Menkir Tamrat wasn’t always a farmer. He watched farmers working in the fields and then selling their vegetables at the market. 

By Meradith Hoddinott (KALW)

For over 20 years, Menkir Tamrat has grown Ethiopian vegetables and herbs he couldn’t find anywhere else in the Bay.

At his farm in Sunol, Menkir walks down a row of bright green pepper plants to a shady arbor in back and points out peppers along the way.

“[For] the mitmita peppers the closest thing would be like a bird eye chili like you would find in a Thai restaurant,” Menkir explains. “Then you go to the berbere peppers. It’s bigger. It’s longer. It’s more like a little bit bigger than a jalapeno, more pointed and curved. And it’s probably slightly milder than the jalapeno.”

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The rows of peppers are all green now, but soon they’ll ripen to a vibrant red. Then Menkir will dry them, crush them, and make them into spice blends essential to Ethiopian cuisine.

“I started adding these layers and layers of flavor to come up with this powder. Imagine, there’s the berbere, the chili, first. And then 12 or 11 plus additions of seasonings and spices and herbs” Mekir says. “The balance of heat and color that also interweaves with the aromatics and the herbs that go in it. So it’s a sum of all these different things.”

A taste of home

Menkir Tamrat wasn’t always a farmer. He grew up in the countryside of Ethiopia in the 60’s. He watched farmers working in the fields and then selling their vegetables at the market.

Continue reading this story on KALW
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