How could any gardener not be totally captivated by an Heirloom Garden in Maui Hawaii? It was here that I found myself totally charmed by grower Jane Sperr and all of her exquisite and rare heirlooms.
Like most heirloom gardeners across America, we find ourselves with limited information and resources for growing information in our home states and how different heirlooms fair in our climate. This is what has inspired Jane to write. I could easily spend hours strolling through both of Jane's Blogs, A Kitchen Garden in Kihei Maui and A Kihei Garden Cuisine.
Many of the things growing in Jane's Kitchen Garden can be grown in many southern and west coast gardens successfully. This is why the Christmas Bells have caught my attention. Not only are they edible, but they are ornamental and a favorite dried and used in floral arrangements. I began to have visions of these perfect little red bell-shaped peppers being used for some holiday decorations such as wreaths and garlands.
One of the fun things about A Kihei Garden Cuisine is that Jane is always including some delicious recipe ideas to go with what she if harvesting from the garden. Jane explains that the Christmas Bells are great for making a mild salsa and for salad crunchies. To make salad crunchies, she breaks the skins apart from the seeds and dries the pepper pieces in her dehydrator. “The crunchies aren't hot but they add a nice little kick to a salad,” she adds.(Capsicum baccatum) (aka Christmas Bell) Grown in Containers Photo By Jane Sperr
As I begin my virtual tour through the kitchen garden, Jane first tells me the history of this rare heirloom and how she obtained the seeds for it. “Nepalese Bell appears to be similar to Christmas Bell, a very hard to find pepper. I purchased seeds from Seed Savers and according to their website the origin of their seeds was a Nepalese student in the UK,” she explains.
We were able to track down further information on this rare heirloom from the Victoriana Nursery. They explain that it originated from Brazil where it is known as ‘Ubatuba Cambuc' after the two cities where it is found. I found it quite interesting how many other names it has gone by in other parts of the world.
“The fruit is 2 to 3 inches wide by about 1.5 inches tall,” Jane continues. “The plants will grow 5 ft tall in a 10-gallon container. They might grow taller when planted in the ground. Nepalese is a late baccatum. It takes 6 months from seed to the first ripe red fruit.”
“Here it is a perennial and flowers and fruits year-round,” she says.” One of my Nepalese plants is 20 months old and has produced peppers consistently for over a year.”
After a little investigation, I found that the Christmas Bells fall into several categories. Depending on where you live they may be classified as annuals and biennials, edibles, houseplants, landscape, perennials, shrubs, vegetables.
Jane continued to tell about her growing methods. She said, “I grow these in the large self-watering containers from WalMart and they do pretty well. It might survive in a greenhouse but I don't know how much heat they can take. It's in the low 90's here during the summer and they survive and keep producing.”
I will be giving this special Christmas Bell a chance to grow in my own garden next season. I will take Jane's advice and grow it in some containers until I find how it fairs in our Texas climate. I'm hoping I can create the same conditions as those in Maui Hawaii.
In doing so, I may help preserve such a hard to find heirloom. By saving these seeds the rare Christmas Bells may ring for future generations to grow. Happy Heirloom Gardening!