Culley sources his chillies from two New Zealand growers, The Chilli & Capsicum Co and The Curious Croppers.
The Chilli & Capsicum Co
Troy Matthews of The Chilli & Capsicum Co in Ohoka, near Kaiapoi north of Christchurch supplies the bulk of Chris’ chillies. The Ohoka chilli and capsicum grower has chillies in his salads, sandwiches, vodka, chocolate and in his icecream. As with most Kiwis, Matthews was a reluctant chilli eater at the start and his mother, Marion, who runs the Chilli and Capsicum Company with him at a 3000-square-metre greenhouse, and his wife, Lisa, rarely touch them.
The thermometer rises to 42 degrees Celsius in the greenhouse where the temperature is regulated by a thermostat, with roof vents opening and closing to the changing weather patterns.
The greenhouse was built by Matthews’ grandfather, Gerrit Vantveen, initially to grow flowers in a business between Marion and her sister. But flowers proved a hard sell and they moved to capsicums.
Matthews was a school leaver in 2000 when he came to the growing operation, intending to be there for a short duration. He now co-owns the business. When Matthews heard that someone was prepared to sell the Chilli Company label it was bought by Vantveen … that was six years ago and they have been growing chillies since.
Chillies provide a nice balance to their greenhouse production. More growers were taking on the milder capsicums and the Matthewses saw a market opening for chillies. Capsicums still form the bulk of the business, with 8500 plants bedded into small, sawdust-filled bags, and 2000 bags planted in chillies.
The Curious Croppers
The Curious Croppers – growers of ‘cranky but gorgeous vegetables’ – owned by Anthony and Angela Tringham have a stall right next to the Culley’s stall at the Clevedon Markets and their hothouses are nearby in Clevedon.
The Tringhams are genuinely enthusiastic about the produce they grow, and very discerning about what they sell. “Everything is picked when it’s bursting with ripeness, flavour and colour”. They grow all kinds of tomatoes and they also have what they call “the playhouse”, a hothouse where they test-grow produce from seed, and it’s here that you’ll find Chris’ chilli plants. They have been experimenting with growing chillies specifically for Chris, including the infamous Trinidad Scorpion and another of the hottest peppers in the world the Bhut Jolokia, grown for Culley’s Bhut Jolokia Hot Sauce.