who’s a personal mate of mine. Frank is one hell of a grower with an impressive bit of expertise and Ronny caught the chilli-bug last year when he was watching all the images of my plants and pods that I had posted on Facebook in the 2012 season. He keeps documenting his current chilli-grow on his own blog.
The three of us had a really good time during the plant-swap and we all went home happy. I brought eleven plants to give away to Ronny and Frank, and got so much awesome stuff from them in return. Ronny gave me two annuum seedlings (Goat’s Weed and Trifetti) and a Marmande tomato one, while Frank didn’t just hit me off with a Rocoto Grandis (c. pubescens) plant and a Fatalii Orange (c. chinense) seedling, but also with a pack of various fine home-made chilli-powders and a jar of his own, tasty curry-sauce. The plant-swap brought some fair changes to my current grow-list – check out what my final 2013 selection looks like here.