Tag Archives: hot sauce

Flavors of Summer

Our new favorite local, handcrafted hot sauce!

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Ryan and Chrissi Scherer, the husband and wife team behind Zen Pepper Company, are making waves in the local agricultural community. Born in Texas, Ryan has always loved hot foods. He began growing and experimenting with different hot peppers in his early 20s. Through this experimentation, he was able to discern how their flavors came to life once blended with other ingredients. In 2010, he began small-scale farming Virginia Tech’s sustainability center in Catawba, researching forms of organic crop management and environmentally-friendly irrigation methods. 

“Virginia Tech owns the Catawba Sustainability Center,” Chrissi explains. “They have great land that they lease to people trying to start small agricultural businesses. The center receives grants for sustainable types of tools, equipment, and practices they are able to implement. Ryan took a course that the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension offered a few years back called, ‘Growers Academy.’ [The course] was geared towards farmers who wanted to step into developing a small business. We both have been growing and gardening for a long time, and that was his first step in beefing it up a little.”

Zen Pepper Company’s hot sauces first appeared at the farmers’ market at the end of 2016. There, Chrissi and Ryan met new friends through the Local Environmental Agricultural Program (LEAP). This connection, in addition to the popularity of their products, encouraged them to continue creating and sharing their sauces.

As their popularity has increased, so has their knowledge and implementation of sustainable practices. All of their hot sauces are created in a commercial kitchen, and they consider the impact on the environment with every step in their development. Pepper seeds germinate in soil blocks that they keep in their home. The couple avoids using high energy grow lights, and puts their lights on timers so they can cut down on energy usage during the growing process. They also implemented drip irrigation practices, which reduces the amount of water they use.

“The sustainability center is a fantastic resource, because they supply the means for us to be able to do that,” Chrissi says.

2018 promises to be a big year for Zen Pepper Company. They are discussing expanding their presence at the downtown Roanoke Co-Op, and plan on attending a couple of festivals this year (TBA). Their business has taken off, and their most popular sauce, Ginger Habanero, is flying off of the shelves. Last year, they grew about four hundred pepper plants during the growing season. This year, they have expanded to about two thousand, and are encouraged by how receptive Roanoke has been of their products.

For more information on Zen Pepper Company including where to find them and the flavors they offer, visit www.zenhotsauce.com. Find them on Facebook at Zen Pepper Co.

Homesweet Homegrown

Homesweet Homegrown, a successful hot sauce company based out of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, began in part of an incident following a book tour.

Screen_Shot_2014-07-18_at_12.08.06_AM_largeRobyn Jasko and husband Paul David traded in their urban lifestyle to become farmers who, little did they know, would create a product that would change the look of store bought hot sauce.

This tear-jerking hot sauce was dubbed Homesweet Homegrown in part of Robyn’s first book’s title that was published in 2012, and also it was the product of her successful blog, Grow Indie. Robyn and friend, Jennifer Biggs, Amtrak-ed their way across the country on a book tour and gave little thought to the habaneros, ghost peppers, and lemon drop chili peppers that they left behind; and so, when they made their way back to PA they were in for a little surprise, which resulted in pounds of peppers. That’s where their journey as Homesweet Homegrown began.

ghost_pepper_kit_largeAll of their peppers are organically grown on their farm. They are big on the idea of healthy, so they throw in superfood ingredients like chia seeds, and leave out additives, colors, and GMOSs pesticides and preservatives (which many of the competitors contain!).

 

3_pack_grande_a9b463c6-2335-473e-a85a-be84501a4012_largeIn part of their “beyond organic” methods, they have hit the shelves in over 140+ stores and are sold in every Whole Foods location in the surrounding areas of NY, NJ, CT, and Philly. They have three signature flavors that are unique to their company: Punch Drunk Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce (the hottest!), Aramingo Mango Pineapple Habanero Hot Sauce, and Orange Crush Habanero Pepper Hot Sauce. They are sold separately in 5 Oz bottles that run about $6 a pop, and also you can buy them in a variety of gift sets. If you want a little more of what Homesweet Homegrown has to offer then you can look into their Grow Kits and their Salts + Spices.

Take the challenge and see how far you can go in a taste test of Homesweet Homegrown Hot Sauce!

 

Written by Lani Maddox