Hot tips for growing and eating chillies

Locoto chilli.
Locoto chilli.

ARALUEN’S Chilli & Herb Festival returns February 16-17 with an abundance of chilli and herb products from boutique beers to cocktails, juices and food, chutneys and hot sauces.

Horticulturalists and celebrity chefs will also share their hot tips.

To fire you up for the two-day event, we spoke to festival founder and chilli connoisseur John Colwill.


John’s favourite three chillies for growing (and eating)

1. Piri piri (African Birdseye)

A small compact plant that continually produces -“I know a plant that is eight years old and still producing”.

It is easy to grow and packs a fair whack of heat.

2. Locoto (pictured)

A large plant with hairy, wrinkled leaves producing small fruit with bright red, very thick flesh and a great flavour.

It has some heat but not a massive amount and usually the seeds are black.

Easy to grow – “I recommend it for those living further south in cooler climates”.

3. Jalapeo

Well-known and seen in some fast food chains.

We have one this year at the festival called Farmer’s Market.

They are relatively easy to grow and are not actually that hot – “We considered it to be mild”.

John’s hot tips for growing chillies

I like to grow all varieties in pots under 50 per cent shade cloth to reduce the stress on them. Pots are much easier and you can move them around but chillies don’t live as long as they would in the ground.

Try them in hanging baskets too – it looks great.

Chillies can be grown in full sun but the soil has to be really good and you need mulch to lock moisture in. Also, be careful the fruit doesn’t burn.

Most chillies just need good soil, regular water supply and regular feeding.

Water chillies as needed – they wilt quickly and let you know if thirsty.

Best way to recover from eating a hot chilli

Chillies are oil based and people make the mistake of drinking cold water but oil and water don’t mix. You need to dissolve it so drink full fat milk or yogurt, or chew on a bit of straight capsicum.

The world’s hottest chilli, the Carolina Reaper, will be on sale at the festival and it’s one of about 25 that will knock the average person down.