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Barfoots create specialised Chilli Greenhouse to support UK demand
"We're on the Chichester peninsular within a stones throw of the coast so the greenhouse utilises the best natural light levels in the UK. To support this natural sunshine, we've introduced hi-tech environmentally efficient heating controls and modern low-impact growing systems. We plan to achieve seven months of supply from this glasshouse which breaks all previous records for chilli production in the UK."
Outside of the British season Barfoots have been farming chillies under protective growing structures for Sainsbury's at their award-winning farm in Senegal since 2010.
"Senegal has really been a game-changer in terms of the quality of imported chillies into the UK market," adds Harry Wilder, Barfoots international agronomist, who has become something of a chilli expert during his time with Barfoots, travelling around the globe looking at crops.
"Our ambition was always to have 52 weeks production of chillies under our own in-house control. So the addition of the greenhouse at Selsey ensures we can dovetail the five month Senegalese season with British production. The benefits of this are improved quality, freshness and the all-important component of heat and flavour. Our chillies are grown to be the best and with nature playing a big part, bees are the pollinators as well as positive predators to control those pesky pests, we have reduced other chemical inputs and deliver a superior quality and taste - this isn't always the case with chillies and we are proud to go that extra mile here at Barfoots."
Wilder and Lapraik both love to experiment with trialling different Chilli varieties and are buzzing with excitement over the strongly emerging trend in the UK for all things spicy.
"We have a wide range of chilli varieties on trial currently — over 30 different potted-up and growing," beams Thomas. "Chillies are not just about heat, but warming spice and flavour enhancement. Consumers' palates are being led by exciting new restaurant pop-up concepts using spice-driven global food trends," adds Wilder.
“The more established quick service restaurants are also experimenting with different culinary applications of fresh chilli – for example PanAsian ‘Kimchi’ and ‘Sriracha’ (at Wagamama) and Mexican ‘chipotle & mole’ (at Wahaca). South American ‘Pica’ (Las Iguanas) flavours and Caribbean ‘jerk sauce’ (Turtle Bay) offerings are also increasingly popular along with a range of different heat levels from very mild and sweet salad chillies through to the superhot Naga’s and scoville busting Moruga’s.” Its clear Wilder knows his scovilles!
It appears that one of the benefits of the job that Wilder has is to sample the local cuisines of some of the world’s more exotic locations whilst he is on duty as Barfoots international agronomist.
“Breakfast in Senegal wouldn’t be the same without a dollop of ‘Bango’ sauce on top of my fried eggs,” Wilder informs us. The sauce consists of a headclearing blend of locally grown Scotch Bonnets, garlic, onions and an indigenous herb; produced in potent batches at the hotel where the Barfoots team stay on their monthly visits. Applied liberally to anything from eggs, to baked goods to peanuts, the Barfoots team are clearly all ‘spice fiends’ as Wilder jokingly suggests.
It seems that the much written about spirit of the ‘restless palate’ an
urban food trend which has seen creative mashups of untypical food partners with a healthy dose of spice is both alive and well at Barfoots. The timing for their British chilli venture couldn’t be better and looks like its growing to perfection.
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