UK Retailers

While at the Sea Spring Seas Open Day we got talking to Maya Pieris from Four Seasons Preserves a local supplier at Grey Cottage, Askerswell, Bridport.

Four Seasons Preserves

Four Seasons Preserves

Maya has just got her first Taste of the West award for her Dorset Apple Chutney and we hope to be reviewing some of these over the next few months.

Please visit Maya’s web site www.four-seasons-preserves.co.uk

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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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Greenhouse Sensation

Greenhouse Sensation are the chilli-loving designers and manufacturers of the ‘Grow’ range of planters and the multi award-winning Vitopod propagator. The company’s passion for chillies and for developing products that produce healthier plants and bigger harvests has helped them build a loyal following amongst many chilli growers.

Their Grow range of planters, which includes the Chilligrow, have SmartReservoirs which keep plants perfectly fed and watered at all times – for up to 2 weeks at a time. Like all of their products, the Chilligrow was developed in consultation with chilli experts including Simpsons Seeds. Several chilli farms start their seeds in the Vitopod propagator which has a range from 5C for over-wintering right up to 30C for getting tricky exotic chillies started, and then plant out into one of the company’s ‘Grow’ planters.

Greenhouse Sensation were one of the early exhibitors at the West Dean Chilli Fiesta and they regularly attend this and other chilli events, showing off the impressive harvests that are produced by their planters and chatting to visitors to develop product ideas.

Greenhouse Sensation - Chilligrow

Greenhouse Sensation – Chilligrow ...

The Chilligrow, which was launched in December 2010 is the company’s specific chilli planter. It has 3x 6Litre pots which are large enough for healthy root growth but small enough to encourage early fruit development. The favourite amongst commercial chilli growers is the advanced Hydrogrow planter which uses the active hydroponic technique of NFT to produce chilli plants that grow up to 7ft tall and produce 3-4x more yield than traditional growing methods. All of their planters are designed to make it easier for anyone to grow stronger, healthier plants, the decision about which to choose comes down to space and the size of harvest you want. All of the company’s products are made in England and all of the black planters are made from recycled material.

Greenhouse Sensation is staffed by horticultural experts (the Gardening Angels) and people who are simply passionate about growing edibles, in particular chillies. It’s worth noting that you can call or email the Gardening Angels and have your chilli questions answered whether you are customer or not.

If you happen to be near Lancashire it’s worth popping into the visitor greenhouse in Mawdesley, Lancashire (details on their website), which is open to the public all year round. One of the greenhouse team will give you a tour, a bag of chillies and a cuppa and will be happy to answer any chilli related questions you have. The team has been growing chillies in the visitor greenhouse for ten years, their prized plant is their 4 year old Trinidad Scorpion, but each year they grow nine varieties harvesting thousands of chillies which they give away at events throughout the North West or sell for charity.

The greenhouse has been featured in the Guardian, Kitchen Garden and on BBC Radio and TV.

Greenhouse Sensation products are available direct from the Greenhouse Sensation website and from stockists including Simpsons Seeds, Fiery Foods in Brighton, Harrod Horticultural, Suttons and Two Wests & Elliot.

For more information about Greenhouse Sensation, please visit www.greenhousesensation.co.uk

Give them call on 0845 602 3774 or
Email info@greenhousesensation.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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