November 2013

Now there is a company in the UK doing wonderful things for gardeners across our land, and chilli growers are well catered for as a lot of the items they sell work very well for optimising crop yield. I am of course talking about Greenhouse Sensation who started making their own products some time ago. One of the things the company is most proud of, is the fact the designing and manufacturing is done in the UK. During the 2013 growing season I have been using one of the companies more popular products, the Quadgrow for review. Now the season is over, here it is.

The product is bigger than I expected, at 130cm long its quite a beast in the box, and there are two boxes in total.

The contents are:

Main Reservoir with moulded lid, A & B Nutrients, Pack of 4 capillary matting ‘wicks’, 4 x 11 litre pots, Plastic Screws to hold the lid to the base

The main unit is a 30 litre tough plastic reservoir with a rectangular lid which is moulded, and has drainage holes and a hole for each wick. The moulding enables the 4 square pots to fit neatly on top. There is a piece cut off one end of the lid which simply sits there and is removable to enable watering.

Quadgrow with Nutrients & one wick installed

I am particularly impressed with the thickness of the black plastic and it appears very durable having been moulded from one piece there are no seams which can fail, a common problem with cheap water butts.

Assembly is a piece of cake too, with minimal parts, the lid sits of top and plastic screws join the lid to the base as a safety precaution. The only slightly fiddly part is the installation of the pots, wicks and compost but it just takes patience. To save me explaining this in detail, here is a video of my friend Jim from The Clifton Chilli Club setting one up. Please note that the Quadgrow in the video is a slightly earlier design so has the old style watering hole in the lid.

So that’s it set up and ready for use. The instructions say that you may have to water the top of each pot from time to time if the compost starts to dry out a little but I had no problems in this area, the wick worked very well at drawing up the water/nutrient mix into the compost so it always stayed just moist enough. Those who already grow chillies will know that the plants hate over watering, if compost is left too wet then the roots start to rot very quickly.

The science with the wick is that it only draws up nutrient water as needed, the roots therefor are able to get maximum oxygen in the compost and grow quickly which gives the plant the energy to grow big and strong and make producing chillies a doddle. The roots manage to fill the pot quickly and find their way through the wick hole and create a thick mat down into the reservoir by the end of the season. This all combines to give you up to double the yield of standard growbags or pots.

I was initially concerned with the amount of nutrients supplied once mixed with water, it just didn’t seem like enough to last the season but they did. Even with one of the sunniest summers in quite a while and the temperature in my polytunnel reaching 40+ degrees on quite a few occasions, the topping up the reservoir was never a problem, especially with the redesigned watering hole.

During the hottest period of the summer I was only topping up every few days and this was stretched to over a week or more in cooler weather. This is one of the products many key selling points, there is no need to water daily and you can go away on holiday leaving them to do their thing, so if you forget to check them after work you will have some grace!

I planted my Quadgrow with a Jay’s Ghost Scorpion Red and Peach and 2 Carolina Reapers. These were new varieties to the UK this season so a good test. All 3 varieties set chilli pods readily and it was interesting to compare the Jay’s to the other plants I had in normal pots. I found the Peach variety a very late producing plant and a very difficult plant to grow, always looking pale green but the one in the Quad Grow was always a deep lush green and produced some very gnarly large pods a lot earlier than the others.

All the plants grew very strong branches and side shoots, soon reaching at least 6 foot. The ‘trunks’ on the plants above the soil level grew very big, showing they were loving the conditions.I underestimated how big the plants would get as it became a struggle to get past them! The plants set lots of pods and these were all large and good quality.

Now my only negative with the product (and it can be seen as a positive too!) Because the plants grow so well in both height and width, they end up as one big mass of  lush green foliage so it can be difficult to determine where one plant starts and another ends! not a problem if you are growing all the same variety but if you have 4 similar varieties it can be difficult working out which plant it came from. I’m sure a lot of research has gone into the spacing of the pots. I suppose it just demonstrates how well the unit works.

Now at the end of the growing season the pots can be emptied, the root ‘beards’ cut off and all the bits washed and stored ready for next year, just remembering to place your order for replacement wicks and nutrients.

As a Christmas gift, you will need a very large stocking but if you know a chilli/tomato grower, I’m sure they would love one of these, they are available direct from Greenhouse Sensation for £42.90 each or you can get two for £64.90, a saving of £20

The Quadgrow comes recommended by many people and has been reviewed in high profile magazines. It is used at River Cottage and at the Upton Cheyney Chilli Company where Alex Duck has had a whole Polytunnel devoted to them this year. I myself have recently taken on a new bigger growing space and am very tempted to put 2 or 3 rows of these in having seen the yield from Upton Cheyney.

The Quadgrow tunnel freshly planted at Upton Cheyney – Photo Alex Duck

Chilli variety Fatalii in the same tunnel just before harvest last week showing the yield – Photo Alex Duck

Amazingly I managed to repot one of the Carolina Reapers straight into a bigger pot and bring it inside, here it is under an LED grow light and shows no sign of slowing down, setting pods all over! The Quadgrow certainly creates a healthy plant.

 

 

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Now when someone mentions Absinthe, what comes to mind? A green high alcohol content liquid which causes hallucinations and massive hangovers maybe. Well times are changing and Absinthe is enjoying something of a revival. We were sent this bottle of Chilli Absinthe from the German manufacturers, Cannax. This just adds to the growing trend of adding Chilli to alcohol.

This bottle certainly dispels the rule that Absinthe is green, this is a rich red and the company even make a black variety too. So what is Absinthe?

Well here are some of the facts. It is an aniseed flavoured liquid usually between 45- 74% alcohol content, traditionally made with the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium otherwise known as “grand wormwood”), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs.

Absinthe has indeed caused a great deal of controversy in it’s history, having been banned in the US and most of Europe by 1915 because of it being an addictive psychoactive drug, however this was never proved and has enjoyed a revival in the 1990’s in the countries which banned it.

So here we have the Chilli Head Absinthe. This comes with real chillies in the 50cl bottle. I have to mention the bottle as it is moulded into a skull shape, something very unique. It would certainly look great sat amongst any chilli fans collection. This is a difficult product to review the spirit Absinthe is very much an aquired taste, most serving suggestions have the spirit watered down a little before consumption, and with a 55% alcohol content I’m not surprised.

Bottle kindly supplied by Cannax

Once the cork is removed, you get the aniseed aroma which is very familiar, reminding me instantly of the flaming Sambucca’s I enjoy at my local curry house at Christmas. So what does it taste like? I’m a little nervous if I am honest, the label is all in German so I have no idea what it is saying. I decide to try it ‘neat’ to get a true reflection of the chilli flavour.

Wow!….It certainly packs a punch straight from the bottle, the taste is as expected, aniseed, herbal flavour and a very strong alcohol hit, followed by the chilli burn which combines really well with the other flavours and lingers in the throat but is never uncomfortable and fades away fairly quickly leaving the standard Absinthe flavours. I expected it to be quite sweet but it isn’t.

I know Absinthe is not normally the spirit that most would have sitting in the drinks cabinet but I am pleasantly surprised by this product. The tip of my tongue has a slight tingle about 10 minutes later and the general aftertaste is not unpleasant.

So here is another product which may well appeal to the seasoned chilli head for their Christmas stocking, if nothing else it does look stunning.

Available from various places online including Amazon for £26.00

Flavour
(7/10)
Heat
(4/10)
Packaging
(10/10)
Value (7/10)
Overall
(8/10)

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The Chilli Pepper Company is based in Cumbria and run by Gerald Fowler, the man behind the Naga Viper Chilli which held the World Record for the hottest chilli. If you pay Ged’s site a visit you will find all manner of chilli related powders, extreme products, chilli seeds, chutneys and chilli sauces.

Now with Christmas in mind Ged has converted some of his more popular sauces into smaller 50ml bottles with funky new redesigned labels which I am very impressed with. They come in handmade wooden boxes, something I have not seen before.

The 5 sauces given the update are Naga Viper, Scorpion King, El Diablo, The Beast and 5 minute Burn (not pictured)

The wooden racks are nicely made and have a thin dowel which is removable allowing the sauces to be released. The website only lists different box sets of two sauces, and these are priced at £7/£8 depending on which set you want. You can also buy all 5 in a hamper for £15.

They are available from The Chilli Pepper Company right now and would make a great stocking filler for the chilli head in the family.

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Every once in a while a chilli product turns up that’s a little different from the norm and this one is pretty special. Gran Luchito honey is a lush chilli product and one that everyone should try. Here’s why.

The product comes in a 250 gram jar and is adjourned by an attractive label and lid showing a Mexican wrestler’s mask. The informative label gives some ideas of what you might use the honey on, such as a glaze ham, BBQ marinade, with cheese or simply spread on warm toast.

Although this comes it at £5 a jar, double what you might pay at the supermarket, it’s worth every penny – this is some of the most luxurious honey you will ever have the pleasure of tasting.

Ingredients:

Mexican Honey, Gran Luchito (10%), Mexican Chillies (24%), Sunflower Oil, Onion, Agave Nectar, Balsamic Vinegar, Garlic, Vinegar, Salt & spices.

Jar kindly supplied by Gran Luchito

With the lid removed you get the saccharin aroma of the honey and despite there being other ingredients in the jar, this fragrance overrides anything else. It’s deep dark golden brown in colour, unlike the brighter thinner stuff on the supermarket shelves.

There are plenty of small to medium chunks of the Mexican chillies throughout the spread, which makes it ideal for eating but sadly less so for using as a sweetener in drinks.

The tasting is an event in itself as Gran Luchito Honey is absolutely sumptuous. The honey itself is exceedingly sweet and moreish with a smoky hint at first and then the warmth breaks through the syrupiness but not in a hornet stinging your tongue with hot rivets way, no the heat is far more subtle and this works brilliantly so. Used on toast for breakfast it gives a warm glow inside and a smile on the face, making it a great way to start the day.

This one comes highly recommended the only downside is that it’s so scrumptious that you could easily finish off the lot in under a week. Go and buy some right now.

Flavour
(10/10)
Heat
(3/10)
Packaging
(8/10)
Value (8/10)
Overall
(9/10)

 

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