Welcome to the world of chiles. The Chile Woman has been in business for 22 years! Thank you to all my loyal customers, some of you who have been here from the beginning. When I talk to college students or give farm tours it seems like I started my business in the dark ages. Having to go the the library to look up phone numbers (remember all those big phone books for each city taking over a whole section of the library) and then making one long distance call after the other to find out rules and regulations for shipping plants, seems so time consuming today. The development of the Internet and advent of web pages gave me a way to reach chileheads nationwide. Now, Facebook and Twitter allow me to reach all of you instantly. This came in very handy in 2011 when I was hit by a tornado on May 25th, smack in the middle of shipping season. Once I was able to get out from under the debris and get to a wireless spot I could post immediately and provide updates until my power and services were back online. We were grateful to be unhurt but the ongoing cleanup and profound disruption of our business has been an adjustment. Some of my seed stock plants were sucked away in the tornado which really put a damper on the seed saving and on what new varieties I could offer. It will take years to rebuild ths precious seed supply so please understand if some varieites sell out early. Some varieties will not be available until I can rebuild my seed supply and other will be available only in limited quantities.
Good news greeted us from every corner last season. The weather was good, our harvest was fantastic and we had a late frost. The tornado also provided us with a bit of good news. I lost so much of my old growth tree cover that I was able to realize a long held dream: the installation of a 5.2 K solar array to power my business. The panels went online last Janaury and I have been thrilled to watch my electrical meter spin backwards as our solar panels now provide all the electrical needs of The Chile Woman. In May of 2013, Green America notified me that The Chile Woman had received the most votes in their Green Business People and Planet Award in recognition for our efforts to preserve chile varieties and for our sustainable business practices. Thank you to all who voted for us!
I am delighted to report no other states have decided to join Georgia and North Carolina in blocking shipments of all nightshade family plants unless they have been treated with highly toxic chemicals. I still miss my long time Georgia and North Carolina customers and remain hopefull these two states will allow those of us who run a clean legal business to ship peppers in the future.
Regulating unlicensed plant shippers has become a serious issue for the USDA. Plants must come from a licensed nursery that has been inspected and must be clearly labelled as plant material and have proof of their nursery certification and inspections and agricultural compliance agreements on the outside of the shipping boxes. Some states even use dogs to sniff out unmarked boxes and there are now penalties for the recipient as well as the unlicensed shipper.
I was pleased to see a non superhot pepper to be the breakout star of the season last year: the Shishito. Aleppo, Peruvian Ajis and Piri Piri chiles continued to dominate sales, along with the superhots. I grow weary thinking of the superhots and the constant claims to have the hottest pepper in the world. Many superhots are unstable crosses and I chose not to offer many new superhot varieties this season. I hope this trend of superhot and superhotter chiles will burn itself out. While I like to eat very hot things, I also love certain flavors paired with heat. Give me an arrivivi gusano or an aji over a superhot anyday. I continue to hope for trends that will favor flavor over heat. Other bestsellers continued to be all mole' chiles, especially the chilhuacles. I already have many orders for those on file so best order early to score mole' chiles. I couldn't keep up with the demand for tomatillo plants--they flew out the door.
Terry and I had to delay our plans to open a chile store at the greenhouse because of the tornado. While it is still a work in progress we hope to feature chile related products as well as Indiana made hot sauce and salsas.
Interest in food and agricultural issues continued to surge in recent years. More and more people turned to local foods and many seemed to be discovering the simple joy of growing their own food and planting a garden for the first time. The interest in container gardening continued to grow and I have marked the varieties best suited for this with a chile pepper in the alphabetical listing.
I prefer not to grow hybrids and favor the superior taste of open-pollinated varieties. Keeping heirloom seeds alive and viable is the key to preserving our biogenetic diversity. The flooding that wiped out my 1998 crop really drove home the point of how fragile an individual seed bank can be. Large commercial agricultural companies focus more and more on hybrids that reduce the varieties the home gardener can try, especially if they wish to try their hand at seed saving. With the controversy surrounding patented and bioengineered seed, I am more than ever committed to preserving and sharing chile seeds. Even though I have bred some of my own varieties, I would never dream of patenting them. Chiles are meant to be shared. Although I do not sell seeds, I am always willing to trade. If you are looking for a type of pepper or are fondly remembering a chile from a past family garden, please let me know. I will do my best to track it down and make it available to chile lovers everywhere.
My plants always have been and always will be grown naturally, without any chemicals or pesticides. No federal certification labelling program will change the way that I farm. We have a term in Indiana to describe agricultural products that are produced naturally and sustainably: Hoosierganic. When you see our Hoosierganic logo, you know you are purchasing a product that has been produced with methods to protect our environment and for future generations as well.
Chile names are very confusing and as varied as the chiles themselves. A chile that goes by one name in one country and a different name in another may still be the same chile. I have tried to list chiles under their most common name. Sometimes I receive unidentified and unnamed chile seeds. If I can not match them to a known chile, I take the liberty of making up my own name. If you grow one of my plants and it reminds you of something else, please let me know. Let's all help each other clear up some of this confusing chile nomenclature.
We also provide sweet peppers, tomato and tomatillo plants. There is nothing to compare with eating that first salsa fresh out of your own garden. Although we ship plants all over the country, we encourage people to stop by the greenhouse and pick up plants. Bloomington is a lovely place for a day trip and Terry and I especially enjoy meeting our customers face to face. Our chickens, Jacob sheep and Petey, our regal llama all love to have visitors. Just call or email when you would like to come and we will be sure to be here to greet you.
When I started my business 22 years ago, I knew there were other chileheads across the US. What a pleasure it has been to discover so many of you share my passion.
Here's to a good growing season!