Tamworth Chilli Temple chillihead Chris Roberts' backyard obsession grew out of hand

RED HOT: Tamworth Chilli Temple chillihead Chris Roberts. Photo: Gareth Gardner
RED HOT: Tamworth Chilli Temple chillihead Chris Roberts. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Chris Roberts puts chilli on his icecream.

An orange habanero piqued his interest 15 years ago and quickly snowballed into a red hot backyard obsession.

Now, he’s got at least 65 varieties and more than 400 chilli plants in his otherwise unassuming backyard in South Tamworth.

“It’s a hobby that’s sort of got out of hand a bit,” he said.

At 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units, the Carolina Reaper is recognised as the hottest chilli in the world.

Chris reckons his Monster Naga is hotter.

“It burns the shit out of you for 20 minutes but afterwards you get a very peaceful feeling, like a euphoria,” he said.

“I don’t know if that’s the chilli or the six to eight beers you have to drink to put the fire out.

“As a breeder you get your name up in lights for a few years, but as someone who just likes eating them I make a few silly videos myself, I’ll eat a full super hot.”

Referred to as The Pepper Wars among chilliheads, to the general population it’s just called madness.

Chilli plants self-pollinate, so Chris has been busy doctoring his own breeds for the last couple of years that he names himself.

The plants stand in almost militant uniformity, the Purple People Eater beside the Orange Serendipity, aptly named “because it was a happy error”.

A solid plasterer by day, Chris has six children, an incredibly mild personality and sometimes plays classical music to the chilli’s.

He tried heavy metal but they didn’t like it as much.

“I would imagine with heavy metal there’d be more density of vibrations in the air that they may not like, while classical is softer,” he said.

“Unless you go to one of my favourite, the 18/12 overture.

“If I notice something is wrong I might have a chat [with the chilli’s], but I generally don’t go ‘round having conversations with the garden – then I will know I’m going nuts.”

You can catch Chris and the Tamworth Chilli Temple plants at the Saturday markets at Tamworth Regional Playground.