He’s got capsaicin running through his veins: the essence of every pepper’s heat. It’s why he doesn’t wear a coat, even in the Rochester wind chill. For those of you who don’t know him well, you can call him Big Bhuty; he insisted upon the alias to preserve his anonymity and accentuate the aura of intrigue surrounding his work. I had the chance to sit down with Big Bhuty to chat about growing a garden in a closet and his love for all things spicy.
Let’s talk about your name first.
It’s a pun of the Bhut Jolokia or ghost chili pepper from India. Sometimes called the hottest pepper in the world. [He let me in on a secret, it’s not. The Carolina Reaper is. Check it out in the Guinness Book of World Records.]
So you grow peppers in your closet. Why peppers?
They’re spicy stuff and easy to grow. Overall, they’re pretty cool plants and easy to cross. You can make new strains by snipping the male reproductive organs from one flower and the female from another. Then you just brush the male’s pollen on the female wait a couple months and see what you get.
And how did this become a thing?
I was bored and needed a hobby. I get free seeds and exotic varieties for pretty cheap through the forums I’m a part of. Plus, there is less variety available in a grocery store, and a lot of what I grow isn’t available there.
What is the best thing you’ve cooked with the peppers you grow?
An Anaheim jalapeño sauce. Roast the peppers in a toaster oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the skin blackens. Purée them down with some cider vinegar, lots of garlic and salt and pepper. You can put it over rice and beans, use it as a chicken marinade, or even as a steak sauce.
What is your favorite pepper?
Habanero. It’s hot, but not so hot that you can’t cook with it.
All the peppers. I potted seeds from 20 plants from around the world and am waiting for them to grow.
Do you have any tips for college students looking to start a sustainable garden in their dorm room?
Less is more for water, fertilizer and everything except light. A few good starters are oregano, basil, parsley, or chives since they are weeds. Try to find a south facing window. And you can use fluorescent bulbs, T8s or T10s which cost under 10 bucks a piece!
Major: Biomedical Engineering