The Philadelphia Pepper Project aims to restore a long-lost culinary heritage tradition.

From Philadelphia’s earliest history, hot peppers were traded, seeded and grown in flower pots, gardens and byways all over the city. This free bounty was available to all citizens, rich and poor, and they made the most of it. The resulting fusion of ethnic traditions and culinary know-how created a style of cuisine that was uniquely Philadelphia’s.

What’s the project’s game plan?

• To grow heirloom peppers, as well as newly developed varieties, and make them freely available in public gardens and byways throughout the city.

While reintroducing heirloom hot peppers is ideal, any variety of hot pepper will do. From its earliest days Philadelphia’s been an immigrant enclave and as recipes and foods have been shared over time, a marvelous merger of cuisines has evolved. So, in Chinatown maybe it’s a Thai chile pepper on the garden menu? In South Philly, a poblano or jalapeno pepper? In West Philly or Germantown, perhaps scotch bonnets from the Caribbean?

• To seed the idea among community partners, passionate neighbors and fellow gardeners for support as custodians for this foodways project.

Community groups and historic house gardens can use the project to enhance existing educational outreach and cultural enrichment programs or to develop new ones. Philadelphians of all ages can take part in an active way in revitalizing their cultural heritage.

• It’s entirely a voluntary enterprise – no solicitations for money or gifts or contributions. Simply save your seeds and share your seeds! And share your stories!

With this blog…

I’ll provide regular postings about the history of hot peppers, particularly in Philadelphia, plus recipes, stories and pictures shared by you as seeds are nurtured into seedlings and your carefully tended plants bear fruit.

If you want to take part in the Philadelphia Pepper Project, or contribute articles and photos for this blog, please contact me at…

The Philadelphia Pepper Project © is a cultural heritage production of Authentic Philadelphia.

Anita Mc Kelvey © 2011-2016 The Philadelphia Pepper Project


4 Responses to “About the project . . .”

  1. Jovida Hill Says:

    I thought of your Pepper Project recently when City Tavern’s chef Walter Staib took on Bobby Flay on a recent episode of the Food Channel’s “Iron Chef.” Interestingly, one of Staib’s dishes for the episode was Pepperpot Soup. Keep on doing what you’re doing this is the real hot sauce for your foodie readers.

  2. Jovida Hill Says:

    This is a great project. I think you and your readers will find Jessica B. Harris’ recently published book, “High on the Hog: A culinary Journey From Africa to America” very interesting, and essential reading for the Philadelphia Pepper Project. Like you, Harris is a culinary historian. She also is a cookbook author and professor at Queens College, City University of New York. Here is an excerpt:

    “… Women wandered the streets with trays selling their own version of a West African okra-based gumbo complete with foufou dumplings (pounded plantain or other vegetable starch) that would be known as Philadelphia’s pepperpot. The spicy dish, prepared from inexpensive cuts of meat and vegetables, was sold for pennies by hucksters of West Indian origin. Although pepperpot had West Indian origins, the good hearty soup of meat and greens also had African American antecedents. In 1778, one soldier from the Revolutionary War recalled that a free black woman, ‘having received two hard dollars for washing, and hearing of the distress of our prisoners in the gaol (sic), went to the market and bought some neck beef and two heads with some green[s], and made a pot of as good broth as she could.’ it became a Philadelphia classic and the street vendors cry ‘Pepper pot, smoking hot’ is even illustrated in the 1810 pamphlet ‘Cries of Philadelphia.'”

    Best wishes on the Philadelphia Pepper Project.

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