It may be the hottest week of the year but things are about to get a lot hotter for the UK’s growing army of chilli pepper fans.
Not only has the recent good weather brought forward the UK’s chilli pepper season by five weeks but it means that there will be twice as many of the notorious Carolina Reaper – the world’s hottest commercially grown variety available this summer.
The pepper, which is grown exclusively for Tesco, by Bedfordshire chilli farmer Salvatore Genovese, was one of the supermarket’s most eagerly sought after products when it first went on sale last year.
And it caused a major stir with the UK’s growing number of chilli heads, as they are known. Last year Brits bought an estimated 230 million chilli peppers, a 50 per cent increase in demand since 2011.
However, it’s the super-hot varieties, like the Carolina Reaper, that are creating the greatest excitement with chilli pepper fans.
Last year Tesco saw sales for super-hot chillies rocket by 130 per cent, largely down to the popularity of the world’s hottest commercially grown chilli pepper, the Carolina Reaper, which was available for the first time exclusively at the supermarket’s stores across the UK last summer.
The tiny chilli peppers really pack a punch – and measuring 1.5 million Scoville Units they are 400 times hotter than a jalapeno.
Tesco chilli pepper buyer Phoebe Burgess said: “The extension to the British chilli season means we will have a lot more of the legendary Carolina Reaper available for customers this summer.
“We know that a growing number of customers really love to cook with hot chillies and the Carolina Reaper has a rich fruity flavour with a slightly sweet taste so a tiny slither could transform everyday favourite dishes.”
Salv, as he is known, started growing chilli peppers 15 years ago after he took over his parents’ cucumber business and now grows about one million, or 15 tonnes of chillies each week for the UK market.
Salv said: “This year we’ve had really good levels of light and some great weather which has helped push the season forward.
“I’ve also planted a lot more of the Carolina Reaper because the high demand last summer took us by surprise. That, together with the earlier start to the season, means we will have nearly twice as many as last year.”