You see similar jars and bottles of different sizes and shapes during annual events like the Flame Tree Arts Festival in April, the Taste of the Marianas in May and during the regular Thursday street market in Garapan.
Over the years, bringing home a taste of the islands in the form of red hot peppers has become a routine for tourists who come to the CNMI.
Mary Susan M. Cruz, general manager of Tinian-based Susan’s Creations which been processing Tinian Red Hot Peppers for the past 16 years, said Tinian’s peppers have already created their own niche in the global pepper industry.
Locally known as donne sali, Cruz said Tinian’s peppers are considered one of the hottest in the world.
The Tinian hot pepper grows in abundance in the jungles during the peak season, from January to March, and is also known as “boonie pepper.”
“Donne sali can be harvested from the jungle during these months because they grow in abundance but it is not that easy,” she said.
“Donne” means pepper and “sali” is the name of a black bird that feeds on the pepper and spreads the seed throughout the jungle.
Boosting local economyTo help local residents, Cruz said she buys high quality pepper from them for $8 per pound.
A drought reduces the volume of hot peppers that can be harvested from the jungle, but Cruz has a plantation to support the demand.
“Tinian’s Red Hot Peppers have already become a household word for tourists and most of them feel that they should not go home without bringing hot peppers with them, so we need to have a constant supply,” Cruz said.
If you cannot stand the extreme heat of donne sali, try the variations of pepper products made by Cruz such as pepper powder, paste and vinegar with a blend of donne Sali, which produces a unique combination of heat and flavor.
These products are perfect for spicing up any meal, sauce, meat, fish, ramen, pasta, soup and other dishes.
They also make ideal all-occasion gifts.
More exposureTinian’s annual Hot Pepper Festival sponsored by the Marianas Visitors Authority allows hot pepper processors to promote their products.
Tinian is the place to be during the second week of February as the island celebrates the Hot Pepper Festival.
It features a competition involving daring individuals who try to consume the hottest of the hot peppers.
Cruz said the festival has boosted their sales.
“For example, my sales in 2007 doubled in 2008, and the figures kept increasing as donne sali gets more exposure,” she added.
With her business getting “hotter” even as the economy remains in a slump, Cruz said the people should find more ways to make use of available natural resources like hot peppers.
Tinian hot peppers are available at the DFS Galleria, the DFS airport outlet, Gentle Brook Café, the 360 Revolving Restaurant, hotel stores, souvenir shops and groceries.
Cruz said they only accept payments through Paypal but will accept credit cards in the future.
Hot pepper business gets hotter | business-edge