In Wohlenschwil, Aargau, red peppers are grown on a large scale,
which is unique in Switzerland. The Friedli company has chosen for the Habanero Red variety, which is fifty times hotter than the well-known jalapeños. Processing imported chilies into sauces has been happening in the canton of Aargau for some time, but the cultivation of red peppers on large scale, like Friedli does, is unique in Switzerland.
Until now, there have been a few private individuals who planted peppers in Reusstal, but those were small productions. Friedli Gemüse, which has been producing vegetables in Reusstal for almost 60 years now, has already conducted a trial for cultivating peppers in 2012, but this year, they have planted 1500 m2 of peppers for the market.
The hot pepper from Mexico prefers warm, but mostly constant, temperatures. “Chilies take about 100 days to reach maturity, and they need a constant temperature between 15 and 25 degrees,” explains Matthias Müller of Agricultural Center Liebegg. “Ground frost, which occurs frequently in early Fall, is bad for the chilies. With cold tunnels, so without additional heat sources, we also reach such low temperatures.”
Quality is expressed in the degree of sharpness
The quality, which is expressed in degree of sharpness for chilies, has to be right too. Swiss customers want very sharp chilies, which is why they have chosen Habanero Red, Müller says. To make a little comparison, Habaneros are fifty times sharper than Jalapeños, which already causes many people to break out in a sweat. Good quality – or a lot of sharpness – is only achieved with a lot of sun. That is why vegetable producer Jörg Friedli has planted the chilies in five grow tunnels. That way, extreme weather conditions are sidelined.
“I was convinced that we could produce chilies in cold grow tunnels. Now, after a lot of patience, we are harvesting the first spicy fruits,” says a delighted Jörg Friedli. “We have been able to harvest just under four tons of chilies, where we had expected about five tons.” 2021 was not ideal due to the cold, wet summer, but they warm early Fall sun has ultimately given the Habaneros enough heat, Friedli says.
Councilor Dieth praises agricultural innovation
Growing chilies in Aargau instead of importing them from abroad is the idea of Pascal Furer, owner of Mosti Furer in Staufen. The company, specializing in the production of juice, wine, and vinegar, has imported chilies to make spicy sauces for a long time. Furer, who is also president of the grand council, praises the cooperation in Aargau, which has ben expanded by the Eastern Swiss distributor Delico.
“Our chili sauce is the handmade Swiss alternative to industrially produced sauces. From cultivation, production, to marketing, it is a product made in Switzerland,” says Matthias Fürer, CEO of St. Galler marketer Delico.
Since chili cultivation is not only a first for Switzerland, but also for Aargau, Agriculture Director Markus Dieth has nothing but praise for the hot pepper at the media conference: “Aargauer farmers are innovative. They find means to develop their companies entrepreneurially time and again, while protecting natural resources at the same time.”