Wood carving artist Medina started growing chillies in his Tahíche home six years ago, now he supplies local Indian, Mexican and Italian restaurants
He says he started out of curiosity. ‘I’m interested in many things, I love spicy food and one day I found myself looking for seeds and growing chillies in my garden in Tahíche. Well, I’ve got a farming background and have been involved in farming since I was eight years old.’
It’s a plant that typically grows in hot, arid countries,’ Medina explains. ‘That’s why it does so well in Lanzarote. But it requires a great deal of care, like pruning, sulphating, a lot of watering and it is very sensitive to soil type, water quality, parasites and so on. Also, every four years I have to replant with new seeds, so I hunt around and bring them back from my various travels. Others are given to me as souvenirs and some I exchange with friends”.
Francisco supplies to lots of local restaurants including several Indian, Mexican and Italian establishments which use them for their sauces and pizzas. ‘Sales are enough to cover watering every three days and little more. Even so, the plants are generous, yielding about five harvests a year.’
He grows different varieties including, ‘the two native to Lanzarote, which are used to make mojo and garlic prawns; two from Tenerife, which are more similar to cayenne.’ And exotic varieties, too, he explains, ‘the Indian restaurants only buy green tree chilli from me, specifically the green variety as they say that the red is bad for your stomach. It’s not just the Mexican restaurants that want fleshy and very hot green Jalapeños; they’re a popular request in general and I even have a client in Arrecife who asks for the Yellow Habanero chilli, which is extremely spicy – about ten times hotter than Cayenne!’
Other varieties Francisco grows in his chilli garden are the Mexican Dog’s tooth chilli, the Pasilla, the Chilaca and the Guajillo as well as the Chilean green Cristal pepper and the South Americans Ají pepper. However, ‘the most popular by far are the Jalapeños, including local varieties and green tree chilli.’ Of all the different chillies he grows the most gourmet variety are the Yellow Habanero and the Jalapeño which he sells for approximately twenty euros per kilo.
‘At the end of the day, I do it for the love it, not to make money. At this point in my life I want to live, travel, and keep discovering new things … And growing chillies is one of those things!’ he concludes.