The 2015 Harvest Your Own Pepper (HYOP) event took place on October 26 at Rutgers Horticultural Research Farm III on Cook Campus in New Brunswick where the Rutgers community is invited to pick their own hot peppers left over from research variety trials. Over sixty faculty, staff and alumni visited the research plots to pick many types of peppers, ranging from heat-free/sweet mini bells to >250,000 Scoville heat unit-habaneros. The pepper spectrum covers African birdeye/Thai hot, African poblano (“Tatashe”), baccatum, cayenne and jalapenos.
This is a continuation of the exotic pepper research project at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Albert Ayeni, ethnic crop specialist, Tom Orton, extension specialist in vegetable breeding and colleagues, are conducting the hot pepper trials for selecting varieties that grow well in New Jersey. In addition, they are investigating the peppers’ potential use as ornamental plants and medicinal foods. From the selections of peppers in the research trials, several will eventually be released to New Jersey growers to expand the state’s ethnic food basket.
The additions to the 2015 HYOP event included access of guest pickers to the African eggplant (garden eggs) plot adjacent to the pepper plots and evaluation of habanero selections based on appearance.
The positive feedback from the guest pickers has enabled HYOP to become a growing annual event since it started in 2012. A HYOP guest who participated for the first time commented, “This was my first time participating in HYOP. What a nice tradition!”
Ayeni stated, “We are encouraged by the interest of our community in HYOP (33 participated in 2013, 45 in 2014 and 62 in 2015). We plan to continue the “tradition” of adding some spice to life throughout the fall, winter and spring seasons that follow the harvest. “A soul that eats no hot pepper, is a weak soul” —- an African adage! We look forward to 2016 HYOP and hope you can join us!”