Edible Ornamentals is a chilli farm, a chilli-inspired cafe and a chilli cookery school.
Owners Jo and Shawn Plumb bought Edible Ornamentals as a derelict garden nursery in June 2007. There were no chillies when they arrived, just dead plants and abandoned greenhouses. “It was like a ghost town,” says Jo, who had been growing chillies at her parents’ garden centre a few miles down the road. Jo caught the chilli bug in Texas, America, where she and Shawn lived after meeting in England when Shawn was stationed here with the US Airforce. On returning to the UK, they started cultivating chillies as a hobby.
Fast forward to present day and Edible Ornamentals now supplies chillies to retail and wholesale. Their on-site cafe, The Edible Kitchen, and cookery school, The Chilli Academy, are more recent additions, and you can also enjoy tours of the greenhouses. It also produces award-winning sauces and jams: we particularly like the Seville Orange Marmalade laced with chilli – perfect on breakfast toast.
Viewing the plants at Edible Ornamentals, their beauty is striking. To think of chillis as just hot misses the point, because they look brilliant and can easily be grown in the UK, too. The Numex Twilight for example – the inspiration behind this Bedfordshire farm’s name, being both edible and highly ornamental – is particularly attractive. It starts off purple, then turns yellow, orange and red. Around the growing houses there are also flashes of yellow, orange and brown among vibrant green leaves. The names are just as evocative as the colours: Serenade, Anaheim, Aurora, Apache, Orozco.
Edible Ornamentals is a wonderful church to the chilli!
By Philip Seaman & Matt Wright