Chilli power


May 29, 2014

Over a meal of quinoa salad and parsnips, we talk about the latest fascination encapsulating the household – chillies.

Jason Carle, pictured, and his partner Toni Williams have more than 40 types of chillies growing in their front yard in the Rockingham suburb of Warnbro.

Mr Carle says he wanted a distraction when he gave up smoking, so he started growing chillies. He’d always love spicy food, so why not grow them himself?

The hobby turned to obsession. His kids started calling him a ‘Bunnings junkie’ because he would come home with a new type of chilli most times he visited the hardware chain.

He found Perth stores, including Bunnings and Masters had begun to sell more variety of chillies, but still his curiosity ventured further than the types those outlets carried.

Included in his chilli mix is the world’s hottest chilli − The Carolina Reaper.

Originating in South Carolina, the Reaper rates about 1.6 million on the Scoville Heat Unit which is the main measure used to rate a chilli’s spiciness. Tabasco sauce, by comparison, is about 1200 SHU.

The next exotic chilli on Mr Carle’s wish list is the Pink Tiger, which is pink and black in colour.

His favourite chillies are the Lemon Drops that are pale yellow in colour and have a citrus flavour.

Another favourite is the classic Habanero. Although he grows the spiciest chillies, Mr Carle prefers to enjoy the flavour of the chilli rather than be wiped out by the spice.

“I wanna keep my tastebuds,” he says.

The chillies he grows originate from around the world including Peru, Trinidad, in particular Moruga, India, China, Thailand and Mexico.

Murdoch University food studies lecturer, Felicity Newman, told InkWire that more people were growing their own produce because it was fashionable and sustainable.

She said people were eating and experimenting with the produce they grew themselves.

“We have an English heritage but we are situated close to Asia, so no wonder we invented fusion cuisine,” she said.

Dr Newman said the home cook was becoming obsolete, so the people who indulged in gardening and cooking were doing so because it was a genuinely hobby.

Ms Williams says she and Mr Carle dry and freeze their chillies so they last longer. Another trick to making the chillies last longer is to pickle them.

The two use their chillies in almost every meal, except in tonight’s feed, funnily enough.

“[The cooking process has inadvertently] chilli bombed the house before,” Ms Williams says.

“It’s funny because Jason is yelling ‘moderation, moderation!’

“We now know what pepper spray would feel like.”

Mr Carle and Ms Williams were astounded by how much exotic chillies sold for at their local green grocer.

Four or five Habaneros would cost about $6, while a bag of 10 Habenero seeds costs between $3 and $8 on eBay.

“Grandad jokes around a lot,” Ms Williams says.

“He sees a chilli lying on the ground and he says ‘that’s 30 bucks right there’.”

Mr Carle and Ms Williams send me home with a bag of chillies, seeds to plant and a jar of their homemade sauce. The Habaneros were bloody hot!

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