The Bronx, our closest NYC borough, is home to red-hot chili peppers. And we’re not talking about the band but The Bronx Greenmarket Hot Sauce made with serrano peppers grown in the borough’s community gardens.
In 2014, Bronx affordable-housing developers, John A. Crotty and John Fitzgerald, helped co-found Small Axe Peppers to support local agriculture and foster a sense of community. Small Axe Peppers launched The Bronx Greenmarket Hot Sauce in collaboration with sustainability nonprofit organization, GrowNYC, local community gardens, and Bronx Green-Up– the community outreach program of the New York Botanical Garden.
GrowNYC donates and distributes Small Axe’s serrano pepper seedlings to participating community gardens and urban farms each spring. At the end of the season, Small Axe Peppers buys back the mature peppers for a premium price. These peppers are the key to the hot sauce.
Hotter than poblanos but milder than habaneros, serranos are the “Goldilocks” of peppers. “They are not too hot or spicy — they are just right,” says Crotty.
Crotty’s childhood friend and NYC chef, King Phojanakong (leader of the nascent Filipino food industry surge and owner of Kuma Inn and Tito King’s Kitchen at Jimmy’s 43), takes these little green firecrackers and combines them with apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion, salt, and a dash of sugar to create the The Bronx Greenmarket Hot Sauce.
In 2016, the Bronx community gardens grew an astounding 1,500 pounds of serrano peppers which resulted in 70,000 bottles of hot sauce, an increase from 5,000 bottles in 2014.
Each bottle helps support low-income communities and their gardens. Some gardens include Pelham Organics, Morning Glory Community Garden, and the NY Botanical Garden. “Hundreds of pounds of peppers have been harvested, with the funds raised going directly back into the community gardens that are mostly volunteer-run and such vibrant and important resources in their neighborhoods,” says Ursula Chanse, the director of Bronx Green-Up.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. believes the Bronx Hot Sauce is “a great product designed to help local gardeners and the communities they serve, a wonderful way to highlight and support the amazing efforts of so many individuals who are committed to the success of our community gardens.”
Where can you find this hot commodity in Westchester? The Bronx Hot Sauce can be purchased at several Whole Foods locations including Yonkers, Port Chester, and White Plains plus at Mrs. Green’s in Briarcliff Manor. It can also be purchased online.
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