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Medicinal, culinary and unusual botanicals from Australia and around the world

Chilli breeding for subtropical Australia

I love jalapeño chillies, they are probably my favourite all rounder in the kitchen. I used to pickle them, make smoked jalapeños (chipotle) and use fresh in cooking. Since moving to a bit further north and closer to the coast than the last place, Jalapeños have struggled, even in our best chilli growing season, winter. Yep, on the Sunshine Coast winter is the best all round time for vegetable growing in the backyard I find; a low incidence of pests, diseases and more stable temperatures than spring and summer. Jalapeños get too much damage from Broad Mite (Polyphagotarsonemus latus) which distorts new growth, tips and fruit. We also get fruit fly pretty bad in warmer times and they just dissolve jalapeños. This is why I decided to try breeding a broad mite resistant cross between a jalapeño and another chilli I have been growing, Aji Trompito. Aji Trompito are funny looking little chillies with little or no heat BUT a smell and taste like Habanero chillies. They are most likely a Capsicum chinense species that I imported from Bolivia a few years ago. Capsicum chinense hybridise with Capsicum annuum readily, which is what jalapeños are.

Breeding chillies is relatively straight forward. Remove anthers from flower before they shed pollen and then transfer other pollen from a chilli to the stigma, keep out bugs for a day or two and if it sticks, it will grow and will look the same but will carry the hybrid seed from which we breed further.

Ok so the Aji Trompito x Jalapeño F1 hybrids were a great stocky little plant, excellent broad mite resistance and a huge amount of mini jalapeno type chillies with a good heat. To stabilise a new variety though we have to keep breeding as the second generation (F2) show lots of different gene combinations and variety. Keep selecting and striving for the chilli that you are after, generation after generation. This narrows the gene pool and you get the majority of individuals looking the same.

After 4 generations this is what I have been selecting for, see picture. Short stocky plants with an abundance of medium heat fruit with great broad mite resistance.

Trompeno Chilli on the bush
Trompeno Chilli cut in half

After 6 generations I hopefully have something stable enough to release as a new variety. Something which I am calling Trompeno, simply a blend of the two chilli names.

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