Meet the Producers: South Devon Chilli Farm
We discover how a “Seed to Sauce” philosophy keeps Devon’s hottest small batch producer on topRead more
Our Meet the Producers series is a testament to the skilled artisan makers behind Liberty’s delectable food and drink offering. Each month, we’ll spotlight a different British brand, giving you the chance to get acquainted with some of the finest micro-producers this nation has to offer.
Since 2001, South Devon Chilli Farm has been nurturing a variety of exotic chillies thanks to the region’s unique microclimate. What began as a hobby grew into a bonafide business and the farm now houses an on-site kitchen in which to cook up its small-batch chilli sauces and spicy preserves, using only natural preserving agents to retain a hearty, home-cooked flavour. We sat down with the founders to discover how they do it.
Can you tell us a bit about South Devon Chilli Farm and how it all began?
Established in 2001, we have been perfecting our growing techniques and using chillies to create unique taste creations in the form of chilli sauces, chilli preserves and chilli chocolates. Our award-winning chilli goodies range from mild to extreme and lots in between!
We started growing chillies as a hobby in our back garden greenhouses when we moved from the city to rural Devon way back in the late 1990s. We never realised that chillies would be so easy to grow, so delicious and so completely addictive! In 2001, we had an opportunity to rent a polytunnel and decided to give it a go, to see how many different varieties we could grow. Suddenly, we had lots of chillies and didn't know what to do with them all. Fortunately, at about the same time, farmers markets had started to become popular and so we took our amazing crop of fresh chillies to the markets and some local shows.
Where are you based?
Our 10-acre farm with its on-site production kitchen is located in South Devon near a small village called Loddiswell. We are in a lovely, sheltered valley and our fields slope down to the river Avon, just 6 miles from the coast and roughly halfway between Plymouth and Torquay.
Where do you source your ingredients from?
The many different varieties of chillies in our products are all grown here in our farm polytunnels. We use apples from our orchard, and we source as many ingredients as we can from other west country producers.
What does your production team look like?
We currently have three people in our kitchen producing all of our savoury sauces, preserves, dried chillies and chilli chocolates and another team member labelling the jars and bottles.
The many different varieties of chillies in our products are all grown here in our farm polytunnels.
Can you talk us through your production process?
We start sowing chilli seeds in our plant nursery in January. Once the weather gets warmer and the soil temperature heats up to 20°C, the young plants are ready to be planted into the ground in our crop polytunnels. We then nurture the plants and wait for them to start producing chilli fruits; the milder varieties tend to fruit first from June onwards and then the hotter varieties start to fruit from August. Once we pick the fruits, they are then processed fresh in our on-site kitchen; made into sauce or preserves, or dried and smoked and then made into product or stored for use later in the year.
What does it mean to be a small batch producer?
Being a small batch producer is one of the most important parts of our business as it means that we can maintain a high quality of flavour and texture consistency of our chilli jams, jellies and sauces. The same is true of our chilli chocolates which are made handmade using a palette knife to create thin slabs/wafers rather than poured into identical square moulds.
How does your brand philosophy reflect sustainable practice?
Our “Seed to Sauce” philosophy means that our chillies are grown and processed here on the farm and allows us to showcase unusual chilli varieties and unique sauces without any food miles involved in this part of our production and also means we can offer low food miles for our UK customers. We use biological controls to manage pests to support a healthy ecosystem without harming bees and other beneficial insects. All of our preserves and sauces and most of our chocolates are vegan friendly and gluten free and we do not use artificial additives in any of our products. We create compost from and recycle our food waste as well as recycling any packaging that we cannot reuse.
Our award-winning chilli goodies range from mild to extreme and lots in between.
What defines the quality of your products?
Our products quality is defined by being made on-site in small batches with only natural ingredients and the use of unique blends of our own Devon-grown chillies.
How does the surrounding countryside influence your creations?
The mild climate and varied wildlife in the surrounding countryside allow us to grow over 200 varieties of chilli in a wide range of heats and flavours which means we can create some very unique flavour combinations.
How do you come up with your flavours?
We do lot of tasting and adjusting for flavour and chilli heat when we invent our products and select appropriate chillies based upon their flavour profile, for example: our Habanero varieties are very hot but have wonderful fruity notes; Aji Limon chillies have citrus notes when fresh and hints of banana when dried; Jalapenos have a clean green flavour when fresh but are the best variety to be smoked and dried, to create the classic Chipotle chilli flavour.
Lastly, why did you choose to partner with Liberty?
We were very excited to be asked to produce for Liberty as we already knew it as a very high-quality brand with a hugely varied customer base from around the world; we love to introduce people to new chilli flavours and demonstrate that chilli isn’t just about heat, so partnering with Liberty was a great opportunity to showcase our unique chilli products made with UK-grown chillies to a wider audience.