The Hot Pepper Kings Of Marion County
healthylivingmagazines.com APR ’17
It’s not easy to write a story about a hot sauce that hasn’t even been bottled yet. But Captain Caliente doesn’t come from the usual sources. That’s because Captain Caliente is borne of peppers grown in a most unusual way: aquaponics. David Howard—known as “Mr. PC” on the farm—runs EasyPonix, which produces hot peppers for sale, as well as other produce, in his aquaponic beds in Citra. Howard’s pepper farm runs on fertilizer and recirculating water and produces gorgeous peppers, including Douglah, Scorpion and Habanero varieties that are among the hottest in the world. Howard claims his bounty makes EasyPonix “the hot pepper kings of Marion County.” “In many cases, aquaponics is the only way forward for agriculture in America,” Howard says. “The water conservation alone is why, but it’s also pesticide and fungicide free.” In an agricultural world where farmers are driven to efficiency and greater yields every season, it’s no surprise that the race to breed the hottest peppers and concoct the fieriest sauce is the norm. Howard looks at his mission differently. “I love to cook, so I find ways to incorporate these hot peppers into dishes in such a way as to dull the heat enough to get to the flavor,” he says. “The variety of hot peppers these days is extraordinary. I’ve been experimenting and cooking for the past decade, and I’ve compiled a specific list of peppers for my hot sauce to create a unique flavor. “The true value of what I produce is in using it as a seasoning for the average person, who may never taste anything like this otherwise, because many people are simply afraid to try something super hot, let alone cook with it.”
Yes, that’s right, just a few drops of hot sauce in a batch of chili or a stir fry adds enough spice to flavor an entire dish. And there’s a bigger bonus. “Capsaicin from fresh chili peppers is one of the healthiest things you can ingest,” says Howard. “The health benefits [including digestive and cardiovascular health benefits, as well as cancer prevention] are crazy cool.” Howard’s sauces consist of fresh veggies and dashes of honey and garlic, marinating in apple cider vinegar. Each
batch yields a hot pepper vinegar to bottle once the sauce is finished soaking. EasyPonix is in the process of adding additional grow beds to expand its pepper sales and produce its initial run of Captain Caliente, available later this year. “The hot pepper business is one of the fastest-growing in the country right now,” Howard says. “More and more people are getting hooked. People love them.” Right now, EasyPonix may be just a little ol’ pepper-producing farm north of Ocala, but its self-sustenance and innovation points to bigger things to come. Buy it › Order fresh peppers, check in on the status of Captain Caliente or inquire about an aquaponic setup of your own at easyponix.com or by calling (352) 789-6093.