Chilli Fiesta

Photo © West Dean 2013

It’s always good to spend time at West Dean, six miles north of Chichester. This time my excuse was revisiting the Chilli Fiesta which had just taken place. It’s part of an annual feast of food events, which marries up brilliantly with the food and gardening courses at the College.

These days the fiesta has grown into a day of fun for all the family. You can even camp there now. Everyone is catered for. For the foody who comes just for the chillis, there is an embarrassment of sauces, pickles, jams and anything else that chilli can be put into. But there are also craft stalls and other food specialists plying their wares. It’s all a riot of colour, smells and fun.

Hunger pangs were easily assuaged. The problem was what to chose. We ended up with burritos and the kiddies portion - just £1 - was plenty for me. Three bars kept thirst at bay. I sampled the Westdini cocktail, created specially for the occasion; a mix of Stolichnaya hot, Monin apple pie syrup, lime and apple juice. It kept me going for a while!

I just had to go round the gardens and glasshouses yet again. They are stunning; a bit overblown perhaps because it’s nearing the season of mellow fruitfulness. But the butterflies and bees were having a ball. The dahlias were especially stunning. In the vintage glasshouses 150 varieties of chilli were being grown as well as other fruit and vegetables. I felt as if I’d stepped back in time.

So much more to do - Latin dancing to watch, cookery demos, wine tasting. You can’t get bored here and I’ll be back for the next major food event. I.C.

The next ‘Garden’ event Grow! Cook! Eat! takes place 5 – 6 October. Visit

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