Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

THE DOCTOR IS IN: Here’s one HOMEGROWN member who probably doesn’t need an introduction: Dr. John. (And yep, he’s heard that whole Santa thing before.) John has been a member of HOMEGROWN for several years now, founding the beer lovers group and feeding and watering community discussions like the veteran green thumb that he is. We were stoked when he agreed to chat with us, since we've had a few questions we've been dying to ask him, from his title to his food-security work to his total lack of fear when it comes to eating ghost peppers. Read on for his answers.

What is Meet Your Neighbors? Most of us spend a fair amount of time tending our online gardens, but it’s easy to forget there’s a real person behind every quiche recipe, chicken inquiry, and hoophouse design here on HOMEGROWN. Well, nuts to that! MYN gives us a chance to meet over the back fence and shake hands. (Or maybe hug? We’re huggers. But no pressure.)

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Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on May 3, 2013 at 9:18am

Good morning, Dr. John! Thanks for spending some of it chatting with HOMEGROWN. You're in South Carolina, right? What's the weather like there are on this fine Friday? And we've got one other burning question that can't wait, since we've been curious forever: What are you a doctor of?

Comment by John F. Houpt II, PhD on May 3, 2013 at 9:26am

Good Morning.  Thank you for inviing me. Correct, I live in South Carolina between Aiken and North Augusta. Most people know this area for the Aiken Triple Crown horse racing or better as being across the Savannah River from "The Masters."  As for the weather, the way it's been for the past week - cloudy, damp, showering.  The plants love it!  My doctorate is in Safety Engineering.  But I have had the handle "Doc" since I was a combat medic in the Army back in the early 70s.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on May 3, 2013 at 9:28am

First and foremost: Thank you for serving our country. And from what we hear, you've pretty much earned an honorary doctorate in gardening, too. What have you got growing this year?

Comment by John F. Houpt II, PhD on May 3, 2013 at 9:34am

Thank You.  Nothing major this year. Keeping it all in containers. A few tomato plants, green, yellow, and red bell peppers; Thai Hot and Mexican hot peppers, cabbages, melons, cantaloupes, some mint, strawberries, and cucumbers. I'll start a second round in mid-May to cover the roma tomatoes, Ghost Peppers, and whatever else looks interesting to fill out the remaining containers I have.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on May 3, 2013 at 9:37am

We should mention here that John was kind enough to take up our challenge of overhauling HOMEGROWN's Container Gardening 101. Check it out if you haven't already. He did a FANTASTIC job! But back to those Ghost Peppers: Aren't those the hottest on earth? You probably need a PhD in safety engineering in order to handle (not to mention eat) those puppies! Do you actually eat them? How/on what?

Comment by John F. Houpt II, PhD on May 3, 2013 at 9:47am

Well, the Ghost Pepper use to be the hottest pepper in the world.  It's been replaced with the Carolina Repper, (Pepper Joes in Myrtle Beach, SC) which I plan on planting latter this year after the enclosed porch gets in place.  Yes, I really DO EAT THE GHOST PEPPER!!  They are a fantastic tasing pepper - smokey and spicy.  As everyone does at first, make a hot sauce. Then I moved on to using them in my regualr dishes that called for red or hot pepper. The secret to these or any of the "hot" peppers is not to over do it when using them.  I used one Ghost Pepper (which was about 2 inches long) almost daily for a month.  It only takes a small piece to fill the meal.  As for handling them,  I just didn't touch anything that I didn't want to burn when cutting them. I also cut them under slow running water and removed all of the seeds and ribs. It's fun to watch the expressions on the faces of my guests and family when I tell them the hot pepper they had was Ghost Pepper.  Everyone thinks eating the pepper is like the program that ran on Food Network.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on May 3, 2013 at 9:52am

Now your HOMEGROWN sisters and brothers know that if they show up on your doorstep, they'd better be ready to eat adventurously! (I feel like there's the seed of an idea for a HOMEGROWN Hot Pepper Challenge lurking in there somewhere.) On the topic of growing, one thing we're awfully impressed by about you, John, is that you don't just garden for yourself. Can you tell us about Aiken Localvore and your interest in food security?

Comment by John F. Houpt II, PhD on May 3, 2013 at 10:01am

Oh boy. That could take a while.  LOL!!!    The Aikenlocalvore idea was born out of my work in emergency prepardness and being a first responder. As our motto says - "WeFeed Our Own."  Folks don't do well working on an empty stomach.  Starting out with the unemployment issue in the local area (around 19%) I knew that we had to get them some means of growing their own food from both a mental and physical health aspect. Hence the beginning the Bucket Briagde.  Knowing how sensitive our infrastructure is first hand, I felt there was a need to get people focused on buying locally, within 200 miles of their home and get back to the old style Victory Gardens. What's the saying what was old is new again? But in today's daily rat race, it has to be simple, low maintenance, doable by anyone regardless of abilities or finances. This lead to the 5 projects listed on my website. Also, buying locally has it's econmoic advantages, reduces foodborne illnesses and you get to meet great people.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on May 3, 2013 at 10:09am

[HOMEGROWN note: Expect a Bucket Brigade 101 coming soon!] That was a great summing up of a project that sounds like it does all kinds of good work! We'd encourage folks, both in your area and those looking to steal some of your ideas and replicate them in their own communities, to check out your website, aikenlocalvore.org. Aiken and HOMEGROWN are lucky to have you around.

Now, on to something completely different: Brewing. You're a bit of a legend around here, since you founded The Brewers Pub, HOMEGROWN's group for brewers and the beer geeks who love them. Last question/s: Are you a home brewer yourself? If so, what's your latest batch? And before we sign off: Thanks again for taking the time to chat. So glad to know you, Dr. John—and cheers!

Comment by John F. Houpt II, PhD on May 3, 2013 at 10:16am

Yes I am a home brewer and have been for about 10 years.  The current batch is an Organic British Bitter (English Mild). I generally brew full grain, but decided to try an extract this time just to get some experience in doing one. My previous brew as a Strong Scotch Ale, which is now gone the way of the dodo bird. :(

Thanks for having me. I enjoyed this time with Homegrown. Come and join us at the Brewers Pub or our website. Slante'


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