When Pandora Martin rediscovered a forgotten chilli plant at the back of her greenhouse, little did she know that this would be the start of a spicy chilli affair!
After being brought into the house and receiving some TLC, the chilli plant blossomed beautifully. Pandora began making flakes out of the pods and carefully nurtured the seeds until they became little plants boasting fiery chillies.
It was at that moment Pandora realised she was hooked.
Pandora bought 15 varieties of chilli seeds and set to work growing chilli plants. After a good spring and summer growing chillies, Pandora had accumulated quite a crop, ready for eating.
The next step for Pandora was to share her organic home grown chillies with other chilli lovers, and by September 2014 she had secured her first place at a local farmers market. Chilli Affair UK was also a finalist at The Kent Women in Business Awards 2015.
We are now delighted to welcome Pandora and her chillies to Ashford Farmers’ Market as a guest trader. We caught up with Pandora to find out more.
Pandora moved from London to Kent with her young family over twenty years ago and spent many years running restaurants where her love of food and growing plants grew. Her love of sewing and jewellery-making has also enabled her to create colourful chilli inspired creations for Chilli Affair.
So Pandora, what first inspired you to grow chillies?
“I was inspired to grow chillies after receiving a chilli plant as a gift from a friend a couple of years ago. I began reading up on chillies and discovered that there were many different species, colours, strengths of heat and shapes of chilli. What’s more, I found out they are hugely beneficial for your health.
“I ordered just a few seeds and as they say, the rest is history!”
What do you love most about growing and nurturing chillies?
“I enjoy the peace and tranquility of working outside with my plants. Each chillli plant variety is so different so watching them develop and grow is a thrill.”
Where do you grow all of Chilli Affair’s produce?
“All my plants are grown at home from seeds, and they are everywhere; in the garden, the greenhouse, the driveway and even the roof! My long suffering husband jokingly calls himself a chilli widower!”
Can you describe a typical day for you at Chilli Affair?
“My typical day starts early. I water the plants and check each one; this can take up to a couple of hours. Of course, it does depend on the weather too. If it is a very warm, dry day, the plants will need more attention.
“When it comes to harvesting the chillies, this can be a busy time. Ripe fruits should be picked straight away as this allows for the remaining fruit to mature. Picking the chilies can be quite challenging as they all mature at different times.”
Do particular chillies work best in making certain products?
“Ristras, one of my specialities, are thin, skinned chilies which look fantastic when they have been dried and strung. Only thin skinned chillies like these can be used in this way.”
You’ve recently been trading at Ashford Farmers’ Market. What do you like most about our market?
“I thoroughly enjoy taking my chillies to the Ashford Farmers’ Market because there is a great atmosphere between the traders and the customers. The management of the stalls and the layout of the market works well too.