Thursday, 11 August 2011


‘Some like it hot’ - but others may not. As far as spicy food goes, I’m certainly in the latter camp, but realise I am in something of a minority as modern tastes yearn for new, exotic and ever hotter culinary challenges...
The chilli pepper is at the heart of this switched-on food trend and is a truly remarkable plant available in a huge range of varieties. The attractive waxy skinned fruits come in all shapes and sizes, from squat and squashed, scotch bonnet types, to perfect balls, to impossibly elongated thin fingers. Colours too are equally varied, ranging from near black/purple through browns to lighter, brighter yellows, oranges and of course the signature reds.

Although I might prefer the delicate, more subdued flavour of the ‘sweet pepper,’ or its slightly spicy derivative Paprika, I know it is the more fiery forms that attract most attention. Heat output here is measured in ‘Scoville Units.’ My mild mannered sweet bell peppers measure in at a reassuringly bland zero, but those hotter chilli peppers on the same scale score into the thousands. That’s fine for the foodies looking to spice up their dishes, but for real, hard-core chilli-heads there are even a few forms that top out, almost off the scale, at over a million!

I’d grow them out in the garden, just for the look of those shiny skinned decorative fruit. Sadly however, these plants are originally from south and central america and we just can’t give them the warmth they need. In a greenhouse though, or even on a sunny windowsill they will thrive and will flower and fruit with ease. They need an early spring start to grow them from seed, but it is worth remembering most plants will go on from year to year getting bigger and more productive over time. Soil based compost suits them best, and although not exactly thriving on neglect, the opposite in the form of too much feed and water will only encourage lots of leaves.

It may be too late to start plants from scratch right now, but we will have plenty for sale in flower and fruit at the ‘Lakes Chilli Fest’ here at Levens Hall this weekend. Whether your taste is for subtly steamy exotic cuisine or for full on, mouth blisteringly hot food, there is a Chilli to help you get there...

(Ironically, our 'Lakes Chilli Fest' has just been cancelled for this year due to heavy rain turning our event parking field into a Lake! Anyone want 1200 fine Chilli Plants?)


  1. That is a stunning crop. I presume the greenhouse is heated.

  2. I presume the throat is heated too when you taste it! :) I have a thing for chillies too... I wish I was there for your 'hot' weekend. Good luck!

  3. Bad news everyone- our Chilli Fest weekend has just been cancelled!
    Recent heavy rain, and a forecast for more has put out our fire..... The event parking field is flooded.

  4. Quick, post the crop on Craigslist or something! You could do mail order! Or really there must be a local farmers' market-- They look so beautiful. And I love the signs.

  5. How terrible. If I am not mistaken, growing chillis is not easy! And all that going waste? Hoping the weather will change for the better soon.

  6. Hi Chris. Your blog is a riot of colour! Wow! I'm not too knowledgeable about garden plants, except those used as herbal remedies and I'm a bit of a wild-flower girl at heart, but you may well persuade me to take a closer look :-)
    Blast about that weather though :-( British summer time eh?

  7. Hi Mel. The wild flowers (or weeds) are of course just as interesting as the cultivated ones...

  8. Wow! What a fantastic crop of chillies! Absolutely immaculate! Are your chilly plants tied up somehow to support all the chillies?


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