I met Clark and Mel, a fun-loving and hilarious couple when visiting the Woodward Farmers Market in August. They were incredibly knowledgeable about peppers and gardening. Over time they became contributors to the farmers market in Woodward and their story of how they got to growing peppers is inspiring.
“My old boss used to be part of a food co-op,” Clark states. “He taught me about food composting and then we got into square foot gardening which we had to take a break from when our son was a toddler.” If you stroll around their gardens you can see intentionality in every bed, especially since Mel and Clark fight against the red clay every step of the way. This is where composting helps a lot, and Clark regularly meets with his father for breakfast and collects their house compost.
“I used to travel for my job,” Mel says as we sit in their cozy living room surrounded by all the necessities to keep up their thriving garden. “I got nerve damage in 2017 and couldn’t barely work nearly as much as I used to. I sat around for about six months. Eventually, I started gardening and it proved to be the right exercise to get me out, but not too stressful. Working with the farmers market also helps keep me out of the house and social.”
Their passion for peppers has become a long-time love shared between Mel and Clark. “We always really liked spicy foods,” Clark mentions with a laugh. “So starting the peppers was originally so we could cook the cuisines we enjoy that are hard to get in the area. Then, we just started growing so many, we gave them away and eventually, we joined the farmers market.”
As I explore their backyard it is an endless rainbow of color. I asked about the purple peppers, which drew me to their booth originally at the Woodward Farmers Market, and they are Buena Mullata, which they expressed was a mixed bag of hot and mild. “We never know which one we are gonna grab off the vine,” Clark mentions. It is quite a wonderland of peppers when walking around their front garden. In the back, they have expanded from peppers to lettuce, figs, and other plants. They grew sweet Habaneros this last season which added a great flavor palette for everyday dishes.
“We also planted orange, yellow, and gold peppers to build a ‘Solar Flare’ hot sauce. We are always trying to do something unique.” Mel says as she and Clark take me around their colorful garden. “We have created a niche market for peppers,” she sighs. “We know our product is not Walmart prices, but you won’t find what we grow at Walmart anyway. Which is why we planted the Buena Mullata, so we could create a black salsa, but that didn’t work out great.”
Like any good gardener, the Morrisons understand failure and patience are key. They have developed different techniques for growing their peppers and participate in helping the Woodward Farmers Market’s ‘Saucy Salsa Contest’ in July! This couple built a great product with determination and turned bad situations into a new adventure. Meeting Mel and Clark is a great reminder of what pushing through adversity and the unknown can produce. They gave me great insight into gardening and even how to look for alternative ways to get healthier and locally grown food. The knowledge and kindness of them we hope spreads beyond Woodward, Oklahoma.
Here is a list of their peppers in 2023
- Back Garden Hots
- Buena Mullata (small purple chiles), usually a medium heat
- Jalapeno, Brown, medium heat
- Jalapeno, Lemon Spice, hot
- Jalapeno, Orange Spice, hot Red Hots, medium to hot
- Puma Pepper, very hot
- Scorpion, Chocolate Trinidad, very hot
- Scorpion, Yellow Trinidad, very hot
- Sugar Rush Peach, very hot
- Sugar Rush Red, very hot
- Front Garden Sweet and Milds
- Corbaci Sweet Italian, sweet
- Habanada, sweet
- Mini Bell, sweet and mild
- Nadapeno, mild
- Pippins Golden Honey, sweet
- Shishito, mild to medium
If you are interested in peppers, or being part of the Woodward Farmer’s Market ‘Saucy Salsa Contest’ this next July contact Mel and Clark at email@example.com or 580.334.8206