After moving back to the states I couldn’t find the Caribbean Reds anywhere except through searches on the internet. As far as buying them in bulk, or even buying a few for cooking, they just weren’t available. Scotch Bonnets weren’t very easy to find either.
When I wanted to make my own Jerk Sauce I was relegated to using fresh Cayenne peppers because they are a tiny bit closer in flavor to Island peppers than any others available in the states. But Cayenne peppers are still a far cry from the real-deal when shooting for authenticity.
Because of the lack of proper peppers, over time I had given up on making the Jerk Sauce recipe I had developed while living in Jamaica, at least as any kind of commercial venture.
Then one day providence smiled on us. A neighbor knocked on our front door. In his hand he had a bulging plastic shopping bag full of peppers.
My heart skipped a beat when I saw the large, red, oddly shaped peppers in the bag. And when I cut a piece from one and tasted it, I nearly jumped for joy! They were a bit hotter and sweeter in flavor, but our neighbor’s peppers tasted very close to the Caribbean Reds I had used in Jamaica.
I asked the neighbor where he had found the peppers and he told me he was growing them! He said he had 6 or 7 plants in his backyard vegetable garden. Earlier that Spring he had gone to a supermarket to buy some Habanero peppers for saving seed and starting plants for his garden. There, in the same bin as the orange Habanero peppers was a lone red pepper, larger and a different shape. He bought the odd red pepper, brought it home and saved the seeds. These were the peppers from the resulting plants.
I started growing and saving seed from the peppers our neighbor gave us. Then two years later an awesome accident happened and mother nature doubled-down on our good fortune! A volunteer pepper plant came up in a pot next to where I had grown the gift-peppers the year before.
The volunteer plant made a completely new kind of pepper that had most of the traits from the gift-peppers but its fruit was even larger, meatier, sweeter and had a bit less heat.
Because peppers cross pollinate so easily, I surmised the new plant had crossed with the other two other types of peppers I had grown the previous year.
When folks develop a new type of pepper, either intentionally or from a serendipitous act of nature, in order to get planting-seed that will stay true, it’s necessary to grow the parent-peppers in isolation for six generations to preserve and stabilize a unique DNA.
After the six generations and our peppers were “stable,” we harvested them to collect seeds for future growing. The following Spring we planted the resulting seed and later that year harvested our first stabilized unique-DNA peppers! We named them Doc’s Darling Caribbean Red.
A year later, Patti and I were able to begin our journey into making Jerk Sauce (and later, our Hot Sauce) as a commercial venture and MB Family Foods was born.
Over the following years, as our business grew so did our need for more and more peppers. I spent several months searching commercial suppliers’ various bulk peppers, hoping to find a match with the peppers we had been growing. I must have tried a dozen powders, mashes and fresh peppers from as far away as South America and North Africa. I made test batch after test batch of our hot sauce, but nothing came even close to the wonderful, unique flavor we achieved using the peppers we grew.
Learning all this was enough for us to stop spending a bunch of time looking for peppers which may or may not exist somewhere else on the planet, especially on a commercial level. Instead, we put our energy toward figuring out how we would be able to meet the pepper-demand of our growing business and looked to local organic farms that would be able to grow our Doc’s Darling Caribbean Reds for us.
How did we decide on the pepper name?
Our neighbor, friend and pepper-buddy graciously allowed us to combine his last name (Darling) and my nickname (Doc) in naming the peppers.
Having read all this, when you taste our two sauces and experience their wonderful and unique flavors, you will also understand why we give such heartfelt thanks to Mr. Darling for thinking of us and knocking on our door with his wonderful treasure-bag full of goodies.