How many of the (mainly) men, showing off their chilli eating prowess at Órgiva’s first chilli festival were able to reflect on the significance of what was behind the event, as the heat engulfed them, was doubtful.
But it’s possible that those who were egged-on by onlookers engulfed by a delightful sense of schadenfreude as they witnessed the discomfort of competitors consuming chillis high on the Scoville scale – the measurement of the pungency of chilli peppers – had time to contemplate the following day, as the side effects stayed with them.
For this was about far more than a crowd-pleasing spectacle, a spectacle that prompted mischievous compere Barney to declare that he was ashamed of his gender.
The displays of some of the rarest and beautiful chillis in the world, tenderly nurtured and labelled with love, the chilli sauce contest – judged by a man with a self-confessed “problem with hot sauce”, having become so inured to it over the years – the delightful chilli-laden tapas created by Fran of Bar Venta el Puente, the scene of the day’s debauchery, and music from El Club Del Aguante, JD Meatyard and Absolut Pantz, were intended to raise much needed funds for an Órgiva based seed bank.
Run by a small group of people who are passionate about seed saving in order to build a deposit to help preserve biodiversity and to make seeds accessible to everyone, Semillas Españolas Ecológicas en Depósito (SEEeD) is a non-profit initiative.
SEEeD guardians have so far produced over 200 seed varieties for the vault (well, a fridge). When the guardians submit them, they choose and grow new seeds and so the cycle is self-sustaining – vital in the face of big agri businesses such as Monsanto, which dominates the US food chain with its genetically modified seeds and is ruthless towards farmers and seed dealers suspected of infringing its patents.
The Indian academic and environmental activist Vandana Shiva said of seed freedom and diversity that controlling seed and food “is more powerful than bombs and guns” because it is the best way to control the populations of the world.
SEEeD is one cog in the resistance movement to stop species becoming extinct and “normal” seeds being put out of reach by agrochemical giants. But Rosie, without whom it would not happen, says plans for a second Órgiva chilli festival are already in the works. And I hear that some of the chilli pod munchers are in training, in order to avoid the tears next year. Not a good look.
Check out the pictures and videos from the Órgiva chilli festival