101 Chillies to Try Before You Die by David Floyd is a book that came out in mid 2016. David is something of a legend in the UK Chilli Scene. It’s probably fair to say that he was instrumental in bringing a lot of the “chilli” things we take for granted today to the forefront. David is also one of the original members of the now defunct Chile Foundry website, one of the first chilli sites I bookmarked. I’m guessing I’m not the only one to do that.
101 Chillies to Try Before You Die is David’s way of bringing some chillies that you might not have tried to your attention. Indeed when my youngest daughter saw the book she exclaimed “There are 101 types of Chillies?”. Despite seeing how many different types I’ve grown in the very short amount of time I’ve been growing.
The world obviously needs educating in this. And I need to have words with my Daughter.
The book itself comes in a satisfying hard cover, at a satisfying price. It can be picked up for around £9.99 from most good book sellers, there is also an Amazon Kindle / Google Play edition at a slightly discounted price.
As you’d expect it starts off with a small introduction into the world of chillies. The varying different species of plants and gives you a glossary of terms you can expect to find in the book. Ideal for both the novice and seasoned chilli head, really. 101 Chillies to Try Before You Die has something for everyone.
One of the things that I instantly liked about this book is, it’s not just for people seeking heat. It starts off at the lower end of the Scoville Scale and works it’s way up. Most people think “chilli” and think “heat” or “spice” but that simply isn’t the case, there are many varieties of chilli that aren’t hot at all. And that’s a good thing as well to read about as well.
While I would never claim to know everything there is to know about chillies, I was surprised to learn how much I didn’t know. Like most people, I’m aware that the common Bell Pepper is a member of the chilli family but is rated zero on the Scoville scale. I thought this was the only one, but the first page of the list introduces a new one to me, the Jimmy Nardello Chilli.
That’s me ordering a cup of “Shut the hell up” then. Good start.
Each chilli on the list gets its own page and corresponding picture. On each page is a short description of the chilli. Again right at the beginning of the book I learn of a chilli called “Zavory” which is an attempt to retain the flavours of my favourite kind of chilli, the Habanaero, whilst taking out the heat. That’s an idea I can get behind when trying to convince people to try chillies for a start!
The book goes on to list similar chillies that I’d not heard of, all right down at the bottom of the Scoville Scale. In fact we get to number 11 on the list before things start getting familiar, that being Anaheim.
Not every chilli included in the book is a true chilli. Chilli #25 – Sport Pepper, it’s explained that this is more of a form of chilli found in Chicago mainly. It’s an interesting diversion and it’s even explained how to make your own version should you wish.
The description of each chilli on the page varies in length. Some chillies are just more interesting than others I guess. Of course, more is known on origins of some species of others and so this can’t be helped. It is a little disappointing to land on a “favourite” and learn nothing new.
Also included on the page is other information that you may find useful, descriptions of pods in case the accompanying picture isn’t enough. You also get some info on if it is easy to grow or not. Which seed suppliers are known to hold stock (although I imagine this information will get out of date sooner, rather than later). If a chilli is known by different names then there is also a little section on this. Finally if there is more common usage for them this is also given a mention.
I quickly found myself opening up the book at random pages and then moving on from there. It’s not necessarily a book I’d read from cover to cover beyond the introduction pages but I’ve probably read it all anyway.
It’s not a perfect book, I did find certain things I didn’t like. The first problem I have with the book was Chilli #14 – Peppadew™ Piquanté Pepper. The “™” part of that name should provide some clue. The description of the Chilli starts off with the words “The Pepperdew™ Piquanté Pepper is one of the few peppers for which you can not officially buy seeds nor even grow your own plants.”
As a grower of chillies that is very disappointing to read. It had crossed my mind several times that I might try and source all 101 seeds from the book and use it as a theme for a grow one year. And, if you think about it the majority of the chillies in the book aren’t going to be found by visiting your supermarket or local shop, you’re only really going to get to try these things if you grow them yourself; so it’s more aimed at chilli growers I’d have said.
Of course, that’s not Mr. Floyds fault, this is 101 Chillies to Try Before You Die and not 101 Chillies to Grow Before You Die. And of course unlike the other chillies, Pepperdew™ Piquanté Peppers aren’t hard to find in Supermarkets. But, still.
My next problem with the book starts at Chilli #3: Spike & Joker. Can you see that the problem is? Yes, TWO chillies, one page. So, we’re at 102 Chillies to Try Before You Die and we’ve barely got started.
Chilli #32 is even worse, NuMex Sunrise, Sunset and Eclipse. Three! But it doesn’t stop there, it happens a couple of times. Chilli #65 is Tepin and Pequin. Chilli #70 is Turtle Claw and Submarine. Chilli #86 is Devil’s Tongue, both Yellow and Red. Chilli #90 is Bubblegum 7 and Borg 9.
Mr. Floyd does go onto explain his reasons for this; Turtle Claw and Submarine are basically the same, but Submarine has been developed for commercial reasons. Bubblegum 7 and Borg 9 share a page because they where both created by the same person, Jon Harper.
So more like 108 Chillies to Try Before You Die. Not exactly as catchy, I guess. I feel it’s a little bit of a cheat. Or, I’m being too pedantic about it. I can’t decide which.
The inclusion of the Seed Suppliers is also a very nice touch. I’d heard of most of them but there was a couple I hadn’t, I’ve no doubt I’ll be looking at those in more detail when I come to ordering seeds this year.
Little niggles aside though I’m very glad to own a copy of this book. It’s entertaining to read and informative to boot. It’s written in a casual way, almost as though you’re sat talking with someone, which is something I enjoy. There isn’t a lot of science to get your head around and if you don’t understand something then you can refer to the key terms placed at the start of the book.
101 Chillies to Try Before You Die deserves a place on any ones book shelf who is even remotely interested in chillies. You can pick it up and learn something on almost every page, it’s entertaining to read and that is what a good book should be like.