Chilli farm set for sec­ond big fes­ti­val

Chilli choco­late, chilli beer and chilli ice cream just the start

The Western Star - - RURAL WEEKLY - ME­GAN MAS­TERS me­gan.mas­ters@thechron­i­

WHEN Lynne Seaton-An­der­son was given some chilli seeds to plant on her 14ha prop­erty at Mur­phys Creek, she had no idea it would be such a life changer.

As it turned out, the sand­stone flats around the prop­erty made the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment to grow a flour­ish­ing crop of chem­i­cal-free chillis.

Each year she har­vested her own seeds to re-plant and the only hitch along the way was the 2011 floods, which were fol­lowed up by a fur­ther wash-out in 2012.

After learn­ing from that mis­take and chang­ing the lo­ca­tion of the crop, she and son Ja­son O’Con­nor never looked back.

The only real ques­tion was what to do with a chilli that had an aw­ful lot of heat, but no flavour.

Mrs Seaton had the per­fect an­swer: use it to make de­li­cious chilli choco­late.

She worked on per­fect­ing the recipe and cre­ated a brand name from an old fam­ily joke. Seaton­fire chilli choco­late was born, though Mr O’Con­nor said sur­pris­ingly few peo­ple got the pun.

But de­spite hav­ing a bit of a laugh over the name, Mr O’Con­nor said their aim was never to burn peo­ple’s bums off, but rather give the taste­buds a tin­gle.

He said plenty of peo­ple who weren’t big chilli eaters were de­lighted to try the wares (and sur­vive to tell the tale).

The duo bought the prop­erty 25 years ago, started grow­ing chillis 15 years ago and mak­ing the chilli choco­late 10 years ago.

When it seemed like there were no fur­ther ways to put more jobs on their al­ready full plates, the idea for host­ing Queens­land’s only chilli fes­ti­val popped up.

Mr O’Con­nor said it was a sim­ple case of hav­ing done the cir­cuit through New South Wales and Vic­to­ria so many times they got tired of trav­el­ling so far to show­case their fas­ci­nat­ing wares.

Last year they held the in­au­gu­ral Mur­phy’s Creek Chilli Fes­ti­val and it was such a mas­sive suc­cess they grew it ex­po­nen­tially this year.

They couldn’t have picked a bet­ter time, with this year’s hot and dry con­di­tions giv­ing the crop ex­actly what it needed un­like most crops across Queens­land.

“The chillis love it,” Mr O’Con­nor said.

“The more heat the bet­ter, so the plants are thriv­ing and fruit is form­ing and they’ll be pick­able ear­lier than most years.”

He said the only prob­lem apart from the odd pest in­va­sion was black frost, but the con­di­tions at Mur­phys Creek were pretty per­fect.

Most pest in­cur­sions could be beaten back with a spray-on mix­ture of chilli and gar­lic.

They de­cided not to bother with or­ganic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, in­stead re­as­sur­ing cus­tomers that no chem­i­cals had been used on the prop­erty in more than 20 years.

Even the rose­mary and lime used in the choco­late bars was grown on the prop­erty with­out the use of chem­i­cals.

Each year they car­ried out a mix­ture of plant­ing new seedlings and prun­ing back older plants, with most of the es­tab­lished plants sur­viv­ing a num­ber of years.

The yield from each plant even in­creased with each pass­ing year.

“The sec­ond and third years

HOT STUFF: Lynne Seaton-An­der­son and her son Ja­son O’Con­nor with some of Seaton­fire’s finest prod­ucts.

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