Here at Spicie Foodie we love supporting the startups and small business owners. Today it is a great pleasure for me to share with you an interview with John Ford of Ford’s Fiery Foods. You may recall those beautiful and robust flavoured peppers I wrote about (read here) well, they all came from John. It doesn’t matter if you’re an extreme chile-head or prefer the milder peppers, John has something for everyone. Okay, let’s meet John, aka the go-to chile grower!
Hi John, can you tell us about your company and what you do?
Well we are a small licensed nursery stock dealer in Eugene Oregon specializing in rare and exotic mild and hot peppers from around the world. We offer nationwide pepper plant sells from March – July each year. We also sell the seeds/genetics of these rare strains worldwide along with fresh pepper sales in August-October each year and limited amount of powder and flake sales during the winter months. The last couple years focus has been on nuclear superhot pepper strains but we are currently shifting to milder peppers so everyone can enjoy them, not just extreme chilehead. Strains like the Aleppo, Urfa Biber, Maras Biber and many more from Europe, the Middle East and South America.
When and how did your love of chile peppers start?
Well I have a couple answers to that one. I used to garden with my grandfather in Willow Creek California and I remember us talking about peppers as a kid and how most people fear them but they are fun to grow and watch in your garden. I was fascinated by the fact we could grow a vegetable that people were scared of. And also fell in love with peppers when I realized that they could turn any dish into an amazing feast with heat and their unique flavors from chile to chile, one may be smoky, the other fruity or even nutty. The relationships peppers have with other foods are endless.
How long have you been in the business and how did you get started in it?
Well we officially launched our business January 2013 with eCommerce and social media fan pages but had been doing local sales here in Oregon since 2008 as a hobby grower/small business. How I got started was simple. My friend Shag and I and buddy Chris were standing around at Shag’s house one day having a conversation about peppers and starting up a hot sauce company or pepper business of some kind. We were looking over Shag’s pepper plants and how pathetic they looked here in our Oregon cold climate. From that day on I decided I was going to grow, sell and offer the rarest pepper strains on the planet.
Can you tell us about the different Chile products you offer?
Well we offer seeds/genetics of rare peppers for the gardeners that like to grow from seed and we do the seed sales world wide, internationally and US year around. We offer plant sales from March-July of each year for the customers, nurseries that enjoy receiving a 2-3 month old plant that is ready to transplant and grow then produce peppers. We also offer limited amounts of chilli powder during the winter months, fresh peppers during the summer.
Are the peppers you grow only North American varieties?
Actually most of the varieties we offer are from abroad, South America, Syria, Turkey, Albania, Europe and many other regions from around the world. We are really excited to announce we have collected over 25+ Turkish, Syrian and Albanian heirloom pepper strains and are currently growing them out and will have them available 2014-2015 growing season. These peppers are well known for their roles in some of the most delicious cuisines from the Middle East.
What is the hottest pepper you produce? How would you suggest people eat or cook with that chile?
The hottest pepper we produce would have to be the Brazilian ghost pepper. The heat unit on that pepper tested at 1.43 million SHU last year when we sent samples down to New Mexico for testing. Although there are hotter peppers in the world other then the Brazilian ghost, this is our favorite and hottest. As for cooking with these peppers you can cut them into quarters and toss 1 or two into your dish while cooking then remove the slices before serving.
What is the spiciest chile you have ever eaten? Tell us about the experience.
Well the hottest pepper I have veer eaten would be the Trinidad 7 pot Douglah chocolate strain. It gets its name 7 pot because in Trinidad you can spice up 7 pots of stew with 1 pepper. As for my experience it was very unpleasant. The feeling of swallowing molten lava running down your throat, burning the insides of your mouth, eyes and nose running uncontrollably, heart racing from the endorphin rush and burn that lasted well more then 30+ minutes.
Do you have a favourite pepper?
My favorite pepper is the Maras Biber or Marash pepper from Turkey. They are unique, smoky, fruity and just a mind blowing mouth watering all around flavour.
What world cuisine is your favourite and dish(es) from it?
Well I have 2 favorites, the first is from Turkey and is called Köfte It is commonly referred to as meatballs, but they come in all shapes. The köfte basics are ground meat (usually lamb or mutton) mixed with crumbled bread, minced onions and spices. The most common dish is Izgara Köfte, where the meat mixture is grilled and served with grilled green peppers, chopped parsley, crumbled dried red peppers and rice or bread on the side. And then my second would be a Mexican dish called Camarones a La Diabla which I fell in love with when vacationing in Rosarito, Mexico.
I have to ask, have you ever eaten the Indian dish called Phall?
I have not but have heard it is amazing and extremely HOT!!!
Does your family also love eating spicy food as much as you do, or do you have to reach for extra chile for your servings?
My family is Noregian and Scandanavian and cannot stand heat haha so it leaves more for me but can be inconvenient at times but I can just add powder or hot sauce to the top of my food instead of cooking separately.
When it comes to the heat, everyone’s tolerance is different. Which one of your peppers do you recommend for those looking for a mild bite? What about medium heat? For those looking for a hot pepper without too much pain? And lastly for those looking for the biggest kick and pain, you know when a habanero simply won’t do?
Well for the mild goers I would stick with the Turkish peppers like the Maras Biber or Urfa biber even the delicious Aleppo, for a little hotter go with the Murupi Amerela, a sweeter, hotter habanero heat pepper from Brazil and for the extreme folks that love it HOT go with the Carolina reaper or any other ghost or Trinidad types like the Moruga Caramel or Chocolate.
What new and exciting chiles do you have on offer?
I am really excited about the new Turkish strains we will be releasing. Some of these strains (we have) have never even been grown or tasted outside of Turkey — and they are supposed to be the most delicious peppers on the planet! We are working directly with growers or pepper farmers from Turkey to release these strains to the rest of the world. I have spent a lot of time, money and energy getting these seeds from Syria and Turkey; it has been difficult at times considering the conflicts and wars going on in the Middle East.
Can we only purchase your peppers through your website or where else can people find you?
Well I sell peppers to Taquería’s, online through my site, mail order here in the states and pick and ship or pick up here in Oregon. We also will have our peppers in a couple health food stores in Eugene Oregon 2014 season.
If you would like to give John’s peppers a try please contact him at 541-221-4317 (he’s located in Oregon) or via email at foodstuff(@)mail2me.com You can buy seeds, plants, peppers, dried peppers and powders. John is used to dealing with special requests too. Additionally check out his website Ford’s Fiery Foods and Plants and Facebook page. Make sure you tell him Nancy sent you!
I’d like to thank John for taking the time to answer my questions. In my honest opinion, John’s chiles are delicious and you simply must taste them — remember he has from very mild to super hot peppers so there’s something for everyone!
Disclosure: All photos are the property of John Ford and Fords’ Fiery Foods and Plants.