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Sabellico’s Is Turning Up the Heat with the Hottest Peppers in Town

Those familiar with Sabellico’s Greenhouses & Florist in Hopewell Junction know they’re a little different from most garden centers. Not only do they grow what they sell, but they have plants you won’t find anywhere else.

This year, they’re offering 15 different varieties of Super Hots. The seeds for these peppers are the rarest and hardest to find—from the world record-holding Carolina Reaper to the Naga Viper and the dangerous 7 Pot Peppers in red, yellow and chocolate. A little advice from Matthew Sabellico: “Enjoy but beware! ”

Matthew—who is Chairman of the Dutchess County Agricultural Advisory Committee, Vice Chair of the Agriculture & Horticulture Program Committee at Dutchess County Cornell Cooperative Extension, and a member of the NY Farm Bureau and the National Young Farmers Coalition—keeps Sabellico’s on the cusp of shifts in the agricultural business, including renewed community interest in homegrown food.

Perhaps his biggest accomplishment was Sabellico’s becoming USDA certified organic for their edible plants and produce, which they started growing and selling in 2016. “All of our vegetable and herb plants are USDA certified organic,” he says. “If you care about where your food comes from, you can rest assured that our plants are all non-GMO and grown organically.”

In addition to 40 different kinds of pepper plants for gardeners, among their offerings this year are more than 30 kinds of basil, hundreds of different varieties of herbs, and 60-plus different organically grown tomatoes.

Homegrown Tomatoes

As Matt explains, most of the varieties that are grown for the large grocery chains are not chosen for flavor but for longevity on the shelf and the ability to ship well. They are also picked nearly green and not allowed to vine ripen. “We have all bought these tomatoes that look good on the shelf but are bland, mealy and lack flavor,” he says. “This has improved somewhat over the past couple of years, but there is still no comparison between a grocery-store tomato and a homegrown tomato.”

A few he recommends are Rutgers and Brandywine, which are particularly popular and delicious, and pre-1980 hybrids like Big Boy and Celebrity. “Newer varieties like Jetstar and Beefmaster have a nice flavor and are good slicing tomatoes for sandwiches or burgers,” he says. If you like sweet, don’t forget the grape and cherry tomatoes. Try Sugary (grape) or Sunsugar (cherry) tomatoes that are so sweet that they are like candy right off the plant!

No-Commitment CSA

Between the hot peppers and sweet tomatoes, you’ll find quite the variety of vegetables. Their fresh-picked produce Harvest Boxes, which Matthew refers to as their “no-commitment CSA,” are available every weekend beginning June 7. Pickup is every Friday after 12 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays, first-come first-served. Harvest Boxes can be flush with tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, herbs, potatoes, onions, carrots, radishes, beans—even fresh-cut flowers.

In fact, they are also known for their large selection of the popular flowering annuals—begonias, petunias, marigolds and verbena—and their massive perennial, tree and shrub yard. Their homegrown seasonal plants include the area’s largest selection of mums, Easter lilies and poinsettias, which many local churches and charities purchase for fundraisers. Nearly 90 percent of their plants—annuals, perennials, vegetables and herbs—are grown on property, and their foliage houses contain distinctive dish gardens and houseplants. Customers are mostly retail, but they contract grow for other local farms, colleges, tourist venues and the Town of East Fishkill.

Dirt-Road Farm Stand Origins

This year marks their 69th anniversary of helping their neighbors grow. When Ray Sabellico, Sr. and Shirley planted some seedlings in the 1940s, they had no idea their side interest would grow into a multigenerational business. The WWII veteran and full-time U.S. mail carrier and his wife started that garden to bring in some extra money. He then hand-built a coal-stove-heated greenhouse for growing vegetable plants for neighboring farms and themselves and sold the extras at a stand on Hillside Lake Rd., a dirt road then.

As the years went on, neighbors would request their favorites—especially tomatoes. Incorporated in 1950, their small home is now part of Sabellico Greenhouses & Florist’s sprawling 20-acre complex, including 2.5 acres of greenhouses. Father and son team Ray Jr. and Matthew now oversee growing 1.5 million seedlings each year, plus they pot, transplant and grow thousands more cuttings, plugs and bare-root stock. “Matt turned a large grass field into a revenue-generating 4.5-acre certified organic farm that not only brings joy to the community but brought the family business back to its roots,” says Ray. “He’s really brought us full circle.”

Visit Sabellico’s at 33 Hillside Lake Road in Hopewell Junction.

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