UK Growers

May already! Time has literally flown by since our first see was sown last year. I’ve been asked a lot about how we started so decided to write a little about how it all began.

Wiltshire Chilli Farm

Wiltshire Chilli Farm

Our Story

After a few beers down the local I was asked ‘so what do you want to be when you grow up?’ my immediate response was a Chilli farmer. Over the next few weeks that question played on my mind so we went out and bought a small 10ft by 15ft poly tunnel and sowed just over 150 seeds. That was February 2010.

Our initial plan was to sell fresh chillies, however it soon became apparent that option wouldn’t be sustainable so we started looking at other ways to use the crop. Having always enjoyed cooking and playing around with food, the idea of producing chilli sauces sprung to mind. The summer rolled on by and our 150 plants started producing a huge crop of ripe chillies.

The legalities were sorted, recipes produced and after spending most of August with my hands and face constantly on fire we began to trial products down the local pub. A wary group of family and friends became our official tasters and soon the final range was decided.

The next task was to design our branding. Having a little design experience and absolutely no money we started to mock up labels ourselves, 6 designs later we had one which everyone liked. By November production was set to begin and we were finally ready to start selling our sauces.

We attended our first market early December and were completely overwhelmed by the popularity of our stall. It was great to see that so many people enjoyed our products and so we attended a few more markets which reinforced our confidence that this could be a viable business. Inspired by our success at the markets we purchased our first commercial poly tunnel, 24ft wide by 60ft long and set about planning what varieties to grow.

With our second baby due in January we decided to take two months off the markets and plan the coming months. It was also during this time that we sowed the first seeds of the year, Douglahs and Chocolate Habaneros (I’m a huge fan of the Chocolate varieties ).

Seedling underway

Seedling underway

With my addiction to growing chillies in full flow the initial 200 seeds soon multiplied into 600, then over 1,000 which completely took over the house. I decided a single commercial tunnel just wasn’t enough and so, much to Julie’s dismay, purchased a second 24ft by 60ft tunnel. We also purchased a smaller 10ft by 20ft tunnel which is sponsored by Greenhouse Sensation showcasing some of their innovative planters.

It was also around this time that we approached Jonathan, the owner of our local Garden Centre (Lowden Garden Centre) with the idea of a Chilli show tunnel. Hosting it in a busy garden centre would allow enthusiasts and the uninitiated alike to see and taste a multitude of different Chilli varieties. Jonathan was very receptive to the idea and offered us the use of one of his commercial poly tunnels for the year.

putting on the covers

putting on the covers

By March the poly tunnel frames were up and a group of friends were on standby for a windless day to help get the covers on. By mid April the covers were on, ground rotovated and irrigation laid ready for the frosts to pass before planting out. We’ve then spent the last week of April planting out every evening and keeping a close eye on the plants to make sure they’re happy in their new home.

chillies planted and starting to grow

chillies planted and starting to grow

Overall the last few months have been more than hectic as we finish our huge expansion from growing just over 150 plants to well over a 1,000 in 4,200 sq ft of growing space. There’s still a lot more to do, many new markets, leaflets to design and new sauces to produce, but with tunnels ready and majority of planting done the next job on the list is to get the plants out in the show tunnel then sit back and have a beer.

The Wiltshire Chilli Farm

The Wiltshire Chilli Farm

Happy Growing

Jamie & Julie.

Editors Note: You can visit the Wiltshire Chilli Farm’s web site at www.justchillies.co.uk

The Gallery of Images – Building the Wiltshire Chilli Farm

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The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company is a rapidly growing chilli farm located mid-way between Bristol and Bath in the South West of England.

The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company

The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company

Upton Cheyney Chilli Company Fruity Chilli Sauce

Fruity Chilli Sauce

Alex (the chilli farmer) and his wife Louise (sauce maker and market-stall extraordinaire) started the chilli farm in 2008 with just one poly tunnel. Initially it was a hobby business but rapidly grew into a full time enterprise that has seen them increase their poly tunnels from the original one to five!

Three of the tunnels are dedicated to growing chillies for their range of chilli sauces, jams, chutneys and organic Hot Pig chilli sausages and hams.

The fourth tunnel is a show tunnel that has been stocked and designed by Matt Simpson of Simpson Seeds. It exhibits over 100 different types of chilli plants and in the year 2011 is encouraging visitors to shout abuse at one of the 7 pots in an fun attempt to stress it enough to produce the new worlds hottest chilli!

Upton Cheyney Chilli Festival

Upton Cheyney Chilli Festival ...

The fifth tunnel is sponsored by Bristol’s very own spice giant –  Bart Spices. In this tunnel, Alex grows a variety of chillies on behalf of Bart Spices.

The general public are encouraged to visit the farm, where they can view not only the chillies growing but also a variety of traditional farm yard animals including cows, pigs, goats and geese. There is also a small picnic area with far reaching views over the Welsh mountains and a delightful farm shop with its own cafe and organic stocks.

Their products can be found at many of the farmers markets in the Bristol and Bath area as well as at numerous food and chilli shows across the country over the course of each year. They also host a very popular chilli festival on the second Saturday of every September, which see’s a chilli eating contest, chilli talks, tasting sessions, live music and kids entertainment.

The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company
Manor Farm
Upton Cheyney
Bristol
BS30 6NQ

Website www.uptonchilli.co.uk

email: sales@uptonchilli.co.uk

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Sea Spring Seeds

Sea Spring Seeds

Sea Spring Seeds is the home of the Dorset Naga, one of the hottest chillies in the world. The business is owned and operated by Joy and Michael Michaud, who have also established and manage other gardening enterprises such as Seed Spring Plants (selling chilli plug plants) and Peppers by Post (growing and selling fresh chillies through the post).

Sea Spring Seeds is best known for its selective range of chillies carefully culled from the hundreds of varieties available worldwide. Before anything goes in the catalogue, it is trialled and evaluated for yield, earliness, growth habit and culinary utility. Varieties that make it through the trials are then laboratory-tested for heat levels, after which they are offered for sale. Though conducting trials is a long, slow and expensive process, the Michauds feel confident that the varieties they sell are some of the best adapted to the British climate.

Many of the Michauds’ chillies are hard-to find or unique varieties sold only by Sea Spring Seeds. They come from a number of sources, including immigrant gardeners, travellers returning from exotic destinations, and natural crosses made in their tunnels and greenhouses. The selection increases from year to year, and new additions are in the pipe line, including a super hot that will be available in the autumn of 2011.

As the Michauds say, ‘Why grow an ordinary vegetable when you can grow an exceptional one?

Chilli Menagerie

To order for to find more information please visit their web site www.seaspringseeds.co.uk

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The Chilli Garden

The Chilli Garden

Based in a wooded vale on the Surrey/Hampshire border The Chilli Garden seven acre’s are farmed by three generations of the same family. Between them Father, Daughter and Son-in-law; Peter, Alison and Mik, have wealth of experience in farming, food production and design enabling them to make everything on the farm themselves.

There web site is truly excellent for an in-house design, with a great look that goes across the whole product range as well.

They are very committed to natural farming methods and are members of “The Wholesome Food Association” (a self policing body for small holders and farmers which holds the principals of organic farming in highest esteem).

Only their own chillies are used in their sauces, Jam and Jellies and are free from all artificial ingredients, we have reviewed some of their products in the past and they come highly recommended.

Their range includes some very interesting products I don’t think I have seen a jam’s or Jellies made with Hungarian Hot Wax Chillies, they also have a Thai Basque Hot Sauce that combines Thai Dragon Chillies with Basque Gorria Peppers, I cannot wait to try them.

Please visit them at www.thechilligarden.co.uk where you can order on-line.

The Chilli Garden
Opax Farm Nursery
Spats Lane,
Hearn,
Headley,
Hampshire

info@thechilligarden.co.uk

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