Educate me a little. What is the Guerneys debacle?
Okay, I looked at the Guerneys web page about the original and new Big Chile and Big Chile II peppers. Is it possible the Guerney seed is bulk purchased Numex Big Jim and Numex Heritage Big Jim seed?
I seriously hoped someone would jump in, writing, "Oh, my. I remember that. What a silly mistake that was!" No one has, so all I have is a slew of facts that deduce a silly mistake. I am fascinated by this pepper, and I haven't even tasted it yet!
First, you're probably aware that Gurney's almost shut its doors about 10 years ago and that a bunch of past customers stepped in and purchased it as a cooperative (I think) concern. I had bought my seeds all my life from Gurney's, living 50 miles from Yankton, SD. I took a five-year break from gardening. When I came back, now living in Wyoming, about 10 years ago, I naturally bought my first seeds from Gurney's.
I bought too many packets, as is usually the case. One of those packets was the Gurney's Hybrid Big Chile II. I suspect this pepper, sold in 1999 by only Gurney's and Johnny's Select Seeds, was supposed to be the answer to CPI's Nu-Mex Big Jim. It was (is) a 9" long hot pepper with supposedly terrific flavor.
This spring, I started 48 pepper seedlings, including my Nu-Mex Big Jim's. The dogs wrecked 'em, killing over half of them and, in the process, mixing up their organization so I didn't know what I had left. I had only five Nu-Mex seeds left, and I couldn't take a chance on using them all up. I dug through my seeds for a likely substitute and found my Hybrid Big Chile II seeds.
A month late, I started five of them. That's when the oddness began. Two of them grew a weed. It was a long, skinny twig of a plant with an occasional leaf stuck on in no particular order. Okay, I thought. They're old seeds.
I set out the remaining three on June 16. It wasn't long before they surpassed the Nu-Mex's, set out June 1, in height and mass. They were slow to produce, but they are now in full production, and the biggest peppers are longer than the Nu-Mex's. The plant itself is spectacular. I haven't seen a pepper plant like these since I grew Poblanos. They're now three feet tall, after only ten weeks outside.
I liked what I was seeing. I decided to buy some new seeds, thanks to the weird germination problems I'd had in mine, as in a weed growing instead of a pepper. That's when things started getting weird. You can't find these seeds. Gurney's has replaced these with another pepper. They make an apologia of sorts in the blurb describing the new pepper, something about the new one being more productive and more resistant to the sun.
Even more interesting, I've found a comment on the replacement that decried the loss of the Hybrid Big Chile II. Gardeners liked them, saying they had the best flavor of any pepper they'd ever grown.
So, here's what I think, based on the foregoing: Gurney's new owners, anxious to restore it to its past glory, pushed a pepper onto the market before it was ready, a pepper that was supposed to take the shine out of the Nu-Mex Big Jim, but instead proved an embarrassment. When complaints came in, they were quick to pull the pepper and replace it with another pepper, one that had no such aspirations to greatness.
And that, unless someone wants to clear up the mystery, is the Great Gurney's Hybrid Big Chile II Debacle, a tale of desperation, ambition, and what may have been a truly extraordinary pepper, given different circumstances