‘Harvest Your Own Peppers Day’ on Oct. 24
EAST BRUNSWICK — Rutgers’ Hort Farm #3 off Ryders Lane on the New Brunswick-East Brunswick border here will be the site of what has become a much anticipated event, Harvest Your Own Peppers Day.
HYOP Day, as it is called, will be held Wed. Oct. 24 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the farm off Ryders Lane.
“We don’t expect a huge crowd, but last year we drew 92 people to the farm to harvest the rest of these peppers,” said Dr. Albert Ayeni, an ethnic crops and pepper specialist at Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
“We have extra parking here,” Ayeni said, noting the event began in 2013 when there were dozens of rows of unpicked peppers just sitting on plants.
Ayeni oversees the annual event with farm staffers and several graduate and undergraduate students.
“The pepper plants here are about three-quarters of our two acres with ethnic and specialty crops,” Ayeni explained one recent morning at the research farm near campus.
Ayeni was quick to credit Dr. Jim Simon and Tom Orton, who also work with him in growing a wide variety of peppers on the plot.
Aside from serrano, chili, sweet mini bell, jalopeno, habanero, pumpkin habanero and Rutgers Honey peppers, the plot is also used to grow okra, amaranth, Indian eggplant and other specialty and ethnic crops.
“One crop people don’t know very much about is the amaranth, we call it tropical spinach, it tastes more or less like spinach,” Ayeni said, gesturing at rows of red amaranth plants.
“It supplies the same kinds of nutrients to the body that spinach does. It grows during the cooler months of the year and when spinach is going out of season, amaranth can be planted,” Ayeni said.
Also growing at Hort Farm 3 are tiger nuts, okra, roselle, butternut squash, and even Carolina reapers, the world’s hottest pepper variety. Ayeni noted 33 people showed up in October 2013, while 92 people showed up last year.
“This was conceived as an outreach event to make our community become more aware and informed about the nutritional and health values of exotic peppers,” Ayeni said.
“We also want to let people know we are hosting the annual Enrepreneurship Ag Day, Sat. Oct. 20 at Foran Hall on the Cook College campus from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” Ayeni said, noting panels and presentations from recent SEBS graduates will be followed by lunch.
Ayeni shared an e-mail he got from one patron of last year’s HYOP Day from October 2017.
“This is my first time of coming to this event, a friend told me about it and I am here to see for myself — see my bag of peppers — I could not believe this! Please let me know about this in 2018.”
Anyone interested in attending Entrepreneurship Ag Day on Oct. 20 or Harvest Your Own Peppers Day on Oct. 24 can call Ayeni at 856-279-8641.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925