Monday, October 23, 2006

Dorset Naga update...

I just received word that a show has aired on the BBC in England that announced the results of an HPLC test done on Dorset Naga peppers grown by BBC “Gardeners’ World”. The group took to the airwaves on Friday to announce the results live.

According to Joy and Michael's Website, the peppers grown by Gardeners' World scored a whopping 1,598,227.

The results of the test as published on the BBC Gardeners' World website read as follows:

Gardeners' World's hottest chillies

Over the course of this year, Gardeners' World has grown a variety of chillies to find the fieriest fruits. The chillies were all tested at Warwick Horticulture Research International (HRI) and the results are shown below.

The hottest chillies

1. Chilli 'Dorset Naga'
2. Chilli 'Caribbean Red Hot'
3. Chilli 'Orange Habanero'
4. Chilli 'Fiesta' (grown outdoors)
5. Chilli 'Scotch Bonnet'
6. Chilli 'Fiesta' (grown indoors)
7. Chilli 'Apache'
8. Chilli 'Paper Lantern'
9. Chilli 'Etna'
10. Chilli 'Adorno'

I have to say that at this point, it's relatively easy to state that the World's Hottest available chili peppers is still a C. Chinense, but I think until someone comes up with something close to this incredible heat level, the Dorset Naga is going to be competing for the Guinness Book of World Records' title very soon.

For those interested in growing these chilies, you can contact Peppers by Post. According to their website, the seeds will be available for sale beginning in 2007. And yes, you can get them shipped to the US.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

There and Back Canada...

I drove out to Cornwall this morning to set up our Christmas show taking place this weekend and on the way back we saw the oddest looking thing. A man was trudging along the highway dragging a cart behind him. He looked for all intents and purposes like he'd been walking for a while, and indeed he had.

We didn't initially stop as I was in a hurry to get home and we still had to pick up Mike's dog. Needless to say, after picking up Pepper, we turned out onto the highway and I spotted the odd looking man and his cart, and I told Mike were going to take a bit of a detour.

I figure if God puts such things in your path once, it's for a glimpse, if it's twice it's for a more important reason and should be investigated... So, investigate we did.

It turns out that the man's name is Trevor. That's how he introduced himself. He didn't give me his last name. He did post his name, almost as an after-thought on his website. Trevor Redmond is taking steps for cancer prevention and boy is he stepping.

This is Trevor:

He started on his journey in British Columbia, back in March, 2006 and has been walking now for seven months. He expects to end the "there" part of his journey in Halifax when he will stop and plan the "back" part.

I asked him how he was doing the trip and he said that he was using a combination of camping, in a tent, staying in motels and taking advantage of some of that good old Canadian hospitality that we are all so proud of up here. He choked me up. Mike gave him our business card and suggested he look us up on his way by. I'll gladly cook him a meal or give him a bed depending on the time of day he goes by.

On October 9, Trevor passed through Kingston. He wrote on his website:

"In challenging myself, I have now taken 6,586,353 steps as of Kingston.

In challenging Canadians, I have received over 11,000 dollars towards my efforts.

This works out to about $2.20 per kilometer over the 5000 Km stretch I have already walked.

I am looking for a dollar a step. Help us to take those steps.

Catch me!

I would also ask that you get your friends involved in this effort. The more we step, the further we will come.

The more we move...the more we move others.

To all... I'm still pulling for you."

I read Trevor's website after returning home and it choked me up. I had asked Trevor if he was taking donations and all I had in the car was $1. So I gave it to him. I felt really good coming home to discover that I had taken one of Trevor's steps. I challenge you to take one as well, he's got a lot of them available.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tellicherry Black Pepper

Every time we introduce a new customer to our
Tellicherry Black sauce, we inevitably get asked the
same question: "What's a Tellicherry".

Tellicherry is not a "what", it's a "where". Located
on the South-Western coast of the tip of India, near
Cochin, Tellicherry is in the heart of pepper

Both Tellicherry pepper and Malabar pepper come from
the same plant and are harvested at the same time.
Tellicherry pepper are the larger of the two and
will have matured further before the harvest,
benefiting from a better location on the vine and
thereby receiving more sunlight. Only the largest
10% of these peppercorns are good enough to bear the
name Tellicherry, making these peppercorns very,
very special, indeed.

In India, pepper is part of the cultural heritage of
the people. Growing pepper is seen more as an art or
a craft than as a metier. Even though it is a
cash crop, pepper growing and grading is taken very
seriously in this part of the world. Farmers take
advantage of centuries of skill handed down from
generation to generation to grow and harvest these
tiny black seeds of flavour.

Once picked, it takes about a week for the
peppercorns to dry in the sun. During this time,
they will lose a share of their flavour in the
process. Until recent years, all pepper drying was
done this way. Although, nowadays it is not uncommon
for pepper to be rapidly air-dried indoors.
Interestingly enough, this new technology brings
with it the benefit of less flavour loss. Thus,
today's peppers are fresher, cleaner and more
full-bodied than ever before and allow the farmers
to fetch a higher price.

Although the size of the peppercorn is very
important to garnering the name, "Tellicherry", the
maturity of the peppercorn is the ultimately
all-deciding factor. It is the extra-ripening time
that the Tellicherry peppercorn receives that
increases the percentage of essential oils in the
fruit and makes it taste so aromatic and why the
Peppermaster chose these peppercorns for our black
pepper sauce.

Peppercorns although not chillies, are often a
chiliheads first foray into the world of pepperfire.
As children growing up in North America, what would
setting the table be without a shaker of pepper?
Well, it wouldn't be rightly set, now would it? As
we grow up and our tastes become more cosmopolitan,
we are introduced to the splendours of the
peppermill. Once having experienced the glory of
fresh ground pepper, who would return to the dusty
dryness of the pepper shaker? From the peppermill
with ordinary Madagascar black peppercorns, (sold
most commonly as "whole black pepper"), one
eventually discovers the perfume and wonder that is
Malabar and hopefully as well, Tellicherry.

I had opportunity to read of the adventures of one
who visited India to research the true art of
peppercorn manufacture, as I researched this article
and he tells of his visit to Mount Tellicherry

Picture sweeping mountain slopes gazing down on a
lush untouched jungle. Imagine the perfumes and
odours of the world famous outdoor markets and all
the spices wafting on the air. He describes a
landscape very different and exotic, than ours, one
ripe with cardamom and cinnamon, their perfumes
carrying on the breezes and fields and fields of
wild pepper bushes.

Pepper bushes grow to about 3-5 feet in height. They
dangle their berries much like tiny bunches of
grapes and although they have been known to grow
well in other climates, the soil and climate of this
region of India produces the best peppercorns in the

Interestingly enough, it is in the drying of the
peppercorns that they get their distinctive colours
ranging from green-yellow through red and brown to
jet black. The long bunches of berries are picked
almost ripe and allowed to dry to their familiar
shape and colour as we know them. Even more
interesting is that what we know as "white
peppercorns" are not another species of pepper at
all, but instead they are the de-husked center of
the ripe peppercorn.

I learned in my research, too, that the varieties of
peppers that we know as "pink, long and Szechuan"
peppercorns are all different species of plant and
indeed are not true peppercorns at all.

As the Peppermaster already knew and I learned,
Tellicherry is synonymous with the absolute best
grade of peppercorns. They are of better quality,
the flavour is richer, and more varied and you'll
discover that this black pepper is well worth the
time it takes for us to use it in our sauces.

Here at Peppermaster, we get our Tellicherry in
airtight light proof pouches which we only open
right before we will use the peppercorns. We grind
them fresh and only process what we will use
immediately. Although hand mills and mortars and
pestles are recommended for the average kitchen, we
use a high speed blender to crush the corns for our
sauces. It is this last minute grinding that gives
our Tellicherry Black sauce its distinct flavour.

If you haven't had the opportunity to fill your
peppermill with Tellicherry black peppercorns, we
suggest you do. And in the meantime, pick up a jar
of our Tellicherry Black sauce and introduce
yourself to the rich intense flavour of Tellicherry
pepper. We've married the Tellicherry to three of
the richest flavours we know; fresh roasted garlic,
rich dark Guatemalan espresso and to bring into full
bloom the flavours of all of these ingredients,
French Cognac that completes the bouquet.

Peppermaster Pepper Steak

Easy Salt & Pepper Shrimp
1 Tbsp Butter or Cooking oil
1 Tbsp Tellicherry Black Sauce
1 lb peeled, veined Shrimp (with or without tails)

Heat butter (until melted) or oil in saute pan. Mix
in Tellicherry sauce. Saute shrimp until just

Serve with steamed vegetables and wild rice.

Easy Pepper Steak
2-3 Tbsp Tellicherry Black Sauce
1/4 Cup heavy cream
2 New York strip loins (or your preferred cut)

Combine cream and pepper sauce with a whisk. Bring
to a simmer over low heat, keep warm.

Grill steaks to desired doneness and spoon on the
pepper sauce or serve it on the side in a gravy

Serve with baked potato and grilled vegetables.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

About kicking puppies.

If you've started following this blog, it's possible that you got here because I left one of my comments on your blog. I suppose it's a hobby of mine, but I like bouncing through blogs when I want to blog but can't focus on a topic worth blogging about and all I want to write is something cheesy and personal -- which absolutely goes against my very idea of blogging and begs me to go buy a journal.

Something always motivates me to blog... I have something cool that I found that I want to share or I'm walking around emotionally struck looking for an outlet and frankly don't think it's any of your business why I feel like kicking a puppy. Of course it's days when I feel like this, that I blog bounce looking for someone to rip a strip off. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Today, I learned two new words... Political Terrorism and White Privilege and decided that the puppy I want to kick is a privileged white Republican who likes to practice political terrorism.

Political Terrorism ran chills through my spine and flipped my stomach over a few times as I came to understand what the bloggers were talking about. White Privilige had my stomach flipping over, but running fewer and fewer chills down my spine as I came to understand what those bloggers were talking about.

Political Terrorism is the fear forced down our throats over and over again by those who want us to swallow their politics no matter how incredulous the basis for that political stance might be. One such stance is the one that we're unpatriotic if we aren't 100% behind the war in Afghanistan (The American equivalent of this is that you're unpatriotic if you're not 100% behind the war in Iraq -- or the ahem... war on terrorism).

White Privilege is the privilege that I as a white woman enjoy and that no person of colour anywhere will ever be able to enjoy because they aren't white. And that although, it's not something for me to have to feel guilty about, it is something that I have and any pretense that I am not privileged in this way is short-sighted and ignorant to the extreme.

Being a slightly facist feminist pacifist humanist like me isn't easy when blogging. I see commentary by people that I just want to take and shake. And then of course good sense kicks in and I either post something, that only I could ever possibly think is witty, in their comments or bounce away from their blog, shaking my head instead. Fortunately the latter happens far more often than the former, but the former, more than likely caused YOU to be here reading my gibberish.

What I discovered while bouncing today is that there is an awful lot of political terrorism being practiced by the white privileged who are calling for the blood of some faceless Islamic terrorists on the other side of the planet and who at the same time are in abject disgust with those of us who would like a face put on our aggressors before we are willing to give up our rights and freedoms for the sake of being protected from their aggressions.

The thought that comes to my mind... Who are you calling a terrorist, you freaking terrorist??? I just happened to notice as I was blog bouncing that the worst political terrorists are, more often than not, privileged white republican men.

So, really the two words, today anyway, go hand in hand.

What is interesting to me is the thought in my mind now, is what the heck am I going to do about these new words?? I can't really go around smacking all the privileged white republican men who are practicing political terrorism, can I?

Oh wait! I can blog.

So, here's a personal message to all you fat cat privileged white republicans with your brains stuffed so far up your bums that you are willing to give up your freedom for the sake of security.

It is not in support of terrorism that I am unwilling to have my luggage searched by the TSA. It is in protection of my rights and freedoms, which are not up for grabs simply because someone blew up the World Trade Center.

Jesus loves me, homosexuals and Belinda Stronach regardless of whether you do or not -- He said so himself.

Protecting Darfur from their Government is JUST as important as protecting Afghanistan from the druglords, I mean, the Taliban.

There is nothing wrong with trade with Cuba or trade with China and Vietnam they are all EQUALLY vital to a spirit of international harmony.

The United States should simply get out of the United Nations. That way, their highest national priority; enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq; won't be in direct contradiction to everything that the UN stands for.

If multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation then a woman can be trusted with decisions about her own body.

The best way to improve military morale is to improve veterans' benefits, equip our men better and give them better combat pay.

Condoms won't keep adolescents from having sex, but it will help stop the spread of STDs and lower the incidence of teen pregnancy.

Belittling your allies and then demanding our cooperation is no way to make friends.

Making fun of Canadians for providing health care to all citizens, while providing it to Iraqis but not Americans really is hypocritical, not to mention mind-boggling.

Global warming is not junk science. And "Creationism" like all other religious theologies, should only be taught in schools with the consent of the children's parents.

Who a Government official is sleeping with should be NONE of OUR BUSINESS and lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die should be a criminal offense.

Government should get out of people's bedrooms most especially their own.

White men are privileged individuals, whether or not you want to accept that fact and someone countering that privilege with equality is not now nor will it ever be "reverse discrimination".

And last but not least, women are not second class citizens. We are better socialized than men are, think faster on our feet and are able to empathize better with our fellow man in order to find solutions that will protect and heal the entire planet and not just the bit run by privileged white men.

So there it is.

If you're a privileged white republican, consider yourself my kicked puppy.

And if you're not... forgive me for kicking puppies, they are after all only puppies.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Some people just don't understand "courtesy".

Have you ever been so unhappy in a job that you felt you had to quit? Have you ever hated it so much that you simply went home from work one day and never went back? Did your boss have any inkling whatsoever that you were unhappy???

My assistant quit on Tuesday morning; no warning and no notice. She's left me in the position of having to figure out what she's done and what she hasn't. Worse, she's left right before the three busiest months of the year, when I haven't the time to train someone new.

She never complained nor gave me any idea that she was unhappy. In fact, she'd gone all over town (I live in a small town) telling people how much she loved the job.

She quit in an email. She said the job was too physical for her.

If I'd been in the frame of mind to fire her, I would have had to give her a week's notice, BY LAW. The Labour Board says I can sue her in civil court for the "reasonable amount of notice" that she is required to give me.

I wonder if she'll be so foolish as to give my name as a reference?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Terrorists hell, I'm more afraid of the local psychos!

It must have felt like Baghdad central in downtown Montreal today.

A man walked into Dawson College with three guns, one a semi-automatic, and simply opened fire. Two people, one of them the gunman, thankfully, are dead and reports vary on how many were injured or treated at hospital.

Offhand, I don't know anyone involved (I don't think). Although, I do have an acquaintance who works there; I have a dear friend who passed away earlier this year who was a much beloved counselor there for a long-time and I've attended classes in those hallowed halls. Heck, I wrote my Jeopardy! application in one of those classrooms!

Dawson is a beautiful old campus on the corner between Westmount and Downtown Montreal and is a beautiful Cegep not a University, as the US press is calling it. This is essentially the equivalent of Grade 12 and 13 here in Quebec. So these kids are all 17 and 18 years old. Watching the newsclips of Montreal's babies running in fear from the building hit so close to home.

Here we are the day after the anniversary of 9/11 thinking about all the people who died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania that day, some of whom I knew personally. I was wondering about the insensibility of the disaster that occurred that infamous day and about all of the things that have happened since then, when this occurs. What a mindf*ck! Pardon the expression.

My nephew (Father of my Great-Niece) is a Captain in the Air Force and because of his position, has a slim chance of going to Afghanistan and yesterday, because of his job, he was in my thoughts, repeatedly. But today, after hearing the news, I thought of his sister, she's a member of the RCMP, off on maternity leave (new Mother of my Great-Nephew) and she could have easily been one of those cops who had to deal with that gunman today.

Apparently, two cops on a routine call just happened to be nearby when the gunman started shooting. They acted very quickly and in a very short period of time, had him cornered and "neutralized" so he could do no more harm.

It's funny, for the last few years, when I'd see stories about Afghanistan on the news, I'd fear that my Nephew would get called up and sent overseas to kill potentially innocent Afghanis in the guise of protecting us from Osama Bin Laden and the Axis of Evil. But everyday my Niece and her co-workers are out there on the front line dealing with all manner of psychos right here at home. And those psychos could far more easily kill you or I than every single one of Bin Laden's creepy friends.

All I can think today is thank God for people like my Niece. Those are the front-line members we need to have protecting us. Policemen.

And before 9/11 that's what our military were; policemen... Peacekeepers.

Today I saw the new recruitment commercials for the Canadian Military and it looked like an advertisement for one of those video games that I don't let my son play.

It's like they're trying to recruit people who will enjoy killing. People who will do what we have never wanted our military to do.

It breaks my heart and makes me wonder... Do we need more killers or more policemen?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The 12 steps of Chiliheads Anonymous

These are the Twelve Steps of Chiliheads Anonymous.

1. We admitted we were powerless over chili peppers — and that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity; or at least make it stop burning!

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Dave DeWitt as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of our hot sauce fridge.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being that we really did like the taste of scotch bonnets.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all the Tobasco from restaurant tables everywhere and replace it with REAL hot sauce.

7. Humbly asked Him to not remove our seeds.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to try even harder in the future to turn them all into chiliheads.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would keep them from really enjoying the burn.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were deficient promptly bought another bottle of hot sauce.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with capsaicin, as we understood it, praying only for knowledge of the fact that there are only 15,000,000 SHUS in pure cap and the power to carry that message to the rest of the world.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of eating peppers, we tried to carry this message to chiliheads, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Dorset Naga

Michael MichaudIt's every chilihead's dream to find the world's hottest pepper. We go through phases of seeking all the heat we can handle, delving into extracts and maybe even cap-surfing until we either tire of it, hurt ourselves or settle into simply eating fresh peppers regularly.

April fool’s Day 2006 will go down in history as the day that Joy and Michael Michaud, pictured here, announced to the world that they had hazarded upon the world's hottest pepper. From there, the story began its whirlwind tour of misinformation, mistrust and hoaxism. The April Fool's Day joke is that this story didn't break on April Fool's Day. The story was published on March 31st, in the Bridport News a newspaper local to the area of Dorset where the Michauds reside. The media then picked it up and ran with it... on April fool’s Day.

Joy and Michael Michaud live in West Bexington, a small rural village in the county of Dorset, England. They both hold a Doctorate in grassland agronomy. Joy's is from Aberystwyth University of Wales and Michael's is from Texas A&M. Michael is American. Michael is co-author of the book; Cool Green Leaves and Red Hot Peppers. Michael contributes articles on his work with immigrants and the vegetables they grow. One such article appeared in a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) magazine, The Garden, entitled: The World in an Allotment - Gardeners from Different Communities.

For their part-time chili business, the Michauds grow 8 other chilies and tomatillos. All the chilies, with the exception of the Thai hot are grown in the soil in polytunnels, a UK version of a plastic sheet hot house. The Thai hot and some other chilies sold at shows as decorative, edible house plants are grown in pots where they thrive. Joy and Michael spent the last weekend planting out this year's crops.

For the past several years, Joy and Michael have been selecting the best and the brightest of the offspring from a Bangladeshi pepper, the naga morich. The pepper, which ripens to a rich red colour, is preferred by Bangladeshis to be picked and used green. Their intention for selecting these plants was to get larger, heartier fruit, with stronger, larger plants. They are aware that culling the way they did is really going the long way around, but they are quite satisfied with the resulting plant. The line for which they have applied for Plant Variety Protection (PVP) (Plant Cultivar Protection in North America) has been given the name ‘Dorset Naga’.

In a personal interview, Joy said, "We don't know whether our chilli is the hottest in the world or not, probably not, it is just that we had it measured." The truth is that based on two independent HPLC tests of the Michaud's Dorset Naga, their cultivar, planned or accidental, currently holds the highest HPLC count for anything other than an extract, or does it? Interestingly enough, there is yet another chili from Assam, India, called the bhut jalakai or raja mirchi (ghost or poison chili) and it supposedly registers a reading of 1,041,427 SHU. The Michauds believe that the Dorset Naga, the naga morich, the bhut jalakai, the raja mirchi, and other landrace naga varieties, (all C. chinense peppers) from that region, North Bangladesh/North East India, may all be related. During the interview, Joy expressed surprise that there was so much excitement generated over their peppers. After all, such hot peppers are common in the ethnic shops catering to immigrant Bangladeshis where they found their naga morich peppers. With a laugh, Joy writes, "Michael's favourite quote is that these chillies are the world's best kept secret. Only him, me (sic) and a million Bangladeshis know about it!"

Joy tells us that this year's Naga crop is about 1-2 feet high already and they expect the fruit to be ready to be picked by late July. Once grown, the Dorset Naga is easier to tell from the naga morich, mostly because the plants themselves grow twice as tall and the fruit are much larger.

naga morich & Dorset Naga

Shown here, side by side, the naga morich is on the left, the Dorset Naga, on the right.

Regardless of when the fruit are ripe, don't expect to be able to buy any fresh Dorset Naga unless you live in Britain. The Michaud's will only ship to a British address.

The Michauds also sell to a few selected sauce makers, their main buyer being a Bangladeshi family. A few years ago the Michauds’ regular buyer had let them down and they had masses of naga laden with fruit and no one to buy them. Joy contacted the Bangladeshi sauce makers, who weren't really sure they wanted the peppers. Joy sent them a sample anyway. Once they had the pepper in their hands, they changed their minds and suddenly, Joy and Michael couldn't grow enough! Last year the Michauds had to limit their hot sauce maker to only 10 kilograms of fruit a week. The majority of the chilies the sauce maker needs are imported from Bangladesh.

The Dorset Naga, although large for their size, are very thin skinned with a large cavity, so the Michauds get about 200 fruit per kilo. The plants are so bushy, that Joy actually has to search for the chilies. Perhaps she should call it the Hide and Seek Naga! Joy picks all of the peppers herself. They are so hot; she won't let anyone else do it. Interestingly, the peppers are not always bush-ripened. The Bangladeshis who eat the naga prefer the peppers green.

Michael and Joy joked that they should set up a competition to see who can come up with a hotter pepper. Michael figures it would be a great way to get more people intermingling with the Bangladeshi communities; they would go into their shops, where meeting the people and talking with them will help break down barriers.

If you are going to go around to the shops that Bangladeshi immigrants frequent, you might find these little green chili pods that don't look special, but there they will be. The Bangladeshi pepper is always sold green, so it is hard to extract viable seed, but the Michauds managed it, so it is possible.

At the moment the Michauds are not selling seed of Dorset Naga. They have applied for plant variety protection and the seed is likely to be available after this year’s season. There has been a sudden flurry of naga seeds being sold on the internet, but this is not Dorset Naga, and may be the seed collected from the unripe fruit sold in the ethnic shops. It is also rumoured that some of the seeds might actually be the PCP Red Savina.

We had a customer of ours bring us a plant he called a Mr. Naga. After showing the pictures of Mr. Naga to Joy, she concurs, Mr. Naga was most definitely a naga morich. So, indeed, we have had the honour of tasting the now famous pepper. What's sad, is that last fall Mr. Naga lost all of his leaves and one of our employees thinking him dead, tossed the plant. In case you are wondering, the fruit on Mr. Naga was the hottest pepper I have ever tasted and it actually left our Peppermaster feeling like he'd been punched in the chest. It took his breath away and he had to sit down.

Mr. Naga pepper

The fruit of the now defunct Peppermaster Mr. Naga plant.

I asked Joy if she and Michael eat the peppers they grow, and if so, what their favourite way to eat them was. She told me that they do eat the peppers, just not the Dorset Naga, it is too hot for them. She made the point that they both love the habanero and its wonderful flavour, asking if I had ever tried using it for tomato ketchup or for a fruit-based pasta sauce. Then she commented that they used a habanero specially bred for its mildness. Lover of the habanero that I am, I would love to taste this mild-bred habanero, even if I would end up adding heat afterwards.

Over the years, Joy and Michael have come to specialize more and more in chilies, but they continue to grow other crops. The Michauds sell a lot of Mexican chilies and as such they grow the vegetables that would go best with those chilies, hence the growing of tomatillos. In a chili business like theirs, the Michauds need to offer a variety of peppers, covering the full range of heat, so, they have always included a hot habanero pepper. To be able to supply all the chilies in their catalogue right from the beginning of the season they aim to synchronize the first harvest of their chilies. This was difficult with the habanero as these peppers tend to ripen later than other types and normally should be picked ripe. But when, a Pakistani friend mentioned a fruity flavoured Bangladeshi chili eaten green. A little checking and it turned out that the chili was a habanero and because it is traditionally eaten in its green stage, could be picked several weeks earlier than usual. That was the beginning.

Joy and Michael would like everyone to know that they aren't fraudsters. They aren't about to claim that their peppers are the hottest anyone could get. The only claim the Michauds have made is that these two HPLC tests were carried out on a pure sample of their peppers. The tests, both conducted by reputable American HPLC testing facilities, recommended, Joy adds, by people in the US chili industry, gave their pepper sample an average score of over 900,000 SHU. They have sent their results to Guinness to apply for the World Record, and in the event that Guinness, and indeed the rest of the world would like more proof, wait a while, the Michauds intend to retest this summer.

It's funny that two agronomists who prefer the milder peppers should develop something so hot they can't eat it. In fact, both Joy and Michael downplay the macho chili eating, lovers of peppers, they prefer to enjoy their flavours whether, mild or hot.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Drugs don't Kill Kids, Lack of Parental Responsibility Kills Kids!

If you've been following my blog for a while, then you'll know about the teen who died from a drug overdose. Said death touching way too close for me. Well, the saga continues.

Last week, my eleven year old son came home from elementary school with a letter in his hand that confused him. The letter was from the school, they were planning on April 21 to hold a pajama day and each child would donate at least $1 to have the privilege of wearing said pajamas and the monies collected would be used to plant a tree in honour of this young girl who had "passed away".

"Mommy," my bright little boy asked, "why are they planting a tree for her, didn't she overdose on drugs?".

He showed me the letter. It gave no mention of "drug awareness", it gave no mention of the lesson to be taught from planting this tree, and indeed, left ME wondering why a tree was being planted.

I phoned the school.

I was told that the children of the school had decided to erect the tree to remember a classmate who'd died. I was left with the impression that regardless of what insensibility this project might have, it was closed to discussion and there would be no further discussion on the matter, it was set. I requested the Principal call me.

That was last Thursday.

Yesterday, after no response from the Principal, I wrote a letter and rather than write several letters, I decided to write one open letter.

This is the letter:

(The young girl's name has been removed to protect her family).


I am writing this open letter to tell you how irresponsible I find the to-date shoddy planning of "Pajama Day", this Friday at Mount Pleasant. Allowing the children to memorialize the death of this girl in this manner is an affront to any parent hoping to teach their children not to go where this girl went.

It makes sense to me that these children want to do something to remember the fact that one of their ex-school mates has died. But I find it insensible that the guiding adults at this school are allowing the desires of the children to proceed, seemingly, without wise adult guidance.

This girl died using illegal drugs. Sending a letter home to parents asking them to donate money to purchase a tree to memorialize a child who "passed away" puts this girl's death on par with that of our recently deceased teacher, Mr. Nagy or someone who might have passed away due to leukemia or some other malady. Furthermore, simply planting a tree in her honour without surrounding the function with an opportunity to teach our children not to do drugs, is thoughtless, irresponsible and misguided.

Stevie was a bright child, with a bright future and her life was snuffed out because she voluntarily did Ecstasy.

Aside from planting a tree, there are many ways that the children of Mount Pleasant can remember this girl without turning her into a bizarre cult figure who simply "passed away".

The RCMP, across Canada offers the DARE program to elementary schools. This program sends trained police officers into the schools to teach children how to avoid using and misuing tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs, such as ecstasy.

The D.A.R.E. curriculum includes both the K-4 Visitation Program, and the Elementary (5th/6th grade) curriculum. These programs are specifically designed for the children of Mount Pleasant and the workbooks are available in both French and English.

DARE is a comprehensive prevention program designed to equip school children with the skills to recognize and resist social and peer pressures to experiment with tobacco, alcohol, other drugs and violence.

The D.A.R.E. workbooks cost .89 per student, and I believe that instigating an annual D.A.R.E. day program, designed to raise money to help pay for this program, is a better memorial to this girl than simply planting a tree.

I would further hope that the plaque that accompanies this "memorial" tree will state clearly the mistake that Stevie made in doing the illegal drugs that took her short life, so as to not give undue honour to Stevie's death.

It seems highly plausible to me that had Mount Pleasant had such a program in place on an annual basis, this girl's death might have been avoided.

I would suggest that taking the adult upper hand and guiding the children to do something to memorialize Stevie, by instigating a program such as D.A.R.E. within the walls of Mount Pleasant will have far more future value to our children than simply planting a tree.

In protest of this lack of thought, I will be keeping my son home from "pajama day".

I do hope that you and the other teachers involved will put a little more thought into this project.


I guess someone (or several someones) that I sent the letter to decided to forward it. Perhaps they agreed, perhaps they didn't, but the letter ended up in the hands of someone who for whatever reason didn't think this is any of my business. They called to tell me so, and the conversation ended with them threatening me.

I understand, all too well, how painful such a situation can be for people, but that's no excuse to threaten someone's life. I called the police and filed a report, but didn't press charges. I might have empathy, but I don't take chances with folks I don't know very well.

Later that afternoon, I received a phone call finally from the Principal. He was a little annoyed that I wrote the letter. He said he'd been given the impression that the "problem" was taken care of. I guess it wasn't, surprise, surprise.

I spoke to him for about an hour and he left me with the words; "You raise some very valid points", resonating in my ears. Unfortunately, I have nothing in my head, nor my heart that leads me to believe that the letter or the phone conversation changed anything. We'll see.

I told him that I believed that several parents had already dropped the ball when it came to this girl's death and that I couldn't simply sit idle and watch it get dropped again. And I mean it. Wednesday night, the town community center is holding a drug awareness meeting. I will be there. I wonder if the tree planting will come up as a topic of conversation? I hope it does. If we're to leave a legacy for our children, it should be one of truth. And the truth is, this girl died from lack of parental supervision.

She was at a friend's home for a sleepover. There was no parent. The two girls went to the house of a third kid, slightly older and again, there was no parent. The kids did ecstasy, and one of them is now dead. Where were these kids' parents? I don't know where these kids' parents were or what they were thinking.

What I do know is that three families, already in crisis, have been destroyed by this incident and I've taken it upon myself to make sure that someone who has the time to do so, picks up the ball, and runs with it. And I really hope I find someone, because if I don't, I feel I will have to be the one to run with the ball, and I really don't have the time for it.

In the event that I don't find someone to run with the ball, I've been doing some research. I've learned several things.

Teaching kids to "Just say "NO"!", and programs like "Scared Straight" and "D.A.R.E." may only work on little kids. By the time these kids are teens and are into fully experiencing life, wanting to be adults before their time, these programs aren't enough. So the next questions are: What is enough?; What works?; and, Why don't these programs work?

Unfortunately the answers to these questions are a little elusive. Mostly because not everything works for everyone. So is there a bandaid, one size fits all solution? or is there a lot of work to do?

A woman named Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum started the Safety First program, a Reality-Based Approach to Teens, Drugs, and Drug Education in 1999. The program came about after the San Francisco Chronicle published a letter that Rosenbaum had written to her teenage son, as he started high school. Rosenbaum's idea was to put in place realistic strategies that her son could use as he wended his way through this new path in his life.

Dr. Rosenbaum earned a PhD in Medical Sociology at the University of California at San Francisco in 1979, and was a recipient of study grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for eighteen years. Dr. Rosenbaum has completed studies on Crack and Heroin addiction as well as ECSTASY and drug treatment.

I printed Dr. Rosenbaum's brochure: Safety First: Teens and Drugs. and will offer free copies to anyone who wants one, at Wednesday's meeting. And I hope to find someone enough in support of something like this to really want to run with it. And ultimately, please, cross your fingers that I'm not really alone in this; that would kill me.

Me out.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Are You Trying to Kill Yourself or Your Dinner Guests???

While blog browsing today, I came upon a recipe for hot pepper oils for home growers written by John Laumer of Philadelphia for a site for organicophiles. Being the capiscumophile I am I found the blog by blogsearching "hot peppers". Why am I blogging about it??? Because homemade hot pepper oils are dangerously friendly to the clostridium botunlinum bacteria; better known to the rest of us as botulism.

Botulism is a disease caused by the flourishing of the clostridium botulinum bacteria. There are numerous outbreaks of foodborne botulism occuring almost every year and more often than not, they are caused by eating contaminated home-canned foods. An average of 110 cases are reported every year.

Symptoms of botulism include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. Untreated, these early symptoms can progress to paralysis, which ultimately is why you want to be very careful not to get botulism to begin with. Paralysis, when it gets into your lungs is a one way ticket to death. If you know what I mean.

Botulism symptoms, according to the CDC, occur between 18 and 36 hours of eating contaminated foodstuffs. BUT, they warn that they can occur as early as 6 hours after eating something tainted or as late as 10 days later.

Botulism treatment requires injection of an antitoxin and although the antitoxin can slow the effects of the botulism, reversing it fully can take up to several weeks. The good news is that whereas botulism induced paralysis can be fatal, over the last 50 years, deaths from it have been reduced from 50% to less than 8%. Oh, the miracles of modern medicine. Cases of severe botulism can put you on a breathing machine for as long as it takes for the antitoxin to allow your system to return to normal. That can take several months. Someone who survives botulism poisoning can have fatigue and shortness of breath for years and require long-term therapy in order to completely recover.

In other words, botulism is a bad thing.

The good news is that botulism is easily prevented.

More often than not, when one is talking about home-canning procedures, one needs worry about botulism for low-acid content foods. I, being a hot pepper afficianado need not worry about such things, I'm not about to home-can anything low-acid. Indeed, if I'm to home-can anything it will be hot peppers. Well, now technically, in my case, I suppose "home-canning" is actually "professional processing", but, well, you get the idea. At any rate, although our "professional processing" is just that, my company uses "home-canning" methods, only on a more commercial scale.

Peppermaster hot sauces, to-date, doesn't have any peppers packed in oil, yet. And, truth be told, the reason we don't is primarily because of botulism.

Strict hygienic procedures are required to avoid contamination of foods and even so, once processed, oils infused with garlic, herbs or hot peppers should be refrigerated. Fortunately, botulism is destroyed by high temperatures, so, persons who eat such foods should consider boiling the food for 10 minutes before eating it to ensure safety. As reticent as I am to get involved in hot peppered oils, the Peppermaster assures me that when we do so, this won't be a concern of ours.

My fear, if you will, is that our customers will take our lovely peppered oils and then have to boil them for ten minutes in order to be sure that they won't get botulism. And of course, after reading the CDC website, one might come to this conclusion.

After much research, I've come to the conclusion that in order to properly put peppers into oil, one must be very concerned about moisture levels. Avoiding at all costs, following the FDA's recommendation that one add microbial inhibitors or acidifying agents. We will NOT be using citric acid; or microbial chemical anythings.

If you are going to home-can your peppers and pack them in oil, do yourself a favour and add citric acid. Then, when you boil the product, do so for no less than 10 minutes and add five minutes for every 5000 feet of elevation you live above sea level.

If you want to be really safe, simply blanch your peppers, cover them with water and then boil the jar for 15 minutes. Then, you can safely add the oil right before cooking... Bye bye botulism risk.

Me out.

Ve Duss Done Reach...

"Ve duss done reach" is how one might say "We're home" in the Bahamas.

Finding goat peppers on New Providence Island, last year, was an exercise in futility. We kept being told that we could find them easily at the vegetable exchange but for some reason, the government officials who run the exchange simply didn't have the goat peppers or didn't want us to have them.

This years trip, came out with slightly better results. You'll be pleased to know that although we didn't manage to come home with any goat peppers in our pockets, we did manage to find two steady suppliers. One is growing some pretty amazing things in the very rocky ground of the island will be shipping peppers to us this spring. The other, on our enticement is planting knowing he now has a sure market for his produce. We can thank our Hurricane Mash purchasers for this project.

What was most fascinatingly interesting to me is how they farm in the islands. They call it "pothole farming" and until you see it, you've never see anything like it. It's a wonder they can grow anything at all. And you should have seen the incredible fruit and vegetables growing out of these potholes. You simply can't imagine what kind of quality they are managing to get out of these literal holes in the ground. And because the ground is essentially a coral bed, pothole farming is the preferred method of farming in a lot of islands in the Caribbean. Truth be told, when you see what Caribbeans have to work with for soil, then farming any other way seems ludicrous.

This is Caribbean-style Pothole Farming:

Not to be confused with Prairie Pothole Farming:

Where I come from, one first clears the land, removing all rocks, tree stumps, and anything else that might break the tines on a roto-tiller. Then, they till the soil, preparing a bed of soft moist earth to plant in. In the Bahamas, short of building a raised bed of earth, which is very expensive and time consuming, one simply plants in the pockets of soil that are found in the porous coral bed of the islands. In other words, in the potholes. It's a pretty darned cool way to grow things.

And we now have two farmers pothole farming peppers and native Bahamian limes just for us.

We arrived in the Bahamas to beautiful weather. Our flight to the out-islands was uneventful.

Our cottage turned out to be a delightful shade of coral pink.

and the beach was delightfully, 200 yards from the back door, as promised.

It took two weeks before we found any goat peppers at all, but then it was as if the heavens themselves had opened up and dropped manna onto our doorstep, because from that point forward, there were peppers everywhere! Bird peppers, finger peppers, and yes, even goat peppers.

We had the opportunity to meet several Bahamian hot sauce makers. None of whom are interested in exporting, unfortunately for North American chiliheads.

But to make it up to everyone we've made arrangements to share our island. If you find yourself with time to visit the out-islands of the Bahamas and would like a quiet little cottage a stone's throw from the sea, I can get you set up.

Me out.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Quebec teen dies after apparently taking ecstasy

I went to a funeral reception yesterday. Rather I avoided going to a funeral I couldn't bring myself to go in and instead went shopping for an hour with my husband.

The newspapers had this to say:

RIGAUD, Que. -- A 13-year-old girl who went into a coma after apparently experimenting with the drug ecstasy has died, Quebec provincial police said Tuesday.

The girl, who had been on life support since the incident late last week, died Monday, said police spokesman Marc Butz. Butz would not comment on reports a 16-year-old boy has been arrested and charged with drug trafficking.

Butz said a judge had imposed a publication ban on information about the case.

Provincial police say the 13-year-old teen from Rigaud, west of Montreal, and a 14-year-old friend were at a sleepover when they went to the home of an older acquaintance to allegedly obtain the drug.

After they returned to the 14-year-old's home, the youngest teen began to feel ill and had trouble breathing.

An ambulance was called and she was taken to the hospital, where her condition deteriorated.

Family and friends said their final goodbyes in the filled-to-capacity St. James Church in Hudson.

I can barely think about it without getting all teary-eyed and choked up.

You see, this girl was my daughter's best friend from the first day of grade three through New Years' Eve in Grade five. Both girls are now in Grade 8. But my daughter has been homeschooled since last January. Given this combination of experience, I can't say that I knew the girl when she died. What I can say is that I liked her. She was a self-composed, intelligent girl, sure of herself, with an intense, sarcastic sense of humour. Well beyond her years, much like my daughter, and like my daughter, an alpha-female.

I had a fleeting friendship with the girl's mother, but that went away when the girls' friendship broke up. So although I knew the girl who died, I didn't know her at all anymore. Still, her passing breaks my heart.

The girl's mother is very, very angry. And what mother wouldn't be. She's very angry with the girl her daughter was with when she took the drugs. For the mother, the surviving girl is entirely at fault. I can't blame her for feeling that way. Who else can she blame. Certainly not her daughter. Certainly not the Mother of the surviving girl. Certainly not herself.

I hugged her at the reception and I started to say to her that I knew how she felt, but I couldn't possibly -- I still have my baby. But she stopped me and knowing the story of my first husband, she made it clear that although the circumstances are different, she knows I know how she feels.

She seemed so empty... Distant... Lost. Did I look like that when my first husband died?

The only other thing left to be said, is about the girl. She wanted to be an architect.

Me out.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Wait a minute... That's not a doggie in the window, that's a doggie on the computer screen!!

And where better than a computer screen to find the best canine blogger in North America??

Bark N Blog is a blog about natural pet care and it's written by Shadrach, a Neo Mastiff who does all the blogging. Yeah, ok, if you don't buy that, then you should know that for Kim Bloomer and Jeannie Thomason, who as a team own the blog, Shadrach's blog can help you learn all about caring for your pet, naturally.

Their motto: "The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action" - author: Herbert Spencer
Every Wednesday at 2:30 PM EST as these ladies record at Holistic Pet Audio You can download the show or listen to it online every Tuesday at 10 AM EST at Animal Talk Naturally.

Animal Talk Naturally is streamed on BX Radio Network and on All Pets Radio.

Tomorrow's show includes a Q&A with holistic vet, Dr. Stephen Blake. I've been told by Kim Bloomer that he is funny and kind.

Here's the skinny on the show.

Animal Talk Naturally will have Stephen Blake, DVM as the special guest this week. On Wednesday February 8th at 2:30pm EST. You can be a part of the live audience and participation.

Stephen Blake, DVM aka The Pet Whisperer will be talking about natural care for pets. Some of the topics to be covered are raw diets, genetics and health, vaccinations, the use of essential oils, colostrum and gemmology. Ask the Doctor questions and participate in the interactive show.

You can find the show at Holistic Pet Audio.

To enter the online recording room:

1)Download the plugin to your desktop,

2) Double click on the icon you saved to your desktop
The install wizard will install it

3) Go back to Holistic Pet Audio, and log in!

Kim tells me that space is VERY limited - they only have room for 17 people, so be on time and download the plugin ahead of time.

If you'd rather simply listen to the airwaves, the show is streamed on BX Radio Network and on All Pets Radio

Kim Bloomer is a Natural Pet Care Educator and a friend of mine. Her company, Aspenbloom Pet Care is all about seeing your pets good health bloom!

Check it out. The dog is pretty danged interesting.

Me out.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Blogging isn't anywhere near as easy as I thought it would be...

It's been a while since this little journey started and whereas I'm really proud of what I've managed to publish, I realize that I haven't posted anywhere near what I thought I might or even what I hoped I would. I realize that I've got two major posts in draft one about the mysterious Naga Jolokia and another which, although complete has not hit the airwaves. This, since October.

Can you tell I've been busy??

I've spent the last two months purveying peppers all over North America. I've put samples of extremely hot hot sauces onto the tongues of several thousand North Americans and more than just a few other international travellers.

France is going to love Peppermaster!

I've made a lot of friends and probably a couple of enemies. And you know what... I really like being a sadist. It's fun.

We're stepping onto a plane tomorrow night to begin what will be an 18 hour voyage to South Palmetto Point, Bahamas, West Indies. You can find it on GoogleEarth. I'll have to get back to you on the coordinates.

Our little voyage has several goals. The most important of which, has to do with eating a lot of Bahamian Goatpeppers. Those nasty little capiscum chinsenses that just happen to be the best little peppers in the world... The environmental stressing, we think, gives it the ability to score as one of the hottest peppers in the world, right up there with the Red Savina and chocolate habaneros: which suffice it to say are all as habaneros, essentially different breeds of the same pepper.

Our next goal is to hand over some money to a pepper farmer to pay for seeds. The result of selling lots of jars of Hurricane Mash.

Our third goal is to scout out some territory, a little pied-a-terre, where I can build my little dream cottage. Ok, ok, it will be a dream shack, but who needs a cottage when you're 200 yards from the high tide line and in the direct path of no less than 3 Cat 5 hurricanes every decade?

Our final goal and well, my own personal goal, is to simply dig my toes in hot pink sand and spend some time swimming in an aquamarine paradisical coral jungle. Ya know, like Nemo in the Disney movie... That coral jungle.

I promise not to think of you while I'm sucking back the Barbancour and cokes on the beach, so long as you promise not to harbour ill will towards me while I'm gone. See you on the shorter side of winter.

Me out.