Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s (BBG) annual Chile Pepper Festival returns for its 25th anniversary year on Sunday, October 1, 2017, with a day of scorching global bands, fiery food tastings of hundreds of unique chile-flavored foods, spice market and cookbook pop-up shops, and more, all against the beautiful backdrop of BBG in early autumn.
For the past 25 years, New Yorkers have celebrated the change in seasons in spicy fashion at BBG’s Chile Pepper Festival, where visitors can enjoy outdoor performances by world music acts from around the globe alongside a marketplace to sample and buy an array of delicacies featuring chile peppers from nearly 50 food artisans. Visitors of all ages can also learn more about the cultural and culinary uses of chiles across six continents.
Smoking Hot Music
This year’s Chile Pepper Festival welcomes five world-class musical acts hailing from regions of the world where the chile is an integral part of the cuisine. Masters of ceremony Robbins & Ringold light up the Cherry Esplanade Stage with fire breathing, sword swallowing, and other fiery feats. Festival-goers can groove to these sounds:
- Battle of Santiago, whose danceable Afro-Cuban beats meet pulsating rock grooves (listen here);
- Lost Bayou Ramblers, Broussard, Louisiana’s high-octane, Grammy-nominated Cajun trailblazers (listen here);
- Ladama, a global female-led group hailing from Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela (listen here);
- Red Baraat, bringing funky Indian bhangra dance party music, Brooklyn-style (listen here); and
- Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino, led by a fifth-generation mariachi master (listen here).
Fiery Food Delights
Chile Pepper Festival 2017 features nearly 50 food artisans sharing samples and stories of how their products are made. A focus on independent purveyors—including many Brooklyn-based vendors—means visitors can sample and purchase one-of-a-kind products and meet small business owners with a passion for peppers. Products range from hot sauces, spicy chocolates, simmer sauces, and unusual-yet-delicious chile combinations in ice cream, jams, pickles, and more, as well as many products created especially for Chile Pepper Festival. Some spicy food categories at the festival:
- Hot Sauce Sorcery: Artisanal concoctions cooked up by an array of hot sauce wizards
- Chile-Chocolate Debauchery: Local companies’ signature confections
- Combustible Condiments: Chutneys, salsas, and specialty sauces
- Hi-Scoville Sweets: An eclectic assortment of candies, caramels, and treats
- Piquant Pickles: From kimchi to bread-and-butter pickles, with horseradish for good measure
Cooking and Cultivating Chiles
- Brooklyn’s famed Sahadi Market, a Middle Eastern specialty food vendor founded in 1895 and winner of the 2017 James Beard America’s Classics award, returns with Sahadi’s Souk, a pop-up market to purchase spices and talk cooking.
- Visitors interested in learning more about cooking with chiles can check out Community Bookstore’s selection of spicy food cookbooks and enjoy book signings with local authors Maricel E. Presilla, whose books include Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums That Forever Changed Flavor and The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes; and Chitra Agrawal, founder of Brooklyn Delhi, author of Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn and host of a booth at this year’s festival.
- Interested in how to grow and use chiles yourself? Check out Chile Chat in BBG’s lush Herb Garden, where Brooklyn gardener and capsicum connoisseur Gregory Seaton talks about cultivating peppers and their uses in regional cuisine throughout the world.
Hot Chiles for Cool Kids
- Children can also get their hands dirty in Hot Chiles for Cool Kids, a pop-up workshop in the Discovery Garden, where children can pot up a pepper plant to take home.
Admission for Chile Pepper Festival is $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors (with ID), and free for members and kids under 12. For more information on all performances, purveyors, programs, and activities, please visit bbg.org/chilepepperfestival.