Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quail Nest and Chiltepin Seedlings

I was very excited to discover that quail have built a nest in the middle of a cactus in our yard!

They chose a good spot! It would be impossible for a cat or dog to get through cactus that encircles the nest. It took me a long time to get a good photo of the nest because the mother quail is usually sitting on the eggs and all you can see is a few feathers. I can't wait to see the chicks; hopefully she'll take good care of them and keep them out of the street!

I've been on the hunt for chiltepin plants (aka chili tepin). It's a chile plant that has tiny little peppers that are super-hot and can grow year-round in the right conditions. My parents have had one in their backyard for years and I thought it would be nice to have my own. I especially like that it can survive during the winter since I'm not too keen on having to re-plant vegetables every year!

The chiltepin plant is very similar to the chili pequin so initally I wasn't sure which one this was. The only difference I can see between the two is that the chiltepin peppers are round while the chili pequin peppers are elongated. Since the peppers on my parents' plant are round, I'm assuming that it's a chiltepin.

I stole a few peppers from my parents' plant a year ago and, after drying them out, spent a week attempting to sprout the seeds from one pepper but had no luck. I then tried to find the plant at a local nursery but no success there either. Finally I sat down, did some research and discovered that the seeds can take up to 12 weeks to sprout! I decided to try again since I hadn't given them enough time during my first sprouting attempt.

On April 30th I cut open one of the peppers and soaked the seeds in water overnight. On May 1st I put all the seeds (there were more than 30!) between two damp paper towels in a plastic container. I sprayed the paper towels daily with water to keep them moist. Nothing happened until May 20th - I got home from a short vacation and found that several of the seeds had sprouted!

Once the seedlings were free of the seeds, I planted them in plastic cups. I used two cups for each seedling, one inner cup with holes punched in the bottom and an outer cup to catch any drained water. I put a thin layer of pebbles at the bottom of the cup and filled the rest with a 4 to 1 mixture of potting soil and perlite.

I've been planting 2-3 seedlings a day since May 20th and I now have 17! They seem to be pretty slow growers so I'm guessing they won't be big enough to have peppers until next year. Here are some photos I took of one of the first plants to show its progress:

May 20th:

May 21st:

May 23rd:

May 29th:
You can see more "growth" photos of my chiltepin plants here: Chiltepin Plants Update


Theron said...

Thanks for the information. I was wondering why my seeds hadn't sprouted yet. My chillis are a few years old so I thought the seeds might no longer be viable.

I would like to see pictures of the plants to see how far they've progressed in the last several months.

Cat Carlisle said...

You're welcome! I actually did an update post in July but I guess I forgot to go back and put a link to it in this post. Here's the link: Chiltepin Plant Update. Since July the plants have gotten much bigger, so much so that a week ago I had to move them all outside. Unfortunately they were a little shocked by the temperature change and most of them lost a few leaves. However, they're starting to come back now and some of them even have dozens of buds (while they were inside I only got one bud to form). Once more of them recover I will try to do another photo update.

Unknown said...

My mom gave me a Chiltepin plant its about one of the stems is 5" with leaves and the other is about 3" with leaves. I have it inside I live in Silver Spring, Maryland and I was told I should take it in once it gets cold. The foliage on the bigger stem looks good and has little leaves that seem to be growing well but it also has one leaf that has yellow speck. I was wondering if someone here could tell me the best way to raise my plant indoors. I need to know about watering light and temperture plant food/fertilizers.

Any advice would be appreciated, I dont want my plant to die.

thanks, have a great day

Cat Carlisle said...

Well Elizabeth, I'm not really an expert on these plants but I can tell you what I have done. I experimented with growing my chiltepin plants inside and they didn't do that great - they grew very slowly and didn't ever produce peppers until I moved them outside.

But if if it is freezing outdoors you definitely need to bring it inside if it is in a pot or gently cover it up during freezing temperatures if it is planted in the ground. Last winter I kept my chiltepins outside and forgot to cover them one night. They "died" but thankfully not for good - once the temperatures warmed up about half of them grew back.

If you are keeping your plant inside you need to make sure that it is getting a lot of light - it needs to be near a window. Water it regularly, not too much but don't let it dry out completely. You might want to use a food-safe vegetable fertilizer, just follow the manufacturer's directions.

That's all the advice I have. Like I said, my experience has been that chiltepin plants don't do that great inside - you may be able to keep it alive but don't be disappointed if it grows very slowly or doesn't produce peppers. Hopefully it will make it through the winter and you can take it outdoors next spring.

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