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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Small Axe Peppers Supporting Community Gardens with a ‘Hot’ Commodity

Baltimore has a hot sauce named after it. The sauce is made from peppers grown from local community gardens and provides a unique double-spiced taste— first from the habanero peppers and then from the fresh ginger. This unique combination of flavors gives it a unique Caribbean-style flavor and is called “The Baltimore Habanero Ginger Hot Sauce.”

   The sauce is among those sold by New York-based Small Axe Peppers. All peppers that get bottled-up are grown by community gardens across the country. According to Small Axe Peppers, anyone who buys a bottle of their hot sauce is directly supporting those community gardens and the gardeners who grow them. 

   The company offers flavors named after the city in which the peppers are grown, and includes The Bronx Green Market Hot Sauce, The Atlanta Georgia Peach House Sauce, The Detroit Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce, and The Texas Tamarindo Hot Sauce.

   Daniel Fitzgerald is the COO of Small Axe Peppers. He said Chef King Phojanakong who ran New York’s highly acclaimed Kuma Inn for over 10 years, is the creator of the flavorful hot sauces. 

   “We have hot sauces for every taste and for every palate, from mild to wild,” said Fitzgerald. “Chef Phojanakong is a savant of flavor. He’s an amazing purveyor of taste and culinary experiences in New York and is really very talented. He wanted to make hot sauce with just the right heat that captured the essence of a city. For example, we make The Oakland Hot Sauce out of the community gardens in Oakland that has raisins in it because California is famous for its California Raisins. It captures the essence of California.” 

   Fitzgerald runs Small Axe Peppers along with John A. Crotty, Todd Snyder, and Drew Doscher. He said the company’s economic sustainable model began in 2014 when the company donated serrano pepper seedlings to five community gardens in The Bronx. The following year, with the support of Bronx Green-Up of the New York Botanical Garden, 20 additional gardens asked to participate. Together, they collectively grew nearly a ton of serrano peppers, sowing a new economic model for urban farming that continues to grow. 

   Today, Small Axe Peppers has expanded its model to 15 cities across America and purchases locally grown peppers from more than 75 community gardens. Fitzgerald shared how the company got into the business of selling hot sauce. 

   “We call peppers the magic fruit,” said Fitzgerald. “We were looking for a value-added product and ran through every option in our head including tomato sauce and salsa. The problem with those was that they’re very reductive. In order to make ten pounds of tomato sauce, you need to get one hundred pounds of tomatoes. That didn’t seem like a favorable economic model when you are using very little amounts of spaces to grow.

   “Hot sauce seemed like a natural fit. We could grow a pound of peppers and make ten pounds of hot sauce. A garden could grow one pound of peppers, which turns into ten bottles of hot sauce at the end of the season. There’s a real sense of pride that comes from that supply chain from the gardens to the shelf.” 

   The company has a commitment to purchase core products (at least 50 percent of expenses) from independent suppliers local to New York City and its surrounding area. He said the company also sends free seeds to community gardeners interested in being a part of their business model. 

   “We’re a small company,” said the 31-year-old. “The name of our company, Small Axe comes from an old proverb that talks about if you are a big tree, we are the small axe ready to cut you down. The idea is that a bunch of small people with small axes working together in unison can accomplish something much bigger than ourselves.”

   The company recently introduced the Holiday Gift Set, which includes two hot sauces of choice from nearly a dozen flavors, a t-shirt featuring sauces from different cities and flavors and Serrano Pepper Seeds, which are the same ones used by the company’s garden partners. 

   Small Axe hot sauces are sold in Giant and Whole Foods markets. To learn more about becoming one of their community gardeners, or to purchase products online, visit  https://smallaxepeppers.com/

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