IF YOU’VE eaten at Bull Street Taco, especially during their 2019 Hot Pepper Eating Contest, you have likely tried the vibrant and spicy peppers of Autumn’s Harvest Farm.
The fresh hot peppers at Autumn’s Harvest have everyone who likes spice in the Lowcountry talking. It’s a quaint, tiny farm, family run and owned, and everything in the garden is completely organic and delicious.
Ashley Groover started Autumn’s Harvest in Ludowici, Georgia, with her husband Jonathan. It all began with a farm full of seasonal items such as okra, squash, carrots, and bell peppers.
Although successful with the first types of produce, Autumn’s Harvest found that there were too many similar local farms and decided to specialize in a more niche product: peppers. Not just any peppers—some of the hottest and most unique around.
Their first new specialty crop was one of the hottest: the ghost pepper. If you are a pepper fiend like myself, you may have tried one of these little guys. Like myself, I’m sure you immediately mentally marked it as a really poor decision afterwards.
Experimentation in the field led to experimentation in the kitchen. Autumn’s Harvest took some of the revamped crop and created sauces and such with their yield. The produce and creations were shared with friends and family before branching out to customers, which confirmed that Autumn Harvest was on the right track with its specialization.
After settling on peppers as the primary crop, things really took off. Ashley explained, “We began researching the multitude of peppers available and selected a few exotics and superhots to focus on along with some of the more common types. Some worked and some didn’t, but we enjoyed a great 2018 season and knew that we were on the right track.”
The most impressive part is that Ashley works a full time job, raises a family, tends to the farm, and even delivers to customers across the area. She is handing out orders in Savannah sometimes twice a week, and other counties the remaining days. To say that she loves her art is an understatement.
Customers can find the stock of available peppers on Autumn’s Harvest’s Facebook page and order online. Ashley continues her growth by pushing to get into the Forsyth Farmers Market by 2020. The way this farm is pushing pecks of peppers, I cannot imagine a more fitting group to fill a spot at our local Farmer’s Market.
Almost all of the peppers have a big kick, with Autumn’s Harvest’s lightest option being the yellow Aji Lemon Drop. A long skinny bright banana yellow pepper with scovil reading of 15,000 to 30,000, which equates to a high medium spice.
“I attribute the Ali Lemon Drop popularity to them being one of our most mild peppers and absolutely fantastic in so many different types of food and cuisine,” Ashley elaborated.
The Chocolate 7-Pot is the third hottest naturally occurring hot pepper in the world, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is next, followed by the Carolina Reaper. Autumn’s Harvest has almost all of them, or a variety of similar peppers available. The Carolina Reaper is extremely popular with customers of Autumn’s Harvest.
“We specialize in selling hot and super hot fresh peppers. We have your familiars such as Ghost Peppers, Habaneros, and Carolina Reapers but we also have some interesting ones that are harder to find fresh like apocalypse Scorpion Peppers, White Ghost Peppers and Chocolate 7-Pot Peppers. We bring in at least 2 new pepper varieties each year and eliminate others,” Ashley told me.
Her White Ghost Peppers may look the most deceiving—a beautiful pale color with a waxy shine and a Scoville unit of one million. As it was once the hottest pepper in the world, this variety is extremely hot.
According to Ashley, “Our farm is very small, with the total working area comprising less than 0.1 acres. Within this, we have twelve raised beds of varying sizes of or a total of 200 plants across 11 cultivators. We abide strictly by organic principles and practices, and only use organic materials (compost, manure, straw) or OMRI approved gardening products.”
When not constantly working and caring for others, Ashley cares for her peppers by hand-removing garden pests and using horticultural oil as a repellent on the plants—a time consuming process that is required to have a truly organic farm and farm produce.
“What I believe makes our farm so unique, even among other pepper farms, is that we take a perennial approach to our plants. Some of our plants are in their third year of harvest and are from the original general garden. We overwinter the best plants each year by either digging them up or cutting them back and protecting the remaining stalk and leaves from frost. Once the plants begin their second harvest the following spring, the yields come in both earlier and more heavily, which allows us to generate a significant amount of produce from fewer plants.”
Besides selling peppers that are so waxy that they look fake, Ashley creates pepper powder by the bottle. She takes her spicy harvest, dries them out, and processes them into a powder than can be used almost any way in the kitchen. The pepper powders come in pure, smoked, or roasted varieties. As you can imagine, her hand created bottled powders taste much better than the overprocessed varieties you can find in the grocery store.
Besides several restaurants around town and through at-home deliveries, customers can find Autumn’s Harvest’s produce at local markets in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry area.
Soon enough, with a project Ashley is currently working on, her peppers will be more readily available in the Savannah area.