Scouting: Oak Grove Plantation

  Oak Grove Plantation @ Union Sq. Greenmarket  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Oak Grove Plantation @ Union Sq. Greenmarket | Image: Laura Messersmith

I like a dose of spice now and then – a slice of jalapeno on nachos, a little sweet chili sauce with spring rolls – but you’ll never catch me with the sriracha bottle or buying any salsa above “medium.”

Mike, on the other hand, loves spicy food and will regularly order the items that have multiple tiny peppers next to them on a take out menu and shake red pepper flake over a piece of pizza. His enthusiasm for hot sauce has led to books on the subject, which then led to plans for DIY-ing hot sauce at home. My mission as an enabler of this project? Scout some peppers suitable for transformation into Mike’s vision for hot sauce.

  Oak Grove Plantation @ Union Sq. Greenmarket   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Oak Grove Plantation @ Union Sq. Greenmarket | Image: Laura Messersmith

My search brought me to the Union Square Greenmarket where I found Oak Grove Plantation’s booth and all the peppers I could ever imagine. Some varieties I had heard of, but there were also a ton of options that I couldn’t begin to identify. Scotch Bonnet anyone? How about Rocotillo?

  Oak Grove Plantation @ Union Sq. Greenmarket   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Oak Grove Plantation @ Union Sq. Greenmarket | Image: Laura Messersmith

  Oak Grove Plantation @ Union Sq. Greenmarket   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Oak Grove Plantation @ Union Sq. Greenmarket | Image: Laura Messersmith

Thank goodness for a helpful market associate who suggested that choosing peppers at different Scoville scale levels would help balance heat with flavor. Excellent advice. The selection I brought home - Habanero (350,000) Serrano (23,000), Jalapeno (10,000) and Ancho (2,000) - are currently drying on a windowsill awaiting Mike’s mad scientist pepper mash and recipe experiments. Who knows, this could be where our hot sauce empire begins… do I have any volunteers for taste-testing?