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Graham Rice

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Multi-purpose chillies

Posted by Graham Rice on 08 Jul 2008 at 05:17 PM

For some people – men, mostly, it has to be said – it’s how hot chilli peppers are that counts.  But for Perry and Ali Drew-Cook of Cookoo Box Chillies there’s far more too it. They’ve been growing chillies for twenty years so they’ve seen enthusiasm grow, especially in the last five or six years. “Chillies are really good plants for the patio or around the barbecue,” said Perry as he checked the labels on their exhibit. “They’re valuable ingredients in so much cooking these days with a flavour that’s far more subtle than just the heat.” “And chillies should look good and taste good,” added Ali.

But when the variety ‘Medusa’ came out, with slim upright fruits gathered tightly on bushy little plants, they were so disappointed. It looks wonderful, ideal for small containers and around the patio, but the flavour is almost non-existent. So they created a new variety, ‘Cookoo Box King Good’, in the same style. It’s as attractive as ‘Medusa’ but with its fine flavour ‘Cookoo Box King Good’ combines both good looks and taste. It’s so new it’s not yet in their catalogue.

Perry also had some advice on growing chillies. “Don’t grow them in the greenhouse,” he said. “Plant them round the patio, in containers or raised beds. But they don’t like wind so a patio garden in often ideal.

“Some varieties are rated hotter than others but it’s not that simple,” says Perry. “Some people like hot chillies, some people like them milder. But you can get both from the same plant by picking them green for a mild flavour and red for more heat.

“Watering also plays a part. Plants grown dry produce hotter chillies than those grown with more water and a good soak four days before picking will make them less hot.”

Perry has a number of other chillies of his own raising. ‘Chill Out’ has purple foliage and small black fruits and a plant brought into the house and set against a white background looks very stylish.

For more on chillies from Cookoo Box Chillies, take a look at their website.

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