The chilli whisperer – Carol Wheeler interviewed

July 20, 2023

In the second part of his very hot trilogy PAT PILCHER interviews chilli expert Carol Wheeler the questions you want answered.


I caught up with NZ’s chilli expert Carol Wheeler – who has been cultivating and selling chillies for over a decade – to pick her brains about all things chilli-related. Carol’s company Chilli Patch grows an amazing variety of chillis.

Pat Pilcher – Okay, so I have to ask this, what got you into chillis in the first place?

Carol Wheeler – I got into chillies because I felt there was a market for them and not

enough grown in NZ of the different varieties like in Mexico and other

parts of the world.

Pat – I feel your pain! It’s so good to have NZ-grown poblanos and chipotle! You must have a huge amount of chillis growing?

Carol – I now have 12,000 plants in but in the past I have had up to 24,000.

Pat – Holy smokes! That’s a LOT of chilli! Do you import any?

Carol – Nope I don’t.

Pat – Mexico has dozens of different chilli varieties. What are the differences between some of the different chillis you distribute?

Carol – The heat and taste. Every chilli has a different flavour and heat.

Pat – I reckon! Do you have a favourite chilli dish? What is it?

Carol – My favourite is really simple, its a poblano split in half lightly cooked and then put rice in the middle and then grill it with bacon bits and cheese.

Pat – Okay I’m salivating! What about hot sauces? Any favourites?

Carol – There are many hot sauces but I like my own made with habanero or Carolina reaper.

Pat – Is it true that people gradually build up a  tolerance to chillis?

Carol – Yes it is true that people grow tolerant to chillis. There are many medical articles written about it in various medical journals.

Pat – Do you have any recommendations for Kiwis wanting to try more hot food but have a low tolerance to chilli heat?

Carol – Try a little, your tongue will soon tell you if it is too hot.

Pat  – What should someone do if their mouth is on fire after eating a particularly hot chilli?

Carol – Find some milk or yoghurt, that soon cools you down.

Pat – Do chillis have health benefits?

Carol – Chillis have enormous health benefits. Improves digestive health and metabolism. It also fights fungal infections, cold and flu and it can provide joint pain relief. It also supports cardiovascular health and can decrease the risk of type 2 Diabetes

Pat – Are chillis addictive? (Stupid question, I know, but I’m hooked on ‘em!)

Carol – Yes chillis can be very addictive.

Pat – What chilli would you recommend to people who’re afraid of chillis?

Carol – My favourite is poblano, but most people like the red cayenne.

Pat – What’s the hottest chilli you’ve ever tried?

Carol – Caroline reaper, I tried a little.

Pat – Chillis don’t actually burn though, right? How does their heat work?

Carol – It’s a result of the body considering the stimulus of the chilli to be a real burn.

Pat – There are so many different types of chilli. What are the most common ones available in NZ?

Carol – The most common ones in NZ are red and green cayenne birds-eye jalapeño

and the generic habanero .

Pat – You do a smoked chilli, which tastes incredible. What sort of chilli is it and how do you go about giving it that wonderful smokey flavour?

Carol – The smoked  chilli is chipotle, which is jalapeño smoked and ancho, which is poblano smoked. It’s done in a commercial smoker with a manuka wood.



Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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