Some Like it Hot

Kitchen Garden Farm turns up the heat with standard, habanero, and an extra-spicy, ghost pepper edition of Sriracha.

Caroline Pam and Tim Wilcox, the husband-and-wife owners of the Kitchen Garden farm in Sunderland, Massachusetts, share an earnest and contagious adoration for growing vegetables and cooking food.

“We try to grow as many different colors of everything that we can find,” says Wilcox. “We have five different kinds of carrots and six different colors of potatoes. We try to bring this sense of color and freshness and beauty, and we want people to just be excited about cooking with the things we’re growing.”

Wilcox and Pam founded the farm 10 years ago on one acre of land and have grown it to 40 acres, selling their vegetables at farmers markets through a market-share program and wholesale to restaurants. Yet it is their take on the tangy, garlicky Sriracha sauce, made from chilis grown on the farm, that has developed a devoted following far beyond the Pioneer Valley.

Photo courtesy of the Kitchen Garden

Photo courtesy of the Kitchen Garden

The couple started with experimental 5-gallon batches three years ago, selling bottles only at Kitchen Garden’s annual Chilifest celebration. They have since scaled up production considerably, processing 1,500 pounds of their chili peppers every week through the harvest from early September to mid-October. They sell the sauce, which comes in standard, habanero, and an already sold-out, extra-spicy, ghost pepper edition, to retailers across the Northeast.

“What we love about chilis is that they’re so essential to so many different cuisines around the world, and the chili pepper itself is like a window into those cultures and those cuisines,” says Pam.

The Sriracha, then, is an extension of this ethos. “Tim studied anthropology and I studied literature and, for us, food is culture,” says Pam. “This is just a really fun way to access that and to connect with other people.”

Photo courtesy of the Kitchen Garden

Photo courtesy of the Kitchen Garden

She and Wilcox also have a diverse culinary and agricultural résumé. Pam attended culinary school and worked in kitchens, as a food critic and writer, and as a market manager. Wilcox, a self-taught cook, studied food anthropology at Hampshire College and did his thesis on Tardivo, an elegant looking, hard-to-find radicchio native to Treviso, Italy, that he grows at Kitchen Garden.

Each day, Pam and Wilcox share an hour-long lunch with their crew, which peaks at 12 members during the height of the season. When the crew included a vegan member one year, Wilcox discovered a passion for cooking Asian food, which led to inspiration to grow more unusual vegetables found in Asian cuisine, such as purple daikon, mustard cabbage, and yu choy.

“A big part of our life on this farm is the farm lunch that we do every day,” says Pam. “We sit down together and eat our vegetables. It’s a chance for people to learn ways to describe what these vegetables are like and ensure that we’re really taking pleasure from the vegetables, even during the [work]day.”

While Kitchen Garden Sriracha sold out last year by February, they scaled up production this year and expect it to stay on the shelves longer. A list of local retailers selling the sauce can be found on their website, and it is also available via Etsy.

Photo courtesy of the Kitchen Garden

Photo courtesy of the Kitchen Garden

Photo courtesy of the Kitchen Garden

Photo courtesy of the Kitchen Garden




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Jennifer HayesSome Like it Hot

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