Sales fail to match burgeoning interest in chilli festivals

Chillies are fast becoming the hottest plant in town, with chilli festivals springing up across the country.

Harrogate Autumn Flower Show joins the chilli-fiesta trend this autumn. Show organiser Martin Fish said the mini festival will link growing and cooking. It will also include a series of talks and demonstrations.

Young-plant suppliers say there is growing demand for unusual chillies. Quantil retail sales manager Mark Clementson said Apache and Scotch bonnet have become established staples over the past few years. "There is certainly good demand for more unusual varieties," he added.

Mr Fothergill's Seeds retail marketing manager Ian Cross said the hype does not match sales. "They do surprisingly poorly against the amount of interest they generate." He puts this down to people not needing to use a lot to cook with and the relative difficulty in growing them.

Cross described the market as niche and said although there has been an increase in the varieties available, this only leads to small incremental sales gains.

Charnwood Chilli Co owner Ady Dayman of BBC Radio Leicester and BBC1's East Midlands Today said: "They're cool because they're a bit different. We want to educate people about chillies. They aren't difficult to grow. People think they're annuals but if you bring them inside they've got six or seven years in them. There's misconceptions about them.

"We grow 140 varieties and make our sauces ourselves. We've got our own nursery (Derry's) where we grow perennials, shrubs, trees and bedding, then I started growing a few chillies too and sold them at farmers' markets wearing a sombrero and hand-drawn T-shirts. You've got to diversify in the nursery trade these days."

Chilli festivals - This summer's schedule

19-20 July - Fourth Birmingham Chilli Festival, Brindleyplace, Birmingham.

9-11 August - West Dean Chilli Fiesta, Chichester, West Sussex.

25-26 August - Benington Lordship Gardens Chilli Festival, Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

Frosts Garden Centres Chilli Festival 24-26 August Woburn Sands; 31 August-1 September Millets Farm.

6-7 September - Fifth Upton Cheyney Chilli Festival, Bristol.

13-15 September - Harrogate Autumn Show First Chillifest.

21-23 September - Great Scottish Brave Harvest Chilli Festival, Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland.

29 September - Dorothy Clive Chilli Festival, Market Drayton.

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