Gardening with Chili

When I first moved to Hong Kong, there was a list of necessities I had to buy: coffee press, mugs, frying pan, garlic, and chili powder. Everything else was secondary. We first acquired the coffee press and beans. Then, because there was only one hot plate in the apartment, I did not cook anything except cold cereal [not cooking] for a week.

For some reason, I forgot about the purchase of chili powder for a while, when one day, Peter surprised me with a gift from the Indonesian market: a 100 gram bag of the spiciest chili powder I have ever had. I was overjoyed. I put a teaspoon of the powder into a stir fry I was cooking, thinking nothing of it, and sat down to eat, when Pete began tearing up and sputtering. “How much did you put in?!”

I of course, waved his concern aside, as he is British and has no taste for spice. Then I tried the stir fry. It was indeed 4 times as hot as I had anticipated. But, being raised in Texas, I saved face by pretending it was just as intended, and that I was entirely unaffected. I was just eating slowly and really thirsty.

Since that occasion I have put smaller amounts of this chili into my food, just a pinch when I would normally at a tablespoon. And the fresh peppers from the produce section are often just enough.

Now, this next story may initially seem unrelated: When I posted about my Lemon Tree, affectionately called Stewart, both of my parents, separately, immediately emailed me. They were frantic. My mother sent me a recipe for a homemade pesticide, while my dad said “Look up on the internet for a recipe for homemade insecticidal soap and spray it in the tree.”

One recipe calls for pure soap, water and cayenne pepper. Others suggest citrus oil, cider vinegar, garlic, etc.

I interpreted this to mean, something oily, and something spicy. So I just used my citrus scented dish soap, a bit of cooking oil, water, and a couple tablespoons of the aforementioned chili powder. I then covered the lemon tree.

You could see the caterpillars did not enjoy the burnt orange cocktail.  They agree with Peter: the chili is too spicy. Today, the caterpillars are no more. The tree seems to have new growth, and I sincerely hope there will be no more bite marks on the leaves. If they return, I know what to do.

It’s a good thing I like spicy food. I also like to think my affection for spice has protected me from severe illness. But this could just be superstition. Moral of the story is this: Chili peppers are powerful and delicious.

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