Choosing chillies to meet your taste

Choosing the right chilli to suit your taste while bringing just the right amount of pleasure and pain to your tastebuds can definitely be tricky. We are the first ones to look at our latest crop of chillies in the polytunnel or fridge and stay puzzled for a while, wondering what flavour will enhance tonight's dish without overpowering it with too much heat.

One thing that you can trust are the unofficial heat levels set up by the chilli community over the years. If you think that a Jalapeno is a very hot chilli then you are definitely mistaken as there is a plethora of other kinds strewn along the path to chilli heaven.

But let's start you off easy. If for you a chilli plant has to look pretty before anything else and just so happens to have edible fruits as a bonus then ornamental chillies are for you. The Filius Blue, NuMex Twilight or Piñata and Little Elf varieties are as intriguingly gorgeous as their names let presume and produce mild to medium fruits that are perfect in salads or as a topping to a good piece of fish or meat. 

A lot of chilli beginners are wary of anything remotely spicy but we are quick to dissipate their doubts. After all, one should at least try something before judging and we are the first to be surprised at our capsaicin tolerance from time to time. Most people will have at least tried (knowingly or not) a jalapeno on a commercial pizza or in salsa or had tabasco sauce from the local eatery. Jalapenos (such as the Tam or Purple Jalapeno) are definitely a good starting point although there are milder ones like the wonderful Big Jim which, despite its gentle heat is one of our favourite as it is absolutely amazing when cut open, stuffed with cream cheese or feta and then grilled or roasted in an oven or barbecue. 

But if you think that you are already past such a low level then the realm of medium hot chilli peppers is a very very interesting one and probably the broadest of them all. You will of course have heard of the most popular medium hot chilli pepper, namely, His Majesty the Cayenne. But we wouldn't be Bountiful Seeds if we didn't point you towards rarer and oh so gorgeous varieties of chilli peppers such as the Fresno. The Fresno has what we call the “Strawberry effect”. Indeed, who hasn't found themselves slightly entranced and totally aroused at the idea of picking a freshly washed strawberry and bite into its sweet and firm flesh, revealing a somewhat indecent but so tempting flavoursome centre? The fresno could easily be considered as the strawberry of the chilli world, although it is excitedly more dangerous heat wise... The poinsettia is another intriguing chilli plant as not only does it look like the beloved Christmas plant but it is also adorned at full maturity of a myriad of long and pointy red pods that grow upright and have a very deceptive heat!

But if you think you can handle even spicier than that then by all means, try your hands at the following chillies that will start you off on the chilli hall of fame. The habanero, in any colour, white, chocolate, yellow, orange or red is always a safe bet but beware of its erratic mood as, although fairly consistent heat wise, it sometimes likes to crank it up a notch! Its sweet flavour is notorious though and lends itself to a hell of a lot of different cuisines. The fruity Scotch Bonnet is nearly as famous as the Habanero but is radically different when it comes to taste. Its tropical flavour is fantastic when used in exotic dishes but we have been able to accommodate it to a number of traditional European recipes too which is part of the fun with chilli peppers, you never know what wonderful concoction you might end up discovering and keeping as a staple to your diet!

But lo and behold, mighty warrior! If, like us, you have a perverse joy at being kicked in the nuts on a regular basis then extreme chillies are what it's all about such as the Naga (especially the Chilli Pepper Pete Naga or Naga Morich!) which scores on average around 1.5 million on the Scoville scale of chilli heat and has a slightly bitter savoury taste. The Red or Yellow 7 Pot will get your sweat glands going but its citrusy flavour will make you weak in the knees for sure. You might need a few minutes (or days...) to recover but at least you'll find it worth your while! 

At the end of the day, of course choosing chillies is a matter of personal preference and natural tolerance to capsaicin but again, the key to chilli heaven is to try as many varieties as you can and see what works for you and what doesn't. We can certainly vouch for the pleasure of getting chilli seeds from a trusted source for your own personal delight and see it go from a tiny seedling to a fully fledged plant that will produce great amounts of tasty (and spicy!) pods. So the question now is this: what Bountiful Seeds' variety of chilli are you going to go for?



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