Tuesday 9 October 2018

For the love of chillis...

On Sunday we went down to Kent for the annual Challock Chilli Fest, held at the Victoriana Nursery Gardens.

This delightful chilli-themed event has a lot of attractions - there are stalls selling crafts, giftware, relishes, sauces and chutneys, jewellery, food and drink to eat on site, etc, etc - but for me the main attraction is seeing "in the flesh" lots and lots of different types of chilli. This year Stephen (the proprietor) and his team (including his family) had put on a massive display of 211 different chillis, each of which was available to see, touch, photograph and taste. There used to be a time when visitors were encouraged to taste ALL of the chilli samples, but I think that maybe 211 types would defeat even the most ardent chilli enthusiast!

Our visit has prompted me to remind myself why I like growing chillis so much. Unlike many chilli-growers, I am not a great fan of chillis just for their heat. I can't eat the "atomic" ones, and prefer varieties with a mild to medium heat, but with lots of flavour. If pressed, I'd probably say that my favourite chilli is "Aji Limon", a yellow-coloured, citrusy-flavoured one from the Capsicum Baccatum family, with a heat rating of about 40 - 60,000 units on the Scoville scale. However, I really think that for me the main attraction of chillis is their sheer diversity. It's like with tomatoes: there are masses and masses of different varieties, and they come in many different shapes, sizes, colours and flavours.

I have described the Challock Chilli Fest a couple of times before, so this time I'm going to use some of the photos I took there last weekend to illustrate this diversity that I have mentioned.

The archetypical chilli is long, slim and red, like this:

But not all chillis are red. Some of them are yellow:

Some of them are white:

Some of them are orange:

Some of them are black, or nearly so:


Some varieties can't decide what colour their fruits should be, so they go for ALL colours at once!

"Aji Omnicolor"

And not all chillis are long and slim. Some are short and fat:


Others are tiny and round:

And chilli fruits come in all sorts of crazy shapes:

And indeed, textures...

"Jalapeno Farmer's Market Potato"

Some chilli plants are huge, reaching to 6 or even 8 feet tall:

Whereas others are small and compact:

Do you see what I mean? There's a chilli to suit all tastes, surely!

I can't finish a post like this without a mention of "my" chilli. This one is a variety grown from seeds I brought back from a holiday in Cozumel, Mexico. Actually the seeds were a bonus element because I actually bought some dried chillis in the Cozumel market to use as a cooking ingredient, and they just happened to contain seeds that proved to be viable.

The original "Cozumel" chillis

Anyway, knowing his love of chillis, I gave some of the seeds to Stephen, who has grown them for the last couple of years.

This time last year, Stephen's "Cozumel" plants had ripe red chillis on them, but this year they were still green - surprising, considering the long hot Summer we had.


If you are in the market for chilli seeds or plants to grow, you ought to have a look at the Victoriana website. They have lots of different varieties for sale (regrettably, not all 211 that were on display at the festival, because they are not all commercially viable). And if you need any advice, I'm sure Stephen would be happy to oblige - he is very knowledgeable in this field!

1 comment:

  1. looks amazing,I love growing different chilli's.I dry some to use through the year and I freeze some.Only just starting to warm up over here.My plants are only just starting to emerge.Glad to see your posting again.Cheers.


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