Peppadew cottage industry

Plump red peppadews.

Our family has a long history going back more than 20 years with peppadews; they are a chilli with all the marvellous flavour of hot peppers but much less of the heat.

Generally sweet peppers tend to be a bit anaemic, chillis are red hot and burn your tongue, stomach and tomorrow your rear-end but peppadews are a wonderful compromise; lots of piquant flavour but little of the terror.

They are for me the queen of the peppers but I never see them for sale. If you are looking for a small challenge why not consider taking the gap? There is money to be made by the entrepreneur and they are easy to grow. They thrive on compost, manure and worm-wee. No toxic chemical sprays are needed and we have little trouble from pests. 

There are least five ways to make money out of peppadews.
Sell them as fresh fruit; they will command a price at least as good as sweet peppers and I would suggest with careful marketing a good deal more; they are worth more.
Preserve and bottle them; it’s so easy. The good wife does it all the time.
Freeze them and sell as frozen peppers. This is my first choice out of season; it’s the least schlepp. We have six months supply in the freezer.
Dry them and turn them into pepper flakes. I do this but it is does take 20 odd hours in the drier; have you got free solar electricity?
Dry and sell the seeds. 

Peppadews are one of my absolute favourite foods. We eat them virtually every day throughout the year. From late summer right through autumn for about five months we enjoy them raw on our salads and gently fried in butter in Eggs Hilton. For the rest of the year it’s either pickled, frozen or as dried flakes.

Lockdown has meant time to experiment; we have been drying them and producing a pepper powder that is without equal. I never realised how much flavour is lost from oxidation in the spices one purchases in bottles. Sprinkled on eggs Florentine or into freshly-made hummus it’s a treat. 

After citrus they are the second richest source of vitamin C, one of the four so-important vitamins that help prevent frailty syndrome and not unimportant obviously in these coronavirus days. They are rich in a phytochemical called capsaicin that is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory agent; and they turn an otherwise rather dull lettuce salad or dinner into a delight. What more could one want?

A bucketful of peppadews.

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Each plant takes up about a square metre and would give you at least 100 fruit. They do need to be staked as the fruit is very heavy; otherwise they do not ripen properly and will not turn bright red. The plant continues to fruit for several years but the yield drops after the second year. We have perhaps 20 plants at our green home; they provide a riot of colour and wonderful nutrition.
Perhaps the most tiresome part is cutting the fruit open and removing the seeds prior to processing; it is time consuming. The seeds can be very hot. That is where much of the capsaicin is to be found though; getting a steady supply of anti-inflammatory foods into the diet is what reduces the anger in our muscles and joints.

The bucket shown contains nearly 2kg and about 150 of the fruit. At a local supermarket ordinary peppers sell for over R60/kg. A quick calculation gives them a retail value of nearly a million rand per hectare. There’s money to be made, money to be made, money to be made from a cottage industry of peppadews; but only for those not afraid of the midday sun and have no desire to spend the whole day sitting behind a computer. Selling them at a farmers’ market or REKO would be a breeze.

Growing peppadews has been a lot of fun; the taste of your own freshly made spice is to die for.

Peppadew cottage industry

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Our green home
  3. Peppadew cottage industry

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56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa

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