Pepper heads looking to add heat to their dishes as cold weather sets in can find a wide variety of peppers at Rohwer’s Farm stand at the Durango Farmers Market.
Heidi Rohwer planted 50 varieties of hot peppers this year at her Pleasant View farm, and on any given Saturday, her selection includes about 25 different kinds of hot peppers.
“I love hot peppers, and I get carried away in the winter going through the catalogs,” Rohwer explained.
For the indecisive, she puts together variety packs of peppers based on their Scoville scale rating. The ghost and scorpion pepper in the spiciest variety pack, perhaps aptly known as the daredevil pack, are rated between 900,000 and 1.5 million on the Scoville scale. As a comparison, a jalapeño is between 5,000 and 10,000 on the scale.
The heat of the peppers varies annually, and this year’s harvest has been unpredictable, with some peppers coming in mild and others tending to be more spicy. “The peppers are all over the place,” Rohwer said.
For the last few weekends of the farmers market and during the winter market at the Smiley Building, she brings in smoked hot peppers. Smoking cools down peppers’ heat and keeps them on the market when they would otherwise be unavailable from local growers.
For those looking for a more mild and sweeter taste, she also offers unusual bell peppers, such as purple and chocolate.
In addition to peppers, Rohwer’s fall offerings include a wide variety of squash, corn, onions, sweet potatoes and other fall vegetables.
“People get excited about the unique varieties,” she said.
Rohwer has been in agriculture her entire career, but in 2005, she decided she wanted to work for herself. Her mom, Judy, joined her in the endeavor.
“We started off small,” Rohwer said. “I sold beats and carrots off the tailgate of our truck down at the Cortez market.”
In 2008, the two officially launched their business, and since then, Heidi’s sister, Angela, has joined them.
The family had always planted a half-acre garden on their property in Pleasant View, but after forming a business, they put in high tunnels and unheated greenhouses to raise cold-weather crops, such as lettuce, in the winter. In the summer, they’ve experimented with tropical crops like jicama.
They also plowed under seven acres of hay and added it to their garden patch, planting apple trees, berries, a vineyard and asparagus.
“That was kind of intimidating,” Rohwer said.
The apple trees are just now getting old enough to produce, and she looks forward to adding them to her offerings. They also raise lambs, pigs and chickens.
After nine years in business, Rohwer still finds a sense of accomplishment and fun in bringing a complete harvest to market.
“You might not make a killing or extremely good money, but you really eat really well,” she said with a laugh.