My peppadews are ripening to a glorious red. I’ve had a bumper crop this year so its an opportune time to start bottling them.
Did you know that the Peppadew is today known as a South African variety of sweet piquanté peppers (a cultivar of Capsicum baccatum)? Though its origin is questionable and its story is a little intriguing and somewhat controversial. It goes something like this~
Businessman and farmer, Johan Steenkamp, first discovered the sweet piquant pepper at his holiday home in the Eastern Cape in 1993. He spotted an unusual-looking bush, standing head high, laden with small bright red fruit which looked like something between miniature red peppers and cherry tomatoes. He bit into one. It had a unique, delicious taste – a mixture of peppery and sweet, but with a distinctive flavor. Believing that he had hit upon something really new, he saved seeds from the ripened fruit of the mother plant, and cultivated them at his Tzaneen farm in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. He started off bottling and selling the product as a small cottage industry. Steenkamp had botanists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research verify that the Peppadew was a separate variety of chili plant that had sprung up, and he established the trademarks, and registered international plant breeders’ rights for that pepper plant. He formed the company Peppadew International. But when he ran into financial difficulty and needed a large capital investment, Phil Ovens, managing director of the company, was responsible for turning it around. What started out as a 51% investment in 2000, ended up with Ovens and his team eventually buying out 100% of the company. Today Steenkamp is not involved in the business in any way, although he does receive royalties for his original product. The secret pickling recipe today remains largely unchanged. Woolworths are the only store that Pepperdew International will do a home brand for- their loyalty lies in the fact that Woolworths helped to get the company off its feet in the early days. Today, Peppadew has a full listing nationwide.
Peppadew® Sweet & Spicy Fruits is a registered trademark and the plants are patented in the US and the company has international sole rights to grow the plant commercially. Ovens explains how the patent rights work:
Very simply, it’s a bit like a patent in that it gives the person who discovered or created something protection from competition for a period of time to allow them to commercially exploit their discovery. And what’s important is that not only does it preclude other people from growing the product in those regions where they hold rights, but it also prevents people from other regions from selling the product in the areas where Peppadew International has protection… Plant breeder rights were always seen by us as an opportunity to establish the brand, and we have used our rights extensively in marketing and public relations – emphasising the uniqueness of the product and its provenance.
The distribution of peppadew plant material is strictly controlled and the growers of the peppadew ‘fruit’ are made to sign a contract which, if they are found to be distributing seeds outside the company, could face prosecution from the licence holding company. So jealously controlled are the movements of this plant that the production fields are actually guarded! Contracted farmers in the Tzaneen area are given six-week old seedlings to start the bushes from.
This intense control and security over what is at best a naturally occurring hybrid has resulted in a growing underground movement formed by a small group of incensed yet passionate gardeners. Believing that the entire peppadew operation is extremely ‘thug-like’ and that any naturally occurring hybrid should belong to the world, they will go to any lengths to secure, grow and distribute peppadew seeds around the globe.
As to where the plant is native to is still open to debate but it is thought to originate from Central America. Ovens suspects that it came to South Africa because the previous owner of the house where Johan first discovered it was a botanist who had travelled quite extensively in Central America.
Presumably, my homestead patch of peppadews is legal, and like the ‘guerrilla gardeners’ above, I’m happy to question patents and plant breeders’ rights on the grounds that plants are gifts from God or from Mother Nature. They belong to us all, or to no one. What justification can there be for such finds becoming the property of an individual for their financial gain? Especially in this case where Steenkamp found the plant – there was no breeding involved on his part.
I received my seeds from a friend and am happy to share seed from my plants with others who may be interested in growing them non-commercially.
The recipe I use is freely available online (it is not poached from Peppadew International) and comes from the Angela Day cookery school.
Make a slit in the peppers and remove seeds. Save seeds aside for next years crop, to share with friends and to make a natural pesticide.
Et viola! Delicious on sandwiches and salads, or stuffed with cottage cheese to make a great appetiser.
Use the excess seeds from your pickled peppers that you won’t be giving away to friends or saving for next years crop. Wear gloves if you’re concerned about the burn and avoid rubbing your eyes!
Combine ingredients in a jug or jar (stir with knife), cover and set aside for 24 hours. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. Clearly label bottle with the contents and a warning!
Uses for this natural garden pest control are unlimited. Suffocates pests such as scale and mealy bug, will kill ants, aphids, caterpillars, grubs, bugs and just about anything small. Will also deter pets, mole rats and other critters.
Peppadew International: Phil Ovens – http://www.entrepreneurmag.co.za/advice/success-stories/entrepreneur-profiles/peppadew-international-phil-ovens/
Peppadew Peppers – http://www.cooksinfo.com/peppadew-peppers
How to grow Peppadew Peppers from seed – http://gardenofeaden.blogspot.com/2009/08/how-to-grow-peppadew-peppers-from-seed.html
Pickle your peppadews today – http://www.iol.co.za/the-star/pickle-your-peppadews-today-1.1496547