Just outside Ceres, a pretty village a few miles from Cupar, you’ll find Briery Hall, home to Chillilicious, Britain’s most northerly chilli farm. The family run business produces handmade chutneys, preserves and beautiful chilli-related artwork from their two and a half acres, and plans for the future see them turning up the heat in this corner of Fife.
The Galfskiy family were looking for somewhere to set down roots when they came across Briery Farm five years ago. Chillilicious began in 2010 when mum Patricia Galfskiy had the idea of turning her hobby of making chutneys as gifts for family and friends into a business. The Galfskiys always loved cooking and experimenting with flavours and spice, and now had space to grow more of their own chilli plants.
They started with a range of four products, three chutneys (mango and apple, apple and pear and red pepper) and a picallilli, all handmade in the family kitchen using Patricia’s own recipes and fresh ingredients. With a background in art and design, daughter Stacey came on board to develop the branding, website and a range of her handmade glassworks made from recycled glass right there on the farm.
Like many small businesses, Chillilicious began trading at local craft fairs and markets, and then attending the many chilli fairs taking place up and down the UK. They swiftly realised the business had potential when they began selling out at events and hearing feedback from regular satisfied customers.
Lead by customer demand, they have since expanded from one to two and a half acres and two poly-tunnels, growing 1000 plants a season. They’ve introduced new products too, including a chilli jam and new glass art from chopping boards to jewellery which are collected by chilli enthusiasts across the country. Chillilicious now have over 30 stockists in the UK, and continue to attend fairs, workshops and events continuing to build relationships with their customers.
The focus for Chillilicious is on flavour, not heat. Stacey’s passionate about changing people’s perceptions of chillies as just heat and nothing else. “It’s not about being able to eat the hottest chilli or chilli sauce you can stand, but about enjoying the different flavours. Just a small amount of chilli can really bring out the flavour of other ingredients, working with them and not against.
40 varieties of chillies are grown on the farm, from the common “Apache” to the “Vampire Chilli” which turns a deep red colour to the spiral shaped “Bangladeshi Whippet’s Tail”. All are grown without pesticides; the Galfskiys are committed to biodiversity using natural predators to tackle pests such as aphids on the farm. Since moving there they’ve reinstated the old mill pond and seen a huge growth in wildlife as a result. They’re also looking at small scale renewables with solar panels and potential for underground heat sources, hydro-electric and wind power in the future
Chillilicious is a local enterprise, with a strong ethos on supporting other businesses and organisations across the food network in Fife. They use a local fruit and vegetable wholesaler to supply the rest of the ingredients used in their condiments. A partnership with Elmwood College in Cupar has seen student chefs creating recipes using Chillilicious products with the winners featuring on customer recipe cards. Collaborations with other local producers have brought new products into the range including oatcakes from a local baker, and chilli chocolate created in partnership with Fisher and Donaldson.
This sustainable growth for Chillilicious has been assisted by Business Gateway and the Fife Development Fund, as well as organic growth through quality products and a loyal customer base. Stacey is seeing more and more people becoming aware of buying local produce, and supporting businesses like Chillilicious. Says Stacey “They’re more interested to see what’s on the label. People like that it’s all natural, real ingredients made with chillies grown here in Fife and no unnatural additives or preservatives.”
As the face of Chillilicious, Stacey loves interacting with the public, continuing to convert them to the wonders of chillies at events across Scotland this year. It’s at the heart of their plans for development and expansion, with a new visitors area set to open on the farm this summer. Comprising a gift shop and gallery and a new artist’s workshop for Stacey, it will also include a bigger kitchen to allow them to increase production and employ two members of staff. There are plans for new products including a range of chilli fudge and new look branding to complement the growing business. A PYO poly-tunnel for visitors to pick chillies of all kinds to cook with at home is in the works, giving chilli-lovers another reason to visit this spicy part of the world.
This summer will see the third year for Chillilicious at the Crail Food Festival. Along with chutneys, chocolates, artwork and chilli plants they will also be hosting a children’s jam workshop as part of the programme of events at the festival.
Stacey’s Chilli growing tips
Hotter varieties need a warmer constant temperature to germinate from seed. For best results buy plug plants which are established.
Most chilli varieties will grow happily in our varied Scottish climate, in pots or raised beds. Keep them well fed with a seaweed or tomato feed. We use our own called ‘Chilli Focus’, available online.
Avoid pesticides by encouraging wildlife into your garden as natural predators. A small pond or a ‘bug house’ will help. We recently ordered some ladybirds online to control the aphids which are bad this year.
Chilli plants can last over the winter. Even if it looks faded after fruiting the plant will survive if the roots are still alive, so look after it to enjoy a second crop the following year.