20 things you didn’t know about chillies: Part 2

In a continuation of our Chilli trivia series before the arrival of the 20th West Dean Chilli Fiesta, we take a look at facts 9-14. We try to inspire some early Christmas cheer, as well as make you hot under the collar at the thought of some of the less cheery uses for chillies…

9. Feliz Navidad (watch Jose Feliciano's Latin Christmas anthem here)

Although it's a long way off, I love Christmas; the smell of roasted chestnuts in the air; the hordes of reindeer and penguin jumpers lining the streets and the happy shoppers underneath scrambling for the latest Michael Bublé album. But when you're setting up your Christmas tree in 6 months' time, don't forget the chillies!

In Mexico, the spiritual home of our favourite fiery fruit, coloured baubles, tinsel and fairy lights are left in the loft, as Christmas trees are instead host to strings of red, orange and green chilli peppers. So add a little spice to your yuletide cheer this year and hang some habaneros instead!

10. Combat the cold toes

When Winter does finally roll around, you'll be prepared to ward off the frostbite and visit West Dean Gardens whatever the weather with our next fun fact. One of the best ways to keep your toesies cosy when the cold sets in is actually to pop some chilli in your socks! That magical stuff capsaicin, [cayennepepper] increases the blood circulation in your toes and fingers when you eat chillies.

Putting cayenne (or other red pepper spices) into your shoes or socks also prompts the same response. The powder causes blood vessels under the skin of the feet to dilate, which means extra blood flow and warmth for your frozen digits. Check out how to do it and other hints and tips here.

The days of snuggling your toes under the lounging family pet are over.

You may think that it's bad enough we put ourselves through the glorious hurt of devouring chillies, but for thousands of years, humans have harnessed the power of chilli to make others feel the burn.

One of the first recorded uses of chillies as a nasty attack on the senses was in ancient China, whereby a method was adopted that involved wrapping ground cayenne in rice papers and hurling it into the face of enemies or intruders.

12. And you thought touching your eyes after chopping one was bad?…

This incapacitating move is also something that became somewhat of a signature weapon of the legendary Ninjas, known to them as "Metsubishi" and roughly translated to mean "to crush the eye".

More institutionalised forms of chilli power have of course followed, with the introduction of pepper spray for use by police forces, the general public and even mail men and women of the US Postal Service in the 1980's…now that's an episode of Postman Pat I would love to see.

More recently, the Indian government have developed an 81mm tear-gas like grenade, containing the former world's hottest chilli, the Bhut Jolokia, as a way of capturing terrorist fighters.

13. Shoppers and thieves beware…

- An L.A woman was arrested last Christmas after using pepper spray to beat the competition during a 'Black Friday' rush… watch

- A shopkeeper used chilli powder to take down an armed robber threatening his store… watch

It's not just physical beings in the firing line…or should that be lime?…

A combination of chillies and limes/lemons has been used in India since ancient times to ward off evil spirits. Read more here…

4. Chillies are good for a'chuckin'

Ok, time to give your figuratively sore eyes a break from the nasty stuff. To end part 2 of our chilli trivia series I thought I'd lighten things up a bit by describing some good old fashioned family fun to be had at West Dean Chilli Fiesta 2015. And I'm willing to bet that you've never thought of doing this before…

Wacky Nation are experts at taking things that daydreams are made of and turning them in to unusual, fun and zany contests and world championships for all ages to enjoy. This August, they're bringing with them 'The Great Chilli Challenge'.

With 5 targets to aim for at distances of 2m, 4m and 6m, competitors will throw real red chillies into frying pans no larger than 24cm wide to collect points and impress the onlooking chilli-heads. So far the record stands at 80 and with a potential 150 points on offer, records may well be broken at West Dean Chilli Fiesta this August.

And so ends our latest batch of Chilli facts for another week. But be sure to visit us again next week for the concluding installment, where we take a look at some of mother nature's best chilli farmers and record breakers!

West Dean Gardens is part of the Edward James Foundation. Charity No. 6689362.

Chilli Fiesta is 20 this year! (7 - 9 August) For full information and to book tickets visit