Tabasco chili plant
Tabasco is the most frequently mentioned name of a chili variety. It is famous for its Tabasco sauce, which is made from its pods. In the Mexican state of Tabasco there is a lot of agriculture in a subtropical climate. A high humidity, the sunny, warm climate and a nutrient-rich soil make the area the perfect chili growing area.
Narrow 4 - 5 cm long chilli peppers are formed on the perennial chilli variety. When the chillies turn red, it is time for the harvest. Tabasco plants can easily grow up to 4 m high. In pot culture it is perfectly suited as an indoor plant with a height of one metre. Already in the first year a harvest of tasty red pods can be planned. These are classically processed into a spicy sauce.
Tabasco chilli peppers have a degree of sharpness of 9 and are therefore between 30,000 and 50,000 units on the Scoville scale. The pods make something of the plant. They grow upright and as they ripen there is a flaming play of green, yellow and red tabasco pods.
The species of the Capsicum frutescens have in contrast to other Capsicum varieties a quite similar appearance. Probably humans have cultivated this species for a long time and selected it on the same habitat. Mostly the fruits are, botanists correctly speak of berries, about 3 cm long, with a diameter of about one centimeter. They are reminiscent of the shape of a small finger.
The white flowers with green stripes are strikingly beautiful. As with the other Capsicum species, the chili flower can pollinate itself. So one plant is enough to harvest Tabasco Chilis from it.
Usually, the plants grow in an expansive bushy pattern. The shrub grows to an impressive height due to the lignification of the trunk and its branches. A stepladder is then required to harvest the upper chilli peppers.
There is practically no doubt that Tabasco chilli comes from the same named state of Tabasco in Mexico. Around 1850 Edmund McIlhenny got some dried chili peppers from a veteran of the US-Mexico war. He and his wife planted their seeds in the garden of the house.
Twenty years later, the American Civil War ended. Especially the southern states had suffered from the sea blockades. Especially the supply of the population suffered. During and after the war, food was dull in Louisiana and New Orleans.
So it came that from the chili, which was brought by a soldier from Mexico, the famous Tabascosauce was conjured. This made the Capsicum plant the famous chili variety.
In the fields around Avery Iland, the head of the McIlhenny Company himself still goes out to the fields today to mark particularly successful specimens with a ribbon. The pickers send these excellent pods for seed collection.
On average, the Tabasco pod reaches 40,000 Scoville units and has a sharpness level of 9. Depending on growing conditions and harvest time, the sharpness varies from 30,000 to 50,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units). Tabasco chillies are first light green and then change colour to yellow, orange to red. The reder the fruits become, the sharper they become. Original Tabasco Sauce has about 2.500 Scoville.
Tabasco sauce from McIlhenny is cut into pieces and mixed with salt from our own cultivation. The mash produced in this way is matured in oak barrels for three years. The comparison with good wine does not suffice. As with the wine, every vintage has its fine nuances.
After the fermentation the mash is mixed with vinegar. About two weeks later, the sauce is filtered from the chili seeds and filled. Do not try to imitate the tabasco sauce at all. Even if you manage it, at the price you pay for the original, you won’t make it.
Original Tabasco sauce can hardly be imitated. Let’s create our own:
500 g Tabasco pods
10 g salt
150 ml still mineral water
300 ml white wine vinegar
Core and chop the chillies. Add exactly 2 % salt. Add water and vinegar. Puree in a blender. If you have a carpenter nearby, ask for a few sticks of dried, untreated oak.
Put the puree in a sterile bottle with a wide neck. Stretch a cotton cloth over the bottle and fasten with rubber bands. Work as sterile as possible. Fermentation should now also begin in the refrigerator. If mould forms on the surface, the project has failed.
After fourteen days our own tabasco sauce should be ripe but not bad. A smell test brings clarity. If it smells unpleasant, please do not eat it. Pour the mash through a sieve to filter out the seeds. Then mix smooth with a blender.
Tabasco plants are perennial chillies that can reach a height of more than two meters. In our gardens, balcony and house the plants grow to about 1.5 meters. True Tabasco in the fields of Louisiana also grows only about shoulder-high. This makes it easier for the field workers to harvest. It is possible that chili plants that are too high are pruned back to facilitate harvesting next year.
Tabasco is not difficult to grow. Simply put chili seeds in a humus soil. Keep the soil slightly moist and let the shrub grow. After flowering the pods need about 90 days until they can be harvested red.
Overall, Capsicum frutescens are easy to maintain and offer a high yield. However, a few decades ago there was a major crisis. In the 60’s there were fabulous crop failures because the tobacco mosaic virus took away large parts of the tabasco plants. By breeding a resistant variety, this danger is averted today.
They should start growing in January or February. Soak Tabasco seeds overnight in lukewarm, diluted chamomile tea. The watered seeds are then planted in coconut spring tabs about 1 cm deep.
A heating mat ensures a germination temperature of approx. 25 °C at a favourable temperature.
After about a week, seedlings will appear. At the latest three weeks after sowing, all Tabasco seeds should have germinated. A germination rate of more than 75% is normal. In other words, seven to eight of 10 seeds should rise.
At Tabasco, one thing is important: sun, sun, sun. If possible, always keep the substrate of the plant slightly moist. Waterlogging usually means the certain death of the green splendour. Sprinkle dark mulch outdoors and on the balcony, this absorbs the heat of the sun and keeps the moisture in the soil. Tomato soil with a neutral to slightly acid pH of 6.5 is perfect.
In a 10 - 20 litre bucket the root has enough space. From mid-May, the Tabasco plant will be accustomed to the sun, because it will soon go outside. In the bucket you can bring the plant into the house in autumn to spend the winter.
Temperatures below 15 °C at night result in less fruit formation. If night temperatures drop even lower, Tabasco plants first lose the flowers, then the leaves and can also easily shrink.
Regular fertilization with paprika fertilizer contributes to the massive harvest. We like to use organic fertilizers. When fertilizing, please also pay attention to a pH value of 6 - 7. It is easy to find out with a measuring strip or a measuring device.
On the fields in Louisiana, the pickers use a simple help: A round rod about 15 cm red. The rod is used to determine the perfect time for harvesting. If the red colour matches that of the chillies and their diameter, the Tabasco pod has ripened and grown perfectly. The more evenly the plant has been supplied with water, without overpouring it, the higher the harvest will be.
|Plant size||up to 4 meters|
|Maturing period||90 days|
|Germination period||8 - 14 days|
|Germination temperature||25 - 28 °C|
|Planting distance||min. 100 cm|