Solider, artist, and seed keeper of the famous Fish Pepper and Buena Mulata, Horace Pippin is one for the history books! Seeds of both peppers were given to H. R. Weaver from African American folk artist Horace Pippin in the 1940s in exchange for bee stings. Pippin was injured in WWI and would get bee sting therapy from Weaver in Westchester, PA. Pippin acquired the seeds from friends in the Baltimore and Philadelphia Black catering communities.
Decades later, Weaver’s grandson, William Woys Weaver, found Horace Pippin’s pepper seeds in baby food jars in his grandmother’s basement, 10 years after his grandfather’s death. After a fish pepper hiatus due to the decline of the fishing industry in the Chesapeake Bay, Will Woys Weaver reintroduced these heirloom peppers making them now available in dozens of seed catalogues and many Baltimore area restaurants. The all white fruits are used to flavor fish dishes, hence the name of the pepper.
The origins of the fish pepper (Capsicum annum, the same species as the Tabasco pepper) are mysterious, but it likely arrived in North America by way of the Caribbean. A possible genetic mutation caused the plant to produce the prized spicy, light-colored peppers. Enslaved Africans and African-American freedmen in Antebellum Maryland used the pepper to add an unanticipated heat to fish, shellfish, and even terrapin stew. While adding an undetected heat without muddying the color, the creamy, young green peppers were a prized “secret” ingredient in white sauces.
This season Soilful City collaborated with community growers from DC and Maryland to create a sauce that paid homage to seed-keeping, DC Culture, and Horace Pippin. All of the peppers used in the sauce were grown by black farmers and urban gardeners. The goal of this sauce is continue the legacy of the Horace Pippin fish pepper seeds while supporting emerging farmers. We are focused on creating a product that taste good , that honors that land and communities we work with and will be an economically viable product that can lead to economic sustainability.
Head over to the Soilful Store to get your bottle of Soilful’s Pippin Sauce.