Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bird’s Eye Chilies 指天椒

Spice up in garden and kitchen

When I first moved to Auckland, the vegetable that I couldn't get over was chilies. The fresh chilies here were so expensive costing nearly $1 for a single big red chili. Furthermore, these fresh chilies were not spicy enough and did not give the kick I was used to. I suppose this was largely due to the cold climate here as chili likes hot climate. Then I discovered frozen chilies were far cheaper than the fresh ones. To try out I bought a packet of bird eye's chilies which were imported from Vietnam.

I like to eat noodles with chilies. So, I tested out these chilies by making simple soya sauce with chilies dipping sauce. I took out 3 small chilies and cut into tiny pieces and soak with soya sauce. At first, I was a bit skeptical whether the frozen chilies could give much spiciness. But when I just ate a spoonful of noodles with a tiny chili piece in it, I could already felt the hot burning effect on my tongue! Frankly, I was a person that could eat really hot spicy food and this chili to me was really HOT! I gave a thumb up for it. If anyone is looking for hot chilies then bird eye's chilies from Vietnam is my recommendation.

Kiwis have strong eco-friendly awareness. Seeing almost every household garden produces some fresh food for own use, I too embarked on a gardening journey. As mentioned in my green hopes page, most of my plants were grown from seedlings given by my friends and landlady. Once I saw my garden began to grow and flourish, it gave me much confidence that I might have the required green fingers to do more. With that, I challenged myself to grow more plants from seeds.
 I began to surf internet on gardening and ways to sow seeds. Then I came across a video clip showing a great way to sow seeds by using damp towel paper. This method allows you to see the seeds germinate before transferring them into soil which was more encouraging than planting straight into the soil and not knowing whether the seeds were good enough to germinate. After seeing the video clip, it gave me an idea to try out sowing the frozen Vietnamese chilies seeds since I liked the chilies so much.
 On 21/01/2010, I took out about a dozen seeds from a frozen chili and spread them on a damp kitchen towel paper. Then I placed the paper into a zip lock bag and inflated the bag by blowing some air into it before sealing it up. As chili seeds needed warm spot to germinate, I kept the bag on top of the boiler in the water boiler room to ensure constant warm temperature. After 10 days (normal seeds germination period was 8-10 days), I was really overwhelmed to see out of dozen odd seeds, 2 of the seeds did germinate. I did not have high hope on these seedlings because they might have been frozen for quite a long time already.

From 01/2010 to 12/2010
Seeing the seeds started to sprout, I carefully transferred them into a small pot and carefully watered them using the rice water rinsed from the cleaning of rice in my daily rice cooking. This rice water had nutrients and a great source of organic fertilizer, some knowledge I acquired from my mother. When I was young, I used to see her watering our garden using the water she collected after cleaning fish and rinsing rice. She seldom used commercial fertilizer but our garden thrived as if the plants had been well fertilized.

However, the sowing timing was not right; I was s a bit too late in sowing the chilies. Warmth is the biggest key in successfully germinating the chili. By the time these chilies started to sprout and grew in February, the weather had started to chill. With the weather turned chilly, these two chili plants seemed stagnant in their growth even though I placed them in warm sunny spot on my balcony. Nevertheless, I didn't give up on them and kept watering them. One of the chili plants kept growing but another did not and remained at about 3 inches height only and did not seem very hopeful.

Finally when the winter was over and after my landlord revamped our back yard in December 2010, I started to cultivate another new veggie garden. Seeing the two plants had not grown much in the pots, I decided to give a final try by removing these chili seedlings from the pots and transferring them to ground. To my surprise, the bigger seedling didn't survive but the smaller seedling which I thought couldn't survive grew healthier and healthier and it even flourished and fruited by this summer!

Fruited @ 03/2010

It turned out that of my 2 years gardening experience in the Kiwi land, this Vietnamese bird's eye chili tree is one of my most successful plants that I had planted. It has taken me nearly a year to grow from a frozen seed to now a full grown chili tree. J


  1. Its so much easier to grow chilly padi at Malaysia, just throw the seed and thats it.
    Growing chilly padi where you are is such a big achievement. I can understand how happy you are as I am also into gardening.

    After moving in to my house about 8 years ago and my continuous gardening, I must say my garden now is full blown and anyone who visits me, simply love my garden with all the lovely plants.

  2. Wow, a dollar for one chile? That's insane! I'm glad you have been able to find the frozen ones, and eventually plant your own. That is a lovely garden you have going there. Hopefully someday I will be able to have my own garden.

  3. Nava:
    Thanks and welcome to my blog. You are right growing chili is much easier in Malaysia then over in cold climate countries. In fact, southen part of NZ you need to grow chili in green house, however Auckland weather which not so chilly, we still have chances to grow it outside during summer.
    True enough gardening allow you to gain such great satisfaction, when you see the plants grow and fruit and later serve freshly on table!

  4. Roxan:
    That's right the crazy price for a chili during winter season!
    If space concern, you can try out by planting in pots especially for herbs they go great in them.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Interesting, I started to plant my herbs as well as its nice to have them fresh from the garden rather than wilted coming from the fridge, specially coriander and parsley they have a shorter shelf life. As for the chillies I will try them soon and yes they are expensive here, I usually freeze them when they go on special an Indian guy told me that trick

  7. Thanks Yin for your great comments and visit to my blog, will look out for new postings on your blog from now on. Nice knowing you.

  8. I can't do without chillies. Your plants look so healthy, and all those chilly padis ... mmmm. Had some plants for awhile but got infested by aphids...sigh. Had to clear them out. But fortunately they can be bought quite cheaply here.

  9. Congratulations! Your chili padi looks so healthy, oh my goodness it is so costly there, luckily you've embarked on gardening, your can have them anytime of the day...

  10. wow, congrats...you must be so proud and sad tht you're leaving behind all this.
    bird's eye chillies grow like fright in my place...they're everywhere...we use it in authentic kerala dishes and coconut chutney.

  11. Hey Yin,
    Happy to hear that you managed to grow your chillies from some of the frozen ones. My mom successfully grew hers from the dried chillies that you get from the Indian spice shops. If you buy the dried chillies there and they are hot, then try growing plants from their seeds. Sometimes they have very hot small chillies or the chilli flakes. I am trying to find the type of bird eye chillies from Malaysia which have a special fragrance to them, not just heat. So far have been unsuccessful

    1. Hi
      Thanks for dropping by. Yes, I knew what you meant for the chili padi that has fragrance in them. You are right, difficult to get Malaysia chili padi, seem like seldom export, maybe not enough to consume in Malaysia.
      Many coming from Vietname or Thailand instead.



Related Posts with Thumbnails