Wakehurst Place near Ardingly in West Sussex is a National Trust property with grounds run by Kew, with their main Royal Botanic Gardens being based 10 miles from central London. The main difference between the two sites is that Wakehurst Place is home to Kew’s Millenium Seed Bank, a building officially opened in 2000 by HRH Prince Charles, who called the centre and the project ”The Bank of England of the Botanical World”

I recently visited the Seed Bank visitor centre, as they had a special “Seed Swap” event taking place, where people could bring spare seed of any type and swap with others (not from the seed bank !) I was able to see inside the seed vault, something that isnt normally allowed and was able to attend some very interesting talks on the subject of seed saving and how to store seed to ensure it lasts, more of that in a bit.

The Millenium Seed Bank have been working with over 50 countries around the world to try and harvest, store and safeguard over 24,000 plant species, in fact they have already assured the future of nearly all the 1400 native plant species from the UK and by 2009 had reached their target of gathering 10% of the worlds plant species. The next target being to try and secure 25% by 2025.

The seeds are collected, catalogued and then subjected to a very careful drying process bringing the Relative Humidity (RH) of the seeds down to 15%, they are then stored in vials, put in to Kilner type jars and then stored in the underground vault at a steady -20 degrees centigrade.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Chillies? well if you are a Chilli grower you will be no stranger to saving seed from your crops whether from isolated crops or not, the principles are still the same, and according to the experts at the Seed Bank, 15% RH and -20 degrees are the optimum storage conditions for most seed and if you can achieve those conditions at home then you could prolong the life of your seeds for a lot longer than you might think.

In fact one of the experts clearly stated that if you can achieve these conditions at home, then you can quite easily ignore those “sow by year ending” dates.

Some seeds though are inherently short lived like Parsnips, but an example was given of some french bean seeds, usually given a couple of years to sow by the seed companies (and if you store them in a drawer in the shed that date wouldnt be far wrong) but if you can achieve the conditions above, through computer modelling and lots of techy stuff, they have calculated that those seeds could stay viable for in excess of 6000 years!!

Keeping a handle on the Relative Humidity of the seed is the key, it can be measured using a Hygrometer which you can buy from the internet from as little as £2 to many hundreds of £. This can measure the air around a seed usually in a range from 10% – 99%. To give your seed a half decent chance of keeping its viability, it needs a maximum of 50% RH, but 30% – 15% is optimum, the nearer to 15% the better. Longevity doubles for every 10% reduction in RH of the seeds you achieve!

Another interesting factor is the temperature. I have always heard about storing seed in the fridge or the freezer but have always felt a little scared to do it! but again according to the experts at the Seed Bank, for every 5 degree drop in temperature from ambient levels, longevity doubles yet again!

Now if you think this sort of thing is difficult and something only scientists in white coats can do then you are wrong, with the right equipment, you can achieve these results at home.

One way is to use this, a Mini Seed Bank

This has been created by Kew for the home grower. This is a collection of the equipment you might need to achieve the best results.

It contains the following items:

A large plastic box which becomes the main seed bank, a large bag of white silica gel, 6 large screw top clear plastic pots, 8 small screw top clear plastic small amount of yellow silica gel, small sachets of green silica gel, paper seed envelopes, labels, a large material bag, and a pencil. The coloured silica gels are actually the same, but are called “Indicators” as they contain methyl violet which turns the silica beads green when moisture is present and orange when they dry out.

So how does it work? Firstly you need to save your seed from your Chilli (or other plant) and you will find an article on how best to do it from Phil at Dartmoor Chilli Farm here.

Once you are ready, the bag of Silica gel is poured into the main plastic box followed by the orange Silica gel and mixed (it is important to point out that the gel is poisonous and hands should be washed after using it)


Next put your seeds in a pot and add a green Silica gel sachet to the pot, leaving the lid off each individual container.

Then the lid can be put back on the main box firmly, this creates an airtight drying environment. The box should be put somewhere unheated and out of direct sunlight. It should be opened every 3-4 days to check the colour of the indicating sachets. The seeds should be moved around in their pots to ensure even drying.

They should be dry when the sachets have turned orange, usually about 10-14 days depending on the type and quantity of seed being dried.

When the sachets turn orange, the screw top lid to each individual container can be put back on with the sachet still in place, or the seeds can be transferred to paper seed envelopes, labelled and then a number of envelopes can be put in one of the large plastic containers and kept in the main box. Once all seed for the season has been saved, the paper seed envelopes and their seed can either be kept in the smaller sealed pots in the main box with the bed of Silica or they can all be put in a Kilner Jar (not supplied) which will will fit in the main box.

This can then be stored in the fridge or freezer until seed is required.

The way this works is that the moisture is drawn from the seeds and the green sachets, and gets absorbed into the bed of white and orange silica gel. This then regulates the RH of the air in the box to a low level. You can buy a cheap Hygrometer and keep that in the box too to find out exactly what level it is at but its not essential.

Mini Seed Bank kindly supplied by Kew Wakehurst Place

I think it is a great product and something I will definitely be using to store my seed instead of the current non sealed container.

The Mini Seed Banks are available from Kew directly or from their online shop priced at £24.99 plus postage.

Obviously this method is not essential, it helps to regulate “ideal” conditions, but if you want unused Chilli seed to have a better chance of germination over a second, third or even fourth season then this product will certainly help.

So there you go, I currently have seeds drying in one and will see how it goes.

**Please note, if you choose to store your seeds in the freezer after reading this article, it is your decision!**




I have been Editor of Chilefoundry for nearly 18 months now, and it has been really enjoyable to have been allowed to take on the role of editor by the site owner David Floyd. I took over because David was becoming too busy to run the site.

Now unfortunately I have come to the point in my life where I can no longer give the site the time it deserves. The site has grown to the point where it requires daily input, and that doesn’t include all the site updates/backups etc which David continues to try and carry out.

Many readers and producers who send us review products are often amazed when I tell them that the whole review team, including myself write and keep the site running as a hobby. We all have full time jobs and family commitments which have to come before Chilefoundry, and it is for these reasons that I can no longer carry on keeping the site going. This has become a full time hobby in itself.

Unfortunately for reasons beyond my control, this will mean that there will be no editor taking over which means there will be no new content posted, the ultimate future of the site is not decided yet. The existing content will still be viewable for the meantime.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank David Floyd for letting me step into his shoes, and to the team which have made Chilefoundry what it is over the past years.

Namely Darth Naga aka Tony Ainsworth, David Kelly, Martin ‘Scooby’ Arnold, Marty Greenwell, Lady ‘Cin, Rob House, Clare Cameron, James Fowkes, and new members of the team The Shepsters.

And a massive thank you to all the companies, producers, manufacturers who have contributed/helped out too.

The final thank you goes to you the readers, thank you for visiting to read our reviews and watch Darth Naga put himself through a lot of pain.

To all those producers who have sent us products and not yet received a published review, the aim is that these items will still be reviewed, albeit not on here but one of the team, Marty Greenwell is in the process of setting up a new Chilli site from scratch called Chillifiends where the rest of the team will continue to review your products and this is where all outstanding Chilefoundry review products should be reviewed.

I am still going to be involved in the UK Chilli scene, attending as many events and festivals as time will allow, and will continue to monitor our email address, and our twitter page for the immediate future, as these take less time to deal with.

I hope the Chilli Community will understand my decision, and I look forward to seeing a lot of our UK readers at festivals this year.


Chris Saunders – Editor


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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