Summer color reigns in the vast fields along the highways of Texas, and now peppers are popping up as part of the landscape. The second annual Gourmet Chili Pepper and Salsa Festival – July 25-37 – is the wild child of Wildseed Farms, founded by John R. Thomas.
The farm is known for its flowers, and now it sprouts fields of peppers: chilis for ristras and drying, speciality and ethnic peppers, sweet and hot peppers, Southwestern-style chilis, ornamental peppers and more.
The festival runs from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 25, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 26, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 27. Admission for adults is $8, for children under 12 is $2, which includes access to festival grounds, Taster’s Tent, guest chefs and speakers, Butterfly Haus, Market Center, Brewbonnet Biergarten, vendor booths of salsas and other spicy foods, colorful wildflower fields and spicy pepper fields. For the industrious, pick your own flowers and/or peppers for $3.50 a container.
Several speakers and chefs are scheduled to appear at this year’s festival, including Chef Ross Burtwell, “Having fun with spices,” David Rodrigues, “Beautiful landscape color in the Texas heat,” and Thomas, “Taking the wild out of wildflowers.” Live music will include Johnny Dee & The Rocket 88s and Almost Patsy Cline.
In 1983, there were few sources for wildflower seeds, and the public’s love of wildflowers and demands from landscape contractors and the highway department motivated Thomas to turn his sideline turf seeding business into a full-time wildflower farm. He also developed a machine to plant the tiny seeds and another to harvest them. His new company then pioneered the practice of planting wildflowers in rows on a large acreage. Today, Wildseed Farms is the largest working wildflower farm in the United States. At the Hill Country headquarters, the farm has more than 200 acres under cultivation, and the farm produces 88 varieties of wildflower seeds.