Spain: Three and a half tonnes of chillies grown in a Segovia town

Maria was a frequent customer at the organic farming store run by Luis and Bea. Eventually, she decided to ask them a question: would they be willing to grow chillies? Yes, chillies; one of the most typical ingredients in Mexican cuisine and one that her husband, Roberto Ruiz, needed for his restaurant Punto MX. The proposal, which seemed crazy, went ahead and now Luis and Bea run four hectares of the crop in Navas de Oro, a town in Segovia with just 1,300 inhabitants. The entire production is organic and there is more than just chillies.

The project has been successful and production has skyrocketed. Last year, three and a half tonnes of chillies were produced. "We have too much," acknowledged the chef during a workshop held at the 16th edition of Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión, dedicated exclusively to this spicy food. How has the plan worked in Segovia? "By trial and error; there is no other way to find out what works and what doesn't. Moreover, we have other factors to take into account, such as the cold and the soil, which is not the same as in Mexico," explains the chef, the only one with a Michelin star Mexican restaurant outside the North American country.

He explains that in Europe, chillies are famous and unknown at the same time. According to Ruiz, there are 320 different varieties; some in danger of extinction because they require a lot of dedication and are not commonly cultivated. But others, such as the Habanero, are better known. "This is the variety that I like the most, because it's the hottest and the one that has the best taste," he pointed out. Interestingly, the Habanero has been problematic for Segovian producers. The lack of sun has made it necessary for each plant to have its own lamp to allow them to grow. The chef hopes to be able to move them to the open ground by March.


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