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There’s one surefire way to warm up this season, hot chili peppers! One might expect these fiery friends to grow in much warmer climates, as the origin of chilies is Mexico
. However, you’d be pleasantly surprised how many of these powerful peppers are grown right here in BC.
The husband and wife team of Fat Chili Farms
specialize in growing chili peppers from their farm in Cowichan Valley. Each of their chili-based products is lovingly handcrafted to celebrate the delicate flavor panel of each unique chili variety.
We connected with co-founder Penny De Waal to give us the down low on the hot, hot heat to the mild and sweet.
What inspired you to grow chili peppers?
It kind of happened naturally, as my husband (Shani Farboud) is a chef and we needed the peppers. He cooks with peppers a lot, so we were meeting our own demand really.
What varieties of chili peppers do you grow?
Our greenhouse operation grows over 40 different varieties from the mildest and most familiar like the jalapeno and habanero that are around 10,000 SHU
to the hottest Jamaican Yellow Mushroom and Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Peppers) that range from 250,000 SHU over 1 million SHU.
How do you decide what to grow?
Once we have our bases covered for our established products
, we try to avoid growing what you can find in the standard grocery store for our fresh peppers. Then we have a few fun experiments to bring to market, like the Chocolate Scorpion
What are the most popular chili peppers?
It depends on the person, as most customers buy our end products versus the fresh peppers. Approximately 70% of the peppers we produce serve our established products like hummus, pesto, and of course, chili sauces. Our Wizard Choice Chili Sauce is quite popular!
What is your favourite part about growing peppers in BC?
The people in Cowichan Valley have been very receptive. There’s so much support from the local markets that we have to highlight our gratitude for this region.
There’s a great growers network here as well. Since we are a small farm operation, we team up with larger scale farms to meet the demand if someone wants to buy, something like, 60lbs of fresh peppers at once.
What type of recipes would best suit your hottest peppers?
Since Shani is a chef, we use our chilies in adapted Indonesian sambals and curries. And we make all our end products out of them of course!
Any advice for a chili pepper newbie?
Start slowly, but don’t be afraid to try! We offer samples here and have kind of a beginner’s pack of fresh dips, chili jelly and our peanut butter satay. To cool down, if it gets too hot, we suggest yogurt, bread and even beer!
Any alternative uses for chilies besides cooking and eating?
Oh yes! We make a topical Chili and Ginger Rub for aching joints and muscles. The heat from the chilies warm up and relax your muscles without chemicals. We feel that natural is best and the health benefits from chilies can lengthen your life.
We like the sound of that! From the hottest of the hot to mild and sweet, local BC chili peppers are the perfect recipe addition for that dash of je ne sais quoi. Plus, it’s a fun and flavourful way to travel with your taste buds, while increasing those endorphins.
Feeling inspired? Check out our recipe page for chili-infused meals that are sure to spice up your life:
Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers
Hot and Sour Soup
Chili Chicken with Red Peppers and Onions
Thai Pork Burritos