Posted December 5, 2007 by Nick Lindauer in Hot Sauce News

Hillsborough Jail Inmates Pick Peppers For Hot Sauce

Mr. Boatman is getting some great news coverage in the Tampa area once again…

By Keith Morelli of The Tampa Tribune
BRANDON РIn a patch of earth behind the Falkenburg Road Jail grows pure heat. There are habaneros, jalape̱os, long red peppers and stubby yellow ones.

And there’s the Trinidad scorpion. The name sounds dangerous and that’s no coincidence, said Allen Boatman, who supervises the 20 or so men who tend this hot garden all Hillsborough County jail inmates.

The scorpion raised here is one of the peppers used in making a special batch of hot sauce that hits the shelves this week. It’s called Jailhouse Fire. Once or twice a year, depending on the harvest, inmates in the jail’s horticultural program pick the peppers, make a mash, bottle and sell it as hot sauce under a different, clever name.

The average habanero pales next to the Trinidad scorpion in a heat contest, Boatman said. The Scoville scale, a less than precise measurement of heat, puts a habanero at about 200,000 units. The scorpion is said to rate a million or more.

Inmate Mike Frawley, 55, knows the danger. Sitting inside a doublewide mobile home ““ the classroom, lunchroom and office for the program ““ Frawley patiently used a razor blade to extract tiny seeds from a jellybean size pepper. He wore surgical gloves to keep the hot stuff off his skin and eyes.

He chuckled at the memory of people who weren’t so careful.

“I’ve never seen a guy with sweat beads on the back of his neck,” he recalled.

Inmates generally enjoy working outside and being a part of a profitable enterprise, Boatman said.

“I requested to be in this program,” said Jay Leonard, 60, as he finished up repotting some plants inside the greenhouse. “We’ve got 50 or 60 different kinds here and a couple of the hottest peppers on earth.”

Plus, greenhouse inmates get the sauce with their lunches every other day.

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Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog