I look forward to any event which is hosted at a chilli farm or nursery. I’m not sure if it’s the intrigue of someone else’s growing setup or just the sense of awe at seeing row after row of chilli plants.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending one of the first events on the 2013 chilli calendar; the Simpson’s Seeds Day of Fire and Spice. Simpson’s Seeds occupy a walled garden nursery in the beautiful Wiltshire village of Horningsham. The village forms part of the Longleat estate which is famed for its large country house and safari park. Historically, a team of gardeners at the nursery produced flowers, fruit and vegetables for the house. The grape vines and peach trees may be long gone now, but the raised beds help the nursery maintain a traditional feel.
The Walled Garden Nursery
This event has been running for a few years now and is coordinated by proprietor Matt Simpson. It’s primarily a plant sale, but Matt also invites a handful of guest stallholders along to sell their chilli products too.
The event kicked off at 11am, although a few eager chilli-heads had arrived earlier in the morning to ensure that they got their hands on some of Matt’s more unusual chilli plants. Two of the more interesting varieties were Gibbering Idiot and Goats Weed – a Capsicum Annuum variety which is thought to originate from Venezuela.
The Gibbering Idiot is a new Habanero variety which is being developed by Simpson’s Seeds and was only available in limited quantities on the day. Needless to say they were all snapped up very quickly!
In total, there were over 30 varieties of chilli on offer in the glass house. These were complemented by a wide range of sweet peppers, herbs and tomatoes too. During the day, Matt was on hand to give customers expert advice and insightful recommendations. Matt has written books on both chillies and tomatoes and really knows his stuff.
Outside in the sunshine were stands from Deer’s Leap Chillies and the Upton Cheyney Chilli Company. The Deer’s Leap Chillies stall had a lovely selection of condiments including a delicious lime pickle and a spicy Sicilian style sauce that I am looking forward to trying later this week.
Matt Simpson with Sarah Gratton of Deer’s Leap Chillies
The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company stall was manned by a few members of the Clifton Chilli Club. Customer favourites included their Megalodon and Oak Smoked Chipotle sauces, the latter of which sold out just as I arrived at the event.
Matt checking out the range of sauces from the Upton Cheyney Chilli Company
Inside, there was a vast array of seeds from the Simpson’s Seeds catalogue and a selection of Matt’s “Yummyliscous” sauces too. The sauces included the award-winning Horny Goat and the humorously named Sillius Soddus which took pride of place on the “Nutters Table”.
The “Nutters Table”
After a steady stream of visitors, the event drew to a close at around 4pm. Several had travelled from as far as Birmingham and Swansea but had been rewarded with the fantastic range of plants and chilli products that were available on the day. A few growers from other southwest chilli farms were also spotted throughout the day which just goes to show how friendly the chilli community is.
Last to leave were a few members of the Clifton Chilli Club who decided to film a video review in the glass house. The backdrop of “Nutter’s Corner” seemed particularly apt as they sampled a new chilli extract product from Bristol-based Dr Burnorium.
Clifton Chilli Club reviewing a product in “Nutters Corner”.