A Day on the Farm

It’s thursday again, folks, and this time my post’s a big one.

You see, all the way back in october, I got in touch with a company called “Edible Ornamentals”, who you might know from my reviews of the “Nutty Professor” Peanut Butter or their tea infused “Nagalicious” marmalade.

welcome-edible-ornamentals_1_orig

Me, though, I didn’t. Back then, those two were still in the post, ordered as my way of checking out the company.

All I actually knew about Edible Ornamentals at the time was that they grew the peppers for some of my favourite producers. And, as it turns out, for the Screaming Chimp.

As growers, though, their main business stops for the winter months and their growing season was already coming to a close by the time that I spoke to them. There was little point in me making this post when it was fresh in my mind.

Now, however, the pepper plants are in bloom and we can finally take a look at how I came to know the company properly. A journey that all started with their “Pod Packs”.

These were packs of roughly ten peppers – Anything from your standard jalapeños, habaneros, ghosts and scorpions to the rarer lemondrops, fatalii, bubblegums, wartryxs, chocolate reapers and even their own unique strain – aimed at growers so that they could taste before they sowed seeds and really know what they were growing.

podpacks

Now these weren’t going to put a complete stop to seed mix-ups, of course. Any unintended crossing wouldn’t show up until the next generation. But that’s a far less common problem than the mislabelling of loose seeds and, even when it does occur, its still guaranteed that roughly 50% of the new plant’s genetics come from the mother of the pepper.

I really liked the idea of these new “pod packs”. Half of the reason that I grow as many peppers as I do is to try out all the different flavours. To get an idea of what is and isn’t worth growing again.

Tasting the chillies when I bought seeds would speed up that process no end. It would tell me what was (and wasn’t) worth my while before the new year began and thus save my grow space for peppers that I actually liked. Or, I guess, varieties from other sellers with less ideal methods of supply.

But there was one thing that struck me as odd: The numbers that they were putting on them.

While some, like the red carolina reaper, had their official ratings, others like the orange habanero seemed a little off from what was documented.

The jigsaws that they supply for Burning Desire’s hottest natural sauce were listed below the million mark, despite being one of the hottest chillies that I’ve ever tasted, and their own strain was guesstimated at two to three million. A white pepper, I might add, grown from what should have been mild, baccatum-type seed stock.

These were, to me, some rather outrageous claims. I had to query them with the seller. After all, surely they must know that Burning Desire’s sauce was hitting way harder than even 20% reaper would suggest?

I didn’t expect much, though. I didn’t expect Edible Ornamentals to take my feedback on board. Or to give anything beyond a copy-pasted reply. I may even have just been venting my frustration with all the unverified claims made around that time.

But, like I said, I didn’t know them very well back then.

Not only did they give me a long, detailed and personalised reply but they also went as far as to invite me along on a free tour of their gardens. Albeit one where I probably spent almost as much in their shop and cafe as the event would normally have cost.

Which isn’t to say that they were expensive, just that they had a tonne of items on show that I wanted to bring back for you. Some of which, like Nix & Kix’s cayenne fizz, you may have already seen. Others of which have yet to have their reviews posted.

You’ll get a good look at them all in due time but, for now, here’s a shot of their tasting table:

table2

Well, one of their tasting tables.

There was a second, off to the side of their café area, adorned with the day’s fresh chillies – Everything from near-heatless anaheims to superhot nagas and even the “sugar rush vanilla” that I’d enquired about. We’ll get to my experience with that in a moment but first it’s worth noting how well the tasting was run.

You see, I knew that there were going to be superhots on the table from my talks with the company and I knew that they were a regular feature. I had, therefore, assumed that this was going to be an event aimed at serious chilli lovers. Yet the tour before the tasting seemed to suggest otherwise.

They talked in detail about their plant setup and about why they prefer the dorset naga over the true ghost pepper, the bhut jolokia. So they certainly did throw out some interesting information for the hardcore hobbyist. Yet it was also clear that that wasn’t their main audience. And understandably so.

The rest of the crowd – A group of roughly ten people – all seemed like they had just a casual interest. Enough to want to see how chillies were grown but not enough to know the different varieties or which was the hottest.

Much of the trivia throughout the tour was for them – To excite the relative newcomers and make sure that they knew what to look for when we got to pick our own peppers.

Yet, when it came down to it, they were more than happy to answer my cameraman’s questions on pepper corking (the scarring of their skin when they grow too big and juicy too quickly) and other, more advanced subjects. They played to the audience that they had that day but were clearly capable of going more in depth if they needed to.

And, when it came time to taste the peppers, they definitely showed that knowledge. Shawn Plumb, the guy behind the chopping board, spoke at length about the unique traits each pepper had and the flavours that we’d be getting from them. Details that captivated as much as they informed, while explaining to any less eager tasters why we were trying so many.

You can see just how that tasting went 📽️ here 📽️ but I would like to talk about one of the peppers in particular – The Sugar Rush Vanilla that I mentioned earlier.

SugarRush-Vanilla.jpg

A creamy coloured, if somewhat yellowy, chilli, with an interesting, twisty shape to it. One that grew from mislabelled or crossed seeds which were supposed to have been for a cream aji sugar rush.

This was very clearly not the intended pepper, though, and it was left until near the end of our tasting session for a reason. This pepper was hot!

Not, however, when I first tasted it. The flesh of this pepper was heatless, with a mild flavour of creaminess and smoothness, like I’d expect from a white chilli, yet also the same subtle planty notes that I’ve come to expect from a baccatum-type.

What I would most liken this one to in flavour would be either the jay’s peach ghost scorpion without its characteristic gentle bitterness or the aji lemon drop without its well-documented citrus. Neither of which is the easiest of things to imagine.

It was, however, a very pleasant pepper and a very welcome lack of heat after the previous ones. Until I went back for seconds.

My first piece had been one without placenta – Without the pith/membrane that holds in its seeds. To fully assess this chilli’s heat, I felt I needed a second small segment with some of that on it.

The placenta is, after all, where the hot oils of the pepper are produced.

This little nibble (and that really was it it was, since the pieces shrunk with each pepper) was not a mistake, per se, but it was certainly a shock to the system. It was far hotter than the last. Far hotter than the fatalii segment that I’d just eaten and even, as it turned out, hotter than the dorset naga that we finished on.

It was not the 2-3 million scoville that their website had suggested but it was at least on par with my homegrown naga vipers. A strain that reaches almost 1.4 million and held the world record for heat back in 2011.

And this was only with a small strand of its placenta. From the striking difference that one strand made, I’d definitely be willing to believe that a pepper fragment from up near the stem could prove hotter than the reaper.

But one small fragment does not a record make and, while it was super hot, the vanilla sugar rush didn’t seem to be a superhot. At least, not by my definition. I’d be surprised if it averaged even a million with such heatless inner walls.

I am, however, pretty sad that I didn’t manage to get my hands on any seed. It was a tasty, if subtle, chilli with a good burn to it and it was certainly quite unique. It would be great for making paler-coloured chilli sauces, blending into white chocolate or pairing with fish.

Moving on from that tasting table, however, the other was also laden with goodies. As I’m sure you saw.

This one was less about the chillies themselves and more about what could be done with them, featuring products of their own creation alongside those made with their peppers.

A wide selection, with crackers to try them on, but nothing in excess of their Xtreme Peanut Butter heat-wise. Which was probably for the best, considering their audience.

I won’t focus on what they had from Grim Reaper Foods, Wiltshire Chilli Farm or Burning Desire because I’ve talked a bit about all three already and anything you haven’t seen a review of from them is liable to be an upcoming one.

What I will mention, though, are a few of Edible Ornamentals’ own items that stood out. Like their Chipotle Cashew Nut Butter, a richer, smokier, milder part of their “Nutty Professor” line that almost reminded me of bacon. Their sweet “Chef & Grower” Peachapeño jam, which somehow managed to tease a much gentler flavour out of red jalapeños than I’m used to without losing any of their fruitiness. Or their simple but delicious red onion and naga marmalade which would, as you might expect, be excellent with cheese.

But as soon as we’d tried everything there, it was lunch time. Our orders from their cafe had arrived.

First up were our starters. A bowl of chilli fries for me and the hottest thing on menu, their “Inferno Chicken” for my cameraman, all washed down with their chilli tea.

None of these were stunningly hot, though, and, while I couldn’t put exact numbers on anything after all the tasters I’d had that morning, I can say with certainty that nothing exceeded a low

3/10

Heat

if it even reached that.

Their chicken burger was liberally sauced, leaving it moist, juicy, tender and tasty, but its inferno name felt a little over the top for what it was. The habanero flavour was there and its fruitiness, kept savoury here, worked well with the meat. Yet the dish felt more like a nice medium strength than a range topper.

And the fries? They were definitely fries, not chips:

2017-11-04 12.16.23

Thin cut, american-style fries with the skin left on to be rustic. Something that, to me as a brit, was an odd mixture of fast food and fancy home cooking.

They weren’t bad, by any means, but they weren’t anything special, either. The chilli, while clearly fried in with them from its appearance, seemed to function only as a garnish. I suspect that, had my mouth been a little more fresh, it would have found the fries accented with pleasant hints of jalapeño but, as was, their chilli was sadly wasted on me.

Our tea was somewhere between the two in heat. Its warmth was both light and gentle as the liquid reached my throat. It was pleasantly relaxing, in a way, but it was its flavour that really won me over. This was not, after all, your standard chilli tea.

This was a sweet, fruity, floral and rooty blend of honey, ginger, earl grey and, to my surprise, lemondrop chilli. A chilli that gave it all the same citrus of a normal lemon and ginger blend, without making it quite as bright or as sharp. One that played off against the floral notes of bergamot in the earl grey and the earthier notes of the golden, rooty ginger taste to really balance out the beverage.

This was, in my opinion, the star of the lunchtime show but I’m sure some of you would beg to differ. After all, my main was something special, too. Something off-menu, prepared by Chilli Olly just for me, with heat far in excess of their standard foodstuffs.

I’ll let 📽️ my short challenge video 📽️ do most of the talking there but I will say that it was another pleasant surprise for me in flavour terms, with how well it made use of its dorset nagas. I may have been dying inside but I was enjoying every morsel of it!

When I left Edible Ornamentals’ chilli farm, I had a belly full of fire, a head full of memories and a bag or two full of chilli goodies. I thoroughly enjoyed my day out, despite it looking like they aimed their tours at rather less knowledgeable chilli fans than myself, and would definitely recommend giving it a go yourself.

Food-wise, they seem to cater to people who like chilli, not those who love it like me. I was a tiny bit underwhelmed because this was the first chilli farm cafe that I’d seen and I thought that they’d be aiming more towards serious aficionados than the general public.

Knowing what I do now, though, their menu makes a lot more sense. It provides a nice, spicy meal for a more normal person, whilst vindaloo-ordering types like myself can, as it turns out, order extra chilli in any dish.

It’s a good system and, aside from with those fries, the staff seemed to work very well with the chilli’s flavours. Any minor disappointment is, in the end, my own fault for not doing my research ahead of time.

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