A Day On The Chilli Farm with Nix & Kix
Just before I headed off to France I was given the opportunity to leave the city a day early, heading off to Bedfordshire to visit a chilli farm with slightly spicy drinks brand Nix & Kix to learn about different varieties of chilli, how chilli farming works here in the UK, and to get into the test kitchen to try my hand at creating my own chilli based product. Oh, and chilli spiked cocktails were promised to make an appearance!
We started in the greenhouses. It turns out that the UK is perfect from growing all types of chilli, and while new chillies keep on being cross bred and developed all the time so the crown keeps on being stolen, we have also been able to lay claim to the worlds hottest chilli. The Carolina Reaper carries the current crown though, even though it looks rather unassuming.
Three chilli related activities to do on a visit to the Edible Ornamentals chilli farm: book yourself onto a chilli tour and tasting with the owner who is so knowledgeable about all things chilli (and so will you be by the end of it!), visit the PYO tent to choose your own to take home to cook with, and buy your own chilli plant for the windowsill at home. If you’ve ever tried to grown your own before you’ll know how easy it is, and they have so many different/ unusual/ pretty varieties to choose from.
After our crash course into the world of chillies, we headed into the kitchen for a tasting. Surprisingly, while tasting the right part of the chilli I could go hotter than I thought I could. You can really get the flavour of a chilli with barely and heat by gently scraping a bit of the flesh just under the skin off with a sharp knife, and what you really need to know is that the heat is in the white membrane of the chilli, not the seeds, so that is what you want to cut out with a very sharp knife if you want more smoke and sweetness than kick.
When it comes to putting chilli in things that are not immediately obvious, you have a few options. I made a quick, sweet peach, tomato and chilli chutney (I did not write my recipe down, but I’ll try to re-create it for you all at some point as I’m rather proud of it!), but you can also make full on sweet jams (they sold a beautiful berry and chilli version), savoury chutneys, chilli sauces and even blend the flavour into nut butters – they’d made a few cashew and chocolate peanut numbers with a kick. While cocktails are coming up next (including a recipe from the day!), a few slices of lemon chilli (easy to grow at home – I have) also apparently work beautifully as a garnish for my favourite Gin Mare and tonic.
Before lunch we enjoyed a couple of ‘Bloody Kix’, a creation of Olly, our wonderful chilli guide through the test kitchen. So light and refreshing, a bit like a Michelada for non-beer drinkers, to make one all you need is a shot (35ml) of vodka, 60ml of Nix & Kix’s Mango & Ginger soda, 80ml of Big Tom pre-spiced tomato juice Bloody Mary mix (I’ve been a big fan for years), a few ice cubes, and some (optional, but recommended) chilli and mango garnishes. Something for this weekends brunch.
If you use any sort of fresh ingredient that is grown here in the UK regularly or have a particular love for something, I have a project for you: find our where it is grown near you and if you’ve found a farm open to the public, great. If not, ask if you can go take a look and ask some questions. Not only is it good to know where your food comes from, but the people who grow something usually have the best tips and tricks for how to cook it. If you’re in Bedfordshire, passing through, or fancy taking the train from London (it is just over an hour, plus a short taxi ride) do stop in at Edible Ornamentals. Thank you to Nix & Kix for such a great trip!