Akron’s Bhutanese population, estimated at nearly 6,000 strong, is also known as a main contributor to Akron’s rising recognition as the place to find the “hottest & spiciest cuisine” north of the U.S. southern border, according to Akron-based Shanti Community Farms, which operates community gardens for immigrant and neighbor families on North Hill.
Shanti Farms will host a fundraiser Friday, Aug. 10, from 5:30 to 8 p.m, at Patterson Park, 800 Patterson Ave., in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood. Along with a pepper-eating contest, the “Hot Pepper” fundraiser also will feature bamboo-splitting and snake gourd spearing demonstrations and contests, along with other cultural traditions found in Bhutan. (Click here to register.)
“It’s all due to the Bhutanese’s extravagant love of chili peppers,” says Tom Crain, co-founder of Akron-based Shanti Community Farms. “Since the Bhutanese are used to growing up eating super spicy foods and entering hot pepper eating contests as part of their modern food culture, we thought what better way to celebrate their culinary tradition than by featuring the Bhutanese signature food item through an eating contest and taste-testing competition at our upcoming summer fundraiser.”
Bhakta Rizal, co-founder of Shanti Community Farms, says, “Many of our gardeners are planting the original pepper seeds they brought from their homelands.”
Rizal also recalls the Bhutanese summer markets where every stall featured huge piles of green and red chili peppers, with the occasional yellow pepper peeping through. “And the abundance of chili peppers isn’t just found at the Bhutanese markets,” he adds. “Most shops feature heaps of spicy peppers, and along the hilly roads, you’ll see red chilies laid out to dry on every rooftop like scarlet carpets. And in the rural valleys during festivals and prayer rituals, it’s impossible to get away from the odor of burning chilies. I believe the most likely reason for chili peppers’ predominance in the Bhutanese diet is the sensation of heat they provide during cold winters.
Participants at the community fundraiser may experience the hot chili peppers firsthand by eating traditional pepper dishes offered on the menu. Attendees may also take part in a pepper-eating contest and enter their pepper in the hottest pepper judging competition.
Shanti Community Farms, based in Akron, Ohio, is a nonprofit that preserves the agricultural heritage of New Americans and empowers them to learn and earn from the local food economy. It operates community gardens and youth education programs.
For info, visit shantifarms.org.