Who are growing the hottest peppers in Northeast Ohio, and quite possibly, in the entire U.S.?
It’s the Bhutanese immigrants planting their native chili peppers throughout the community gardens and backyard patios of Akron’s North Hill neighborhood
For immediate release— Akron, OH July 17, 2019 Akron’s largest immigrant population—the Bhutanese people estimated at nearly 6,000 strong– are also known as the main contributors to Akron’s rising recognition as the place to find the “hottest & spiciest cuisine” north of the U.S. southern border.
“It’s all due to the Bhutanese’s extravagant love of chili peppers,” says Tom Crain, co-founder of Akron-based Shanti Community Farms. “Since the Bhutanese are used to growing up eating super spicy foods and entering hot pepper eating contests as part of their modern food culture, we thought what better way to celebrate their culinary tradition than by featuring the Bhutanese signature food item through an eating contest and taste-testing competition at our upcoming summer fundraiser. “
The Shanti Community Farms fundraiser will be held Saturday, August 17 at The Exchange House in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood from 4-8 pm. The fundraiser will also feature bamboo splitting and snake gourd spearing demonstrations and contests which are also cultural festival traditions found throughout Bhutan. Registration is at eventbrite.com shanti-farms-hot-summer-celebration.
“Many of our gardeners are planting the original pepper seeds they brought from their homelands,” says Bhakta Rizal, co-founder of Shanti Community Farms that operates community gardens for immigrant and neighbor families in North Hill.
Rizal also recalls the Bhutanese summer markets where every stall featured huge piles of green and red chili peppers, with the occasional yellow pepper peeping through. “And the abundance of chili peppers isn’t just found at the Bhutanese markets,” he adds. “Most shops feature heaps of spicy peppers, and along the hilly roads, you’ll see red chilies laid out to dry on every rooftop like scarlet carpets. And in the rural valleys during festivals and prayer rituals, it’s impossible to get away from the odor of burning chilies. I believe the most likely reason for chili peppers’ predominance in the Bhutanese diet is the sensation of heat they provide during cold winters.
Participants at the community fundraiser can experience the hot chili peppers by eating traditional pepper dishes offered on the menu. They can also participate in the pepper eating contest and enter their pepper in the hottest pepper judging competition.
Shanti Community Farms, based in Akron, Ohio, is a non-profit that preserves the agricultural heritage of New Americans and empowers them to learn and earn from the local food economy. It operates educational urban farms, Yard Corps landscape maintenance division and youth education programs.
The Shanti Community Farms Hot Summer Celebration will be held Saturday, August 17 at The Exchange House in Akron from 4:00-8pm. For more information and to register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/shanti-hot-pepper-fest-2019-tickets-61547978661