Sunday, March 07, 2010

Rebuilding Haiti One Pepper at a Time

I will be the first to admit I am a "chile-head.'  I am person who enjoys great hot and spicy sauces (and foods), grows my own chile peppers, and at one time was even part of a chile-head listserve.  One of my favorite activities is to attend the Fiery Foods & BBQ Foods Show every year.

This year, there was a very pleasant surprise at the show: a nice convergence with one of my other interests, addressing global poverty.  As I navigated my way through the crowded aisles, I came across a booth (or a part of a booth) dedicated to Haiti, the piman bouk pepper and the Haiti is Hot chile-pepper sauce.

As part of a fundraiser, there was a beautiful t-shirt for sale, with some of the proceeds going to redevelopment efforts in Haiti.  I was enticed by literature about a pepper sauce called Haiti is Hot or Nap Boule! (We are on Fire) in Creole.
Alas, the sauce is still in the development stages and is not yet widely available for distribution.  So there were no samples there. (Darn!)

But the sauce, which is made with piman bouk peppers (a member of the habanero/scotch bonnet family), sounds wonderful. "When the peppers are harvested, they are combined with Haitian papaya, and Haitian grapefruit (called Chadeque), plus carrots, onions, limes and other special ingredients in a traditional Haitian recipe."

A flier I picked up had a great recipe for a traditional dish called Pikliz

So who is behind this operation?  It is a Haitian company called Bel Soley,  which imports and distributes affordable organic products in the U.S. and Canada.

The company is not only part of redevelopment efforts in Haiti, but has a history of organic farming and employs some fair trade practices, including working with small farmers and cooperatives. See photos from CEO Patrick Lucien in Haiti.

The Haiti is Hot sauce is its newest creation.  In an interview with Fiery Foods magazine in January, two weeks after a devastating earthquake Haiti, chairman Brian Hays talked about the company's plan for the hot sauce,
Because of the earthquake, we would like to accelerate our move into the sauce business. By making sauce or mash from the peppers, we will be able to save our crops and also begin to provide edible foodstuffs to the domestic market, which is already showing signs of food shortages. As I mentioned, mangos, papayas, bananas and pineapples are readily available as a base and we can easily grow carrots. We have or can grow a range of more exotic tropical fruits as well, including passion fruit, soursop, sapote, acerola (Barbados Cherry), tamarind and more as flavorings.

The t-shirt I bought is part of a redevelopment program created by Bel Soley.

And the Fiery Foods and BBQ Show not only provided space for the company at its 22nd annual show but has helped in many other ways, including publishing the article in January. "The hot and fiery foods industry is rallying to help this small Haitian company by providing supplies, advice, and support," said Dave DeWitt, the show's producer. 

At the wholesale level, the company is seeking to develop a distribution network in the U.S. and Canada.  
But there are two burning questions (and pardon the pun).
Where can I get one of those beautiful t-shirts?
Watch this space for more information.
A temporary contact e-mail address is:
And is the sauce available in the U.S.?
It might be available at the retail level one day soon.
Here is a link to e-mail addresses where you might inquire about its availability in the U.S.  (And stay tuned, I'll publish that information as soon as I find out)

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