In our series, “A Sense Of Place”, we will introduce you to some of the regional farmers, growers and producers who supply us with the ingredients we use to make our chocolate, confections and pastries. Sourcing is at the heart of everything we do here at French Broad Chocolates and we share these stories in celebration of the many fine folks who make up our foodshed. We do this in keeping with our tradition of transparency and passion for sustainability, and in the hopes that these stories help you to form a deeper connection with your food (and also because we’re major foodies and absolutely love geeking out over all of our food crushes!).
“Peppers and chocolate make a good pair,” says grower and pepper enthusiast Bobby de Gorter of Jah Works Farm of Asheville, North Carolina. Both possess euphoric qualities, both boost energy, and both lend themselves to tasting with discernment, relishing the layers of flavors that reveal themselves slowly and differ slightly on everyone’s tongue. So it only makes sense that we’ve created a collaborative bar: French Broad Scorpion Pepper Dark Chocolate with Jah Works’ Trinidad Scorpion pepper. This particular pepper is an heirloom variety from Trinidad and likely dates back to the 16- or 1700’s. Though stinging hot if tasted on its own, it brings a delightful citrus flavor when combined with the cocoa butter and sugar in our bar. Along with Scotch bonnets, Thai and Ghost peppers, Peruvian heirlooms and Yellow Ox Horn sweet peppers, Bobby has about two dozen Trinidad plants in his greenhouse. Last year, French Broad Chocolates used fifteen pounds of them. This is one of Bobby’s first partnerships, and in a place where finding a market for your products can
pose a challenge, he says “it’s good to have a serious small business to partner with.” We think so, too.
Another connection between our chocolate and Bobby’s peppers: he’s been using our composted cacao hulls to mulch and fertilize. It’s nutrient dense, full of nitrogen, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium. Free of both synthetic materials and animal products and steeped in a philosophy of “life bringing life,” cacao is a good match to Bobby’s operation. He’s used about 500 pounds this year.Nothing grown here in Jah Works’ greenhouse is “the standard:” Bobby has cultivated his plants over the past five years, employing standard open pollination practices then selecting seeds for flavor and saving them year to year. He says he likes seeing the work, the dominant and recessive traits visible year to year. Working with the seeds and creating hybrids makes peppers the “most pleasing” plants for Bobby to grow though he has others as well, carrots, ginger, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, turnips, microgreens and basil among them. Bobby is working towards the goal of growing everything for Jah Works’ hot sauces, kimchis and other value added canned goods (right now he sources some ingredients from other Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project farmers, too). He’s been farming for twelve years, in the area for eleven, and turned to peppers as a way to do something commercial. After four years of growing in a windy greenhouse at home on the side of a mountain in Fairview, Bobby moved into his greenhouse space at Smith Mill Works. Historically run as a flower farm, Smith Mill Works opened in 2016 and now hosts many of our favorite local producers. It’s located only a couple miles outside of downtown Asheville, making it a hub for truly local food. “You are in your market,” explains Bobby.
You can find Jah Works’ products in the French Broad Food Co-op, Asheville Direct, Made-in-Asheville, Tree and Vine, The Fresh Quarter in the Grove Arcade, Hickory Nut Gap, Fifth Season Market on Tunnel Road, at Trout Lily Farm and on the table at Oyster House, Native café in Swannanoa and the Block off Biltmore. You’ll see them at Asheville City Market this winter and at the Fairview Farmer’s Market weekly.