January 2014

For those of you that grow chillies, especially the superhot varieties, you will know one thing. That being the seeds can be notoriously difficult to germinate, with some varieties taking 6-8 weeks or more. Unlike tomato seeds which can only take a couple of days to ‘pop’, chilli seeds will often test the most patient grower waiting for the little green hoop to emerge from the compost. Chilli seeds need between 28-30 degrees for optimum germination so a good propagator should be part of any chilli growers equipment list, and the Vitopod Heated propagator from Greenhouse Sensation is one of many on the market.

photo(4)So is it any good? Well I have the large single height Vitopod to trial, the Vitopods come in small (56cm x 55cm x 24cm) or large (111cm x 58cm x 23cm) with the option of buying both versions in a double height version. In fact you can buy the height extensions separately too.

The unit comes with a very solid feeling base which houses the heating elements and the plastic sides and lids come in pieces and require a small amount of assembly. The end panels and lids have green twist open vents to help regulate the temperature and humidity levels. All the materials used ooze quality, something we have come to expect with Greenhouse Sensation products, designed in Britain and made in Britain.

There are many heated propagators on the market but a lot do suffer with hot spots and irregular heating but it is good to know that the Vitopod can maintain a set temperature.

photo(1)The Vitopod comes with an electronic thermostat to enable even heating, which plugs into the wall socket and then the propagator plug gets plugged into that so it becomes a switch, turning the heating element off when the desired temperature is achieved.

This thermostat has had a revamp at the end of 2013, it now looks very futuristic and unlike it’s predecessor now has a backlight so the display is much easier to read. There is also a handy slot on the back enabling the unit to be hung away from the floor.

The Vitopod can be programmed to heat to and maintain any temperature between 5 and 30 degrees, accurate to 1 degree. There is a sensor on a wire which you feed through one of the side vents. Obviously the units ability to heat to a specified level is subject to the ambient temperature around it.

I have been using it under growlights which add radiated heat through the plastic so I have to make sure that all the vents are open when the lights are on otherwise the air inside will continue to heat up past 30 degrees.

The thermostat is very easy to use, a quick press of the green circle button enables you to set the desired temperature using the + & – buttons, the bottom figure is the set temperature, the top figure is the current temperature and while it is heating up, the blue circle is displayed.

I started sowing superhot chilli seeds so set the Vitopod to 30 degrees which takes about 15 minutes to achieve. I have so far achieved great results with it with seeds germinating far quicker than in previous years using cheaper propagators. I have only had one variety fail to appear but I am putting that down to bad seed.

Now on to the price, I have to admit they are far from cheap but as with a lot of things in life, you really do get what you pay for, great build quality, great functionality and great customer service and the product is British made too.

The prices are as follows (heated versions):

Small single height – £110.90

Small double height – £120.85

Large single height – £149.95

Large double height – £165.95

Plus £4.95 delivery

These propagators are used by some of the top vegetable and chilli growers in the UK, The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company and Simpsons Seeds plus River Cottage.

They may be out of some peoples budgets but if you need reliable germination then frankly there is nothing better out there.

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Its Friday night I have a pint of ale in my hand and a bag of Mr Trotter’s Great British Pork Crackling, Jalapeno chilli flavour in my hand to review…. I am happy. Normally I am put off from purchasing pork scratchings in a pub because they are often in a greasy looking see through packet that looks like it has been there for years, not these though.

In a glorious eye-catching red packet with a proud pig wearing the British flag as a waste coat, Mr Trotters crackling is a high end product. Made from 100% prime British pork skin from only the finest British out-door bred pigs. Currently it can be found in Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum and Masons and Chatsworth house. Also in a growing number of pubs, farm shops, delis and Garden centres

The pack describes the ‘porky’ as teaming up with jalapeño chilli from Mexico. A medium-hot chilli with a verdantly sharp bite…… specially seasoned with the finest blend of natural ingredients, including sea salt, with no added MSG, to give you a flavour to savour. When it comes to the crunch it’s just got to be Mr Trotters – they’re Dangerously Good!! 

Bag kindly supplied by Mr Trotters


Pork Rind, Salt, Wheat Flour, Rusk, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein, Sugar, Dextrose, Citric Acid, Yeast Extract, Spice Extract, Flavourings.

As you would expect with the ingredients nothing healthy or surprising there but on opening the bag you forget all about the health risk of your chosen snack. You know it is Jalapeno flavoured straight away with a good waft of chilli. The smell of grease and fat that I expected was not there. The crackling pieces are a good size, all bite size and lots of them. They are also lighter than expected too, with an aerated appearance and great crisp texture.

When you first bite into them you get that crunch that you want from a scratching, then you experience the soft texture of the other side of the skin but no greasy taste/texture that you can get with other scratchings. The cracklings are triple cooked for proper crunch with natural yeast and sea salt for good measure, this process has obviously worked very well. When you are finished with the amazing crunch, then you get the natural tasting Jalapeño chilli kick, which gently builds to a satisfying level in your mouth and lasts a surprising amount of time. The level of chilli is just right, anymore and it would over power you, less and it would be unsatisfying.

These were amazing with a pint of ale and I would happily munch my way through a bag in the pub. The 60g bag is actually a decent size portion and they are ridiculously moreish. Looking up the price they appear to sell at trade only from their website but there were contact details for further enquiries. My only worry with these is what they would actually sell for per bag in a pub or market. Pork crackling is cheap, there is generally not a lot too them. I fear these may be overpriced when you see them and a way to feed the people of Chelsea with a food they otherwise wouldn’t touch, posh pork for posh people. I’d still buy them though…

£57.00 for 30 x 60g bags

£45.60 for 24 x 60g bags

Value (6/10)



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