It’s not exactly what you’d expect to find along a sleepy country road in the heart of the South Devon countryside, but it’s there that the South Devon Chilli Farm is located, bringing the heat of Mexico and the Caribbean to this bucolic part of England.
Let’s pause for a moment to address the question of whether it is chile, chili or chilli? They are all correct, depending where you go, and even the LA Times addressed the issue some years ago. In the Spanish speaking world, it’s definitely chile; in the US and Canada, chili rules, while in England and non-Spanish speaking parts of Europe, chilli is preferred, hence the name of the establishment I unexpectedly found. I’ll use chile, since that is what I call them, unless referring to the farm or one of their products in which case I will defer to their spelling.
The founders have actually been growing chiles in Devon since the late 1990s, selling them locally at farmers’ markets and shows. They started experimenting with recipes, with the first result being their Hot Apple Chilli Jelly, made with locally collected apples; this was followed by a whole range of flavors including rosehip, elderberry and blackberry. In 2005, the business moved to its current site, which nowadays features six polytunnels, a shop and café, and involves a team of sixteen people. Of the six tunnels, four are used for production (growing of chiles), one as a plant nursery, and one as a show tunnel, featuring a display of 150 – 200 varieties of chile. The show tunnel (open from May to December) is one of the main reasons for visiting, since each plant is displayed with its name, description, and details of how it is used. The nursery (open from March to October) offers a wide selection of chile plants for sale to grow and nurture at home.
The farm shop (open year round except for Christmas) offers samples of all the chile products available for sale, including an extensive range of jams, sauces, chutneys, and chocolates. You can spend some time sampling the different heat levels, to find the one which is right for you, before buying some products to take with you. From June to November, over 40 varieties of fresh chiles are available for purchase; way more than are to be found at any supermarket. Dried chiles are also available all year round. There’s also a great choice of gifts, such as pottery, books, and t-shirts, most of which feature a chile theme.
While at the farm, you can learn about the Scoville heat scale, by which the heat of chiles is measured. A jalapeño for example has a SHU (Scoville heat unit) measurement of 7,000, while the habanero is an impressive 250,000. Even that pales in comparison with the Bhut Jolokia (from India) at 1,000,000; the Trinidad Scorpion (from Trinidad) at 1,400,000; and the Carolina Reaper (from USA) at an incredible 2,000,000 SHU.
If a walk around the show tunnel and farm shop has worked up your appetite, the on-site café, open daily from 10am to 4pm (except Christmas) offers a choice of meals, snacks, and hot and cold drinks, including Scorpion Chilli Beer, made with chiles from the farm. Full lunches are available from 11.30am to 3pm, with items such as Smokey Five Bean Chilli, Beef Chilli Con Carne, burrito wraps, and ciabatta sandwiches. We visited later in the day, and chose the Chilli Cream Tea; a unique variation on the traditional Devon Cream Tea (scones, served with strawberry or raspberry jam and clotted cream). In this case, the scones were served with Chilli Jam from the farm, and cream cheese in place of the clotted cream. It’s a different yet delicious way to enjoy your scones. The more traditional Devon Cream Tea is also available. The brightly colored indoor café area is great year round, while on warmer sunnier days, the outdoor tables offer countryside views while you relax.
If you go:
The South Devon Chilli Farm is approximately 1 mile north of the village of Loddiswell, on the B3196 road which runs from Kingsbridge to the A38. A location map and driving directions can be found on their website.
Open daily (except Christmas) from 10am to 4.30pm. Show tunnel and plant nursery are seasonal.
Café open 10am to 4pm, with full lunches between 11.30am and 3pm.
Phone: +44 (0)1548 550782
Welcome South Devon website: http://www.welcomesouthdevon.co.uk/
Visit Devon website: http://www.visitdevon.co.uk/