November 21, 2012
The 3.5 acre Community Food and Resource Center at Bartram’s Garden in just its first year of operation has already got a crop field, greenhouse, community garden and fruit orchard.
Early last Spring, more than 100 fruit trees and berry shrubs were planted by the Philadelphia Orchard Project, and the new greenhouse provided some 60,000 transplants for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s City Harvest Program’s other gardens throughout the city. An additional 10,000 and more plants were given to people who wanted to start home gardens. By late summer, area high school student helpers harvested over 6,500 pounds of organic produce from the garden.
The Center was developed as a partnership program with Bartram’s Garden, Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative, City of Philadelphia’s Department of Parks & Recreation, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
Anita Mc Kelvey © 2011-2016 The Philadelphia Pepper Project
July 30, 2012
Are your homegrown peppers ready for their closeup? Is anyone out there stalking wild hot peppers?
Make headlines! Chile heads, send your pepper photos, recipes and lore to The Philadelphia Pepper Project.
Anita Mc Kelvey © 2011-2016 The Philadelphia Pepper Project
May 7, 2012
Seems there are quite a few pepper projects around the world!
Here’s a review of some non-profits with missions to revive hot pepper crops and to create sustainable markets that support rural farming communities.
• Lambrineu Foundation Chilli Pepper Project. Located in Jakarta, this project is one of three economic projects that were created by the Lambrineu Foundation to restart this country’s social and economic development programs after the devastating 2004 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Before the tsunami, one local area, the Lhok Nga Sub district, once counted 120 chile farmers. After the tsunami, only 85 chile farmers were still alive. The Foundation, which operates from a community home in Lampaya Village, has aided production for local chile farmers. Funding has cleared land of rubble from the tsunami and purchased seed, fertilizers and pesticides. Efforts are also underway to create a Chile Farmers Association.
• A chile pepper project in Nicaragua is sponsored by Agros International, which aims to break the cycle of poverty for rural families in Central America and Mexico by enabling landless communities to achieve land ownership and economic stability.
Through a series of agricultural loans and technical training and support from Agros, families in El Eden and San Jose started a pepper project in March 2006. Since then, 115 families in six Agros communities have harvested 18 acres – nearly 70,000 pounds – of chile peppers! These villages have contracts with Chiles of Nicaragua which guarantees an export market for their chile peppers. In this case, it provides a large share of those chiles to US-based Original Tabasco Brand Pepper Sauce.
• The Pepper Eater Project was started in 2009 by four Stanford University engineering and business grad students.
The project originated in the university’s Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability class at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. After completing a successful feasibility study, two of the students, Sam Hamner and Scott Sadlon, continued with the project with the goal of implementing the Pepper Eater in Ethiopia and other developing markets. They’ve since partnered with Compatible Technology International to achieve that goal.
Dried red pepper is the most widely consumed spice in the world. In Ethiopia, it’s estimated that some 400,000 women process hot peppers by hand. This laborious process turns fresh peppers into higher-value products, like dried flakes, seeds and powder.
What is the Pepper Eater? It’s an affordable, hand-cranked device that mills dried peppers much quicker than flaking by hand. It allows for continuous processing and easy seed preparation while limiting direct human contact with caustic pepper dust and oils. This simple device provides these enterprising women with safer and more efficient tools.
• Animals on the Edge began in 2008 as a non-profit program of Living Earth. “The goal is to conserve and protect wildlife by bringing together local communities and decision makers, and proposing economy-based solutions that provide people with a financial and social incentive to conserve wildlife.”
One of its programs is a chile pepper project in India that aims to minimize the impact on forest habitat and wildlife caused by farming communities living at the edge of the protective buffer zone with Kanha National Park. Animals from the Park often wander beyond this buffer zone onto agricultural land, destroying crops and impacting livelihoods.
The pepper project in India mimics one used successfully in Africa. It involves planting chile peppers around core crops to form a natural barrier to protect farmers’ crops. The animals go out of their way to avoid the unpleasant pepper plants. What’s more, the chiles can later be harvested and sold, providing a secondary income to farmers.
Anita Mc Kelvey © 2011-2016 The Philadelphia Pepper Project
March 10, 2012
This hot pepper was not on display at this year’s annual International Flower Show, hosted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society at Philadelphia’s Convention Center, even though this year’s theme was “Hawaii: Islands of Aloha.”
Former Philadelphian Nick Blank, who lives in Honolulu, sent this photo of a Hawaiian Chile Pepper, a very common hot ornamental that grows with abandon in his and many neighbors’ backyards. Dozens of other hot pepper varieties also grow all over the lush Islands.
Nick’s neighbor, Lynn, is native Hawaiian and her husband is Japanese. They use this particular pepper to make “Pepper Water,” a popular condiment that’s splashed on just about everything to give foods additional tang and kick.
Lynn’s recipe is simple: Add boiling water to some dried hot peppers in a clean, sterilized jar. Let cool, cover and refrigerate.
Like most things in Hawaii, these peppers are not a native species. In a land with a 12-month growing season, perfect weather – even when it rains – and near perfect soil conditions, Hawaii has long been an easy landing strip for introducing all manner of plants and produce from other parts of the world.
In the olden days, smart world adventurers brought their own food with them when headed for parts unknown. Polynesians came to the isolated archipelago possibly as early as 300-500 A. D. and soon colonized it with taro, sweet potato and yam, breadfruit and bananas, coconuts and sugarcane, as well as pigs, chickens and dogs.
Much later, in the late 1700s, roving seafarers like Captain Cook brought European animals and seeds. Another sea captain, George Vancouver, gifted a few longhorn cattle to Hawaiian King Kamehameha I, who allowed the critters to run wild on The Big Island, safe from all predators, including man. The lusty cattle begat unchecked until the King hired John Parker in 1809 to capture and domesticate the feral beasts. By 1830, beef was soon added to local menus and salt beef became a major export. To this day, the Parker Ranch on the island of Hawaii is one of the largest free-range beef cattle ranches in the US.
Pineapple, from Brazil originally, wasn’t cultivated here until after 1813. In the mid-1800s, Hawaii’s bounty supplied California’s 49ers with Irish and sweet potatoes, onions, pumpkins, oranges, molasses, and coffee.
By the late 1800s, as certain commercial food growers became more dominant, Hawaii’s ruling monarchy was deposed by European and American business interests, with support from some US government agencies. Plantation crops of pineapple and sugarcane for export took over much of the agricultural landscape on the Islands. Hundreds of Asians and other ethnic groups immigrated to work on the plantations, contributing even more culinary influences to Hawaiian menus. Puerto Rican and Vietnamese immigrants followed in subsequent decades.
Where does the hot pepper figure into all this diversity? No doubt many varieties of hot peppers arrived via various immigration channels over the years, but credit for the Hawaiian Chile Pepper is usually given to Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and the Azores, who arrived on the Islands in the 19th century to work the fields and ranches. They also introduced the ukulele, as well as Pão Doce, a traditional Portuguese sweet bread. The popular brand King’s Hawaiian is a staple in supermarkets everywhere.
Hawaii’s agricultural heritage continues to evolve. Over the past decade, the pineapple and sugarcane industries have relocated their operations to other shores, and the former growing fields lie fallow on the garden islands. Small organic farms and specialty growers of Kona coffee, Macadamia nuts, and Maui onion and limes continue to thrive, yet more than 90 percent of Hawaii’s food is still imported!
Meanwhile, five major companies that dominate the world seed industry are buying and leasing prime Hawaiian farmland. The latest agricultural frontier in Hawaii? GMO corn seed.
February 28, 2012
It might be February, but dozens of honey bees are feasting on blooming crocuses in West Philly gardens.
Clearly, it’s not too early to start planning and planting seeds for the summer garden.
Landreth Seed Company’s 2012 Special Edition seed catalog arrived in the mail in January and its 78 illustrated pages of photos and folk wisdom beckon.
Just three pages in is a Children’s Garden Collection of old-fashioned vegetable and flower favorites, including the Chervena Chujski, a Bulgarian variety heirloom pepper which ripens from green to brown to shiny red. “The fruits taper to 6 in. and resemble hot peppers, but they are incredibly sweet,” reads the caption.
An entire page is devoted to hot peppers (p. 39) starting with Anaheim Chiles, and featuring other hot pepper varieties with names from around the globe – Caribbean Red, plus the mildly hot Black Hungarian Pepper, as well as the Bolivian Rainbow, with purplish-green leaves, that will produce tiny cone-shaped hot peppers of many colors on fully grown plants within about 80 days.
The Fish Pepper, featured before on this blog, is also represented. Other long-time favorites include Cayenne, Habanero, Jalapeño, Poblano, Scotch Bonnet, Thai Hot, Serrano, and Tabasco. For those who prefer white-hot to red-hot, there’s even a White Habanero.
Sweet pepper offerings are available further along in the catalog. These include the imperfectly shaped Bullnose pepper, introduced into the US in 1759, possibly from India. This bell pepper was originally used for stuffing and pickling. (See Mrs. Emlen’s Pickled Mangos) Another old standby is the Red Cherry Sweet, introduced before 1860, that produces small round, very sweet fruits, and excellent also for pickling or canning. Miniature Bells, perfect for container gardening, are available in three colors – chocolate, red and yellow. These sweet peppers are family heirlooms shared with Seed Savers Exchange, says Landreth.
Founder David Landreth originally started his company in Montreal Canada in 1780, but its harsh climate induced him to relocate to Philadelphia in 1784. His first garden center was located on former High Street, now 1210 Market Street, very near where the Loews Hotel resides within the former PSFS Tower. Landreth’s loyal customers included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Bonaparte.
Like William and John Bartram, the Landreths introduced a number of botanic firsts to Philadelphia – the Zinnia from Mexico in 1798; the first truly white potato in 1810, and Bloomsdale Spinach in 1826. And for a city that markets itself “with Love,” Landreth introduced the tomato, aka the Love Apple, in 1820.
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Jeffrey C. Nekola from the University of New Mexico publishes a terrific website, the “Heirloom Vegetable Archive,” that depicts a broad array of heirloom vegetables along with great photos and descriptive captions.
Anita Mc Kelvey © 2011-2016
The Philadelphia Pepper Project