Welcome to the world of chiles. The Chile Woman has been in business for 21 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 last year when I was hit by a tornado on May 25th, 2011 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. Please plan on ordering extra early this season. Some varieties will not be available until I can rebuild my seed supply and other will be available only in limited quantities.
The past two years have challenged us: tornado and then the drought in 2012 as well as changes in plant shipping regulations. 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. I regret to say two states, Georgia and North Carolina have decided to ban shipment of all pepper and tomato plants. No nursery is allowed to ship unless they use a highly toxic pesticide. I know some of you in those states have been with me the entire 21 years, so this really saddens me. Hopefully, those of us who run a legal, clean business can get our permits reinstated in the future.
While I am frustrated by the negative impact of illegal plant shippers, we are starting 2013 on a high note with solar panels installed to run both greenhouses amd the entire Chile Woman business. This was a good outcome from the tornado decimating my old growth tree coverage.
The big sellers last year were the superhots: the Bhuts, Nagas, Trinidads, Scorpions and Seven Pots. It seems every week, someone is claiming to have the newest "hottest" pepper. 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. 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. The Portuguese Piri Piri and the Peruvian Aji Amarillo and Aji Limon and the Texas Wild Pequin also dominated sales. 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 21 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!