Note: I didn’t write this, but I wish to god I did. The writer did send it to me, inspired by a post I made on Facebook about an ad for a tampon that is healthier for you because you can set it on fire.
Cecilia “Cici” Watkins is no Luther Burbank, George Washington Carver, or even Gregor Mendel. She is not an expert in plant breeding and genetics. Professionally she heads branding for a national firm located in Asheville, North Carolina. But a combination of sharp eyes, fertile imagination, branding chops, and frustration with her husband led to create a new hot pepper variety that is terrifying men and being celebrated by feminists with a sense of humor (and, contrary to rumor, there appear to be quite a lot of them based on her 2019 seed sales).
Somewhere around 1995 her husband became obsessed with hot peppers. Not just eating them, but raising them and trying them out on his beer drinking buddies. Cici didn’t mind a fresh jalapeño on a nacho now and then, but her husband kept ordering seeds for the some of the worlds hottest peppers. Then, inspired by new record breakers, he started his own plant breeding experiments in an effort to raise ever hotter peppers, a cause Cici found inexplicable because she believed most of those peppers peppers are virtually inedible. By 2000, virtually three-quarters of their garden plot was occupied by hot peppers. The supply of tomatoes, zucchini and other fresh vegetables had dwindled. Her husband was happy, but the garden that had supplied a lot of fresh veggies in the summer had slowly turned into an experimental pepper production unit. It was bad enough that the veggie supply was drying up but “his buddies kept goading me and my girlfriends to try some of these ridiculously hot peppers. Why? I don’t get it. “
When he was working on some of his Intense hot sauces is the kitchen it filled with fumes that made it nearly impossible to breathe. She learned to stay away, but in 2002 she happened to notice a squat green pepper that looked Somewhat like a jalapeño but which was more oblong, less pointy. It had faint ribs just like a green pepper but it was only about two inches long and she remembered thinking at the time that it looked like a shiny green tampon. She didn’t think much of it until the following year when her husband went away on a business trip. When he came back he complained that all the super hot hybrid jalapeños that he had planned to pick while Green had matured and turned red. Prior to that time Cici hadn’t understood that green was not necessarily the ultimate color for hot peppers.
That’s when inspiration hit and Cici conspired with a girlfriend Eki Samuels to start their own plant breeding project. EKi Was divorced and had plenty of garden space so they did some research and found that some hot peppers are striped or mottled, while others can veer towards a darker, chocolatey color. Working with seeds from the squat peppers her husband had been working on over the course of five plant breeding seasons they developed a pepper that kept the original dimensions of the fruit she found in her husband‘s garden and created a pepper that when ripe was variably carmine and deep red with occasional darker mottling . It wasn’t an outrageously hot pepper — in fact it’s only twice about as hot as a jalapeño. But the appearance was startling and Cicii used to branding background to create the Worlds first “Flaming Tampon”.
In 2012 they were ready. At a hot pepper competition Cicii surreptitiously set out a plate of her selectively bred peppers with the Flaming Tampons label and, to her delight, nobody tried them. She had bred a hot pepper the tough guys wouldn’t touch, (even though it wasn’t all that hot).
Her female Friends loved that their macho males were reluctant to even pick one up and they demanded seeds. In 2016 Cici and Eki ramped up production are now selling small batches of seeds, presumably to women who were comparably fed up with MHPO (male hot pepper obsession).
Cici’s Main challenge is now is growing enough plants to produce the seeds women want, and making a decision about whether to challenge or sponsor a local band that has taken to calling itself the Flaming Tampons.