Kiwis urged to grow own chillies after prices hit over $120kg in South Island supermarket

Kiwis are being urged to grow their own chillies after prices of the fruit hit more than $100 per kilogram in some New Zealand supermarkets.

A post to Reddit on Thursday revealed red chillies and green chillies at Pak'nSave Queenstown were priced at an "everyday low" $120.99 per kg.

"I'll be living a spicy free life for a while," the post says.

Commenters expressed outrage at the price, calling it "super expensive".

"This is great. Giving up chilies will save you way more than giving up latte's or avocado toast, New house, here we come," one person joked.

Another person commented that a few weeks ago they bought chillies for $100 per kg at a Christchurch supermarket which they said was also a "rip off".

The chillies in the Pak'nSave Queenstown.
The chillies in the Pak'nSave Queenstown. Photo credit: Reddit

Antoinette Laird, the head of corporate affairs at Foodstuffs, which owns Pak'nSave, explained chilli peppers come into season in summer, similar to tomatoes and salad greens.

"To ensure a continuous supply for fresh chilli lovers when they're out of season, NZ growers cultivate them in undercover hothouses - which makes it more expensive to produce them at this time of the year," she explained.

"A little fresh chilli goes a long way in any dish and they're usually purchased in single digits, so while the price per kilo when they're out of season may seem surprising, it's not unusual for the colder months."

Gardening expert Kate Hillier says Kiwis should consider growing their own chillies, which is much more cost-effective.

"Considering the price of chillies right now, absolutely I would recommend growing your own chillies from seed – it's not hard," she told Newshub.

"Let's do the maths.  If we take Yates Long Red Cayenne as an example – which has 50 seeds in each pack. Recommended retail pricing is $3.98 per packet.  

"Each pack can grow up to 50 little chilli plants, and that's only 8 cents per chilli plant!  Obviously each plant then flowers and each flower turns into a chilli.  A pretty cost-effective way to enjoy eating chillies."

She says other benefits of growing your own include that they taste better, and you can get more variety.

"They range from mild peppery flavours to brilliant red mouth-burning tongue twisters!   Yates (one of the largest seed suppliers in NZ) has at least 5 different chilli varieties on the market – but the top three would be Habanero (an intensely hot chilli, rated 100,000 – 350,000 on the Scoville height scale), Long Red Cayenne (perfect everyday chilli to add a spicy zest to salads, stir-fries, soups, pickles and salsas) and Jwala (a green chilli, also known as Indian Finger Hot Pepper, a great all-rounder for Indian cooking)."

Hillier says chillis are also "easy" to take care of.

"Choose a good quality seed raising mix, now is the perfect time of year to plant seeds, ideally into pots and then (expert tip coming) sit them in a warm spot to ensure germination. For example direct sun with clingfilm over the top - they love it hot.  

"Oh and remember to wear gloves when handling seeds – even the seeds can be irritating to eyes and sensitive skin."