A passion for chillies

Chilli indoors... Viviene Scott and Chris Larcombe by one of thier glasshouses.  Photo by Charmian Smith
Chilli indoors... Viviene Scott and Chris Larcombe by one of thier glasshouses. Photo by Charmian Smith
Chillies can pack a powerful punch but they can also have subtle differences of flavours and heat. And their shapes and colours are remarkably beautiful. Charmian Smith explores some fiery tastes.

Chillies fascinate Viviene Scott and Chris Larcombe. They grow about a dozen varieties at Kakanui, in North Otago, along with an assortment of tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, carrots, pumpkins, courgettes, cauliflowers and broccolis of various kinds, which they sell at the Otago Farmers Market at the Dunedin Railway Station on Saturday mornings.

Some of the chillies have been added to their collection at the request of customers, says Mrs Scott.

‘‘We like hearing from people how they use the chillies. Someone stuffs jalapenos with cream cheese, wraps them in smoky bacon and barbecues them. One man slices them up and sprinkles them on his salad.''

That might be a little too hot for Mrs Scott.

Everyone has a different heat tolerance, she says, and she and Mr Larcombe use their hotter chillies with caution.

There's a real buzz when you are cooking your tea and it's things you've grown, he says.

He enjoys explaining to their customers how they grow the produce. Proudly they grow their vegetables in soil rather than sawdust or hydroponically.

Soil-grown tomatoes keep better than hydroponic tomatoes, and Kakanui is known for the flavour of tomatoes and vegetables grown in its soil, he says.

While some vegetables are grown outside, chillies, tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants are grown in large, unheated glasshouses.

Each season he digs over the soil, putting in stack-bottom straw and blood and bone, then lets chickens live in the glasshouses to fertilise the soil over winter. Crops are rotated each year.

His parents and grandparents grew tomatoes and vegetables at Kakanui, and his mum, Jan, still helps them pack their produce on Fridays for the market.

After several years shearing, he returned and started to grow beans for export. However, after 9/11 when no planes were flying, he rethought his plans and changed to cucumbers.

About that time, Mrs Scott, who had been working at a local nursery propagating plants which were always sold to someone else, decided she wanted to grow things herself, especially capsicums, so she joined Mr Larcombe as a business partner.

Chillies crept in alongside the capsicums and their range extended. The farmers market started at just the right time for them, and they sell most of their produce there, she said.

Among the chillies they grow are jalapeno, pasilla bajio, ancho St Luis, pocoto manzano, the small, knobbly Scotch bonnet, long thin furats, tabasco, cayenne and Hungarian banana.

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