Growing Chillies


Despite being in the heart of England, with spacious green fields and traditional crops of vegetables, Bedfordshire may be a lot more exotic than you think.

Home to the biggest chilli farm in the UK, the area produces over 10,000 kilos a week, which end up on Tesco shelves across the UK. This all began when Salvatore Genovese and his Italian parents, who were originally cucumber producers, experimented with a few chilli plants 'for a bit of fun'.

'People are amazed that you can actually get English chillies,' says Salvatore. 'But they're incredibly fresh, hot and tangy, and haven't been flown thousands of miles.'

Rich in vitamin C and the antioxidant betacarotene, chillies are good news for your taste buds and your immune system.

Although a long way from their original home, chillies are easy to grow in the UK. 'We use glasshouses and specially formulated grow bags, which are computer-controlled to give the plants all the food and water they require.'

It may sound high tech, but the farm uses sustainable, chemical-free practices wherever possible. For instance, 'We literally bring in bags of insects, which eat all the bad guys, so we're completely back to nature in terms of pest control.' The Genoveses have also built a state-of-the-art glasshouse that collects rainwater in a reservoir and then uses it to irrigate the crop, thereby making it a totally sustainable water source.

'We're expanding all the time because people really love cooking with chillies. They've become the new staple ingredients for flavour,' says Salvatore.

Salvatore loves chilli, 'I add it to everything - pasta dishes, sauces, even steak.' The farm has recently started growing the Trinidad Scorpion chilli for Tesco.

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