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Do You Know a Hong Kong Hot from a Voilet Cayenne or a Cherry Bomb?

Date: 07/09/2004 | Posted by John Garton
If the closest you’ve ever got to a chili is a Jalapeno or a Birds Eye then let Jersey’s largest commercial pepper grower explain more about the hot and spicy properties of this potent fruit. Graham Le Lay and his son Mark, who are members of the Genuine Jersey Products Association (GJPA), will be giving a guided tour through the glasshouses at GJ Growers Limited in St Ouen as part of events to celebrate ‘A Taste of Jersey in Autumn’ (September 11th – September 19th).

The walk will take place on Tuesday, September 14th, at 10am as part of Jersey Tourism’s week-long programme of events. Visitors will be shown first hand around this high-tech business and will learn how more than 49,000 pepper plants are grown, harvested and packed to end up on our supermarket shelves or exported to two of the UK’s leading supermarkets.

Mark Le Lay says: “Not many people know how peppers are grown on a commercial basis and we are delighted we can give visitors the opportunity to find out more. As well as the conventional peppers, long sweet peppers and baby peppers we grow we also produce a small quantity of chilies which are sold in the local supermarkets.”

“In recent years people have become much more interested in finding out where their food comes from and as a local producer we hope this educational tour will show both wholesale and retail customers the benefits of buying fresh locally grown products”.

As well as being a local supplier, GJ Growers exports 90 percent of its peppers to Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer’s supermarkets.

The pepper plants are trained to grow along strings which are suspended from the ceilings of the glasshouses. When they are fully grown the plants reach ten feet high. The temperature is kept at a constant 26 degrees Celsius throughout the day and the plants are electronically fed with a natural fertilizer which contains essential nutrients and is made on the premises.

Mark says: “We use bumblebees to pollinate and we control pests biologically so that we grow the most environmentally friendly peppers that we can. We do not use any pesticides at all. There are 100’s of bumble bees in the glass houses at any one time and the bees will pollinate over 2,500,000 flowers during the season.”

The average pepper takes sixty days to grow and all the fruit are grown to the same size and length. The fruit are handpicked using mechanical trolleys, which enable the farm workers to reach the full height of the plant.

The pepper season runs from the first week of March to the second week in November and once all the fruit has been harvested the plants are removed and stripped before they are used as a natural fertilizer on the surrounding fields.