Davise Fletcher, the Purple Pepper Lady
Do you have the tolerance for Satan’s Blood? Davise Fletcher of the Purple Pepper Lady sure does. Whether using homegrown organic peppers to soothe arthritis and body aches, or dehydrating habaneros and the more exotic naga morich for dry blends on foods, Fletcher and her fiancé Robert Kelly care for their peppers from the farm to the jar. Operating their business predominantly online at www.purplepepperlady.com, this couple chooses to spice their life up with peppers from all over the world, including India and South America.
Tell me about the healing qualities of peppers.
We have used them for healing at home, but because there are certain [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] requirements we don’t sell them that way. But we do tell people when I sell the peppers that they’re really good for you. They help your digestive system. If you’re on medication, they help you absorb your medication better. We also know if you make the peppers into a balm, you can use it to help with arthritis. It really is a numbing sensation that happens—it burns, but the burning goes away. It’s kind of like Icy Hot, but it lasts about three days.
Do you grow all your peppers?
We grow all of our peppers from all over the world like India and South America. There are peppers that no one in Sacramento has even heard of. The peppers are all grown organically; we don’t use pesticides or herbicides. We don’t use Miracle-Gro. We don’t use anything that’s not natural. They’re all different, and we usually grow around 25 varieties a year. We harvest and dehydrate [the peppers] and create them into a blend.
What is your favorite pepper blend?
My all time favorite is the original six-pepper blend. Most people ask for that. My second favorite is the Lemon Venom blend. It has a bite and a little bit of lemon citrus to it. Lemon drop peppers are in that, and it goes well with chicken and fish dishes. Once [customers] buy it, they’re hooked and they can’t stop asking for more. I like it on pastas and soups. People add it to their salads, too. We’re looking into making more of the oils and the hot sauces as soon as we can expand our soil.
How many varieties of peppers are in your blends?
I’d say 20 types of peppers. We do a rough grind, a fine grind and then we blend it with the other ingredients. Every single thing is used. I care for [the peppers] from seed or seedling all the way through growth process, and we’re handling these peppers by hand with a lot of love. We pick them by hand, we sort them by hand and we dry them by hand. Every pepper is touched with love and respect. Everything is done right here at the house and it’s a lot of fun, too, if you love peppers.
What are some of the hottest peppers you have grown?
Bhut jolokia was the hottest pepper in the world a couple of years ago that we grew. We’ve done a hybrid of the ghost chili; some of our favorites are the island hellfire and tiger’s tooth. We also do a chocolate habanero, all these different varieties.
Where did the name Purple Pepper Lady come from?
One of my favorite [peppers], which we didn’t grow since we moved, and that’s where Purple Pepper Lady came from, was black pearl. They’re little circular peppers, and they’re so spicy and so flavorful. As they grow, they look like beautiful shiny marbles that change from red to green to dark, dark purple. The purple pepper that we grew, that’s kind of where the name came from.
Where did you find your love for peppers?
I lived with my mom growing up, and my dad would come and visit us every couple of years or so. Every time he came, my mom would cook food for him, and he’d always have to have peppers with his eggs. He would always make me try all the spicy stuff, and because I wanted to be around my dad so much, I would always try it, and I fell in love with it. I was about 6.
Do you make a mean salsa?
Oh, yes. I’ve made salsa so hot people can’t eat it; more for us. We used to do a habanero-peach salsa, but I couldn’t stop putting the habaneros in it. Have you ever had salsa so spicy that you have to keep eating it? You have to keep eating it; it’s so spicy, but it’s so good.
Do you still enjoy spicy?
We think everyone should have some pepper or spice in their life. I have a pepper-sauce collection of over 400 different kinds from everywhere. Some of them I can’t open because they’re too hot. One of them in particular is called Satan’s Blood. And there’s a warning label on it that says, “Only apply with the end of a toothpick.” Literally, my eyes are watering right now thinking about how hot it is.