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Takanotsume - Japanese Hawk's Claw Chilli

Takanotsume Peppers

Japanese cuisine is known for little seasoning. One idea of this cuisine is to experience the good taste of each ingredient. In Japan, you will therefore rarely find super spicy dishes like in Korea or China. For example, there are only a few types of chilli that are commonly eaten in Japan. The best known is probably shishito. The hottest is our hawk's claw chilli.

Its chillies are often used dried. Mostly as powder or coarsely ground into flakes. A well-known spice is the "seven tastes of chilli powder" Shichimi .

Takanotsume (Capsicum annuum)

The Japanese hawk claw chilli plants belong to the Capsicum annuum species. The plants reach their full size of 80 cm after about half a year. Later, they bear masses of dangerously hot-looking pods. These are around 5 cm long and ripen from green to a lipstick red.

Scoville

The chillies of the hawk's claw chilli are quite hot compared to the otherwise typical Japanese chilli varieties. Measured on the Scoville scale, bright red chillies easily reach 100,000 SHU. This would correspond to a heat level of 9. However, it is not uncommon for some chilli plants to only grow chillies with a heat level of 5. When tasting fresh chillies, you should always test carefully. Many chilli lovers will describe a heat level of 5 as mild, but a heat level of 9 is already very hot.

You can achieve the hotness of fresh pods simply by removing the seeds. When halving the hawk's claw pod, you immediately notice the huge seeds. Never before have we seen such large chilli seeds.

How to use

This chilli variety is used as the main ingredient for the famous shichimi. The "seven tastes of chilli powder" Shichimi consists of hemp seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, algae leaves, mandarin orange peel and mountain pepper.

Shichimi has been produced for almost 500 years. When the Portuguese landed in Japan with their ships in 1543, more or less by mistake, they probably had chilli in their luggage. It was only 50 years before that "Spanish pepper" became known in Europe. Until the discovery of America, chilli plants only grew in the New World. Now in 1543, chilli plants probably reached the island nation for the first time.

Most chilli peppers are dried and ground into powder. This gives them a kick of smoky flavour. Fresh, the peppers taste very untypical for paprika. As is often the case, their taste is difficult to describe. I would try it like this: fresh Takanotsume peppers taste like ripe, sour apples.

Takanotsume chilli plant

They are robust plants that grow about half a metre tall in pots. In the open or in large flower pots, they can grow twice as tall. The climate in Japan is characterised by the mountains and many streams. It seems to grow adequately even at cooler temperatures and in partial shade. Basically, the plant loves full sun and lots of warmth, like all other Capsicum plants.

Growing

The giant eagle's claw chilli seeds germinate reliably at 22 - 28 °C. 

It takes about 14 days for the first green to break through the earth's crust after soaking and sowing the seeds. For all other chilli varieties, we ensure a planting depth of 0.5 cm. Here we like to dig the seeds twice as deep.

Start the cultivation 6 - 8 weeks before the desired planting date. Here, this should be the Ice Saints in mid-May minus the 8 weeks. Plant the seeds at the beginning of April at the latest. It is better to start in February and keep the seedlings growing with artificial light.

Nursing

To grow well, chillies need 10 hours of light, temperatures above 20 °C and a loose soil. It is important for the roots to be able to fill up on oxygen in the soil. If the soil is too wet or compacted, the plants will not grow and will even die quickly.

More chilli plants in the home have been watered to death than have dried out. In a separate article we have described how to water chillies properly. In short: Never water too much and always check with your finger beforehand. If the soil is tobacco damp, i.e. you can feel a slight dampness, everything is OK.

Fertilising

For plants that we grow indoors or on the balcony, we like to use a long-term fertiliser granulate. As a rule, you only need to fertilise once, after several leaves have formed. The granules are coated with a special layer. This allows the nutrients to pass only slowly into the soil.

The advantage is then little work, optimal supply of the plant during the whole season. In the beginning, more nitrogen is needed for growth. Phosphorus is needed more from the time of flowering. The small pellets are real miracles that provide everything at the right time.

Why we use slow-release fertiliser for this plant, however, is the smell of organic fertiliser in the home and office. In the garden, we essentially fertilise with organic fertiliser.

Harvest

About 80 days after the flowers have pollinated, the first chillies ripen to a wonderful red. Do not become impatient. From the 70 - 80 days, the chillies remain green except for a few days. When the first discolouration appears at the base of the crown, the pods ripen quickly. Once the whole colour has changed, leave them on the plant for another 5 days. During these days, the spiciness and aroma intensifies.

Overwintering

Capsicum annuum are annual chilli plants. Annuum is annual. But you can overwinter all chillies indoors at least once. If your chilli gets frost, it is guaranteed to die. If the night temperatures drop below 15 °C, it will slowly go indoors.

We usually leave the hawkweed chilli in a 25 cm flower pot. Therefore, we only need to bring the plant indoors after a precautionary treatment with pest repellent. We have described the overwintering of chillies in more detail in a separate article.

variety name Takanotsume
Species Capsicum annuum
Origin Japan
Plant size 60 - 80 cm
Gripening time 70 - 80 days
Scoville 100,000 SHU
Germination period 8 - 14 days
Germination temperature 22 - 28 °C
Plant spacing min. 60 cm