The heat is on at Wimborne St Giles

WHATEVER the weather, the eighth annual Great Dorset Chilli Festival, on 27th and 28th July, in the grounds of St Giles House, Wimborne St Giles, is sure to be the hottest weekend of the summer.

The specialist food festival celebrates the increasingly popular world of chilli peppers, from growing chilli plants and sampling chilli sauces, to enjoying spicy international street food and of course watching the chilli eating competition.

However it’s not just about chillies – there is plenty of other food and drink, tradestands from hand-painted ceramics to jewellery, garden ironwork to beautifully crafted wooden chopping boards.

The Great Dorset Chilli Festival team has once again joined forces with the UK Chilli Cook-off Association to create Dorset’s regional heat of the national chilli competition, on the Sunday 29th.  Teams have four hours to cook a gallon of chilli-con-carne from scratch, using their own combination of ingredients and spices.  The winner goes forward to the national finals, with the national winner competing in Alabama, in the chilli class of the World Food Championships.

Green fingered chilli lovers have been nurturing their chilli plants for months, ahead of the annual Chilli Plant Competition on Saturday 28th. Amateur growers are welcome to enter their plants in either the open class or the Purple Haze variety class, exclusively for specimens of this striking purple-fruited chilli.

For many visitors, the highlight of the day is the Chilli Eating Competition which tests the limits of even the most hardened chilli-heads. Competitors subject themselves to rounds of increasingly hot chillies, which they have to consume in their entirety before they progress to the next round.  The last man or woman standing will be crowned the winner.

For those who like it hot, but don’t want an audience, the Chilli Sauce Tasting Tent will be the ideal destination.  Professional producers will be going head-to-head to discover who creates the best chilli sauces, chilli jam and spicy chutney, and it’s up to the public to decide! A blind tasting will give visitors a flavour for what is on offer to try and buy from the many stall holders.

Family entertainment throughout the weekend includes falconry flying displays, horse and carriage rides and performances by Alfredo the Magician and a programme of live music and bands each day.

Whether you want it hot – Mexican, Thai or Caribbean – or cool with Purbeck Ice Cream there is something for all tastes.

Expect plenty of choice with this year’s chilli harvest – chilli farmer Alex Duck, of Upton Cheyney Chilli Farm, says: “A very grey, chilly winter resulted in a slow start to our chilli farming year. Following germination the seedlings struggled to grow to the sizes that we’ve experienced in previous years. Fortunately, nature has a way of redressing the balance and the past month’s heat-wave has seen the plants accelerate into very healthy specimens that should yield a good harvest for our 10th year in the business.”