Warm weather boosts on-trend UK super-hot chilli harvest

UK-grown chillies are on the shelves of Tesco five weeks early, thanks to the warm spring weather, with super-hot varieties seeing a surge of interest.

The Carolina Reaper - Image: Tesco
The Carolina Reaper - Image: Tesco

Last year British shoppers bought an estimated 230 million chilli peppers, a 50% rise in five years.

But super-hot varieties are creating the most interest, with sales up 130% in a year, largely down to availability of the world’s hottest commercially grown chilli pepper, the Carolina Reaper - volumes of which are expected to double this season.

Though small, they measure 2.2 million Scoville Units making them 400 times hotter than a jalapeno.

They are exclusively grown by Bedfordshire grower Salvatore Genovese, who is believed to be the UK’s largest chilli pepper grower, producing about one million, or 15 tonnes, of chillies each week for the UK market.

"This year we’ve had really good levels of light and some great weather which has helped push the season forward," he said.

"I’ve also planted a lot more of the Carolina Reaper because the high demand last summer took us by surprise. That, together with the earlier start to the season, means we will have nearly twice as many as last year."

Genovese also supplies Tesco with the previously hottest UK grown variety, the Komodo Dragon, as well as the Scotch Bonnet and Habanero in red, green, chocolate and yellow.

Tesco chilli pepper buyer Phoebe Burgess said: "We know that a growing number of customers really love to cook with hot chillies and the Carolina Reaper has a rich fruity flavour with a slightly sweet taste so a tiny sliver could transform everyday favourite dishes."

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