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2020 03 14 13.28.25

HOT: Herb and Chilli Festival, Wandin

Every year, long term residents and nursery operators in ‘the valley' in Wandin celebrate the Herb and Chilli Festival. Providing visitors with the opportunity to learn about herbs and chillies, how to use them, how to grow them, how they fit into our lives, and of course, have a bit of a taste test and fun along the way!

The event will feature talks from experts and renowned herbalists, cooking demonstrations and the best music and dance entertainment to keep the festivities going throughout the day.

The spice competition is ramped WAY up and the variety of stallholders is outstanding. Hailing from overseas as well as the local Yarra Valley, there is choice galore on what to do with your day at the fest and that's what we love about it the most.

Even the anti-chilli fan will find something delicious to taste, try and buy.

Upon entry, you'll see the massive nursery stand taking pride of place, as well as a hilariously good backyard chilli garden display. I had no idea there were so many different varieties!

Special imports that are only available here at this festival, ones that come with Scoville warning labels, the darkest of black thin long legs of chilli through to reds and green bells, with every other colour, shape and size in between. If you are after something very particular, and these guys don't have it, they will know where else and when you can find the exact plant or herb you need.

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Apart from supporting local producers (which is one of our favourite things to do) you can't go past the taste tests at every stall slinging everything from hot sauce to spice rubs, home marinated olives and spicy liqueurs.

The business owners are wholly passionate about the food they create from scratch with love. Most know their ingredient suppliers locally, and some even grow their own products.

Little Red is impressed with the cheese tasting from Milgrove Dairy, but not so much them being infused with Carolina reaper flakes. Believe me, you want to double-check before offering these ones to your kids!

Luckily, there is lots of water and ice cream on hand for the big and little kids who might get a bit of heat shock.

In previous years, there were three separate stages around the venue where you could go to enjoy watching the chilli-eating contests, the cooking demonstrations, the Peruvian folkloric dancers and Melbourne legends Inka Marka playing a traditional pan flute.

In 2023, to keep a focus on diversity and multiculturalism, the festival is set to showcase talent from across the globe, including a variety of music and live entertainment such as Mexican Wrestling, an authentic New Orleans-inspired nine-piece band, Steve Boyd’s Rum Reverie and so much more.

On top of this, a surprise celebrity chef will be gracing the 2023 Herb and Chilli Festival cooking stage.

The food contests run all day and have several heats, so if you're feeling up to the challenge why not enter yourself and win some huge chilli-themed prize packs?

There is also a huge kids' zone that is sure to keep the young ones entertained for hours. The area includes Pony rides, face painting, a petting zoo and jumping castles. The best part about it all is that absolutely everything here is included with the children's free entry (kids under 14 years are free!).

When we went to the festival, our family enjoyed the talented face painters, two jumping castles and a petting zoo, roving performers, a circus school set up with kids' activities and donkey rides. We did them all, naturally, and the donkeys are our favourite.

The food vans are plentiful with the regular festival fare, such as twisty potato sticks, Dutch mini pancakes and barbecue. After trying one of every variety of olives available Goldilocks begs me to take home a jar of giant kalamata olives that are so big you can only fit one in your mouth at a time!

The adults try the jalapeno nachos which are absolutely to die for. We love that this is a dog-friendly festival; there were heaps of pooches out enjoying the sunshine with their families, and boy did we get our fair share of puppy pats in.

The Herb and Chilli Festival is perfect for the die-hard chilli fan but suits us with little kids just fine. There is so much going on that it is hard to see it all, and the festival runs all weekend.

Tips for Herb and Chilli Festival:

  • Bring your own bags, you are going to need to carry home all your new spicy goodies;
  • Parking is free, plentiful and well thought out;
  • Go for a park up top closest to the gates to minimise paddock walk time;
  • Pre-purchase your tickets to avoid lines on the day;
  • Bring water bottles to soothe any hot mouths;
  • There is an info tent and St John ambos on site;
  • If you get there early, you might even get a chilli themed hat on entry;
  • Purchase tickets online and receive a FREE Herb & Chilli Hat on arrival
  • Kids activities are FREE.

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Joyce Watts is a former intellectual property, IT and media lawyer turned serial entrepreneur.

As well as being the founder of TOT: HOT OR NOT she helps businesses with their SEO, email marketing & social media as BrightSmart.com.au; she owns an online bike store CycleStyle.com.au and develops and produces creative experiences for families via WheelieGoodFun.com. She used to publish another popular lifestyle and food blog called MEL: HOT OR NOT The decisive guide to Melbourne.

She lives in inner-city Melbourne with her husband, two children and seven bikes.

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We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

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