The singer and musician Ian Anderson is a horticultural ninja about chillies, he sows them in March, grows them, harvests and washes them, then freezes them. He knows the historical taxonomy of every strain of chilli pepper. The seeds he grows germinate by his indoor swimming pool in a lovelyhumid temperate environment then progress to the greenhouse, where he plays the flute to them and he is sure that this enhances their growth.
Anderson’s passion for chilli and spices began early in his career, his band Jethro Tull, had a drummer of Indian origin named Richie Dharma, who invited them all to a home cooked lunch by his mother. There was a secret conspiracy to tease the lily livered British boys by serving a “blindingly hot” egg curry; Anderson was the only one who passed the test whilst the others sweated to sniggers, that lunch set the tone for future meals on tour. Anderson is now an authority on British Indian cuisine and curry, he says that out of the 1,000 “Indian” restaurants in UK about 800 are Pakistani or Bangladeshi cuisine, over the years all 30 members of Jethro Tull have sought out the remaining 200 genuine Indian restaurants whilst on tour, actually he says they count on curries.
Last year Anderson harvested a bumper crop of Bhut Jolokia peppers, enough to fill a whole freezer; he says “until ten years ago this was the hottest chilli on the planet.
Last year Anderson harvested a bumper crop of Bhut Jolokia peppers, enough to fill a whole freezer; he says “until ten years ago this was the hottest chilli on the planet according to the Scoville scale which measures the pungency of chilli peppers”. Anderson also powders his crop as it is easy to take on overseas tours in a small vial; finding French, German and Italian restaurants a bit bland for his taste he furtively enlivens dishes with a “teeny” sprinkling of Bhut Jolokia so as not to offend the chef. His enjoyment of Indian food is largely vegetarian favouring dhal, cauliflower and spinach dishes with rice. He often cooks with his son-in-law Andrew Lincoln, a fellow “curry freak” and the actor who plays the zombie killer Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead; recently they prepared a slow cooked lamb curry for the whole family, they share a taste for Indian national cuisine not the pedestrian variety. Anderson is so smitten by curry he even has an advisory page and guide to choosing Indian food on his website Home page.
Anderson has been touring for 39 years, he has played in Delhi, Bangalore, Madras and Mumbai and between performances savoured every mouthful; in the past he has played at the Prince of Wales Trust Concert – Prince Charles also believes that plants respond when engaged with; this year the band is in touring in Europe and they have 3 tours in the US planned, they will be on the lookout for the authentic Indian restaurants en-route and if all else fails there is the vial of the hot stuff.